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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  Ages and Stages
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Monday, June 3,2013

Ages and Stages

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  

School-aged years are far more challenging for some than we give them credit for. Sure, we all know the middle school years are awkward. What parent hasn’t had to tell their child at some point that “none of this will matter soon, you’ll see”? The early bloomers learn this lesson in late elementary school, most learn it by the 9th grade, but there are some still within the “normal range” who do not understand the truth of this until they are nearly 20. That is a huge 10 years! And, of course, this is the reason for social groupings and cliques and anti-bullying campaigns, and the like. The years between ages 10 and 20 see major shifts in emotional growth and, to compound matters, major physical shifts as well. Not everyone matures at the same rate. Nor do our physical, mental, emotional (and, by proxy, moral) abilities mature necessarily in concert with each other. In fact, a challenge in one area often impedes on the others, creating a ricochet effect. This, of course, makes us all the uniquely beautiful and flawed individuals that we are.


That is why I am taking the opportunity to congratulate all of the high school and college graduates of 2013 as they achieve a monumental milestone and move toward the next stage of their lives. I would especially like to congratulate Jack Shutowick.... and Jonna Shutowick, and John Shutowick, and all the Shutowicks and teachers and tutors and..... no, I am digressing.. this isn’t about me (what am I, 5?!).... No, this is about Jack. And truly, I am so happy for him and grateful that these first 18 years of his life have opened my eyes, my heart and my soul to these differences about which I speak.

Jack is not a crazy outlier on the developmental scale. He does not suffer any extreme challenges, and in some ways this has made his academic career more difficult. He was tested for learning disabilities, ADD, and the gamut, but the only conclusion most teachers and psychologists could surmise was that he was “lazy” or had a bad attitude. Awesome. Just what the one who loves him most in the world needs from those she has entrusted with her son’s education and self-esteem. As for Jack’s analysis, school was “boring.” Then it was “stupid.” Then “unnecessary and bogus.” Ouch! Right after a teacher’s heart. Of course I couldn’t give up. I had to find a place, a program, some kind of answer... and consider that I work for the school system and have everyone I need on speed dial. Still no answers. I have to give credit to my husband and his uncanny ability to see the big picture for what we finally decided was the official “diagnosis”: immaturity. My husband is a numbers guy, and he saw it like this - if a year has 365 days, and people are expected to mature annually, maybe Jack’s personal year has closer to 400 days. So if a year is equal to 400 days, then by the time he’s 15 he’s really only 13 and 1/2 in “Jack-years.” Yup. That made perfect sense. So, when he was 15 we employed some ‘Jedi’ parenting. We changed his school, held him back and slowed things down for him. The next year and 1/2 were much better. Now rather than being 18 months behind, he was just more like one of the “August babies” of his cohort. And, not that it was perfect (an F in Spanish, a totaled car....) he was visibly more comfortable in his own skin and there were far fewer battles in the house. My point is, we accepted Jack for who and where he was and set our expectations accordingly - we didn’t lower them, just slowed them down. Now that he’s graduating, we are not shipping him off to a four-year school because that is what is “supposed to happen.” He will attend community school for a year (make up that Spanish credit!) and I expect sometime in the next year to year and 1/2 he will decide what he wants to do. As long as that includes getting a job I’m good.

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