Don’t Put Their Light Out

Don’t Put Their Light Out

Written by Emily

Don’t put their light out. That’s all I keep thinking. It’s on repeat – no, it’s a permanent neon sign – in my mind as I hold my breath every time I open the school backpack or respond to another email from a concerned teacher.

This wasn’t how school was supposed to go. I was supposed to have kids who went merrily on their way each morning, dutifully paying attention to the teacher, following directions and leading a remarkably average K-12 life.  I thought I would be on the sidelines helping with homework and giving them moral support when they struggled with math or studied for a test.

But instead, I’m at the table with the 3rd grade teacher not three weeks into school nodding my head as I find out that this is not the year.  This is not the fresh start I was hoping for.  This is not the year that he magically grows up and focuses on his math page instead of staring out the window at the kids on the playground.  This is not the year that he stays in his seat and refrains from day dreaming, finally learning to complete his work with full sentences and proper spelling.

Later, I open an email to see that it is from the other one’s 1st grade teacher telling me that this IS the year.  This year he can’t stop talking.  This year is not off to a good start and he is too social and missing directions.  He dances in line, he chats with his friends, he doesn’t know how to whisper.  He. Doesn’t. Stop.  Two behavior charts, six emails and one phone call later, we’re now having a conference next week.

The conferences, the emails, the phone calls all end the same way; looking to me for answers of how to make it stop.  My husband and I agree that it’s time to talk to a professional.  But he would have done it yesterday and I am frozen with fear.  Fear that I will make the wrong choice.  Fear that I will open up an opportunity for someone to put a label on them.  Fear that if you look for a problem, you will find one.  Fear that there really is a problem and they are receiving consequences for something they can’t control.

What do you do when the traits you love most about your children are causing them to struggle in school?  When the things that are inherent to their little big personalities are not working in a classroom environment?  My job as a mother is to protect the light that is at the center of their being.  To never let it go out despite influences and obstacles that life will send their way.  I adore my 3rd grade worldly dreamer and my 1st grade dancing social butterfly, but I also know that school cannot go on like this.

I am nervous and I’m uninformed.  I’m scared to death that the messages they are hearing about their performance as a student are translating to their feelings about their self-worth and slowly extinguishing their light.

But I do know one thing.  This is the year.  This is the year that we learn how to fix this problem and can only pray that we don’t put their light out while we’re at it.


Nothing better than baking your way through a problem!  I made these mini apple pies and forgot how amazing they are. Fall is upon us and these are definitely worth your time.  I realize that mini pies can seem daunting, but you can do a lot the day before like making the dough, cutting the circles and even making the filling.  Check out the original recipe I posted a while back:

Mini Apple Pies

And if you are still feeling like this is just too much to attempt, go buy some pie crust and just make the filling.  People will still think they are amazing!

4 thoughts on "Don’t Put Their Light Out"

  1. jeanette christy says:

    Love the pie, love your writing – Just remember that you can get two boys through school – I did it and I know that you can too. It is hard but interesting to see the two different personalities and love who they are

    1. storyteller says:

      Thank you! 🙂 Scary to think this is only the beginning, but incredibly helpful to take comfort in those who have been there. I’ll just keep eating more pie… Ha! xo

  2. Terri says:

    As I read the outpouring of your heart in this piece it immediately brought back to me similar feelings from ongoing struggles we had with our bright (some might have said “quirky”) son years ago. I had all of those same concerns you’ve expressed and I can tell you that they are valid ones. I’ve been both parent and teacher so I’ve lived both sides. I know how the brightly creative spirit in a child that makes him so unique can also create problems when trying to conform to societal/educational demands. On the other hand, I know the frustration and panic that we felt as parents when we encountered individuals who were inflexible and intolerant of differences and who tried to force square pegs into round holes. Here’s a thought that might help you as you decide whether to seek outside intervention – I’m sure you would agree that part of your responsibility as a parent is to help your child succeed and create an environment that will allow him to develop a healthy self-concept. If your child had a condition that might be causing him difficulty you would naturally have him treated. For example, if he had poor eyesight, you’d get him glasses. If he had diabetes, you’d make sure he got insulin. If your sons are having difficulty focusing, even due to their particular creative minds, they will still need to find the best way to cope in the real world. Although you may need to consult more than one to find the right fit, an expert in child psychology will be able to understand your situation and offer valuable strategies or protocols that can give your children the needed help without “putting out their light”. And, just so you know, after all the years of struggle, despite my (at times) ignorant bungling, as an adult our son has finally developed coping skills that have allowed him to not only succeed, but flourish, and yet retain his wonderfully unique self. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, especially with caring parents as your sons have. Wishing you success!

    1. storyteller says:

      Thank you for such a kind and thoughful response – it is so encouraging to hear from those who have made it through these challenges successfully! I know it’s not the end of the world, but it’s a new phase for us and I feel so unequipped to advocate for my children. But you have good points, and I very much agree that part of helping them succeed is finding out if, in fact, there is something that should be treated. I just want to bottle up their little spirits and protect them so that they never get squashed! 🙂 Thanks again for sharing!!

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