Month: February 2015
I have some control issues. By now, I am well aware that I need to do something about them – or watch my kids grow up to be just like me. After many years of randomly wondering what to do, I said a little prayer. Just a tiny little prayer, that I would be able to do something to change.
Since that time, I’ve been reading a book called, Keep Your Love On, which popped up as a church seminar right after I said my prayer. The book talks about fear and powerlessness and all the things that cause control issues – and I am absorbing it quite nicely.
I have also been doing Kirk Martin’s anxiety challenge. Knowing that control comes from fear has helped me to realize that calming my anxiety keeps me from demanding control. It’s helped me, too.
But it was a stunningly awkward source that provided my latest revelation: Judge Lynn Toler, on Divorce Court.
Sometimes when I eat lunch, I plop myself in front of the television and watch whatever court show happens to be playing at the moment. Those litigants always make me feel better about myself. And I don’t actually care what happens to them, so I can turn off the TV midway through and go back to my brilliant life.
So I didn’t see the court case. I just heard the guy talking about his angry wife. And then I heard what the judge said. If I could find a YouTube video of it, I would be able to repeat it verbatim – and I would watch it every day until I had it memorized.
Unfortunately, I can’t find it, so I have no idea what she said exactly. My quotes may be completely wrong.
But I heard, “You have to deal with your fear and that will take care of your anger.”
I heard, “You are strong enough to beat your fear.”
She said, “For awhile, I kept a list of my worries. I drew a line down the middle. On one side, I wrote what I was worried about, and on the other side I wrote what really happened. And when I read it back at the end of the week, I felt pretty stupid.”
I heard, “Don’t let something that happened 20 years ago control what you do today.”
And I heard, “When you get up in the morning, say to yourself that just for one day, whatever he does to upset you, you will just take a step back and let it be.”
I may not have the YouTube video. I probably won’t even write a letter to ol’ Lynn Toler thanking her for her words of wisdom. But at least now, I have written down what I heard.
And I have a sensible plan with tons of action steps to help me take charge of my life – so that I can finally stop trying to control everyone else’s.
After attempting to enroll Dylan in public school again, I met – one more time – with the IB coordinator, to check the plan for Dylan’s four years.
In order to get in all of the requirements – four years of English and math, three years of social studies and science, one technology, one P.E., one arts and one-half health credit – there is little room left for anything else, even though Dylan is going into 9th grade with two high school credits.
Add in two years of a foreign language for college admissions purposes, and the seven IB requirements, and we are left with 2.5 elective credits.
And Dylan just got into Chamber Choir – which he’d like to do for four years.
So I met with the IB coordinator to make sure we had everything we need in the schedule – and was reminded why he was so suited for IB in the first place.
“IB rewards you for what you know,” said the IB coordinator. “AP punishes you for what you don’t know. An IB test asks questions that are open-ended and give you a chance to explain your answers. An AP test zaps you – bzzzt! – if you don’t know the answer, and there’s no chance to explain why you chose it.”
Dylan explains everything. He is such an IB kind of guy. His brain has been lightyears ahead of mine since he was two, in that he can understand and explain huge complexities of the world. He may not be able to remember to wear shoes when he goes outside in the winter, or to turn in a major project that he’s worked on for three weeks, but that is a different type of brain issue.
Dylan has reviewed all the options, discussed the IB components with me, questioned the important things – like whether to take Net Sports or General P.E. for his physical education requirement, and whether or not to take Health class online in the summer.
He’s decided to take video production over both engineering and law, two things that semi-interest him. He’s also decided that he’d like to take computer coding classes if it’s offered as an IBCP pathway… but that he will give them up in order to stay in IBCP (and take video production instead).
In spite of the flexibility of the non-IB schedule, Dylan has frequently said, “I want to be in the IB program.”
