Category Archives: Brave New (School) World

Not My Story

If you’ve been reading me for a long time, you’ve probably noticed that I post a lot less about E. these days.

Partly this is because of lack of time. I post less about everything these days and my Google Doc file of “potential blog posts” keeps getting longer and longer.

Mostly it’s because I’ve decided that E.’s life is not mine to share.

When he was a baby, his life and my life were intertwined. Writing about learning how to be a mother meant writing about what he was doing.

He’s six now.

He’s a big little kid (or a little big kid depending on how you look at it).

He has his own thoughts, wishes, dreams, plans, questions, and opinions (this child is NEVER short of opinions).

Writing about him without his permission feels like a violation of his privacy, but he’s too young to be able to give me permission to tell a story- he wouldn’t truly understand what giving me permission means and what the ramifications are of something being published online (he’s desperate to be able to put “how-to” videos on YouTube when he makes, say, a conveyor belt out of toilet paper rolls and old linens, and can’t understand why I keep saying no).

The problem is, I desperately need someone to talk to about him, and (as I said recently) I don’t have the right kind of friend nearby.

E. is not easy to parent.

I know all kids have their challenges, but I also honestly believe that some kids are harder work than others.

Nothing drove this home more than chatting with one mum after school one day when she told me that the teacher had called her about her daughter. “That’s the first phone call I’ve had from the school about any one of my kids,” she said (she has three- the eldest is in grade four). “I guess one of them had to be the rebel.”

At the time, I was right in the middle of a months-long stretch where I touched base with E.’s teacher (bless her) every single day after school. We talked with E. about what went well, what hadn’t gone well, and what we could do to make things better the next day.

I went home after that conversation and cried.

I feel like most of this past school year has been spent trying to figure out what is going on in E’s head.

I’ve been to eight appointments (not counting follow up discussions with his regular doctor) with three different specialists.

His teacher and I have filled out questionnaire after questionnaire.

I have spent hours Googling, even when I know I should NOT be Googling.

The end result is that the developmental paediatrician thinks that E. probably does have something going on. It’s mild enough that for now we’ve avoided a formal diagnosis (because E. has made huge strides in the areas where we were concerned over this past school year), but we’ll revisit this in a year’s time as the demands of Grade One are going to be much heavier.

I don’t like labels.

I especially don’t like the label that the developmental paediatrician thinks probably applies to E. because it brings with it a lot of assumptions for a lot of people, assumptions which, for the most part, are not applicable to my son.

At the same time, if E. does need more support to be able to thrive in the school environment, and a label is required for him to become eligible for said support, then I will do whatever is necessary to make sure my child gets what he needs.

It’s hard though.

I’ve cried a lot in the last couple of weeks.

It is hard to think that my beautiful boy’s brain is likely to make it harder for him to cope with school (and with life) than it will be for his peers.

It is hard to realize that I have many, many more meetings with teachers ahead of me, that the school may not be able to look past the other stuff to see what he is capable of (and he is so incredibly bright, so capable, so curious).

It is hard to think of myself as a special needs mum, even as I recognize that I am his first and best advocate.

It is hard not to be scared of what the future will bring, especially if you start Googling.

It is hard to know that P. will be at a much higher risk for the same thing and to also know that it will likely be years before we will be able to tell whether her brain is wired like her brother’s or not.

It is hard not to think that this is somehow my fault, that I have done something wrong somewhere along the line to cause this (even as I read over and over again that it is not my fault).

It is hard not to feel guilty that he was five before we put in the paperwork to start asking questions, that we didn’t investigate earlier, that I kept telling my gut to be quiet when it whispered that something was going on, that I thought he would grow out of it or that he just needed more time to adjust.

In my heart, I know that E. is going to be fine in the long run.

Scratch that.

He’s going to be more than fine.

He’s going to be amazing.

P. too.

But the road to get there just got a lot rockier.

And I wish I had someone to talk to about it.

 

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, E.- the seventh year, Grief

Microblog Mondays: Pink

A couple of days ago I called E. over to look at a prospective sun hat on the computer (because who has time to go to a store in person?). E. badly needed a new hat, not only because he’d just lost his current one at school, but also because that hat was getting too small for him, and although he’d repeatedly said he wanted a new hat that was “exactly the same as the old hat!”, I’d several years ago only purchased said hat in small and medium, not large, and now the store no longer made it.

The potential new hat was from the same store, but in a different style. E. came over, looked at it, pronounced it a good hat, and then said, “Oh, and look, it comes in pink too!”

“Do you want to get it in pink?” I asked.

