It’s Not Fair!


 Elise and JacobDo yourself a favor and learn all you can; then remember what you learn and you will prosper. ~ Proverbs 19:8

My six year old son, Jacob, was beating on my chest, furious at what I’d just told him.

“That’s not fair! That’s not fair!” he screamed over and over as his little fists kept pummeling me.

I struggled to gain control of him, and my tears, as the bad news sunk in.

Several months earlier, Jacob’s kindergarten teacher called me and my husband in for what we thought was a routine conference. Expecting to hear glowing reports of our son’s schoolwork, we were instead faced with a situation that brought frustration and heartache to our family.

Jacob’s teacher began by saying he’d been very distracted over the last few months and she felt he needed to be tested for ADD. She handed us a paper outlining the symptoms and advised us to have a doctor confirm the diagnosis.

Then she dropped the bomb.

“I believe Jacob would be better off if you held him back a year,” she said coolly. “Of course, the choice is yours, but he won’t benefit if you send him on ahead.”

She soon dismissed us so we could sort out our options.

Because he’d done well in preschool and the first semester of K-5, we’d never considered having to hold Jacob back. To say we were blindsided was an understatement. Since it was already the end of March, it was too late in the year to try and get him caught up.

Why didn’t she address this issue sooner?  we wondered, frustrated at her lack of communication.jacob and ross

After having our doctor confirm the diagnosis, I consulted him about our best course of action. He agreed Jacob should be held back.

Crushed, I wondered how I could tell my sweet boy that he wouldn’t be moving ahead with his friends the next year. He was already excited about first grade, wondering if his friends would be in his class again.

Once the teacher learned she was correct about Jacob having ADD, she started treating him like an outcast. She moved his desk away from all of the other children, facing the wall. He didn’t understand why she’d done that, but accepted it pretty well. I, however, did not.

Because I was unfamiliar with ADD, I assumed the teacher knew what was best and allowed her to treat Jacob poorly for the rest of the year. If I had to do it over again, I’d be in there as often as needed, questioning the validity of her actions. Even though he accepted it, his self-esteem suffered and he felt excluded.

It took me until the middle of July to work up the courage to tell Jacob he wouldn’t be moving up to first grade.

We’d just finished eating breakfast when I sat him on my lap and said I had something important to tell him. He took it about as well as I’d expected. That’s when he started screaming at me and pounding on my chest. He couldn’t comprehend why he wouldn’t be moving ahead with his friends.

I finally wrangled him close to me and held him while he cried big, sad tears of confusion and disappointment. My heart broke. He was right, it wasn’t fair.

Jacob on the tractorThe next few years were difficult for Jacob. It was hard for him to see his friends at lunch or on the playground, and not be able to play with them. He blamed me for holding him back. He didn’t know who else to hold responsible.

Today Jacob is a junior in high school. He’s bright and funny and a joy to be around. He now attends his school’s career center, studying automotive technology, and plans to pursue an associate’s degree in this field.  He’ll do well in it, I’m sure. He and his friend have already been asked by his teacher to represent their school in a statewide competition for automotive technology, with the winner receiving a scholarship. I’m so proud of him.

ADD does not have to be an academic death sentence. Yes, it’s a difficult struggle, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. We researched and discovered ways to help Jacob focus better. We also learned that people with ADD have the ability to hone their focus better than most people, if the topic is something they’re interested in. Because of this, Jacob excels at history and building cars, among other things.

If we hadn’t held our son back all those years ago, he’d be graduating this spring. That may seem harsh to accept, but not for me. The extra year has helped him to mature and grow before taking the next big step of college. Plus, he’ll spend another year at home, where we get to enjoy him even more 🙂

Jacob and Bronco

Have you had a personal experience with ADD or some other learning disability?

Please share your story in the comments below.

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10 thoughts on “It’s Not Fair!”

  1. I am a retired first grade teacher. I find the teacher’s treatment of a child of God scandalous! In my experience I observed that ADD children were bright, very bright and especially creative. Jacob truly is a prince among men. He was separated from his mother’s womb to bring glory to God long before any teacher made a judgment against him. Truly the Word of God has come to pass, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper and every tongue that rises against you shall fail!” Oh, Hallelujah!

