It’s July. Summer is in full swing. In July is when my marathon training really kicks in for the Twin Cities Marathon. Soon I will be breathing a sigh of relief when I “only” run 15 miles early on a Saturday morning. This is the third summer I have trained for the TCM. I have yet to make it through an entire summer without some sort of major injury that sidelines me for months. So far this summer, I am still feeling good. The past 9 months I ran 3-4 times a week pretty consistently and found two new sports that I love and wish I had more time to pursue, yoga and skate skiing. Because of yoga and skiing, my body is stronger than its ever been which has helped me a lot so far this marathon season, yet I remain anxious about an injury.
When I am running alone my brain doesn’t stop thinking, “Is that an injury? Or that? What about that?” THE ENTIRE TIME. When I’m not obsessing about every little tweak I feel turning into a major injury I’m thinking, “Can I actually run a marathon again? Can I run it faster? Perhaps I should not worry about the time. Maybe I shouldn’t run the marathon. If I think this 14 mile run is tough what am I going to do when its 26.2? Why am I doing this to myself? Who do I think I am? When did I decide I was a runner? Am I lying to myself?” No wonder I get exhausted.
Last weekend I was out on a country road alone and wanted to get my long run over with because my brain wouldn’t turn off (see above), even when I started singing Beatles songs to myself. I slipped into a long stride which allows me to run pretty fast with many less steps. It only took about 5 minutes before I felt the scar tissue in my upper hamstring remind me that this stride doesn’t work for my body. My brain immediately flooded back to September, 2011 and I could picture a particularly painful 10 mile run that good friends dragged me along on (at my request!) before I decided the marathon just wasn’t going to happen for me that year because of the severe pain. The memory of that injury is always looming and I can feel myself hold back because of the fear of re-injury. When I’m alone, I can never truly run free and enjoy the meditation of running….I have too much fear of what is to come that continually cycles through my inner-monologue.
This sort of anxious-anticipation-while-doing-something-you-love must be how summer break feels for a profoundly dyslexic child.
All of my children are completely immersed in summer. Sports, camps, swimming lessons, afternoons with friends, trips to the cabin, planning our summer vacation to Yellowstone, lazy days flipping through the Guinness Book of World Records for the one billionth time, playing Monopoly with your siblings and flipping the board across the room when you land on Boardwalk (and you don’t own it, but your big brother does, with hotel)….. #1, #2 and #3 all worked very hard in school this year to overcome their many challenges and made great strides. I thought I would do more academic work with them this summer, but I quickly discovered we all needed a break from phonics, handwriting, writing assignments, spelling and splitting words into syllables.
We have all been enjoying the break from syllable division and flashcards.
It’s possible to almos relax and forget how hard academic work is September-May….almost. Dyslexia pops up nearly every day, sometimes when we least expect it. The library reading program now requires children to write a book review, not just the name of the book. Great idea, but not for my boys. It takes them almost as long to write a short paragraph as it does for them to read the entire book. None of us wanted to deal with the tears of forced writing assignments in the summer. A camp counselor called to discuss #2’s journalling project during a week of nature/science camp. #1 receives e-mails from friends and has a hard time responding without his mother to help with spelling. #3 is asked to read and write something at his piano lesson. Although dyslexia is not at the forefront of our lives in the summer and things are going pretty smooth, the anxiety and frustration are still there and I can see the anticipation on their faces when they are entering a new situation.
I’m continually wondering if I’m doing too much, or too little, or not the right approach, or the right approach but not enough of it, or too many camps, or too few, or the wrong camps, or enforcing reading too much, or perhaps not enough, and what about writing, and should we be doing math worksheets? Exhausting.
Yesterday I stumbled across this article, Summer Fun, by Kyle Redford on the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity site. He writes:
“Balance is important to all children, but one could argue that it is particularly important when a child feels that his life has been hijacked by a learning disability. The amount of time, energy and thought aimed at coping with dyslexia is significant. Since dyslexics spend nine months out of the year grappling with difficult school tasks that frequently lead to despair, summer is a relished opportunity to refuel and recharge. Summer vacation is also an important time for a child to pursue activities that are fun and fulfilling, not frustrating.”
The article also has great tips about inspiring reading in your children during the summer that I was really happy to see we already do. Listen to audiobooks! Listen to NPR! Listen to RadioLab!!!! We have been doing plenty of science this summer since #2 and I started a vegetable garden at the end of May and everyone has been pitching in to help. #3 found milkweed in our yard this week and has been anxiously waiting for Monarch Butterflies to visit. But the article also brought out my anxiety again. Tutors? Special camps for dyslexic students? Academic remediation? Should I be focusing more on those flashcards and syllables this summer? Oh the doubt. Where is that crystal ball I wish I could look in to see 10 years down the road and know if I’m doing the right thing.
Perhaps the summer is like the off-season of my running and the school year is the training. Summer is the time to keep up with your skills without exhausting yourself. Summer is the time to figure out new things you can do and feel good about. Summer is the time to enjoy what you are good at, not to reinforce the things that are hard.
So, they will continue to work in the vegetable garden,
see how far they can jump off a diving board,
build their dreams,
experiment in the kitchen,
and fish with their grandparents.
Near the end of the article it states, “Educating a child with dyslexia is a marathon, not a sprint.”
At least I’ve picked the right sport to carry me through this journey.
One less thing to question.