“Yes, please,” E. said immediately. “Navy really isn’t my style.”

I ordered the pink hat with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

E. loves pink: he will tell anyone who asks that it’s his second favourite colour because “pink is closest to red!”

Thus far, E. has remained blessedly oblivious to the gendered associations of pink (even though he frequently comes home from school and tells me that something is a “boy movie” or a “girl book”). At a birthday party in January he picked out the last pink balloon when it was his turn and seemed genuinely perplexed when the girl behind him challenged him on his choice (she had clearly assumed that that balloon was hers because she was the next girl in line).

But he is about to turn six, and I know someday soon he will be told he shouldn’t be wearing his pink hat or his pink, orange, and red leggings, that he shouldn’t choose the pink balloon. It will come from his peers or (worse) from adults in the community. I don’t know when it will happen, but I know it is going to.

I hope he is strong enough to ignore the naysayers.

It breaks my heart that he’s going to have to defend his choice, that he’s not going to be allowed to just be a kid wearing a hat.

Do boys wear pink where you live?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Brave New (School) World, E.- the sixth year, Microblog Mondays

(Not) The First Day Back

Microblog_MondaysE should be back at school today but he’s ended up with one extra day of holidays due to vomiting yesterday. So instead he’s had a lazy day in his pjs and has been generally cheerful (once he finally stopped being too hangry to eat breakfast when he first woke up).

I’m the one who’s out of sorts.

I miss our routine.

I was looking forward to seeing all the other Mums at drop off.

I was looking forward to some quiet time when P was napping.

I was looking forward to sitting down with a cup of tea and organizing what I need to get done over the next couple of weeks. I function best with to-do lists and planning. Right now I have a whole bunch of amorphous “I should do this” thoughts floating around in my head, and I find that quite stressful. They’re easier to quiet when they’re written down somewhere.

I was looking forward to having a few hours most days without E’s incessant questions. I am so glad he is so curious but it can be exhausting, particularly when his questions outstrip my ability to give accurate, detailed answers. Currently his main interests are the universe and microbes (the macro and the micro), neither of which is an area of strength.

I feel a little guilty feeling the way I do, as E is a homebody at heart and would love nothing more than to be able to stay at home, with me, all day, every day. I get it- he’s an introvert, just like I am. The difference between us is he can recharge by being with me, whereas for me to recharge I need to be alone.

I miss school, even if he doesn’t.

If you have children, do you look forward to the end of the holidays and the return to the usual routine?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

 

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Filed under Brave New (School) World, E.- the sixth year, Microblog Mondays

Don’t want to be that (late) guy

Microblog_MondaysThere’s this dad who lives around the corner from me (literally around the corner- I can see his house from our living room window).

He takes his daughter to school every morning, just like I take E.

He is late, if not every morning, at minimum four days out of five.

And not just “quick-the-door-is-closing-run-for-it” late.

Twenty minutes late. At minimum.

I usually see him walking to school, with a resigned expression on his face and his daughter in a wagon, at the laneway, which is about halfway between our houses and the school, and is where a friend of mine lives, so we usually end up standing around and chatting for a few minutes. The key here is we have already dropped off our kids and nattered to other parents at school and walked halfway back and stood around nattering and THEN he appears.

The other day another two mums were there and he trundled past. So we all talked about him afterwards, because it turns out ALL of us have noticed him and we’re all equally befuddled by it.

Does he not care?

Does he wake up every morning determined to do better and things go pear-shaped?

Does his daughter refuse to cooperate?

What does his wife think?

It’s the consistency that gets to us. If he took whatever their morning routine was and pushed everything twenty minutes earlier, they wouldn’t be late.

“One day they wanted to go to the book fair before school started,” said another mum, who lives two houses down from him. “That day they got to school on time.”

I think I’m both fascinated and appalled by his lateness because it’s the sort of thing I just would NOT be able to do. If parenting is about picking your battles and what matters to you, being late is one of my bugbears. I cannot stand being late, for anything. If our routine made us late, I would change it after one day.

I’m sure that dad probably has aspects of his parenting that wouldn’t be a big deal for me but are a huge deal for him. We all have our priorities. But I probably won’t get to find out what they are because, let’s be honest here, I wouldn’t be able to cope being friends with him. His approach to time management is just too different from mine.

What are your parenting bugbears that you know wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal to someone else?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Brave New (School) World, JK, Microblog Mondays

Robocall Panic Attacks

Microblog_MondaysLast week, I had a robocall from E’s school.

