Month: October 2017
I am leaving Shane for the weekend.
This time, it’s to take Dylan on another college road trip. It’s the third one of its kind, where Shane gets left behind. And there will be more to come.
I always plan things for Shane to do while I’m gone. I think way ahead, and find things he can do with his dad or his grandparents. Then I create an itinerary for Shane, too, since Dylan and I have an itinerary that’s usually set six months in advance.
Shane likes itineraries.
The challenge for me is that Shane is the baby of the family. This means that – in spite of my best efforts to the contrary – Shane has fewer baby pictures, fewer videos, fewer at-home educational opportunities, and even fewer lullabies. By the time Shane got here, I was just too tired to sing the whole song I sang to Dylan, so I sang a shortened Paul McCartney song instead.
While Dylan got special time with me for three years, we hardly noticed Shane for his first three years. First of all, he was so quiet. I didn’t know babies could be so quiet. But he seemed content – and probably was – so we just let him sit there. Dylan, on the other hand, was entertained non-stop from the time he came out of the womb. I don’t know how much of this forms their personalities – or how much their personalities dictate what happens to them in life.
But Shane was easy.
Shane is still easy. Someone told me once that easy babies can be brutal as teenagers; I’m still anticipating that.
But for now, Dylan still gets all the attention. He needs constant stimulation. And we’re always working harder with Dylan, trying to make sure he’s okay.
I don’t know if this is just the nature of a special needs child or not. When Shane was undergoing vision therapy treatment, we went to his doctor several times a week – but when we came home, Shane magically did his therapy “homework” on his off days, with no prompting from us. When he needed our help, we helped. But mostly, he just did everything he was supposed to do, and we watched as his processing abilities improved.
But Dylan needs to be reminded to do everything. Six times. We have meetings with his teachers and his case manager and special testing people. I’ve emailed hundreds of people about Dylan, for various reasons, trying to explain him. “He’s brilliant,” I say. “He just can’t remember anything you tell him to do.” By contrast, I almost never email anyone on Shane’s behalf.
I don’t need to.
Dylan took special classes, entered special programs at school, and went to private school for a whole year. He’s had extracurricular activities of every sort, and more jobs than I can count.
While Dylan was in the gifted program, Shane and I sat in the car and waited for half an hour, every day, for the end of Dylan’s school day. Then we went inside and I talked to Dylan’s teacher while Shane waited for me.
Shane learned to dress himself at two, and fed himself breakfast and got himself home on the bus every day while I was driving 45 minutes to pick up Dylan from his private school. It was Shane’s last year of elementary school, and I mostly missed it.
I guess I’m feeling a bit guilty that I am leaving Shane again.
I try hard – very, very hard – to spend quality time with Shane. I just hope he is getting enough love.
Dylan started hating English class in 7th grade, when his teacher used improper grammar … to teach grammar. He had hours and hours of class time to work on assignments that he finished in less than one hour. He read a couple of books that he’d already read (in elementary school) and wasn’t the least bit challenged.
In our zeal to keep him engaged and interested in school, we sent Dylan to private school for 8th grade – and his English teacher wasn’t interested in helping kids succeed. Dylan’s 8th grade English teacher was a strict disciplinarian who didn’t fit into the “Friends” mold. He chose books that suited his personal agenda – specifically, to teach the history of downtrodden people – but did nothing to help Dylan love literature. (The teacher has since been fired from the school.)
In 9th grade, Dylan loved his teacher – but by then, it was too late. Dylan had stopped reading for fun. There were no more requests for library books about cars, physics and neurology. In fact, after two years of bad teachers, Dylan stopped going to the library. Too many books, articles and stories had been forced upon him in an unpleasant way. He couldn’t see the forest anymore, with all those dead trees in his way.
When he was little, Dylan loved the library; he loved books. The whole English saga made me sad.
He struggled through 9th and 10th grade. He had great English teachers, but a bad attitude. He got some B’s and a C, and wished every day that he didn’t have to take English. In fact, the entire reason he dropped out of the IBCP program is that he couldn’t bear the thought of taking two years of college-level English.
Then – this year, thanks to a friend’s recommendation – Dylan quite suddenly switched into an AP Language class, which is college-level English.
Dylan LOVES this class.
On day one, I asked him how it went.
“I love it,” he said.
“Really?” (I thought he was being sarcastic.)
“Yeah, it’s really good.”
“Well what are you guys doing in there?”
“Too much to really talk about,” he said. “But it’s great!”
Since that time, Dylan has told me not once, or twice, but many, many times how much he loves his new English class. He likes his teacher, but mostly he likes the challenge that it’s offering him. He likes that there’s more than just reading and spitting back information. He likes that he has to think and analyze. He likes that there is intelligent, heated discussion.
“I’m really going to love college,” he said.
In other words, Dylan has finally rediscovered the kinds of challenges he found when he went to the GT program in 4th grade. He’s finally found something that suits his intellectual level. He is engaged in his learning.
And I haven’t seen this reaction from him since 4th grade. He’s not just focused – he’s interested in what he is learning. I can remember him telling me way back then, “I love school now!”
It’s the same reaction he had when he came home from his first day of AP Language.
While he was “stepping back” away from the honors level classes, afraid of more busy-work, what he needed was more of a mental challenge. He needed to be stimulated.
And now, at least in one class period, he is.
Shane and I went to an NFL game yesterday – an interesting event for two introverts. We enjoyed ourselves, though, until – near the end of the game – Shane’s stomach started to hurt.
“Do you want to leave?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “We’re staying for the whole game!”
So we did. And on the way home, his stomach still hurt. He’d had a lot of junk food, certainly nothing healthy. And he drank two sugary drinks, a soda and a lemonade, which is more than he normally allows himself.
“Why don’t you just rest,” I said. “Put your seat back and close your eyes.” I handed him some sunglasses, so he could rest more efficiently.
Shane slid the seat back into a reclining position, and he was quiet for several minutes. I doubted he was sleeping, since he hasn’t napped since the age of two, but he was trying to rest.
NFL traffic can be awful. I said a little prayer that we get home safely.
Two minutes later, almost imperceptibly Shane said, “Mom, can you not crash the car so we can get home safely?”
I was stunned. I wasn’t driving erratically or even terribly fast – but Shane was worried. After all the crazy NFL people, the yelling, the booze, the shoving and aggression and screaming… Shane couldn’t relax because he was worried.
“That’s my plan,” I told him. “I am not going to crash the car and we will get home safely. In fact, I just said a silent prayer so we have help getting home safely, too.”
“Okay,” he said.
I’m not sure my words were reassuring enough.
I’ve been a worrier all my life – afraid to close my eyes for fear that something bad will happen. I don’t want to loosen the illusionary reigns of control.
But Shane has almost never shown signs of fear. And his little question, which was probably his equivalent of my prayer, made me realize that he’s more vulnerable than I realized. Inside his always calm exterior is a churning of emotions that somehow needs to be settled to match his exterior.
I want to remember this. I want to look at him and know that he needs reassurance, too – that, like all of us, Shane needs reassurance, too. With all the hoopla in this house, with Shane’s older brother constantly debating and pushing and yelling … with Shane’s parents arguing and yelling at Dylan and at each other … with all that Shane sees and hears and knows…
Amidst all the family chaos, Shane needs reassurance, too.