So my new job is to stay notified about the possible computer coding pathway – and to stay in touch with the IB coordinator to see if it takes off. They are mere minutes away from allowing it to take off – but if the minutes lean toward Dylan’s sophomore year, he may end up being left out of the pathway because he’s taking video production instead of the intro class for computer coding.
Is anyone else following this? Even my brain is fried.
I talked to a woman yesterday and mentioned that I have one son going into high school, and another one going into middle school. She said, “I don’t remember anything except college.”
I can’t believe that will ever happen to me.
So I went to “enroll” Dylan at our local public high school.
Since I was going to be at the school anyway, I scheduled an audition for Dylan to sing and play guitar for the choral director. Dylan hoped he would get into Guitar 2 because he was not enamored with his new, low, puberty-ridden voice.
Dylan’s been singing like an angel almost since he was born, so this made me sad. But guitars are good, too.
Dylan was tuning his guitar in the office when the choral director appeared. We made our introductions and he took Dylan down the long hallway to the music room.
Then I started filling out piles of enrollment paperwork.
Half an hour later, Dylan and the choral director returned. They were like old buddies by then, talking to each other more than me. They’d already developed a rapport.
“So how did he do?” I finally blurted.
“Dylan is just a delight,” said the choral director. He put his hand on Dylan’s shoulder. “I just love his attitude! And his voice – that’s a very powerful instrument you have there.” He looked straight at Dylan’s throat. Then he turned to me. “I would definitely encourage some more voice lessons. He’s got a strong voice, and a lot of potential!”
I always thought “potential” was pejorative. But in this case, I would be wrong.
“We can do that,” I nodded. “And we know he can’t be in Chamber Choir this year,” I said, “because he’s not in 10th grade….”
“Oh, I would definitely want him in my Chamber Choir,” said the director without hesitation. “With his skill level and musical talent, he should most definitely be in Chamber.”
Dylan didn’t even blink. He had just surpassed a full year of general chorus and positioned himself inside an elite group of upperclassmen in Chamber Choir. As a freshman.
I didn’t even know it was possible to jump a year ahead. “So we should just request that class when we register?” I stammered.
“Yes, uh-huh,” the director said. “I’d like to see him in choir for all four years.”
I was flabbergasted. Dylan never flinched. He stood there, confident and calm, leaning on his guitar case.
“And what about Guitar 2?” I asked. “Did he …”
“Oh, he won’t have time to take both classes,” the choral director said.
“That’s true,” I said, remembering all the requirements we had to cram into his four years. But we were going to make room for Chamber Choir. This kind of honor doesn’t happen every day.
“Thank you,” I said. Dylan just continued to lean.
“Thank you,” said the choral director. “It was really such a pleasure meeting you, Dylan,” he said, shaking Dylan’s hand again.
“You, too,” Dylan said, smiling his stunningly gorgeous-but-humble smile.
The choral director went back to his work, and I turned back to the process of enrollment.
The woman in charge of enrollment said, “You’re my first ‘future enrollment,’ and I’m not sure how to process this. But I will make some phone calls, and hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I’ll figure out how to get this done.”
“And what else do you need me to do?” I asked.
“Just bring in his transcript at the end of the year,” she said, completely contradicting the advice she’d given me via phone only a few days earlier.
“Okay,” I said, still glowing from Dylan’s choral accomplishment. There didn’t seem to be much I could do to encourage the enrollment person to actually complete Dylan’s enrollment.
Welcome back to public school, I thought.
Since September, when I first started calling the nice folks at our local public high school – only a full year before it was time for Dylan to start 9th grade – the counselor has said, “You need to call us at the end of February to enroll him.”
The counselor and I met twice – once with the special ed coordinator, and once with Dylan in tow. Both times he told me to call the office in late February. He said it with a big smile, although I had no idea why I was waiting until the end of February to call – especially since our second meeting was in early February.
“They’ll get Dylan enrolled,” they said.
I mistakenly assumed that this meant that we would be choosing his classes for 9th grade.
