The Little Boy Who People Said Couldn’t, Became the Man Who Did

I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life. I’m sitting at a teeny, tiny desk with The Big Guy, First Born Son’s Grade 1 teacher and the school principal. They are trying to tell us that while our son is lovely and polite, cooperative and friendly, he is a poor student. So much so, that the teacher is telling us that she believes he has ADHD.

I remember how I felt in that moment. That they got it wrong. In a big way. Here was a kid who had a vocabulary that rivalled most teenagers. He already knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life; be a farm, drive a truck.

When TBG and I voiced our doubt of this off the cuff diagnosis of his academic failure, we were told we were in denial.

<PAUSE> It is my opinion in this day and age, that the label ADHD is a quick “bandaid” solution that is far from a quick fix. I know people whose children legitimately fall into this category. We also knew from TBG’s aunt, a retired teacher who worked most of her career with ADHD and children on the autism spectrum, that FBS was absolutely NOT ADHD. If this was the case, we absolutely would have followed up on this. We were told we were trying to avoid a problem. I felt it was insulting to children who had this disorder and their families, to simply throw ADHD at parents as a “solution”. <PLAY>

I suggested that he be held back a year, and was told, no, not a good idea, because he would have issues with his peers. I shot back with “you worry about his education and I’ll worry about his social life.” He wasn’t held back.

EDUCATION

They told us we should expect that FBS might not graduate from high school. We should keep our expectations low. You can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone tell you that the future for your child has already been set for him, and it isn’t good.

We knew early on that we would have a struggle with FBS and his academic endeavours. Hours upon tear-filled hours were spent wrestling with math, reading and science. The only class he truly enjoyed, and seemed to do well in, was gym. French was a nightmare, exaserbated by the fact that the French teacher didn’t like that learning didn’t come easily to him. She just wanted to teach the easy learners.

This became a pattern in school; the teachers who didn’t want a challenge, were harsh. The teachers who knew he was trying were kind, but still didn’t know how to help. In Grade 6, a glimmer of hope. The teacher gave him an award for his positivity and outstanding efforts. For the first time since Kindergarten, FBS felt he was good at something in school. It was a turning point. Unfortunately it would take two more years before another teacher would make the effort FBS needed.

In the mean time, his self esteem plummeted. He was frustrated by his lack of ability to understand his school work, which was compounded by bullying that started in Grade 3. So much for keeping him with his peers!

It was his Grade 8 teacher who took the time to look into what was going on with our son. Testing, research and investigation paid off in time for high school where FBS became strong academically. It came down to this; what takes most people three or four times to understand, takes many more times for FBS. He can understand if he ‘s shown HOW to do it, and not simply told. He needs to keep math in front of him throughout high school, especially once he’s determined he wants to get into welding, a skill that requires ALL the math. Learning tools were offered and implemented. We immediately saw a difference in our son, and his schooling, but it would take years before he could truly hit his stride.

In his Grade 12 year, he told his father and me that he wasn’t going to to his graduation. We replied with, “The hell you aren’t!” It was at that time that we told him what was said in Grade 1, that he’d been written off by a system that didn’t take the time to collect students who fall through the cracks. It gave him pause. He didn’t realize how far he’d home; the obstacles he’d faced and triumphed.

He went to his high school graduation. He was an Ontario Scholar, on the Honor Roll and achieved his Specialist High Skills Major. Not bad for a kid who’s highest expectation would be to sweep floors at Tim Hortons.

FBS then applies to college and is accepted at his first choice. He wins not one, but two awards for his outstanding work over his two-year program. It’s obvious the story of his perseverance in elementary school is motivating him in college.

Today he graduated from that program. He’s been hired at a reputable company and will be making more money than I am!

A couple of weeks ago, he decided take some of his saved funds and splurge on his first new vehicle. It’s a truck.

Tonight, as we left a dinner with family to celebrate his graduation, he made a startling revelation.

“You know, I’ve accomplished just about everything I wanted to; I got into the college I wanted, I graduated, I got a job welding and I got a truck. All I need now is a farm!”

We have no doubt that will happen. And we look forward to cheering you on, as you prove everyone wrong.

Congratulations Sweetheart! Could not be prouder!

 

Aren’t You Afraid You Asked?

Welcome to October. You may be saying, “It’s about bloody time! Where have you been?!”

I am fully aware that my last blog post was in August, but folks, there weren’t no way in Tarnation that this girl was going to have the time or brain cells to publish anything cohesive in September.

To be clear, I’m not a huge fan of September. It’s always a rush to get the kids back to school, and although it’s nice to have a change of routine, its usually to a much more hectic routine. Then there’s the weather. Although this September might have been an exception to the rule depending on where you live, it always rains on September 22 where I live. Always. I know this because that is my birthday.  Again, not a fan.

But this particular September was especially chaotic.

