I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I would be very happy being a perpetual student. I love to learn new things, meet new people and hear new stories. School was always the place for me to get my fix, and it still is. I find myself trolling local college class offerings, just dreaming about what I might find out if I attended. I like to visit, wander, and peruse bookstores and libraries. I even belong to some book clubs. But to be frank, I don’t actually read all that much. I’m not the voracious reader that most folks with this same passion for new things tend to be. I’m a wannabe; a wishful part of the club of people who know interesting things because they finished the book. I find myself listening to podcasts, reading articles, and watching short videos or documentaries. I like to talk about these things with people who have read the book. I want to have something to contribute to an intellectual conversation because I’m genuinely interested, and occasionally I do. But really, I feel as though I’m a bit of an imposter.

After some years in the classroom, a master’s degree, and cavorting with other educators and fellow parents, I was thrown for a loop. My own child hated going to school in kindergarten. Hated, as in refused to leave his room, threw tantrums about getting his shoes on, screamed about packing a lunch, melted down every afternoon, and absolutely, positively hated going to school. There was no bribery or sticker chart on this earth that would’ve changed his mind. I’d not seen such passionate resistance in any child before and it was heartbreaking. School was the place I’d gotten my fix, but he was obviously not having the same experience.

He had an amazing teacher. He was getting along well with his peers. He was super smart. He enjoyed learning new things. Yet…

…he was the last one done.

…he stayed in from recess to finish it.

…he seemed to understand, but just wouldn’t do the work.

…he hasn’t finished this assignment. Can you finish it at home?

…he is so smart. AND can you spend more time with him reading every night?

Tutors, assessments, psychologists, evaluations, homework, doctors. The emotional onslaught my kid was displaying had enough energy to power Seattle for a month. He was frustrated. He was very, very frustrated. He could participate verbally with his peers. He did very well with any hands-on projects. But his reading and writing was not up to grade level and he knew it.

Was he feeling like an imposter? I know this feeling. I can participate and understand and still feel like maybe it was a mistake that I’m in this conversation. They must not know yet.That guilty feeling nags at me as though I do not belong in classrooms, meetings, and discussions because I have secret faults. He was doing the same in class. He understood the concept fully and could discuss it at length but felt guilty or stupid because the worksheet that everybody else finished yesterday still wasn’t done. The discrepancy between understanding and appearing to understand got muddled and confused. Do I actually know what I’m talking about if I haven’t finished reading the document? Does he really know the concept if teachers were unable to assess him because he wasn’t able to finish? This constant questioning from teachers, parents, and the student, creates a deeper chasm between the imposter attitude and one of confidence. Am I projecting my feelings unfairly onto my kid, just because we have the same learning disability? Or am I simply more in tune with the possibility that these feelings are developing in the undercurrent of his academic career? Honestly, who knows?

We cannot delineate the dyslexia from the person, or determine a cause and effect with every emotion, behavior, success, or failure. It is an all-in-one package—one unique person. I used to think that talking about strengths at a parent-teacher conference was a nice way to sandwich bad news. But now I believe that discussing strengths is far more than blowing smoke up my parental back side. Dyslexics do think in a way that is neurologically different than most other people and diversity of thought is valuable.

I try to ignore the nagging thoughts about faking my way through life and try to ensure that my children live honestly, knowing their patterns, differences, and their uniqueness. Awareness about any shortcoming can encourage the desire to find resources, tips, and tricks that can minimize frustrations. But more than any top 10 list from the internet, attitude is essential. Owning my own strengths is key to ensuring I do deserve a seat at the table.

If I could only figure out what I want to be when I grow up.