Since January, I have been patiently perusing course choices, studying up on the IB programs and AP options, staying connected through the school’s email and checking out options in the music program. I am really, really ready to enroll Dylan in 9th grade.
I am now learning the difference between the words enroll and register.
I finally called – and was told that they can meet with me next week to enroll Dylan in public school.
“Should I bring his class choices?” I asked excitedly, feeling prepared and somewhat proud – even though Dylan will be taking the classes, not me.
“You need to enroll him,” said the woman on the phone.
“I don’t understand what that means,” I said with my proud self.
In order to be registered for classes, Dylan first needs to be enrolled.
That’s because he is NOT enrolled currently. He is in private school which, apparently, is the equivalent of dropping him off the face of the earth. POOF! Dylan is gone! He no longer exists in the database, even though I made sure that he is in there somewhere, so that we are ready to get him a specialized learning plan.
So we have to put him back into the database. He has to exist again on someone’s radar.
“You will need to bring his birth certificate, social security number, and a recent property tax bill,” the woman said.
“Does it matter that he went to public school for two of his three years of middle school?”
“No,” she said, “because we don’t know if you’ve moved or not. We need the proof that you still live there.”
“So when do I bring his list of classes?”
“Well first, you have to bring his 8th grade transcript,” she said, as if I might have that lying around.
“Do we need to wait until the end of the year?”
“No,” she said, “just something that shows what classes he’s taking and that he’s passing his classes.” Our non-traditional Quaker school never sent a report card.
“I can do that,” I said.
“Good,” she said. “See you next week.”
And all of my good intentions and planning got tossed right to the back burner, while I started digging for all the necessary legal documents to get Dylan re-enrolled in public school.
I have been watching “World’s Worst Mom” on TV, since it is helmed by Lenore Skenazy, whose “free range kids” concept has been my parenting inspiration. Years ago, Lenore allowed her 10-year-old to ride the subway alone – and ended up making national news, a book, and now a TV show to support her parenting style.
She’s my reminder to step outside my fears and allow my kids to be kids.
Meanwhile, the parents on her new TV show make me look like Mom of the Year. With all of my screeching and changing rules and odd negotiation tactics with my tw/eens, I actually look good.
A mom of a 10- and 12-year-old wouldn’t allow her children to have playdates. They couldn’t play in the backyard unsupervised. And when they tried to actually bounce on their own trampoline, they were reprimanded. What is the point of having a trampoline if the kids can’t bounce?
Luckily, Lenore stepped in and saved the day. The mom – who was deathly afraid of water, but owned both a backyard swimming pool and a boat – actually took a 10-story plunge on a water slide by the end of the show.
It’s amazing what can happen in 23 minutes.
Another mom, on another episode, wasn’t as fortunate. She determined Lenore to be completely insane, and insisted that her five kids would never, ever, ever walk the three blocks to school without her – even though they were ecstatic during the trip made especially for the show. (I suppose mom allowed it since the cameraman followed them the whole way to keep them safe.)
I feel better, knowing that there are parents who are more neurotic than I am. It’s sad that it takes a set of parents willing to imprison their own children to make me feel better – but it certainly does.
After two postponements due to snow, the high school finally held its Introduction to IB program.
For those still uninitiated, the IB program is the International Baccalaureate diploma program. Basically it’s a high school degree that’s accepted worldwide and, if one ignores all the controversy about whether or not it’s actually better than the more practiced Advanced Placement program, an IB diploma supposedly guarantees admittance into top universities. The program only takes two years to complete, but there are a number of prerequisites that have to be taken in 9th and 10th grade, so that the rigorous IB schedule is possible in the junior and senior years.
Dylan’s school has an optional IB Certification Program, which – given his ADHD and hands-on learning style – is, without a doubt, a better fit for Dylan. For the IBCP, Dylan needs to choose a pathway. The pathway choices are quite limited. Since he chose an engineering pathway in middle school, we assumed he would follow the engineering pathway.
