Month: April 2017


The Secret is His Teacher.

Here it is, fourth quarter, and Dylan is finally – after three years of agony – keeping up in English.

The secret?

The secret is his teacher.

In a clear case of going above and beyond the call of duty, Dylan’s teacher is emailing his case manager every, single week, detailing what’s due, what’s upcoming, and what he needs to do to keep up his grades. And she has been talking to him after class, updating him on where he should be on projects, what he should have turned in already, and when things are due in the near future.

It doesn’t hurt that she also directed the spring musical, in which Dylan had a leading role. If he had failed English – and he almost did – he would have had to give up that role.

Whew.

So he’s been saved by yet another adult going out of her way to make sure Dylan knows things that he should, by all rights and expectations, know on his own.

Still, if it’s working – and it is – I’m not going to change it. And if his teacher is willing to do this for him – and she is – I’m thrilled. So after getting a B in the third quarter, Dylan is happier than ever in English class. He’s getting the work done in a timely fashion. He seems to know what’s coming. It’s going amazingly well.

I wouldn’t change a thing. If she were willing to keep going on his behalf, she could teach Dylan for the rest of his high school career.

Except it’s not my choice. And it simply can’t happen.

Dylan’s English teacher is pregnant – with twins. She is leaving in just a few weeks for maternity leave. I’d been hoping that she’d hold out until summer, just for Dylan. But her babies are due soon, and it’s time for her to get some much-needed rest.

I’m wishing her all the best. But Dylan will have to – again – fend for himself.

I just hope he can do it.

Most Adults Didn’t Even Notice.

When Shane was a toddler, he would put his face on the floor and his diaper up in the air, and just stay that way.

He didn’t seem unhappy, or particularly tired. He just wasn’t nearly as much of a “mover” as his older brother. So we watched Shane with curiosity, and never worried about it. In fact, it was quite cute.

Later, Shane became a head-banger. It took me awhile to realize that when Shane started banging his head against a wall, or the floor, or hitting his head with his hand … that meant he was tired. He didn’t yawn and cry like some kids do. Just wham! wham! wham! on the wall with his poor, soft, baby head.

He probably banged his little brain around for two months before I put “head banging” and “exhaustion” together.

When he was barely old enough to grasp, Shane carried around a golf ball for “security.” He didn’t use a pacifier. He just picked up a golf ball one day, and didn’t put it down except to eat and sleep. And even then, it stayed with him in his crib.

After the head-banging discovery, we gave him a soft plush ball to sleep with instead. He barely noticed it, and still carried around the golf ball during his waking hours.

Shane didn’t cry a lot, even as a baby. But when he did cry, his bottom lip would protrude and his giant blue eyes were the saddest things I’d ever seen.

Shane’s anxiety started to show when he was about three, after he’d put down the golf ball. He was laid back as a child, but occasionally he’d get upset, or confused, or just nervous. He didn’t cry, or scream, or complain, or even whine.

He took the index finger of his right hand and, with it, gently petted his left hand.

This went on for years. In fact, I didn’t realize it had stopped until he was in elementary school. I started to tell his teacher about it, since most adults didn’t even notice his quiet pacification method. Then I realized that I hadn’t seen him do that in a very long time.

In fact, Shane just didn’t get anxious much anymore. He didn’t sleep with anything, or carry anything around to pacify him. He didn’t whine, or complain, or cry, or mope, or even sulk. He didn’t get moody or angry.

When something frustrated him – and when something frustrates Shane today – his eyes well up with tears and he walks away. Sometimes he gets a snack and comes back, refreshed. Sometimes he never talks about it again. Sometimes it takes days, and then he talks about it. But he always deals with whatever issue is bothering him – until it’s not bothering him anymore.

I’ve learned a lot from Shane about how to be content. I always thought he was just born that way.

But thinking back now, about the golf ball and the head-banging and the peculiar way he “sat” face-down on the floor … I’m just not so sure.

I think maybe he taught himself how to be content.

What Color is the Letter ‘A’?

After hearing about Shane’s possible synesthesia – the “condition” that allows him to apply colors to the letters of the alphabet – I decided to do a simple test.

I asked him, “What color is the letter ‘A’?”

Shane said, “Green.”

I typed “A – green” into a new document. I scrolled down and typed, B.

“What color is the letter ‘B’?”

“Blue.”

I typed “B – blue.”

We went through every letter, with Shane giving me the letter’s color. It was kind of a fun game. Many of the letters were the same color – some were blue and some were dark blue, for example. There weren’t 26 different colors. So after the test, I didn’t think much about it.

I waited more than a month. I never said another word about it to Shane.

Then, almost on a whim, with the original document still sitting on my computer desktop, I said, “Hey Shane, what color is the letter ‘A’?”

“Green,” he said.

“What color is the letter ‘B’?”

“Blue,” Shane said.

At first, I thought he had memorized the colors – but then I realized that I’d only asked him once. I never mentioned it again, and he didn’t have access to the document on my computer.

So we went through the rest of the alphabet.

Shane’s colors didn’t vary for 20 out of 26 letters.

