Recently, we celebrated my son Joey’s 15th birthday. Not surprisingly, he shared that he wanted to spend his birthday with his friends. We agreed to let him have some friends over if we could then celebrate his special day as a family the next night. This was a new experience for us, having to bargain with one of our kids to celebrate their birthday multiple times. Fortunately, Joey agreed to our terms and we all had a great weekend.
It hit me that as a parent, our children’s birthdays are more important than our own. I also realized why my mom makes such a big deal out of my birthday. The opportunity to celebrate the life of your child, and reminisce about their birth or adoption, evokes powerful and emotional memories. I also cannot help but think of my curly haired baby with big blue eyes and wonder to myself, “How did he grow into a young man so quickly?” Oh, and that also means I am 15 years older too.
A different way of seeing things
I also took time to reflect on all the joys and challenges that this wonderful life has given us. In Joey’s case, being diagnosed with severe dyslexia and dysgraphia at the age of 5 brought its challenges with some hard life lessons. As parents, we had to learn how to help him learn in a different way. We had to navigate the teacher who told us that reading would eventually just “click” for him and we needed to keep at it. Additionally, we recognized that Joey needed to develop strategies and even coping tools to learn how to read and actually comprehend, as well as write. As I reflected over the weekend, I thought about how far he has come—and even how far we have come. Joey is doing well in school and has built his strategies for success. I also recognize that the challenge of dyslexia does not define him. I am eternally grateful for Dr. Sam Goldstein, the psychologist we met early on in the diagnosis, who shared with us the importance of focusing on what is right with Joey and not what is wrong. I get sick to my stomach thinking what today would have looked like if we had not been fortunate to meet someone who had us pay more attention to Joey’s successes in math and science, and less to the fact that he struggled with reading. Dr. Goldstein reminded us that nurturing Joey’s confidence and helping him learn in his own unique way was our roadmap.
Looking to the future
Our next roadmap is helping Joey prepare for the right college for him, without adding to the pressure that high school students feel today about preparing and applying to college. Fortunately, there are many resources that may help families plan for college. To help parents and students prepare financially for college, Wells Fargo launched the Get College ReadySM website, a new, interactive online platform that offers a quiz, a calculator, videos and educational articles this week. Take a peek and let me know what you think.
By the way, try to celebrate your birthday with your parents — it is a big deal!