But he’s been hesitant about taking the introductory class for engineering.
“Everybody says there’s like a ton of homework in that class,” Dylan said. Had he not been uprooted and gone to a private school (with no engineering classes), Dylan would have been taking that class in 8th grade – and he has friends who are taking it now, and reporting back to him.
So I started to question his issues with engineering. He’s been building things out of nothing since he was old enough to sit up on his own. His focus would quadruple when given manipulatives with which to create. He’s a brilliant designer – with his hands – but doesn’t care much about drawing, or designing, or even conceptualizing.
He likes to build without thinking about it first. And engineering is all about the thinking part that takes place before building.
Later, I asked him about engineering again. “I thought I would really like it,” he said. “But you just draw and draw and draw. I thought it was like construction, only smaller.”
So, I thought, engineering is probably out. (And then I wrote that whole blog about how algebra turned him against engineering which, I now see, was probably entirely false.)
Then, last night, they announced two new pathway choices – things that, in spite of my years of research, had never appeared on my radar. One of them was justice and law, and the other is media production. Both of these interested Dylan, and the words “media production” made my heart skip a little beat in ecstasy. (I majored in communications in college, so I have a weakness for that sort of thing.)
Then, it was announced, there is a chance that they will also offer a computer coding option as a pathway within the next year – meaning, Dylan could choose that, too.
So now I have a new mission: find out about the coding pathway. See how much media production is involved in media production. See how many hands-on classes Dylan can take, and still get an IB certificate – without taking engineering, which he no longer likes.
Oh yeah, and also, create a new list of choices for Dylan so he can choose, and not me.
I took Shane into his Sunday School classroom a bit early. He goes to the “4th and 5th grade boys” class.
We were so early, in fact, that the teacher hadn’t arrived yet. One other boy was in the room – a very large boy, even for fifth grade. I’ll call him Bob, although I have no idea of his real name.
Bob was drawing on a white board with a marker. Meanwhile, I sat down with Shane to wait with the teacher.
“You can just leave,” Shane said to me.
“But I want to stay with you,” I told him.
He didn’t respond. I glanced at his feet. His white socks were falling down – or had never been properly pulled up, which is quite likely since I am such a stickler for making sure he has high quality socks.
“How are those socks?” I asked him, while Bob continued to draw on the white board across the room.
“They’re okay,” Shane said.
“Are they comfortable like that?” I asked.
“They’re okay,” he said again.
“Do you think you might like to pull them up, or do you prefer them falling down into your shoes?”
For one moment, Shane was still my baby. The next moment, his babyhood ended.
He spoke quietly, but with real conviction. “Stop talking about this stuff!” he said.
It was obvious, quite suddenly, that I had embarrassed him in front of Bob. Since Shane had never, ever been particular about what I said to him before, in front of anyone, I was a bit … surprised.
I stopped talking about socks.
Meanwhile, Bob left the white board and came over and sat down. He had drawn a very intricate picture of an electric eel that could easily have been featured in a publication somewhere.
“Did you draw that?” I asked Bob, as if I hadn’t seen him do it.
“Yeah,” said Bob.
“Do you ever draw comic books?”
“Sometimes,” he said.
“You should, if you can draw like that,” I told him. Bob responded by thumping on the table.
Shane echoed Bob’s thumping. Then Bob thumped back.
I got up to go to church. The teacher still wasn’t there, but I was not needed.
“Have fun guys,” I said, patting Shane’s head – and instantly regretting it.
As I walked out, the dueling drummers continued – having a great time, now that the old lady was gone.
In order to make sense of the whole IB thing – for Dylan, and for myself – I studied the IBCP program in great detail. Then I studied the IB program (which will not work for Dylan, for a variety of reasons). Then I studied the most important thing of all: the actual requirements for high school graduation.
