Month: November 2017
Dylan really struggled with the forty assignments due in history during the first quarter. So I wrote an email to his history teacher:
“Even with all the allowances made for his being sick (THANK YOU!), Dylan has three D’s and six E’s due to missing assignments…. What can we do to improve his communication with you, so that he knows what’s due – and actually gets it turned in WHEN it’s due?”
I got a response a few days later, and I nearly guffawed at his teacher’s suggestion. I know she is young – it may even be her first year teaching – but to think that we hadn’t tried this already was laughable.
“A suggestion I have for Dylan to know exactly what is due and when it is due is a planner (or some other way for him to consistently write down assignments and due dates). I have plenty of spare composition books and spiral notebooks, and his school has planners he could use. Because Dylan prefers things to be on the computer, he could also have a chart (online) that he can share with his teachers and add to daily? I think these are better than a weekly piece of paper, because it is less likely to get lost.”
She suggested that we try a planner! I nearly fell out of my chair. A brilliant idea, yes! But would it work?
No. Categorically, no, it would not work.
The following was only part of my gently constructed response:
“We have tried regular planners, special ADHD-organized planners, personal lists, special folders, small chalkboards, special notebooks, recording devices, phone apps and combinations of all of the above. We even tried having him write the assignment on the board AND then take a picture of it with his phone – but he often forgot to do that, too….”
I am not sure his teacher understands that she is suggesting something that didn’t work for Dylan after trying it for eight years.
So we are at Square One in history. Sometimes I think it’s just a matter of the teacher realizing that there are kids with ADHD – real ADHD – who can’t organize and remember everything the way we would like.
A planner. What a wonderful idea.
I bought a shirt online.
When it arrived, it was a bit different than the online picture. The colors were more muted than the bold, bright colors in the picture.
I was afraid that, if I gave the shirt as a gift to a teenage boy, perhaps I would need to return it. But Christmas is a long way away – so I wanted to be sure they would accept returns after the holidays.
I emailed the company. Basically I said, I bought this shirt. It isn’t quite what I expected. If my son doesn’t like it, can I return it after Christmas?
I waited a few days – then got a rather brief response that said, in somewhat confusing language: “No. You may not return this after Christmas.”
This wasn’t the answer I had expected. So I emailed again, just to be sure. “Thanks for nothing,” my email said – but in a more polite, full-paragraph format.
Two days later, I got this reply:
I’m the manager of this company, i’m Andy, we are sorry about it.
My salesman didn’t understand your meaning in the first email. He Originally thought that you want to return it, no way to return it.
His English is a little poor, and no read your email seriously, I have talk it to him about it sharply. My customer is our god. Your satisfactory is our happy.
We have arranged to refund you fully. Hope you could have a good buying experience.
Have a smile! Don’t unhappy.
Hope you could give us a chance. Forgive us!
Looking forwards to your kind reply here.
This email was followed by a full refund for a shirt that I didn’t even necessarily want to return – or keep.
So I had a free shirt, and the company was “looking forwards to” my “kind reply here.” So I emailed again.
Recognizing (finally) that I was talking to some kind of robotic translator on the other side of the planet, I stayed simplistic. “Your refund is unnecessary,” I said. “But I appreciate it. Thank you.”
The next day, I got this:
Thank you for your kind reply very much.
Hope we are friends, We hope you could become our good experiencer of new products. Do you like it? I will inform you if we have.
You are not unhappy now. It’s great. You happy so we happy.
However,…… Thank you, you know it! Smile
It is always nice to have a new friend.
And a new, free shirt.
We were getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner.
“What time are we going?” Shane asked.
“We’re eating at 2:00,” I replied.
Dylan chimed in. “We are so white!”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean,” Dylan said, “I just saw a meme that said, ‘White People.’ The whole family was sitting down to dinner at exactly 2:00. And now we’re eating at exactly 2:00. We’re just like the meme!”
“For the record,” I said, “we were originally going to eat at 1:00 but we weren’t sure the turkey would be done in time. We actually changed the time to 2:00.”
“We’re just doing what all the other white people do,” he said. Dylan did not sound enthused about this.
I am not sure what other races do. We are pretty much all white. We’re like unhealthy bread, I guess.
I don’t know if Dylan was just stating the obvious, or if he was concerned that we were too average, or if he wanted us to be more like … well, some other race.