    • Margie, your words brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your words of affirmation! I wish I could have consulted with you all those years ago 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this Carol. Our son, Jon, was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Although I had suspected it a while ago, I was not truly certain and concerned about sterotyping my son simply because my husband, his father, has it. I never mentioned it to anyone until this past January after the pediatrician saw his performance and my futile attempts at making him behave properly in the doctor’s office. So off to the Family Behaviorologist we went. And yes, after two visits, the doctor gave us the diagnosis. However, we agreed (the doctor and I that is) to be conservative in treatment at this time. My husband, who was never treated with medicine, feels that if medication is recommended than we should try it for Jonathan’s sake. My husband struggles daily and has had some significantly poor outcomes that we are both fairly confident are linked to his lack of being treated or even taught how to deal with ADHD. And the doctor did agree that medications have proven to be 75% effective in recall of material thereby increasing the success rate for the children in school. He did also agree that teachers tend to not want to deal with any behaviors and prefer to have all kids medicated. I would be interested in knowing how you and your husband handled disciplinary actions when your son was younger. With Ethan over the road 8 weeks at a time, it can be very frustrating trying to deal with Jon’s outbursts and impulsiveness at times. Sometimes it feels as if he doesn’t learn from his mistakes and makes him appear slow. However, this is far from true. He has a very active, wild and extremely vivid imagination most of the time. And I would hate to squash that. THanks again for the input. P.S. My husband also went to automotive school during highschool and does extremely well with anything that is mechanical or electronics. However, his ability to read and learn about history in a formal school setting is almost non-existent.

    • Kari, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with ADHD with your son. I know how difficult it can be. Fortunately, Jacob does not have the hyperactivity part of it (even though I questioned that at first).When Jacob was first diagnosed it was recommended he take meds, which my husband did not want to do. It was hard trying to get him to do his homework (understatement of the century!), but I kept persisting. He’s had good periods and bad, but he’s come out OK. You may want to consider holding Jon back a year. Because boys mature slower than girls, this gives them all an advantage. I have two nephews that were held back, only because of having a late birthday, and they’ve both done extremely well in school. One is studying to be a civil engineer. The only caution I would have if you’re considering this is to put him in 2 different schools for K-5. My nephews didn’t have quite as much of a struggle because they went to a different school for first grade and K-5. My son, however, felt humiliated because he had to stay behind while everyone else moved ahead. That is the one thing that made it so much harder.
      As far as the discipline goes, just be firm and fair. Remember to major on the majors and minor on the minors. So many times when my kids were little, I felt like they had to do things my way. But, that wasn’t always the only way to do things. Come at it from a different perspective. I would also recommend a great book by Cynthia Tobias called You Can’t Make Me. Excellent way to gain new perspective. And remember, each child is unique. What works for one may not always work for the other.
      The most important thing I can say, however, is to pray over your child. God has a purpose and a plan for designing him this way, and He doesn’t make mistakes. We may not understand the why of the situation, but if we’ll trust God He will use it for good according to His purpose.
      Thanks so much for sharing, Kari. I’m praying God will give you wisdom and discernment as you raise this precious boy into a strong, Christian man!

      • Thank you Carol! Yes, it is a struggle and I definitely have learned that Mikayla and Jon are two very different people! In fact, when I found out I was pregnant for Jon, both Ethan and myself felt like we were experts at the baby thing. I mean, afterall, Mikayla was only 8 months old at the time and we had figured out her quirks. So, when the time came, we felt very confident in our abilities to soothe a crying new borne! HAHAHA! The joke was on us. My son certainly is not and was not about to be seen or act like his older sister. What stands out in particular are the first couple of days when we first brought Jon home and I tried to feed him with the bottles we used for Mikayla since I was unable to breast feed either of my children. Money was tight, as you know, and so we had conserved as much baby items from Mikayla to use for Jonathan as possible. He just screamed and screamed when I would try to give him the bottle. However, when I used the disposable, pre-measured bottles full of formula the hospital gave us, he was fine and would suck them down. Well, after 24 hours, I finally figured out, it was the nipple that he was having issues with. We had to go and try to buy the same nipple that the hospital used. Luckily we found it, but of course it was the most expensive brand out there. Once home and had them sterilized, we tried them out, both of us crossing our fingers in hope that this truly was the issue. And it was! Our son wanted the same exact nipple he had in the hospital and nothing else! That is when Ethan and I just looked at each other and said, “Well we thought we knew what we were doing, but apparently he has other plans and a lot more to teach us!” And he continues to do so to this day. But, I wouldn’t change either one of them. They are so unique and different in many ways and full of life! Ethan and I truly are blessed to have them in our lives!

        • Isn’t it amazing how God can bring two children into the same family with the same parents, and yet they are so utterly different?! God teaches us so much through our children’s personalities, most notably patience and unconditional love 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing, Kari!

  3. Generally I don’t read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, very nice post.

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