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Last October, my husband and I showed up at our son’s school for our first parent teacher conference. I must admit I was a bit nervous about the meeting. What would the teacher say about our son?

The teacher eased our nerves immediately when she offered to open our meeting in prayer. She then took a few minutes to share delightful tidbits about our little guy. So far so good, I thought to myself.

But then came the unexpected news. My son’s teacher told us he was not where he needed to be with phonics and reading, and she mentioned that if this didn’t improve in the months to come, we may need to consider holding him back a year. My mind whirled with questions on how this could have happened. What did we do wrong? How would holding our son back affect him emotionally?

After our short meeting with the teacher, my husband and I grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant. My husband sat at the table calm and reasonable. I, on the other hand, broke down in tears. “What I have done wrong?” I asked. “What could have I done differently.” I quickly gave myself the harsh verdict of “bad mom.”

But in the days that followed, as the torrent of emotions calmed and I began to assess the situation with a more reasonable mind, the “bad mom” verdict lifted and one of grace replaced it. While I noted ways I could have better prepared my son for school, I also recognized how an illness in our family affected my time and routine with my son during the months leading up to his entry into school.

A few close friends also encouraged me during this time. One friend, a former Kindergarten teacher, shared with me that boys often struggle with reading during the first several months of Kindergarten, but usually when they return from Christmas break in January, they finally “get it.” This gave me hope.

I embraced the challenge to help my son at home with phonics and reading. Each day, I devoted a block of time to work with him in these areas, and soon I began to witness improvements. Recently we met with his teacher, and she told us how much he had improved and that he would be ready to move onto first grade next year. Oh, what good news that was!

Perhaps even more rewarding, though, was the time I spent with my son during the last several months. My son often looks forward to “school time at home,” as we call it, and I sense we’ve deepened our relationship because of this time together.

Through this experience, I’ve also learned how I have to be careful to not intertwine my identity with my son’s successes and failures. You see, that day when we received the news about his struggles with reading, I concluded I had failed as a mom. Sure, there are definitely things I could have done better, but my value and identity had nothing to do with my son’s ability to read. And during these last few months, God has been showing how to turn to Him to find a “true picture” of my value and identify.

So in many ways, that bump in the road my family encountered last October, well, it turned out to be a blessing for us.

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