Month: March 2016
Shane – my sweet, angelic little Shane – was digging in a drawer for a piece of gum when I stopped him.
“It’s dinnertime,” I told him. Bill had just pulled into the garage, which means dinner is imminent.
“It’s not dinnertime,” Shane said.
“It is,” I repeated. “Daddy’s home, which means it is time for dinner. Pretty much, you should just reserve 5:00 to 7:00 for dinner.”
“Whatever,” he said. Then he went upstairs, gumless.
Seconds later, I heard a loud THWACK! followed by a BOOM! WHAM! WHACK!
It sounded like a heavily framed work of art – if we’d owned one – had fallen on the floor. I raced to the stairs.
“Shane!” I yelled. “What happened?”
He came out of his room.
“I was angered,” he said. He put two thumbs up and nearly smiled at me.
“Angered at what?”
“At my game,” he said. He’d been playing his allotted video game time, just before the gum incident.
“So you beat up your room?” I asked.
“Just the door,” Shane said. “I just hit it a few times. But it’s done now.”
And he walked away.
He had some anger. He harmlessly (thus far) released it on a door. And now he’s not angry anymore.
And it had nothing to do with my not allowing him to have gum.
I always learn from Shane.
Shane gets an allowance, gets paid for an occasional job, and sometimes gets money as a gift. Like most kids, he keeps his money in something akin to a piggy bank.
Shane knows exactly how much he has – because he enjoys counting it far more than he enjoys spending it.
One day, I decided (with his permission) to take a pile of money to the bank, to put it into his (already established) savings account. He said he had $500 to put into the bank.
When I got to the bank, though, there was an odd amount: $302. I put it into the bank, somewhat befuddled about Shane’s counting, and went home. Later that day, I asked Shane about it.
“I had $500 in that bag,” he told me.
“I thought you did,” I said. “But I gave the bank all the money that was in there. I counted it twice. And it was only $302.”
The money had been hanging haphazardly in a bag on his doorknob for a month. Before that, the bag was tossed about on the floor. So now $200 is missing. Gone. Kaput.
When you make $3 a week in allowance, and you don’t have a job, it takes a long time to earn $200.
But Shane lives in a slovenly fashion. Walking across the floor of his room is like navigating a mine field. I never know what I might break. When he cleans – and he does, occasionally, clean – he puts his books in piles. He puts his CDs in piles. He pushes his toys under the dresser. He has pieces of various magic tricks mixed in with toys, toiletries and writing utensils.
I’ve tried to help him with organization. I’ve helped him get organized with new shelves, bookcases, baskets, drawers and cubbies.
About an hour after he realized the money was lost Shane said, “I think I’m over the losing of the money. I guess if God wanted me to lose that money, there must have been a reason for it.”
He may be slovenly, but he is wise beyond his years.
I got a call from the middle school.
“There are new vaccination requirements for all sixth graders,” said the automated voice of the school principal. “Please check with your doctor to be sure that your child has the necessary vaccinations.”
Unlike 99% of parents, I immediately emailed my doctor. They sent me back a note the next day, complete with Dylan’s and Shane’s records, and assuring me that Shane did, indeed, have the necessary vaccinations.
A week went by. I got another call.
“If you are receiving this message,” said the voice, “it means that your child does not have the necessary vaccinations to enter seventh grade.”
You have got to be kidding, I thought.
My kids are very fortunate. They have parents who care about them, a dad with a job and health insurance. We haven’t missed a check-up since we brought the first baby home from the hospital. The kids have gotten every single vaccination they needed since the day they were born. We even get them weighed and measured once a year, to be sure they are growing properly.
And we just finished their 2016 annual check-up.
So I called the school nurse.
“The last thing we have is from 2011,” said the nurse. “Shane got a flu mist at the school clinic.”
“Yes, he probably did,” I told her. “But what vaccine is he missing?”