First Born Son started his second (and final) year of college.

<PAUSE> Can I just take a moment to say, WHAT THE HOLY HELL HAS HAPPENED HERE? FBS is a CHILD! It’s impossible to think that he’s ready for the “real world” in less than a year. Who determined this? I’d like a review on this decision. I call foul on the play! I APPEAL!! If you are looking at your child right now and he/she is under the age of 10 BE PREPARED. You are going to go to bed one night and wake up with them driving, drinking (not at the same time – he was born with a brain) and ready to cash their first full-time pay cheque! I understand the going to college thing, but the GRADUATING from college? NOT. COOL.

 

PRETTY BOY POUT 1

Yup, I’m going to trot this picture out any time I have a chance!!!

Truly people THIS is what he looked like last week! It’s ok….I’m better now…. <PLAY>

So this kid moved in with three other friends into a brand new apartment complex. It’s nicer than anything he’s ever lived in before. Hell, it’s nicer than anything I’VE ever lived in before, which should set him up nicely for a lifetime of disappointment, frustration and failure knowing his living arrangements peaked at 19 years of age.

Second Born Son is away from home more often than not! A number of school trips for various educational and extra-curricular commitments means that he’s constantly bringing home permission forms and asking for signed cheques! When he’s not broadening his horizons, he’s at work, heading to work, or just coming home from work. No worries here with his work ethic!

At least he’s home on weekends. My niece, MM, moved OUT, as in “has a different permanent address” at the beginning of September. How did Little Sister take this development? Well, that’s a good question. I believe she thinks she packed up her eldest daughter, who is also her co-worker, in a box when she relocated her salon. Yes, moving a business is a huge undertaking, and one that LS knows well. She’s done it twice now. You would think she would have remembered how much it sucked the first time!

Because we Bowery Girl sisters believe in drawing all the B.S. the Universe has to offer, LS also sold her house late this summer. This resulted in a closing date of late September. Great news for her, but it launched a chain reaction of events, as she had an offer in on our parents’ home. This meant my Mom was going to be moving in September too. Sweet Baby Jesus what have we gotten ourselves into here?!? LS was packing her house, packing her work, renovating her new work location, moving her work and then moving her home. Yes, I agree, she DOES hate herself. While we tried to help as much as we could, she still had to live with the day to day of upheaval everywhere she looked in her personal and professional lives. She’s amazing. Or crazy. Or amazingly crazy.

Now moving can be a very emotional experience. Personally, I didn’t find it so hard when I moved from our first house to our current house, but I know my Mother had a lot invested in her home. She helped design it, was the general contractor when it was built, provided countless hours of personal sweat equity and lived there longer than any other home she has resided in. This was going to be tough for her. A saving grace was the fact that LS and her hubby Thing 2 were going to be there so it would be loved and maintained, but I’m sure the first time she walks in and sees painted wood, my mother will have a stroke.

As with any challenge, a job half planned is a job half-assed. No. A job well planned is a job nearly done. No. Well, anyway, we had a strategy which was that we would treat it like a Band-Aid; just rip that puppy off and get it over with all at once. That is, get a truck once, move twice. Yup, we were going to try to move two households in one weekend. I must say I am somewhat disappointed in my circle of friends, none of whom had the nerve to say, “Hey Sarah, you are bat-shit crazy to be part of this.” Nope, they did the equivalent of smile and wave as I marched off into battle.

It didn’t help that I went into the weekend very tired, since my work required that I attend a week-long exhibition that involved standing outdoors in a tent with various lighting and temperature conditions. By the time Friday came, I was most definitely punch-drunk. See what I indicated above about the Universe. Not. Kidding.

As we all know, there are some do’s and don’ts for moving, and while I would think they are universal, apparently some people didn’t get the memo. While most of the moving went smoothly, there are always one or two people that you wish you could choke with their coffee cup or at least ask them to secure child care for their pre-school aged children. It’s never a good thing to roll a piano on a toddler! No, not referring to my nieces and nephew, who works like soldiers the entire weekend.

But I digress.

At the end of the day…er weekend, we had two households in two different households. Mom was fairly settled, while LS has pretty much the next 6 months worth of weekends planned out for her. If she and her hubby aren’t building shelving, they are going to be in the garage sorting the possessions that preceded them in the multiple trips that were made with non-essential items. That’s when she gets over her version of the wicked cold we all developed the day after the move. If the Universe had an arse, I’d be kicking it right about now….

So “in a nutshell”, “alls well that ends well”, or “at the end of the day”, or “we can all look back and laugh” or some other such tie-a-bow-on-it statement we survived, barely.

I jokingly told The Big Guy that since Mom and LS had new homes, it kinda gave me the “new home” real estate itch!

He just started talking to me again yesterday….