It’s a pretty neat system. If your child is marked absent, the robocall program will call you to make sure you’re aware of the absence. It will, in fact, keep on calling you, over and over again, all day long if necessary, until you acknowledge that you have received the message.

So, yeah, good system.

Except on that particular day, E. was at school.

I’d taken him there.

I’d given him a goodbye kiss and watched him walk through the doors, just like I do every morning.

When I got the robocall telling me my child had been marked absent at morning roll call, I hung up immediately and called the school.

And while I waited FOUR BILLION YEARS on hold (real elapsed time: probably less than a minute and a half) while the secretary called down to E.’s classroom to find out what was going on, I had this thought:

Hey, this is exactly the kind of situation where the psychiatrist said I should work on not jumping to the worst-case scenario.

And then, almost immediately afterwards, my brain went FUCK IT, and I went into a complete panic of the “What if E. accidentally came back out the doors before school started and got lost and kidnapped” variety.

The secretary came back on the line, apologetic. He was, indeed, in his classroom. The substitute teacher had made a mistake with the attendance and hadn’t fixed it in time to stop the computer from calling me.

He was perfectly safe and exactly where he should be.

But I can see it’s going to take a lot of work to change my patterns of thought.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, E.- the fifth year, JK, Microblog Mondays

Manic Mondays

This is fairly typical for my Mondays this semester.

6:30 a.m.: Get up. Print various files required for today that I was too tired to print last night by the time I finished prepping the classes.

7:00 a.m.: Feed cats. Dump dishwasher.

7:15 a.m.: Wake up E. Finish making his lunch. Pack backpack.

7:30 a.m.: Make sure E. is out of bed and getting dressed. Make his breakfast and my breakfast. Kiss Q. who is heading out early to get in a swim before work.

7:45 a.m.: Eat breakfast with E. Answer approximately forty-five billion unrelated questions. Wonder how E. manages to consume so much food while talking non-stop.

8:15 a.m.: Upstairs to brush teeth and find socks. Double check backpacks are ready to go. Wrestle E. into outdoor clothing.

8:35 a.m.: Leave house. Walk to school. Tell a story about Elmer the little red diesel engine with yellow stripes while giving drivers the stink eye when they come into stop signs too quickly.

8:50 a.m.: Wave cheerfully at E. as he heads into school, even if he is weeping. Walk at high speed to the subway. Be passed by many pedestrians. Realize high speed is no longer all that fast.

9:45 a.m.: Arrive at first university campus. Photocopy test for evening class. Notice random printout in photocopier room of application for conference travel fund. Notice deadlines do not correspond conveniently with conference in May. Realize only possible deadline is probably tomorrow. Fret.

9:55 a.m.: Set up in office. Await student who is supposed to write a make up exam.

10:02 a.m.: Wonder what has happened to student. Start correcting chapter solutions for language class that evening.

10:53 a.m.: Think about packing up as office hour is over at 11:00 a.m. and there is no sign of student. Have student turn up with a jumbled apology about it taking longer than usual to get to the campus.

12:15 p.m.: Student finishes exam. Pack up bag and leave to catch transport to second campus.

1:00 p.m.: Arrive at second campus. Realize am about to either attack passersby or cry from hunger. Buy ridiculously large platter of Indian food. Retreat to office.

1:15 p.m.: Inhale Indian food while also making PowerPoint presentation for lecture that afternoon. Text from labmonkey: Dad is in surgery getting a pacemaker. Try not to worry.

2:15 p.m.: Finish PowerPoint presentation. Call to book taxi for that evening. Call to reschedule E.’s dental appointment. Take a minute to check email.

2:20 p.m.: Write to supervisor to tell him good news about postdoc.

2:22 p.m.: Have knock on office door. It is supervisor, excited about the email. Accept congratulations. Leave office door open because am now on official office hours.

2:30 p.m.: Answer emails from students regarding upcoming assessment. No students come to office hours.

3:00 p.m.: Have spare moments. Check exam schedule for April. Email sisters to try to coordinate who can travel when in April. Suggest options. Bombard sisters with emails because have a few free moments to think about all the things on the to-do list.

3:40 p.m.: Pack up backpack. Leave office.

4:00 p.m.: Start lecture.

5:10 p.m.: Finish lecture. Shut down technology, field questions from students, put on boots. Walk briskly down to where the taxi should be.

5:17 p.m.: Get in taxi. Text labmonkey to see if Dad is out of surgery. He is and it went well. Text with labmonkey to get update about Dad generally while in taxi. Argue with driver about route. Win argument.