According to the little I’ve read about it, that is substantially more synesthesia ability than most people have. Three of his letters – Q, R and T – were drastically different from the first time, but the other two were almost the same color.  I found it interesting that he had two that were ‘pinkish red’ the first time and, the second time, one was pink and one was red.

So, according to the test, he does have some synesthesia. Next up: the Synesthesia Battery test on the internet.

Just for fun.

There’s Stuff Everywhere!

Several months ago, I started paying my kids to do the dusting and vacuuming in the house. Once a week, they tackle a floor. Dylan prefers vacuuming, and Shane prefers dusting, so it’s worked out well for everyone. Both kids are very thorough, and do a great job.

It’s worked out especially well for me.

In spite of the correct order for proper cleaning, sometimes Dylan vacuums before Shane dusts. One day, Dylan was doing just that, when I heard the vacuum turn off.

“Shane!” Dylan yelled. “You need to clean up all of this crap in the middle of the floor so I can vacuum! There’s stuff everywhere!”

There was stuff everywhere. I had been asking Shane for days to clean up the mess.

“Okay,” Shane said, running into the room where Dylan was vacuuming. He cleaned up the bulk of the toys from the middle of the floor.

The vacuum turned on again. Five minutes later, it went off.

“Shane!” Dylan yelled. “That one room isn’t the only room you were supposed to clean up! There are toys everywhere in here! There’s no way I can vacuum around this mess.”

Shane raced into the other room calling, “What toys? Where?” Then he saw his additional cleaning opportunity, and took care of it immediately.

I was sitting calmly in the other room, chuckling.

Dylan sounded just like a parent. I was so proud.

Time. Goes. TOO. FAST!

There’s something about vacation that lingers with me, even after the vacation is over: judgment.

I am not a perfect parent. So I judge myself:

I am probably a terrible parent. I keep thinking I’m doing everything right, but then – when I look back – I realize that I didn’t do much right on the way to this moment, so I am probably not doing anything right now, either. I have been reading books on parenting since before my kids were born, and I barely remember anything from any of them. And when I do remember what I learned, it’s usually because I realize that I’m not utilizing that knowledge.

In addition to judging myself, I judge everyone else. And I keep doing this, long after vacation. During vacation, though, there are just so many people to judge!

Going to Disney World is like walking out of reality into clouds. In spite of my family’s ability to argue with one another endlessly at home, this all floats away when we arrive at Disney World. Not only are the rides a spectacular joy, but the service is from staff that’s all bubbly smiles and overflowing kindness. During this particular trip, another hotel guest did MY laundry! It was an unbelievable random act of kindness – but it’s just that kind of place.

Still, I look around at all the other moms, and see just what they are doing wrong. There are moms who are scolding kids who are too young to understand what they did. There are moms who are hovering over kids who obviously just need to be left alone. There are moms who are feeding their kids fried food and sugar, so their kids will grow up to be unhealthy. There are moms who are forcing their kids to eat healthy foods on vacation, so their kids are going to resent the fact that they never got a Dole Whip, cotton candy, or a Mickey waffle.

Then there are moms who are on their cell phones – endlessly on their cell phones – while their children stare, wide-eyed, at the amazing world around them. While the mom is busily texting or playing Temple Run or reading emails or Snap-Chatting, their children are having a once-in-a-lifetime experience, whispering and pointing and laughing. And mom is missing it – minute by precious minute – because she’s too busy staring at the little box in her hand to spend this amazing quality time with her children.

This is the thing that bothers me most. I want to scream: “PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE!”

Time. Goes. TOO. FAST!

I spent my vacation practically drinking the air around my children, even with my angry teenager (who was actually awesome during the entire vacation). Every waking moment – crammed though it was with stuff to do – was spent taking mental pictures of my kids’ smiles, listening to their jokes, playing line games with them, hugging them whenever possible, and soaking in who they are.

Because soon, they will be gone.

I blinked, and my infant was in kindergarten. I blinked again, and I had two kids old enough to make macaroni and cheese. I blinked again and they both ran faster than me. I blinked again and they were making their own beds, putting themselves to sleep, and spending more time with their friends than with me.

I am afraid to blink again, especially during vacation.

I’m Not Disappointed.

When Dylan told me he didn’t want to take IB classes – even though he only needed to take two of them – I was relieved.

I am still relieved. I am just now realizing that I expected to be disappointed. And I’m not disappointed.

Dylan has always thought rather abstractly. He was mature beyond his years as a toddler with regard to empathy, kindness, and philosophical concepts. Physically, he was far behind his peers – but he’s always been just a bit more worldly – in his head, at least – than many of his peers.

What I’ve learned is that a lot of gifted kids are this way. And Dylan is definitely gifted.

But the college admissions people aren’t going to know that. They’re going to see an application from an IB school – which is relatively rare – without any IB classes on the transcript. The International Baccalaureate program is known for finding those gifted thinkers, those problem-solvers, those philosophical students who want to delve into their own abstractions.

Dylan won’t have any of those classes on his college application.

So the college admissions folks will look for AP classes, since many gifted kids are gifted in a different way. Rather than being high-level, abstract thinkers, they are organized and efficient at memorizing huge amounts of detail. They can master a college-level class in high school because they absorb information at a rapid rate, and can process that information, flip it around, and spit it back in five different formats.