We live in a country where the word “white” has recently become even more associated with “supremacist.” And we live in an area of the country – the nation’s capital, in fact – where the “white” population is a minority.
So Dylan is torn. He’s very conscious of the fact that he is white, and he’s not necessarily proud of that fact. And as much as I am fine with “who I am,” I have to agree. In the past year particularly, I have been exceptionally stupefied by the words and actions of people claiming that – by some odd miracle of birthright – Caucasians are “more worthy” of all the goodness that life offers.
Personally, I think that goodness is a gift from God – and that everyone has a right to live however they want to live, regardless of where, how or to whom they were born.
And while I make no excuse for sitting down at the table at 2:00 on Thanksgiving day, I now have the thought lurking at the back of my mind: “We are so white.”
Maybe next year, just to be safe, we’ll eat at 1:00.
Shane was incredibly nervous about his upcoming Mock Trial Competition. His student court class woke up in the middle of the night, hopped on a bus that left at 4:00 in the morning, and arrived at the real Durham, North Carolina courthouse in time to present a civil case to an actual judge and mock jury.
Shane was one of the lawyers for the plaintiff. His greatest fear was that he wouldn’t know how to respond if one of the defense team’s lawyers objected to any of Shane’s questions.
“What is it, exactly, that’s worrying you?” I asked him.
“I just don’t know what to say back,” Shane said. “And we’re competing against another school. I don’t even know why they will object. And I don’t even know the people.”
“Just pretend that they are your friends,” I said. “And answer them as best you can.”
Later, when I saw Shane’s script, he showed me the notes he’d written in the margins. He’d analyzed all of his questions, guessed at any and all possible objections, and written down answers to every, single objection.
But when Shane questioned his witness, there was only one objection – and it didn’t have anything to do with Shane’s question.
“Objection!” bellowed the defense. “The witness is using notes!”
The judge – a real, sworn judge commissioned to oversee the mock trial – looked directly at Shane. “Your response, Counsel?”
Shane barely blinked. “I didn’t know there was anything wrong with that,” he said.
The judge stepped in. He explained for a few minutes how and when witnesses are allowed to use notes – and that, if the case were real, she would not be able to use notes. He talked about expert testimony, and the differences in kinds of testimony.
While the judge talked, Shane sat completely still. His fear had come true – the defense had objected – and this unexpected turn of events kept him listening carefully, waiting to see what would be next.
Given the nature of the mock trial, though, the judge finally said, “In this case, I will allow the witness to use notes.”
Shane didn’t stammer, and he didn’t miss a beat.
“I’ll restate the question,” Shane said. And then he restated the question.
There were no more objections made during Shane’s questioning. And after the trial ended, the other school voted for Shane as “Best Attorney” on the plaintiff’s team.
I still have the award hanging on the refrigerator, next to a photo of a very stolid Shane in his suit and tie, standing in that North Carolina courtroom.
Shane was reading my blog, and was rather disheartened to find so very few blog posts “about” him. He read me about a dozen titles in a row – all of which were focused on his brother.
But he was especially interested in the new blog about his ability to remain anonymous for an infinite number of school bus rides.
He highlighted a short part of the post, and pointed to it. “Mom,” he said. “That’s completely an understatement!”
Then Shane told me the story – the way it really happened. I told him to write it down. And while I proofed it just a tad, I allowed Shane to write my blog post this time.
So here is Shane’s corrected version:
School was finally over. Shane walked to the back of the bus and sat down.
After about a minute, a loud, female voice came through the bus’ loudspeaker. It was the bus driver.
“Hey, you! In the red, in the back of the bus!”
Shane looked down at his outfit. He was wearing all plain black, no red at all. He looked around and saw a few other people wearing red jackets and t-shirts. He decided to go back to minding his own business.
The bus driver angrily spoke again. “You! Get up here! Come to the front of the bus!”
Shane decided to stand up to see if she was talking to him. He pointed at himself and mouthed, “Me?”
“Yes you! Get up here!”
Shane walked up, confused about what he had done to cause this aggression from the driver.
“I’ve never seen you on this bus. You don’t ride this bus!” she said.
“Bus 6195, right?”
“Oh. Never mind. Go back to your seat.”
So, in fact, the school bus driver made the entire experience substantially worse than I remembered. Thanks for sharing, Shane!
