Month: August 2014

It’s a Good Investment.

Dylan got accepted into the private school.

He still wants to go, and we still think it’s a good idea, even if it’s only for one year. So now what?

Now we scramble to find money. We try to figure out how to get both kids picked up from school at 3:30, when their schools are 25 miles apart. We sign the enrollment contract, hand-deliver Dylan’s IEP, write a big check.

Basically, we take one panic-stricken step at a time.

I’ve already applied for half a dozen jobs, in addition to the teaching job I’ve already taken with the public schools. I feel like my time has just been shortened by 3 hours a day (because it has) but I need to work more hours than ever before. The money is going to be tough, but we are going to get by.

We have promised ourselves that we would not touch Shane’s college savings. We don’t have much saved for either boy, so we are hoping this private school somehow leads Dylan to a major scholarship in a few years.

Dylan is brilliant, but the beatings he’s taken in middle school have crushed his self-esteem. Not only were the kids harsh, but even the teachers could be downright cruel.

I keep thinking about his algebra teacher, when Dylan would finally take a chance and raise his hand to ask a question. She consistently humiliated him in front of the whole class: “Well if you would just pay ATTENTION, you would know the answer to that!”

So we’re putting him in a pleasant place, with kind teachers and an atmosphere of caring. The hope is that Dylan will recognize the real person he is – the kind, sensitive soul who can hold his head up high because he’ll have little successes every day – both academically and socially.

And then, the hope is, he’ll be able to carry that attitude into high school – whether public or private – because he’ll know that it’s okay to be who he is, and how he is – and that no one in any high school (or anywhere else in the world) can take that away from him.

So it’s worth looking for jobs, juggling transportation and scrambling for money… as long as it works out in the long run.

I was trying to explain this to one of my friends today, and she said, “It’s a good investment.”

She said it better than I could. We’re investing in Dylan’s future.

One panic-stricken step at a time.

Please Stop Sitting on Your Brother.

One thing I find interesting thing about the last ten years is … how Shane handles Dylan.

Dylan is a strong personality. Whether or not I caused it by offering Dylan too much attention in his first three years, even at 13, he demands attention. He talks louder than everyone else in the room. He interrupts all the time. He can be downright obnoxious when he wants something. And the fact that he is constantly on the move – even when he’s sitting still – often requires more than one instructional comment.

For example, “For the 4,000th time, please don’t bounce the ball off of the wall.”

And, “You are kicking me. Please stop.”

And, “Can you stop tapping that pencil so I can hear what your father is saying?”

And, “Please stop sitting on your brother.”

So there’s Shane. You can often find Shane directly under Dylan. In a headlock, perhaps. Or upside down with Dylan dangling him by the feet. Or on Dylan’s back, but somehow under Dylan’s physical control.

When I tell Dylan to “stop” these behaviors, Shane will yell, as if he’s on an amusement park ride, “No, Mom! I asked him to do this!”

They play together beautifully. Even with Dylan emerging into the teen years, Shane is his confidante. They are buddies, pals, playmates and – in the deepest sense – true friends.

It’s a beautiful thing.

From almost the time he was born, Shane idolized Dylan. I have a great picture of the two of them, where Dylan is beaming for the camera – and Shane is staring at Dylan’s smiling face.

It’s just how it is.

I don’t know how it happened, but I think two things helped. First, before Shane was even old enough to walk, I read Siblings Without Rivalry, and studied it in great detail. It said something like, “If the kids aren’t in serious imminent danger, and no one is in danger of going to the hospital, let them work out their problems on their own.”

I can remember watching the boys wrestling when Dylan was 6 and Shane was 3. Shane got hurt. It wasn’t a bad injury – just a bump or a scratch. He sort of cried – not wailed, but he was sad.

I just remember thinking, Will someone need a hospital?

I wanted very badly to help him. I wanted to scoop him up in my arms, and carry him away, scolding Dylan for his carelessness. But I didn’t.

No one needed a hospital.

“Work it out, guys,” I said.

I pretended to be disinterested.

Shane cried a little louder. Then – oddly – Dylan apologized. And they’ve been working it out ever since.

A lot of the good in their relationship is because of their differences. Shane is laid back, doesn’t really seem to care what they do, as long as he occasionally gets to choose. Dylan often likes doing whatever Shane picks. And they’ve invented their own games that require both boys to make cards, or game boards, or full-blown amusement park rides.

They kind of create their own world sometimes.

Shane doesn’t imitate Dylan often, and is finally coming into his own, becoming his own person. So I guess it’s okay that Dylan can be demanding, and steal the attention.

As long as it’s okay with Shane, it’s going to be okay with me.

Even if, sometimes, it’s really hard to sit back and watch.

Apply Anyway.

For Dylan’s whole life, there was one private school that grasped and held our attention.

When Dylan was a toddler, we walked him to the school campus and fed their horses, letting him carefully touch their noses with his little hand. When Shane was born, we took him “to the horses,” too.

I met the headmaster one day, on our walk, and told them that we were just too poor to go to that school. She encouraged us to apply anyway, since financial aid was available. I loved the idea – but didn’t know how eligible we would be.

So when 6th grade was rolling around, and against my better judgment, I wandered into the school’s Open House. I listened to the teachers talking about their openness with students. I listened to the students talking about how much freedom they had, and how they were encouraged to do more, and be more, than they’d been encouraged in public school.

By the time the Open House was over, I was in tears. I knew we couldn’t afford the school – it cost more than $25,000/year – and I literally cried to the admissions staff person at the desk. Tears were pouring out of my eyes. I felt like a total idiot, but the school seemed so perfect for Dylan.

“Apply anyway,” she told me. “We do have financial aid. And we’ll wave the application fee, so you really have nothing to lose.”

And then Dylan attended the school for a “shadow” day, and loved it so much, he said he wanted to go there more than anything in the world. He was even willing to spend the extra hour per day there – and happy about it. He loved being in this school.

So we applied. We went through the laborious process of begging for money through an online application system that practically guaranteed that we wouldn’t get any aid. We make enough money that people think we have money. But we spend it all on vacations and extracurriculars and restaurants, so we don’t actually have any money.

My application included a detailed exploration of Shane’s vision therapy ($24,000 not covered by insurance) and Dylan’s ADHD testing ($2200 not covered by insurance) and all the many, many reasons we really couldn’t afford the school.

Then we waited. And waited. We needed to know if we were getting any financial aid – and how much – to see if we would be able to afford to give Dylan the quality education he deserved, instead of sending him to public middle school.

We waited a few weeks, and finally, the letter came. It said (more or less), “Thank you for applying, but we don’t have a space for your son here.”

In other words, they didn’t have a space for someone who couldn’t afford to pay full tuition. My husband later ran into someone on the private school’s board who told him that the school was in deep financial trouble, and that they couldn’t afford to take on students who couldn’t pay full tuition.

To say that I was angry about wasting four months of my time and dreams on this school, based on a false promise of possible financial aid, would be an understatement of tremendous proportions.

I stayed up nights, screaming at that admissions woman in my head: “APPLY ANYWAY! you said! WHY would you SAY THAT when I was standing there IN TEARS, telling you that I had NO MONEY?!”

After weeks of agonizing over the injustice of it all, I finally wrote her a letter, putting my sentiments in much clearer and kinder terms.

Then I printed out the letter, burned it, and sent Dylan to public middle school.

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