5:58 p.m.: Arrive back at first university campus. Pay driver. Eat snack and use washroom.

6:05 p.m.: Start teaching class.

8:45 p.m.: End class. Shut down technology, field questions from students, put on boots. Walk briskly out to bus stop.

8:51 p.m.: Catch earlier bus. Send triumphant text to Q. Eat apple. Finish book.

9:40 p.m.: Arrive home. Turn on computer and look up conference travel fund application. Confirm that cannot apply for funding once conference has happened. Realize will have to get up tomorrow morning and complete application. Q. offers to drop it off, saving the trip to campus. Reminded again why he is so wonderful.

10:00 p.m.: Go to bed. Set alarm for 6:00 a.m. Snuggle with Q. Try to ignore baby dance party in uterus. Sleep.

 

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family, JK, Me? Pregnant?!

This and that

A few bits and pieces as I’ve found myself up at work with no access to an office and not enough time before class to do anything fruitful:

  • My cold is officially a sinus infection. Blech. I am hydrating like crazy and have resorted to sticking my head under a towel over a bowl of boiling water to try to encourage things to clear out. I am not sure if I go to see my GP whether she can do anything to help, but if things don’t improve by the end of the week, I may cave.
  • On my way to work today I got off the subway and Q. was waiting to get on. Nice bonus!
  • Phaselus had a dance party in my uterus last night while I was falling asleep and kicked the crap out of Q.’s hand. S/he was then super quiet when I woke up this morning. I had a (relatively) brief moment of panic that the baby dance party had in fact been extreme flailing and distress from a cord accident or something. Then Phaselus woke up. Clearly I need this referral to the mental health program.
  • Speaking of, they called me yesterday to book my next appointment. I was walking home from school with E. at the time and had no access to my calendar, so I asked if they could call me back and said I’d be home in five minutes. Then nothing. I am going to give them until the end of the day tomorrow and then I will call the general number just to make sure I didn’t slip off someone’s desk.
  • I survived my first two rounds of marking for the semester. My first year class averaged a highish C+ on their mid-term exam, and the third-year class averaged a lowish B on the in-class essay. Both are exactly where I would expect them to be, which was rather pleasing as I had been concerned that a) I had set a much too hard exam for the ickle firsties, and b) I had lost all perspective and patience while grading two-thirds of the upper year class’s assignments on the train coming home on Saturday- the train ended up being over two hours late, and my computer wouldn’t connect to the WiFi, so I had nothing to do but mark. It was a real struggle by the end, but apparently I didn’t take it out on them. Hurrah!
  • I did some digging and some calculating and I think I worked out how much maternity leave I’d be entitled to if I took 10 months off (September 2016 to June 2017). It is a decent chunk of change. Certainly enough that I could rationalize doing this, taking July and August off as unpaid leave and then starting the postdoc in September 2017 when the baby would be almost 15 months old. “I thought you said you would go crazy if you were off for a whole year,” said Q., when I announced this to him last night. “I did,” I said, “but if I take the postdoc, there’s no way I’m putting the baby in full-time daycare at six months old to start in January.” I think if we go this route I would want to look in to getting some casual help from January 2017 onwards to give me a bit of time to work on my own stuff while E. is at school. I also think taking the postdoc depends on Q. agreeing to be at home with the baby one weekday each week (and then he could make up the day on Saturday if he wanted), and me being at home one day and working four official days plus some evenings. I know lots of people do it, but putting a 15 month old in full-time daycare is not something I think I can do. Plus the financial advantages of the postdoc over contract teaching evaporate if a full-time nanny or infant daycare place enter the picture.
  • Six months in, E. still complains bitterly about going to school and how much he misses me. He seems absolutely fine when he is there. We’re getting no reports of behavioural issues and there are even signs he’s making friends. But he is a true homebody introvert at heart and he really would just rather hang out with me.
  • His kindergarten class is participating in the ‘Reading A-Z’ program where they send home leveled readers and once the child has mastered it, the book goes back and another one comes home. We have suspected for a while now that E. is masking how much he can read while at school and this was proved by the level ‘aa’ (I think the very first level) book sent home with him on Monday. E. read it once, then had it memorized, and announced to Q., “Well, it’s a bit simple, isn’t it?” “I hope I will get a more interesting book this time,” he told me as he went in to school this morning to exchange it.
  • I decided to out myself on Facebook today. I am feeling more pregnant than usual in the last few days and just felt it was time. I posted this photo (I did think it would be too subtle, but people picked up on it right away.)
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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, E.- the fifth year, JK, Me? Pregnant?!