I bought a new kind of hand soap. It’s dye-free, animal-testing-free, non-toxic and naturally plant-based. I love that kind of stuff, but I got really lucky with this.
It also smells great. I went through a phase this summer that caused me to start buying everything I could find with a lemony scent. I bought lemon shampoo and really liked it, and it just spread from there.
Normally, this wouldn’t make it into a parenting blog.
But one day, I was sitting in my home office which is right next to the kitchen, and Dylan was cooking frozen pizzas in the kitchen. He had a friend over, and decided he would make lunch for the two of them. (Dylan can “cook” nearly any processed food now. I am so proud.)
As he was goofing around with his friend in the kitchen, I heard the water running. I didn’t think anything of it. About three minutes later, I heard the water running again.
Then Dylan said to his friend, “Why am I washing my hands again?”
“I don’t know,” said his friend. “Maybe they’re just really dirty.”
“No,” Dylan said. “I think it’s this new soap. It just smells so good, I thought I’d wash my hands twice.”
In the office, I perked up. Was Dylan actually complimenting something in the house?
“Seriously,” Dylan was saying. “It smells like lemons! Smell it!”
Indeed, he was complimenting something in the house. Dylan likes the new soap. To put this into perspective, Dylan has never once told me he likes the new soap. He does occasionally (now that I have begged him) say “thank you” when I make him a meal. And he is never terribly rude about trying a new product.
But this was new. He complimented something.
He doesn’t even know I heard him. But I will probably buy this hand soap for the rest of my existence here on earth, since – at least for one moment – it will remind me of this happy moment.
Shane is not an overtly emotional person. If anything, the word “reserved” is an understatement.
So-called “bad” things seem to roll off of him, or even over him. And while he does process these things, he almost always considers them with intelligence and rationality. Shane rarely gets upset, and when he does get angry or sad, he deals with his emotions on a personal level. Then he moves on.
In other words, emotionally speaking, Shane is the most mature person I’ve ever met.
But I am watching from the sidelines as his increasingly rare “wants” are all-but ignored. It starts at home, with Shane’s parents spending most of their time and energy on things other than Shane. While Shane entertains himself, his parents are on the phone, the computer, and working elsewhere. On the occasions when their time isn’t already taken on themselves, their energies are almost always focused on Dylan’s wants, needs and happiness.
Meanwhile, Shane has only a few interests – one of which is rock climbing. Last year, he took rock climbing lessons – and loved them. Unfortunately, he aged out of the class while still a beginner, and wasn’t practiced enough to get into any of the teen leagues – so he had to give up rock climbing.
A similar plight happened two years ago, when Shane was incredibly excited – for the first time ever – to learn how to play baseball. He got a new glove and practiced throwing in the yard. He took an hour’s worth of batting lessons at a local cage.
But they only had enough players for two teams. The “other” moms and dads didn’t want to watch games between the same two teams every week, so they canceled the entire season.
Shane didn’t ask to play baseball again. And he won’t have a chance to do any rock climbing until he joins the high school club (if he still wants to do that by then).
We also signed him up for a comedy/acting class this fall. I got an email last week that said the class “may be canceled due to low enrollment.”
Given our history, I was genuinely surprised when they decided they had enough people enrolled after all! It was a glorious day.
After warning him about the possible impending doom last week, I texted right away when I got the news: “Shane! The comedy class is ON!”
Several minutes later, a texted came in from Shane. “Okie,” it said. (That’s as enthused as he gets.)
And Shane is going to play ping pong again for the winter session. Shane loves ping pong. We are fortunate enough to live near a world-famous table tennis center – one that has actually trained champions and Olympians in the art of ping pong.
My pessimism, however, is getting the best of me. I expect that, sometime soon, the Olympic-ping-pong-training center will suddenly decide to make a move, taking its entire organization and reputation far away – maybe to California, or New York.
It’s just the way things go for Shane.
It seems not quite possible – but it happened again.
Shane has been riding the bus home from school since the beginning of sixth grade. He is now in eighth grade. So for more than two full years, he has had the same bus driver. Occasionally she is absent, but otherwise she drives the bus every day.
I drive him to school in the morning, but he rides the bus home almost every day.
So every day at 3:00, Shane goes to his locker, grabs his backpack, shoves his stuff into it, and races to get on the school bus. The buses don’t wait for long – they are all gone before 3:10 – but he knows how much time he has, and he has mastered the art of getting to the bus on time.
