• Jennifer Widemire Smith

This is Brave This is Bruised

Updated: Jan 7, 2018

This week I started thinking and planning how to transition my dyslexic kids from Christmas break to school routine again before that dreaded alarm went off. We decided to take them to see The Greatest Showman.


Our last week of school had stressed the kids to the max and we thought—hoped—it would inspire them. When the movie was over I asked the kids what they thought.


Landon nonchalantly replied. “I liked it. Especially the animals. I liked the tigers and elephants at the end.”


Lyla shook her head in agreement, “I kind of liked the bearded lady the best.”


“Yeah? What did you like about her?” I was hopeful for their answers. Praying they saw what I saw in the messages of the movie. Lyla only responded by shrugging. And turning her attention to the dogs. Landon never responded.


I remained hopeful I could pry more from them at dinner, they are dyslexic afterall, which means they come with slow, very deep, processors inside their little minds. However, I put the kids to bed disappointed.


I wanted to ask, “Did you like the bearded lady because she inspired you to be brave? To have no fear in your abilities? Did the brightest colors fill your imagination? Did a million dreams keep you awake? Are you proud of who you are? Are you ashamed of your difference? Can you see the view from the tightrope? Oh my lovely’s I can see it. Can you?”


Landon and Lyla woke up the next morning. Lyla looked around the room. “It’s tutoring day!!!!!!!!!!! Landon it’s tutoring day!!!! Mom!! Dad!!! I start tutoring today!!!” She said with exuberance as she got dressed. Then climbed back into bed and daydreamed about how wonderful a day she was about to have.


Lyla's christmas gift from us had been a gofundme campaign to pay for the cost of dyslexic specific tutoring. Something we had not been able to afford due to loosing our livihood last summer. See Once Upon A Time A Little Girl Made A Wish to read her story.


Landon surveyed her enthusiasm. Crocodile tears began to fall from his big teddy bear brown eyes. “Mom. My tummy hurts. I can’t go to school. Please Mom. I don’t want to go. Please don't make me go.”


After an initial exam, Dr Mom diagnosed the tummy ache as anxiety. His last week of school before Christmas break had been his toughest to date.


School is such a scary place for dyslexics sometimes. Each day they go in they don’t know if they’ll be ok or if they’ll fall apart. Will it be easy to learn or hard like last time? Will it be worse? Can it even get any worse than crying uncontrollably because you can"t make the letters, the words, the pages of stories make sense? You can't keep the sharp edged headache at bay because there's so much reading to be done each day. It's exhausting day in and day out. Each day is hard.


The Navy Seals—the elite warriors of warriors—have a saying that rings true to dyslexics in school: “The only easy day was yesterday.”


I walked my children to their classrooms. Lyla walked ahead, eager to hug Mrs Walter and tell her all about how she got to go to tutoring after school. Landon lagged behind, tears falling to the floor. His hat pulled low to provide cover. He hid behind my legs as I opened his classroom door.


“It’s going to be ok.” I whispered and gave him a bear sized hug.


Mrs Manske was excited to see him. She loved his hat—it was army fatigued stamped with an American flag. It matched her army jacket. “How’s my little warrior today?”

He sniffed and tried to rally but ended up just running to her for a hug instead—more tears falling.


The day would be rough. I knew it. Mrs M knew it. They only had 30 mins to go before art class started anyways.


Art class. I am always grateful for our decision to place our kids into the creative and performing art school in Mobile. The sheer fact of their schedule means my dyslexic warriors have small windows of classroom time. They have breaks. A lot of them. And anyone can be a master of the arts in Mrs Beasley’s class. His attitude improved. A little...


“Don’t worry Mom. I’ve got him. I promise.” Mrs Manske reassured.


I snapped a picture of them together to remind me how much my child is loved and cared for at school. I've done this each time my children made my heart leap for joy, hurt from breaking, or got angry enough to scream. It helps me keep perspective----I'm a photographer after all.


My heart swelled from the bruising it felt. “Oh Landon. Make no apologies. Be who you were meant to be.” I prayed as I left him in the loving care of his teachers once again.


When I arrived to pick them up he looked worn out. But he’d made it. He’d conquered the day. Now it was time for tutoring----Lyla's first day of tutoring.


The kids got in the car. Lyla said, “I’m nervous. But I’m excited. But I’m a little scared too. But I can’t wait Mom!”


“It’s not scary Lyla. You’ll do great. They’re nice.” Landon added.


“Mom? Can we listen to the bearded lady sing about not being scared?” Lyla asked.


I smiled feeling the instant surface of tears.


“Yeah Mom. She makes me feel brave.” Landon echoed.


Yep. Full stream down my face. They got it. The song is called “This is me” by Keala Settle. My favorite lyrics from it are:


“I won't let them break me down to dust

I know that there's a place for us

For we are glorious


When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I'm meant to be, this is me

Look out 'cause here I come

And I'm marching on to the beat I drum

I'm not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me”


The song ended as we pulled into the parking lot. I wiped my tears and gave them their lesson books. They got out and walked in together. Chuckling I noticed Lyla had put her pants on backwards that morning. It was an apt symbol of their struggle with dyslexia. However, the backwards nature of the fabric didn’t slow her down in the slightest---just like learning she was dyslexic this year hasn't stopped her from wanting to learn to read.



March on little ones. No apologies. This is us. Burst through the barricades. Be brave!



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