“He needs a blah blah with a blah blah blah,” she said, speaking medical mumbo-jumbo.
I pulled up his records on my computer. All of their vaccination records were from prior to 2011. And I found the one she’d just “blah-blahed” about.
“He has that right here!” I said. “Can I just email this to you and you can tell me what’s missing?”
“Sure,” she said. She gave me her email address, which is not available on the school’s website. For some reason that I’ve yet to learn, nurses are exempt from being included on school websites.
I emailed the vaccination records, with the note from the doctor saying that both of my children were up-to-date with their vaccines.
“I don’t understand what could be missing,” I said. “Even the doctor says they are up-to-date. Please let me know ASAP what I can do.”
Then I waited. And waited.
Eventually, I got a note back: “Thank you! Shane’s immunization record is complete and updated.”
In other words, the school lost Shane’s original records, and needed a new copy.
So glad I could provide that for them.
A week or so after I played Diva Mom and tried to get the school to change the key of a song for Dylan’s sake – which, I maintain, is still a good idea – I realized what was really bothering me.
The technical director screamed at my son.
The man stood next to Dylan and shrieked at him: “SING! JUST SING!” He was loud and intimidating and burly and demanding.
And my barely-15-year-old had enough sense to tackle the issue calmly, like an adult: “I don’t feel comfortable singing in this key.”
Dylan knows something that I didn’t know at his age: how to maintain control while in the presence of a control freak.
The man obviously has serious control issues. And most kids with ADHD – I would guess – would either blow up at the control freak or self-destruct. Even without ADHD, maybe, most kids would blow up or self-destruct.
At Dylan’s age, I always chose to self-destruct.
But Dylan handled the situation like an adult. Like a mature adult, one who is able to stand his ground, stand up for himself, and not “attack back.” In other words, Dylan did something that I am rarely able to do myself, even at the ripe old age of half a century.
So I went to the band director and told him about the real issue, about the harshness of the technical director’s teaching methods. The band director suggested – directly to Dylan, who was standing next to me – that after the heat of the moment, he should talk to the technical director, and tell him that his teaching methods were not working for Dylan, that they frightened him more than encouraged him.
Dylan said he would do that.
I don’t know if I could, but Dylan might actually do it.
Dylan started the quarter with high hopes and lofty expectations. He said things like, “I’m going to get an A in Geometry, for sure.”
And interestingly, he does have an A in Geometry! A solid 96 percent. With only a week left in the quarter, it is looking like he will get an A.
At the beginning of the quarter Dylan also said, “I’ll probably get an A in English, too.” He loves Shakespeare, and they were reading Romeo and Juliet for most of the quarter.
But he currently has a D in English.
I don’t understand how he has a D in English. At Dylan’s IEP meeting, his English teacher was the only one who showed up. He smiled and said that Dylan is doing much, much better in his class. He sang Dylan’s praises for a full five minutes.
Then I asked the English teacher, “If he’s doing so much better, why does he still have so many E’s?” In Dylan’s case, E’s mean missing work.
“We’re working on those,” his teacher said, still smiling. He seems genuinely pleased with Dylan progress.
I still see a bunch of E’s.
When Dylan got sick and missed school for two full days, his grades plummeted. Dylan brought his failing grades up after that in both History and Spanish – two classes that had, at one time, also made him feel hopeful. He is struggling way more in history this quarter than any other class – and I have no idea why. He did very well in the class, and always got his work turned in. This quarter, though, he started off in a deep hole – three E’s – and has been digging himself out ever since.
He had a crazy-hard time in Biology last semester, but this quarter, he’s doing great. He would have an A in the class, but for three missing assignments that were substantially docked for being turned in so late.
I’m confused by Dylan’s inability to turn in assignments the day they are due. He is working more at home, studying even, yet he has these huge, glaring holes in every class.
Luckily, my job is only to be positive and encouraging.
Somehow, I feel that positivity fading as I am holding my breath and waiting for the end of the quarter.