And every day, he jumps onto the bus, finds a seat, and rides to his bus stop.
Then, he gets off the bus and walks from the bus stop to his house.
Every day he does this.
School is scheduled for 180 days per year, so he rode the bus about 360 times during sixth and seventh grade. And it’s already November of eighth grade, so Shane has ridden the same bus approximately 400 times.
And yet, when he got onto the bus last week, the bus driver stopped him.
“You don’t ride this bus,” she said.
The bus driver didn’t recognize him.
While Dylan was feverish and housebound, I emailed his case manager. She emailed the teachers. I emailed the teachers. I emailed some of the teachers more than once. Then, after several days, I emailed the principal. I emailed Dylan’s counselor – twice. Someone even contacted the attendance secretary so that she would stop leaving automated messages on our phone, reminding me that Dylan was absent.
I did everything I could to make sure the teachers knew: Dylan was going to need some help when he got back. He was going to need some extra time, some excused assignments, some help from everyone.
But Dylan didn’t see it that way. He went right back to business as usual – which is to say, he went back to doing virtually nothing.
After a week of Dylan sick and me in charge of school stuff again, I lost my cool. In fact, I completely blew up.
“I have been doing everything, Dylan!” I yelled. “While you were lying on the couch and couldn’t even lift up your head, I emailed your teachers! I emailed your case manager! I emailed your counselor! I even emailed your principal!”
I went on and on and on, about all the stuff I’d done – how hard I’d worked, how many times I checked his grades online, how much I’d done … for him.
I should have been more cognizant. The things I do “for him” are no longer helpful.
Still, I wanted Dylan to take note. I wanted him to step up and do what he needed to do, since I’d done so much … for him.
So I kept ranting. “I did everything for you – for a week! I made sure everyone knew what was going on, and I made sure you knew what you were supposed to be working on! I did everything I could to make sure that you don’t fail this quarter!”
Dylan stared blankly into space. He said nothing. So I kept going. I tried a calmer approach.
“I want you to understand, Son,” I said. “I feel like I have been holding your head above water for a whole week! And now I’ve let you go, and I’m afraid you’re going to drown!”
Dylan finally looked at me. He didn’t blink.
“I know how to swim,” he said.
While I have always worried about Dylan, the past week put things into perspective for me.
Dylan was sick. He was so sick, and the doctors were so befuddled, that I started to worry. I worried that he might have something awful – worse than just a fleeting virus – and that he wouldn’t snap back. I worried that he’d end up in the hospital. I worried that he’d end up in the morgue.
And worst of all, I worried that I’d done everything wrong in his life.
I thought about the countless hours I’ve spent researching ADHD and trying to find a way for him to survive in school. I thought about Montessori school and how it might have solved all of his problems. I thought about school, and how hard it’s been for him, how much he’s hated it, how he’s dreaded every, single day of his life sitting at a desk in a classroom and listening to “blah blah blah” from the front of the room.
I thought about first grade, when he’d written in his journal, “I hate school.” I thought about putting him in private school and how, even there, he didn’t want to be there. I thought about the law – the requirement that all kids be “schooled.”
I thought about the many, many times I’ve offered to homeschool him. I thought about how he always refused, preferring to be in a social environment, even though it meant occasional failures.
I thought about my dad, who once said, “I knew that if I put my kids in public school, they’d be able to handle anything.”
And his kids, me included, turned into fine adults.
But if Dylan died at age 16, would it have been worthwhile? Would it have been what I wanted for him? It certainly isn’t what Dylan wanted for himself.
As painful as it’s been, every day thus far has been to prepare Dylan for his adult life. He’s learned some tough lessons – and he’s come out victorious with regard to so many, many things. He’s giving it all he’s got, and he’s turning into a mature, responsible human being.
Really, that’s all I wanted for him.
And the missing work? The piles and piles and piles of missing work – well, it’s just stuff. It might have caused him to get worse grades than any of us wanted for him, given his brilliance. His ADHD has taken his “GT” and made him only slightly above average – at least, that’s the way it looks on paper.
But paper isn’t actually what matters. Missing work doesn’t matter. Grades don’t matter.
What matters is that Dylan is healthy and happy now, and that he becomes a happy and healthy adult.
Really, that’s all there is.