This is the time of the year when parents are notified that their child will be recognized for their academic accomplishments and received an award during an assembly of their class. Parents are notified so they could make arrangements to be in attendance. Patty and I always responded to this call for each of our children.
There was no shortage of accolades for Michelle. With the announcement of each category, it was a sure bet that her name would be called. We were proud parents. Not for the accomplishment, but instead for the hard work. It would have been easy for others to think about Michelle as someone that was just lucky. That was certainly not the case.
I often compare and contrast Thomas and Michelle to understand and appreciate their differences. For Thomas, learning was a breeze. He was able to retain information and regurgitate it with ease, and math problems were just intuitive for him. What he struggled with was making inferences. Connecting the dots, and predicting the results.
Michelle was always different that Thomas, so it was no surprise to see her individual strengths and weaknesses. Michelle needed a lot more time at the kitchen table with my guidance to complete her homework. It was not enough to just get it done, she wanted to understand it. There was an inner desire for perfection. Many nights before tests she would ask Patty and I to quiz her using the study guide. We knew that a single mistake in the review would prompt her to request us to do it again.
In middle school, Michelle was placed in Super Advanced math. From my understanding, this placed her two years ahead of the normal curriculum. Math was a struggle for Michelle, and was my strength. I recognized early on that Michelle had a visual learning modality. To help her I would draw a visual representation of the math problem. This helped her understand what others just accept as facts.
Michelle was such a perfectionist that during an open response portion of a test, she would fill in the space with tiny writing while most students would provide a one sentence answer. We’ve often been told how Michelle would be the last one to complete the test. Often she would require, and be granted, extra time at the end of the day or the start of the next day to finish.
Michelle’s successes did not come easy, and neither did her disappointments. She would practice for an audition months in advance. If she did not get picked for the lead, she would strive for perfection among the ensemble. There were some things that Michelle tried that no amount of hard work could overcome the deficit. This was especially true for sports. Nobody in my family were ever good at sports. Michelle tried her hand at soccer, basketball, and swimming. They were not meant to be. She was encouraged to try cross country and track, but the timing of these would interfere with dancing, which she loved and excelled. When news of HHS archery team was announced, I immediately thought this would be something that Michelle would want to try. Inspired by the movie, “Hunger Games”, she fancied herself a Katniss and while playing Minecraft, she would prefer a bow and arrow over a sword.
When I think about Michelle, I think mostly about her hard work. Her desire to keep trying until she was satisfied, and she would be the last one satisfied. I think about how we watched America’s Got Talent the summer that Grace Vanderwaal won. She was inspired to get a ukulele and use YouTube videos to learn how to play.
It did not come easy. She worked hard for everything she accomplished. She was the only one of my children that learned to ride a bike. Both Thomas and Robert found it too difficult, and not worth the effort to learn. Michelle was different. She would ask me to take her to St. Catherine’s parking lot and help her learn. As I coached her, she finally accomplished it and I have the video on my phone still. Her bike meant freedom. She earned it with her hard work. She enjoyed it.
Michelle was always busy. I imagine she still is. Whenever I find myself having a hard time, I will say, “Michelle, pray for me.” I swear I can hear her voice say, “I am dad.”
I never cared how successful any of my children were, the only thing I cared about is that they tried something and that they gave it their best effort. My sweet girl tried everything and always gave it her best. Sometimes it paid off, and she was recognized for it. It never came easy.