Interestingly, there aren’t a lot of requirements to graduate. Dylan gets a choice of a whole slew of classes – almost like college – and just has to decide which path he wants to travel. So I made him lists, to show him what his different path options might look like on any given day.
He will be coming into the school with three high school credits: Algebra I, Physics and Guitar 1. I kept that in mind, and I included a lot of music and P.E., since he loves both. Then I remembered that AP classes hold a ton of weight, since you can (and maybe he will!) get college credit for those.
Here’s what the options look like:
MINIMUM EFFORT (HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE)
Grade 9: English, Guitar 2, Geometry, Applied Science, U.S. History, General P.E., Chorus
Grade 10: English, Health, Bridge to Algebra II, Biology, World History, Chorus, Volleyball
Grade 11: English, Algebra II, Net Sports, Government, Theater, Piano I, Chorus
Grade 12: English, Pre-Calculus, Foundations of Technology, Basketball, Piano II, Digital Photo, Chorus
ACTUAL EFFORT WITH PASSIONS EMPHASIZED (COLLEGE BOUND)
Grade 9: Honors English, Foundations of Technology, Honors Geometry, Applied Science, U.S. History, P.E., Guitar 2
Grade 10: Honors English, Introduction to Engineering Design, Algebra II, Honors Biology, AP World History, Concert Choir, Honors Health
Grade 11: Honors English, Pre-Calculus, Principals of Engineering, AP Government, TV Production I, AP Music Theory, Chamber Choir
Grade 12: Honors English, Calculus, AP Psychology, Radio Production, Aerospace Engineering, Concert Choir, Chamber Choir
SERIOUS EFFORT WITH SERIOUS FOCUS (IB CAREER-PREP AND COLLEGE BOUND)
Grade 9: Honors English, Guitar 2, Geometry, Applied Science, U.S. History, P.E., Introduction to Engineering Design
Grade 10: Honors English, Honors Health, Algebra II, Biology, World History, Concert Choir, Principles of Engineering
Grade 11: IB English, Pre-Calculus, Digital Electronics, AP Government, Global Information Technology, Net Sports, Chamber Choir
Grade 12: IB English, IB Mathematical Studies, Foundations of Technology, Engineering Design, IB Music, Chamber Choir, Concert Choir
I’ve learned two things from all of this.
1. There are too bloomin’ many choices! … and,
2. It just doesn’t matter all that much which classes he chooses – although it does matter if he gets good grades in whatever he chooses. And that’s going to be another fight altogether.
After all this research and work and plotting and planning, I am so overwhelmed that I’ve had to take a big step backward. At this point, my head begins to swarm with that Doris Day song from my childhood – so many, many years ago…
Que sera, sera… whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera.
Shane has been rejected for so much in the past few years, it pains me.
The key to that sentence is, of course, that it pains me. Shane recovered from each and every rejection beautifully, and never talks about it, even in passing.
He didn’t get into the Gifted & Talented program – while most of his friends did, and those who didn’t get in were waitlisted – and two of those ended up in the GT program in 5th grade. Shane didn’t even get waitlisted.
A year later, every single one of his best friends – and several acquaintances – were chosen to be safety patrols. The selection process completely overlooked Shane.
So when Shane was voted in as one of only two student government representatives, everyone leapt for joy. He is thrilled with his new position, and does a great job.
Around the same time, Shane decided that he’d like to attend the local magnet program for performing arts. He enjoys acting classes, and thinks he’d like to go to a school that emphasizes the arts.
My stomach sank. The program is a lottery, and people are chosen quite randomly. Other than gender, possibly, there is no way to influence the decision about middle school. I thought, I don’t even want him to apply.
But Shane wanted to apply. And while many of his friends were applying to the GT program for middle schools, he put his application in the lottery for the performing arts middle school. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to go – but he wanted to be accepted.
And then we forgot all about it because we are following the motto: Whatever is supposed to happen will happen.