Saint Patrick’s Day fell in the middle of Shane’s school’s “Spirit Week.” For the first three days, his middle school did not seem very spirited.
“Hardly anybody was dressed up,” he said on the first day – and the second.
But on March 17th, when everyone was supposed to wear green, Shane said, “Everybody went completely crazy!” The green was rampant in his school. And luckily, Shane had remembered to wear green as well.
Dylan said high school was also rather spirited on March 17. One friend, he said, “wore green pants, green socks, green shoes and even sprayed her hair green. But she didn’t wear a green shirt.” He seemed perplexed by her not wearing a green shirt – but I thought wearing green pants was so over-the-top, she probably didn’t need a green shirt, too.
Dylan wore a shamrock-studded bandana around his wrist like a bracelet. The rest of his outfit was not green because, of course, he slept through his alarm, came downstairs late, and forgot that it was St. Patrick’s day until I mentioned the bandana.
Best of all, they both felt spirited and enjoyed the day.
I can remember waiting patiently for March 17, so that I could wear something green, and probably velour. I loved knowing what to wear, showing a touch of individuality while fitting seamlessly in with the crowd.
I saw some teachers at Dylan’s school who were dressed head-to-toe in green and I thought, gee, I am glad I don’t have to do that anymore.
And I thought of all the other things I don’t have to do anymore to “fit in.”
I am glad my kids fit in. But I am also glad I don’t care so much about fitting in now.
Dylan can’t comfortably sing the opening song of the school musical – although it is his job. We had expected that the school band would play the song in the key of G.
Since we are working on self-advocating, Dylan went to the choral director to ask about getting a key change for the opening song.
“She said they won’t change the key,” he told me later. “She kept saying it was just a student band, and I guess a student band can’t change the key.”
With six weeks left to practice, it seemed unlikely that they weren’t already learning the song in the right key. After all, our voice coach had emailed the band director two months ago. It also seemed unlikely that a band as good as our high school band was incapable of a key change.
I pounded off an email to the band director. The play can be opened on a strong, positive note, I explained. Or it can open on a weak note, with Dylan sounding like a weak singer. If it’s not done in the key of G, it will not be a strong, positive opening.
The band director sent me back a four-paragraph expose on what the band does, really, and how much work it is to change a key. As a layperson, of course, I had no idea. I begged Dylan’s voice coach to do something, but it was too late. No one could do anything.
I felt like Diva Mom, barging into an already half-learned production, saying, Stop everything! My SON needs to SING!
I don’t want to be Diva Mom. I want Dylan to be flexible. But I’ve heard the incredible way he sings the song in his key. It could have been awesome.
But Dylan will be performing the song in some other key, and it is going to be rough. Dylan will do his best, of course, but he simply can’t sing that high.
I was so looking forward to the play, until now. Now I almost dread it.
Dylan is such a strong singer. It’s a huge talent, and a wonderful gift from God. But he’s basically been backed into a corner that can only allow him to perform in a way that – he will believe – is subpar.
He takes music very seriously. “Music is my life,” he says.
The voice coach will work with him. The band director and choral director have offered to work with him.
But I can’t imagine that it will do any good.
Dylan is a sensitive soul.
One night, when we called him in for dinner, he looked at the chicken and said, “I can’t eat that.”
“What do you mean you can’t eat it?” I said. I rarely cook, and having a “real” dinner – with meat and vegetables – was a fairly special thing.
“It’s a bird,” he said. “I’m not going to eat a bird.”
Given my own history as an occasional vegetarian, I knew exactly how he felt.
But like any good mom who’d just spent half an hour making dinner, I screeched at him. “You WILL eat it!”
He didn’t eat it. In fact, he declared himself to be a vegetarian for the rest of time.
Dylan takes L-Tyrosine for his ADHD, which works in conjunction with the intake of protein. Dylan needs more protein than most people, or his ADHD symptoms get worse. We learned this the hard way when he was young. We started giving him an egg for breakfast when he was barely old enough to say the word “cholesterol.”