Dylan will only have one of those on his college application: the computer science class he took for the IBCP program, which he is not going to complete. He will have a C in the AP class, if all goes well. We don’t know yet if he’ll even pass the AP test, giving him credit for having taken the class.

I don’t even want Dylan to take any more AP classes. They just don’t fit his learning style. (Shane may be another case entirely.)

I am a little sad that Dylan won’t be taking the IB classes. I think he would have enjoyed them; they might have reminded him of his happy days in the GT program, where all the kids were eager to share deep-level thoughts about a variety of subjects, and Dylan fit right in, having something to add to answer every question.

Hopefully, he’ll have that chance in college – when his brain has developed a bit more, and when he’s more ready to tackle those classes.

I think the right college will see past the lack of AP and IB classes on his transcript. While he’s taking a host of interesting classes, they aren’t college-level. And his grades are (so far) poorest in his Honors courses.

Dylan has a whole slew of extracurricular activities and accomplishments to add to the mix that will be his transcript. But I doubt that a college with 35,000 students and 20,000 applications will see past Dylan’s test scores and GPA, or even notice his extracurriculars.

But I think the right college will find him, and nurture his gifts. I think they’ll look past his “easy” class choices – which are not at all easy for him – and get to know the person behind the transcript, who is bursting with genius and talent of a very special kind.

I think that place is out there, just waiting for him.

And I think, when they find each other, Dylan will rise to the occasion beautifully.

He Made It.

The whole world has been sick. It started in the fall, ran straight through the winter, and has continued into spring.

There wasn’t a lot of snow in our area, but the emergency rooms, clinics, and doctors’ offices were filled with people. Most people had a long-lasting virus that simply wouldn’t go away, even though they rested and did their best to stay home.

I was sick for weeks. I missed the entire Christmas holiday, all the way through New Year’s Eve – and still canceled work during the first two weeks of January. I felt like I would never recover. Two months after the onset, I realized I hadn’t coughed that day – for the first time in 60 days.

A month later, Bill had a fever and slept for days. Bill is the kind of person who doesn’t sit down unless it’s time to go to bed, so watching him sleep for three or four days was daunting. He still has a residual cough.

Shane and Dylan were both sick around Thanksgiving. Shane got one thing, then Dylan got another thing. Then Dylan got what Shane had, and Shane got what Dylan had.

For three months, someone was on the couch with a juice cup nearby.

But when play practice started, the boys were ready to go… until Shane got sick during the last week of play practice. His fever lasted for four days. It had barely broken when he climbed back up onto that stage, just in time for the show.

No one had pneumonia. No one had bronchitis. We all just had a flu with a fever and a cough that wouldn’t go away.

But Dylan made it through the play without getting sick. He survived weeks of rehearsal with only a small cold. He did an awesome job in all four performances, singing 11 songs and delivering a gazillion lines. He stood and smiled and shone.

Then he got to the end of the quarter – this week – and worked on all the things he could do to “catch up.” He talked to teachers, worked diligently on projects online, worked through lunches, finished tests after school, and did his 1.5-hour homework shifts every night. The quarter ends tomorrow, and he’s done a decent job.

He made it. Without getting sick, he survived the whole quarter, never missed a rehearsal, and sang like a star during all four spring musical performances.

Today, Dylan woke up with a fever.

School is Dylan’s Albatross.

After a glorious weekend of stardom, Dylan’s life has returned to normal today.

The end of the quarter is upon us and – just last week, during all of those dress rehearsals – three of his grades have dropped to C’s. To make matters worse, I inadvertently had him re-do an assignment that, I thought, would help him bring his grade up – but his teacher and I had some miscommunication about that. Dylan wasted an hour re-doing something that can’t get a new grade.

I’ve emailed his teachers and his case manager about homework assignments that, for whatever reason, simply never surfaced. I’ve had to explain the purpose of the signature sheet, which Dylan has been using quite regularly and has gotten signatures galore. But the teachers have only been focused on what’s due the next day – not on what’s due when he’s standing right in front of them. (Silly teachers; they think he knows what’s due, since it’s written down on the sheet he’s holding!)

I can’t tell you the number of times that, this weekend particularly, I thought about Dylan’s future. Most people who major in music end up as music teachers. I know this. But listening to Dylan sing, and knowing that he would be a pretty non-traditional teacher (to put it mildly), I can’t help but think that maybe he’s actually going to end up doing what he loves.

I don’t necessarily believe that Dylan will be a performer, although I wouldn’t rule it out. But I believe he can work in the music industry, in some capacity, and be incredibly happy with his job.

And I think he can be happy with his life.

School is Dylan’s albatross. Since first grade, he’s had to shoulder this great burden, just because it’s the law. He may have been happier if he’d been homeschooled. He may have been more fulfilled in a Montessori program. But I didn’t think I could provide him with the education he’s getting now, and we couldn’t afford the Montessori schools around here – so here he is, in public school, chugging along with his ADHD and all that comes with teen life.

And in spite of it all, in two days, he may end up on the honor roll again.

We shall see.