Then the letter arrived in the mail: Shane was accepted. He got in!
I called him downstairs to read the letter, which he did. He read it very quietly. He got through the first two paragraphs, then he looked at me.
“Can I go to my regular school?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, “if that’s what you really want to do.”
“I do. Unless suddenly all of my friends get into this school, too, and I don’t think any of them applied.”
“Do you want to think about it for awhile and then decide?”
“Not really,” Shane said.
Still, I forced him to make a big announcement to everyone who came into the house – his dad, his brother – and then call his grandparents, too. He got in!
But Shane didn’t care. He said, “I got in, but I’m not going.”
And that was the end of it for him.
For me, it was a missed opportunity for celebrating acceptance.
And then it occurred to me that it was only me who cared about celebrating. Shane just lets things roll right off his back. He’s not burying some deep resentment over the things that happen. He simply notices them as they do.
I think he was hurt when he wasn’t chosen to be a patrol. But he grieved a little – and then he was done. He felt the pain, then moved on.
Meanwhile, I’ve been rolling around in that pain for half a year, wallowing, and letting it build up on top of the pain of his being rejected for the GT program. And his getting accepted to this school felt good – even if he didn’t want to go.
But Shane doesn’t care. He is going to go where he thinks he’ll be happiest. And when he gets there, whatever is supposed to happen will happen.
Earlier this week, in the course of about 25 minutes, Dylan created one of the most beautiful, complex, fun marvels I’ve ever seen. It was a kind of marble roller coaster game that involved gambling, guessing and statistics.
The marble track started high on a table and led across the room through obstacles, ending on the floor in the kitchen. The track itself was awesome, but it’s what he did with the track that was so awesome: he made it into an awesome game.
The end of the track had nine stations where the marble might land at the end of its run. He marked each landing area with playing cards and deemed each area worth a specific amount. Then he set up a betting area on the table, so that people could guess which station might catch the marble – and win points.
Shortly before this, Dylan said he’s “not sure anymore” if he wants to go into engineering.
Engineering involves math. Dylan was a whiz at math in fifth and sixth grade. His grades were so high, in fact, that he skipped a class and went directly into algebra class in seventh grade.
And Dylan hates algebra. He sees no real-world reason for learning it, and I must agree.
Thanks to some poor teaching, years of neglect in preparing kids for algebraic thinking, and a teacher who so humiliated Dylan in class that she may as well have asked him to wear a dunce cap – my son is now ready to give up on his career as an engineer.
Music is easier, he says, so he thinks he’ll do that.
The statistics on this phenomenon are horrific. In spite of efforts to the contrary, the number of graduates in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) continue to steadily decline. Students with awesome intellect and creative abilities are refusing to follow their dreams of designing, building and inventing – because math is so abstract and mind-numbingly dull in school, they assume it will continue in real life.
There’s no connection between algebra, for example, and anything in life. And at least for Dylan, if there’s no greater meaning in something, it becomes an unnecessary burden – for him, and for the world.
He does want to take calculus, though. “It looks really cool,” he says.
He’s already taking physics. The way he talks about it, the concepts in physics are just common sense.
I can’t even imagine thinking the way he thinks. It hurts my head to imagine thinking the way he thinks. I simply can’t.
We need his brain in the world. We need him to create incredible things. But I can’t convince him that engineering will allow him the opportunity to do this. Nor can I guarantee that, because of his specific issues, he’ll be able to complete the work – and turn it in – that’s required of an engineering student.
Worse yet, I don’t know what he can do with the gift that’s been given to him. He’s been building spectacular games since he was barely old enough to talk. He’s been taking common household items and turning them into awesome strategy challenges for ten years.
He takes nothing and turns it into something for his entertainment all the time.
So how do I explain that to the college admissions office?
And how do I explain to Dylan that his brilliance is not common sense, and that it’s really worth using for the greater good?
I guess I don’t do either. Because at this point, it’s up to Dylan.