It was a morning of little battles.

My students were struggling to stay in their seats, and I was quickly losing my cool. As adorable as they were, there were only so many times I could request they sit back down and listen before I wanted to tape their little behinds to the chairs.


In the end, we made (slow) progress, and everyone was tape-free and happy.

But for Simon, a wee lad in my phonics class, the short O sound was presenting a problem.

We were reading our latest story, where the lead characters get lost in the bog, thanks to some pretty thick fog.

And yet poor Simon simply could not hear the difference between those words and any other O word he found. So as his classmates found “hop” and “log,” he kept answering with “over” and “to.” I mean, hey, there’s an O, dammit! Why wouldn’t I just give him the point?

Across the room, his best friend Hunter was growing restless. They were both only 6 years old, but Hunter had been raised abroad. His spoken English was excellent, as was his grasp of simple letter sounds.

After Simon’s fourth attempt, Hunter couldn’t help but face palm. “You just don’t get phonics,” he muttered with a sigh well beyond his years.

I stifled my laughter. What a glorious show of sarcasm from the same boy who loved it when I drew silly dinosaurs on his homework. Yet I also felt sorry for Simon.

I knew better than most how those simple things could present almighty struggles. Something Manfriend and others manage with a Hunter-esque level of sarcasm.

A few days later, our walk home from a new vegan restaurant had me utterly flummoxed. I had nary a clue which way Manfriend and I needed to go, despite being only four bus stops away from my home.

“So we need to go … that way?” “No, that way,” Manfriend said (for the fourth time). “Wait, so … oh good grief, where the hell are we?”

Manfriend shook his head. Yet again, the city had bamboozled me. Directions were hard, a fact that has endlessly frustrated my friends for years.

I still remember my best friend marveling at how lost I could get so quickly. “You really don’t know where we are?” he marveled in irritated amusement. “Not unless I’m in a clearly marked subway system,” I replied. (On that particular walk, I found we had, in fact, followed that same path three times before. Oops.)

What can I say? This is just me. And my friends are endlessly patient.

As they left class, I saw Hunter and Simon run off, eager for their afternoon playdate. It didn’t matter that Simon’s phonics level was lower than Hunter’s. Just as it didn’t bother my partner (and best friends) that they’d always be the ones responsible for all map-reading and path-finding.

We all have our weaknesses. And luckily, we all had folks by our side to help us along the way.

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