A mother copes with an underachieving child.
Walking the Tightrope -
by R. Chadshai
Q. How did Elisheva make the transition from
elementary school to seminary?
It was a long & difficult road. At the end of the 8th
grade we didn't know what sort of certificate she would get.
The column for different subjects on her report card was
almost empty. On the other hand, her behavior was exemplary
and she had good grades in neatness, cleanliness, respect for
school property, etc. What can one do with a daughter who has
good middos and a lovely personality but is poor in
her academic studies? Who would accept her? Was she to blame
for her weakness? It wasn't easy to go back to different
schools and beg them to admit her. At most, I would get a
pitiful smile and a shrug of the shoulders or receive
unsolicited advice. But I didn't give up. After everything we
had been through, I decided not to lose hope. As embarrassing
and discouraging as it was, I continued my rounds of the
schools. I have no complaints, it wasn't through cruelty that
they answered me as they did. I gave them the benefit of the
doubt; perhaps in their place I would have reacted the same
Finally she was accepted by a vocational high school
where the academic studies were complemented by courses in
home economics and nursery school child-care. I breathed a
sigh of relief and hoped she would manage in the practical
side of her studies which she enjoyed more. I agreed to the
school's stipulation that we hire a private special-ed
teacher to help her out, especially in math. The teacher was
wonderful. She understood Elisheva and our daughter advanced
quite well. The price we paid was well invested - the results
were worth more than gold!
But if I thought that I could finally relax, I was
mistaken. At the end of the first year the results were still
so low that it was impossible to give her grades. The school
suggested that I find some light work for her to do on the
outside. I insisted that she wasn't mature enough yet to
leave school. "What do you care if she sits in class quietly?
She's well behaved, and won't bother anyone," I asked. The
administration finally agreed to keep her on without giving
her grades - the teachers would only note attendance.
Elisheva stayed in high-school for four years. They
understood her problems, accepted her as she was and
appreciated her limited accomplishments. This helped her
increase her efforts. She felt good with the girls, and tried
to fit into the group. In practical work she managed very
well. She enjoyed taking care of little children, since she
had already done this at home and she felt comfortable with
her tasks. As a result, she also improved academically.
Q. Looking back, what can you learn from this
I had no illusions. I knew that she wouldn't suddenly
become a `genius' or get a job as a teacher or a secretary.
And as far as I know, one doesn't pray to change an
irreversible situation. I put up with the difficulties, but I
didn't give in to them. I tried to help Elisheva achieve the
maximum under the limited circumstances. They say it's not so
important what your capabilities are, it's what you achieve
with them that counts! Research shows that people use only
about 10% of their real potential. What's the use of a high
IQ if it's not being used? Whoever realizes his limited
potential to a maximum deserves much more praise for the
difficulties he overcomes.
Baruch Hashem, Elisheva is spiritually and
mentally sound - she works as a helper to a teacher in a
private nursery school, has a good self-image and enjoys
working with children and takes wonderful care of them. She
is very satisfied, and I have a lot of nachas from
her. Could we have hope for better results? I am filled with
gratitude to Hashem for the chessed He has shown us.
Note: Elisheva's story cannot be used as a general
example and conclusions shouldn't be drawn for other, even
similar cases. Every case should be weighed separately
together with its pertinent details.