He can still eat eggs, which are the most substantial source of protein in the world, other than meat. Dairy – which is awful for him – and nuts are the other two significant sources. Sure, spinach and kale provide some protein, too, in a good way. But they aren’t fast or easy – and Dylan rarely eats anything that is not fast and easy.
To put it into perspective, Dylan would need to eat four eggs to get the amount of protein he gets from one slab of meat. He would need to eat eight peanut butter sandwiches. And the amount of cashews he would need to put away … well, I can’t count them.
So I said, “You will eat meat.”
And he said, “No, I won’t.”
And that’s where we are now.
Dylan sings like an angel and, as such, was given a role in the school musical. He is the “Featured Male Singer,” which means he sings several solo songs, including the opening number.
“I can’t hit these notes,” Dylan told me in January. “The opening song is too high for me.”
“Let me hear you try,” I told him, knowing that Dylan has a very impressive range.
He actually squealed when he got to those notes. He tried again, starting in a lower range. But the lower version sounded worse than the squealing.
So we went to his voice coach, who worked with Dylan for a few minutes.
“It’s not a problem,” said the voice coach. “We’ll just have the pit orchestra play it in the key of G.”
The voice coach knows the band director at Dylan’s school. They’re old pals.
So I stopped worrying.
And two months went by.
Two weeks ago, Dylan started rehearsing the opening number – and it was being played in the incorrect key. It wasn’t the band playing – just the original song, and Dylan was supposed to sing along.
“I can’t sing it in this key,” he told the technical advisor – a burly man who really doesn’t know anything about music.
“Sing!” screamed the technical advisor, who is not known for being warm and fuzzy.
“But I’m not comfortable singing it in this key,” Dylan stammered.
“JUST SING!” bellowed the technical advisor.
“I can’t hit the notes,” Dylan said calmly.
“JUST SING THE SONG!”
Dylan did not sing the song. Eventually, the burly man stopped fuming, but will likely never forgive Dylan for his insubordination.
Then Dylan went to the choral director to discuss changing the song key – which is a blog for another day.
Dylan participated in a singing competition at his school called “RAM Idol.”
A play on American Idol, it featured 14 singers who each sang one song, and then the top four were selected to sing a second song. Of the final four, one winner is selected to win two hours of recording studio time.
Two years ago, Dylan came from the middle school and was one of the opening acts for the show. He chose a song he didn’t sing well, and the background music overpowered his voice. He didn’t move on stage, and sang haltingly. The middle schoolers didn’t compete. But it was a good experience for him.
“Don’t worry about winning,” I told him. “Don’t worry about anything. Just think about the music.”
“Okay,” Dylan said.
Dylan sat in the audience with us for the first few singers. One of them kept staring at the monitor, as if she’d forgotten the words.
I envisioned my son as a shy kid, standing motionless in front of the screen, not looking up.
“Don’t look at the monitor,” I whispered to him.
“I won’t,” Dylan said. I worried that he might forget the words, stumble and forget, and then he would need the monitor. Then I worried that he would be afraid to look at it, because I told him not to.
But I stopped giving advice. This was, after all, Dylan’s show.
Dylan sang seventh.
He walked out onto the stage and greeted the crowd to thunderous applause. Then, without ever knowing a monitor existed, he sang a powerhouse ballad so strongly, so beautifully, even his little brother got tears in his eyes.
He took command of the stage, not standing still for too long – but not moving so much that it destroyed the effect of the ballad. He made eye contact with the audience, didn’t even notice the monitor. The crowd hushed during the quiet parts, roared during the robust parts. Several times, girls screamed like they were watching The Beatles.
Dylan totally nailed it.
He was the only male singer in the final four contestants. For Dylan’s second song, he did a strong rock number, showing another side of himself entirely. And again, he totally nailed it.