The master told four-year-old Benjamin that if he learned “The Easy Way is No Way,” he could get a tiger patch for his tae kwon do uniform. “The Easy Way is No Way” is a set of principles that the children must learn before becoming a yellow belt. Zach – almost six – won his tiger patch awhile ago, as he started tae kwon do before Benjamin did, and he has since gotten a yellow belt.
Benjamin took that handout home, determined to learn every single word on the sheet. He learned the first item immediately: the Five Benefits of Tae Kwon Do. However, he wasn’t quite ready with the rest of the sheet when he had his next lesson. No matter, we go twice a week. He knew it all by the following lesson.
Which he missed because he was sick.
We kept practicing. He belted out, “Discipline, sir! Focus, sir! Self-control, sir! Confidence, sir! Respect, sir!” with gusto. He was ready.
I told the master to go ahead and test him. This was a proud moment for me, watching my little boy who had tried so hard, with so much heart, stand up and be proud of himself.
The masters lined my two boys up together.
“What are the benefits of tae kwon do?”
Zach’s hand shot up. “Discipline, sir! Respect, sir! Self-control, sir! Focus, sir! Respect, sir!” The master gave it to him anyway. Then he turned to Benjamin.
Benjamin stood flummoxed. He had just heard Zachary do it wrong, but Zachary is his older brother, and thereby by definition never wrong. He couldn’t do it.
“Why are you the best student?”
Zach’s hand shot up. He fumbled it, not quite remembering the words. Benjamin, slower to raise his hand but knowing the answer, couldn’t do it when his turn finally came.
I fought the urge to jump up and run onto the mat. It is important not to show up the masters. But they were doing it wrong! They were supposed to be testing Benjamin, and they were letting Zach answer every question first. And he was fucking it up for his brother, for once not on purpose.
“What must you tell your parents every day?”
Zach’s hand shot up. Benjamin started looking around at the ceiling. My heart sank.
“I give you chance next time,” the master told them as they finished up, and the boys came running off the mat.
“Please,” I begged, “ask Ben again without Zach. He knows it all. He just got confused because his brother got it wrong.” Unfortunately, he speaks mostly Korean and I speak absolutely no Korean, so we weren’t getting very far.
I haven’t been able to sleep the last couple of nights.
I watched Ben at the library magic show. He was focused. He was having a ball. He would have loved to have been the volunteer. But every time the magician asked, he was the only kid who didn’t put his hand up. It was as though he didn’t quite register that he should raise his hand. Ben’s best buddy was right next to him, and that child’s hand went up every time, along with every other kid in the room. Except Benjamin’s. Somehow, he is slower than children his same age.
He is a very, very smart child. He is imaginative and incredibly verbal and has the most amazing building ability. He has remarkable scissor skills. He is adding numbers together. But he responds more slowly than his peers and from what I’ve seen in the last week, sometimes he gives up altogether because he is slower. He won’t show it on his face – he has too much bravado to get upset about it… outwardly. But that kind of continual defeat is going to wear him down.
I don’t know what to do. I suspect a very mild processing issue, and I guess we should look into early intervention.
But first things first – tomorrow when we go to tae kwon do, I’m going to make sure they test him by himself. He has earned that damned tiger patch.
Re: the library show – Sometimes very capable kids are not terribly competitive around strangers. I remember a post about Zach from a couple of years ago in which we discussed the pleasures of just being observant instead of participating. Give him more time. He just wants to get it right.
I think you are right on about the belt test.
I never would have associated a child with being slower just because they don’t put their hand up to be a volunteer…. are you sure its not more of a confidence or comfort level thing?
I’m so glad this didn’t actually have to do with an 80’s pop song.
Every year at parent-teacher conference time, the teacher tells us that our oldest daughter needs to speak up more in class, needs to volunteer to answer questions. And I wonder silently why they don’t just call on her more, since they know she also knows the answer. If this is the hardest thing she has to deal with (and it isn’t), I feel like we’re going to be okay. You know?
You know I know about processing issues. And yes our issues boy also is hesitant to raise his hand or volunteer (despite secretly wanting to). In fact, at school performances and such, he looks like a deer in headlights that just peed his pants.
Anyway, I don’t know if that trait is just a personality issue or tied to his other issues. Hard to tell. I think you might need to look and see if there are other indicators. Of course, I’m all for getting help when needed.
No, no, he’s definitely slow. And I don’t mean “slow” like when people are trying to say “stupid.” He’s very, very smart. He’s just slow. His response time is slow. It may just be who he is, or it may be a processing issue. Over the last few years, I have repeatedly been worried about a processing issue with him. It seems like it just takes an awfully long time for him to respond to things.
You know, I was a really smart kid who was slow like that. Now I’m a smart adult who is often slow like that. I can’t speak for Benjamin, but in my case, it was/is because there is so much going on in my head at any given time that it takes a minute for the dust to settle enough for me to find the right thought/response/feeling. (My dad told me once that he used to hate it when I would announce, “I’m really mad at you. I don’t know why. But I’m going to think about it, and when I figure it out, WE ARE GOING TO TALK.” LOL!) I’m still that way, though. Just another possibility. 🙂
I hope that Benjamin gets his patch.
And I hope that you either find some peace, or some help for Benjamin.
Emily, it could also be that Benjamin wants to work everything out first internally and then answer, rather than to work it out as he goes along, which others (read me) do. Not to oversimplify into the Meyers Briggs test, but as a very much an Extrovert (E) personality type, I talk through my answer as I’m processing it. But that means that sometimes I leap in too quickly, and I need to remember to give others a pause to think through if they are processing more internally, as Introverted thinkers tend to do. So it’s all a continuum. But of course this is why the adults leading these groups really should be keeping those of us who always put our hands up first in check.
A processing disorder is a delay to the auditory signal. Does he have a slow processing time when you give him multi step directions? That’s usually the best indicator.
this both broke my heart – because he KNEW – and made me wonder about Oscar. he’s got plenty going on in his head, no cognitive issues that worry me, but i wonder about processing too.
Some people like to think things over before they answer. That doesn’t make them slower really, just more thoughtful. It makes life more difficult for them in that our classrooms and offices tend to reward people who are ready to talk without thinking, but his spouse will be lucky indeed.
This post me my eyes and heart overflow. You’re a great mom, Emily.
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