As a teacher, my biggest frustration is when a kid is absent repeatedly. Without fail, they ask for their work the next day and then at some point, come to me with the words, “I don’t get it.”
I usually respond with some version of, “I know. You missed the lesson. When can you come in to learn it?” And with this being middle school and math, online videos and parents are of limited help (for you parents out there, you’re not crazy – this math is taught differently than how we learned it). For most kids, they need some direct instruction to learn the material. And with limited time in the school day and material that continues to build, repeated absences add up to a big problem.
When I have a kid, even a struggling or not very motivated one, who is in class, I can work with them. I can watch their reactions during a lesson and clear up misconceptions before they build. I can observe them attempt problems and intervene when they make a misstep. I can encourage them when their attention flags and build up their confidence when they are afraid to try.
It’s frustrating to see them falter when I can’t do anything about it.
Presence comes before progress.
And isn’t that true in a marriage as well?
Even when things are rocky, presence matters. If you have a struggling spouse who is still present in the relationship, you can lend support. Missteps and mistakes can be corrected when both partners are vested. When one person’s attention wanes yet they are still in attendance, there is hope for redirection and re-engagement. When one spouse is fearful and able to show it, the other can sound the rallying cry.
But when one partner racks up the absences and is already checked-out?
There’s not much the other person can do.
Because that’s the mathematics of marriage.
It takes two to make it work and only one to destroy it.
And accepting that you cannot fix everything no matter how much you want to is a painful lesson indeed.