 

 

 

The Birds and the Bees

If you live in Ontario, you recently became aware of the new Sex Education curriculum for public elementary school students.

You also recently became aware that when it comes to talking about sensitive topics, some Ontarians would rather discuss personal debt and their credit score before they would want to talk about sex. Take our provincial government for example. The previous curriculum was crafted in the mid to late 1990s, decades before “sexting” was part of the vernacular.

Pix taken shortly before the last Sex Education curriculum update...

Pix taken shortly before the last Sex Education curriculum update…

Immediate reaction was critical; those parents who felt the new lessons went too far, and those who felt things were left out.

In a nutshell, the new curriculum would introduce the concept of consent starting in Grade 1. Considering grown adults struggle with consent, I think this is bloody brilliant. What better time to educate a human about permission to touch another human being than when they are at their most “touchy-feely”!?

Then, GASP, children are introduced to what masturbation is around Grade 6. Since most kids – particularly in my experience, the male ones, have hands-on experience in this area before this age, I’m not sure why this is so shocking?? Let’s be proactive instead of reactive. Especially when it comes to making babies! Pregnancy prevention hits around Grade 8 and while you might be about to protest that this is FAR too young, let me advise you that a student a year old than First Born Son became a daddy several years ago, at the ripe old age of 14. I’m thinking this new curriculum would have helped him tremendously!

The argument many people have is that sexual education should come from a child’s parents. In a perfect world, it would. In a perfect world, all parents would be perfect too, so the type of information passed to their children would be flawless. Alas, we have flawed parents who are teaching their flawed perspectives of sexuality on to their children. There are some parents who get it right and are able to give their children a healthy understanding of their sexuality; and there are the others. I’m thinking of the parents of a girl who came to school and accused two boys of making inappropriate comments to her (think along the lines of various sexual positions) that they would like to try with her. Oh, did I mention they were in Grade 4 at the time?! Following a traumatic interrogation of the two boys, it eventually came out that the comments were never made, and that the young girl shows an inordinate amount of knowledge of risqué vocabulary which, she eventually told the teacher, was due to the fact that her much older siblings allowed her to watch porn with them. THAT’S one way of educating the child in the home!!!

Now what about the parents who have their own personal sexual issues? Whether it’s an extreme religious view, homophobia, a history of molestation or perhaps being exposed to a sexually transmitted disease; is it ok that they pass along these traumas to their children? To make sex an evil and unhealthy activity that will only serve to warp yet another generation?

We were fortunate enough to have a really good conversation about sex with both our sons. The Big Guy wasn’t sure what to expect when talking to his sons, since his parents didn’t feel the need to have the conversation with him. His knowledge came from friends and the stilted sex ed program of the 1970s. I can remember feeling traumatized when the girls were corralled in one class room for the talk about the female reproductive organs, and then the following year, they threw us together with the boys to discuss how babies were made – THAT made for a very interesting afternoon recess, I can tell you that much! We were all afraid to stand too close to each other, for fear we’d make a baby!!!

Somebody needs to tell these two what is causing all these babies - and put an end to it!!!

Somebody needs to tell these two what is causing all these babies – and put an end to it!!!

Today the challenges are hitting children younger and younger. They see images online, in movies and in life. Technology provides good and bad opportunities, and denying the education necessary to navigate the waters won’t make these facts go away.

At the end of the day, sexuality is part of what makes us human and if we want our children to be healthy, whole individuals, we have to make sure they have all the information they need at the age they need it at, in the society they are faced with.

Winter/Jobs/Exam Stress/Seniors – yes, it all makes sense….

Nothing like two jobs hitting me at the same time; one with three days of brain-numbing tech training, the other with just the first really big meeting (everyone meet Sarah/holy-crap what have I gotten myself in to) in the middle of that training, sprinkled with some truly nasty snow storms. Yup – all in the same week folks. It’s how we roll around here.

At least he had snow shovelling to burn off the pre-exam anxiety!

At least he had snow shovelling to burn off the pre-exam anxiety!

So, forgive me for not throwing more out at you last week, but if I had asked any more of my brain, it would have looked just like this…. EHRIAOGHR !!!oanbf [r d9403q bdzfjojb. One could say I saved you from witnessing a visual breakdown, so, you are welcome!

It’s been a pretty crazy week for First Born Son as well. While he only had two exams to write, the “traditional” winter weather forced the schedule back two days, meaning he had to anticipate a math exam two days longer than necessary. Since he is My Son, math is like an allergen to him and he spent those extra days on a borderline hive breakout. Thankfully, he is now done and ready to move on to his second semester.

Which reminded me.

When I was his age (cue the whimsical music and black and white footage) I too loathed exams. When I was in Grade 11 (where he is now) my parents sold our home farm and purchased the land where they now reside. They were building a house which was ready for occupancy over the Christmas holidays. In the chaos of the move, it was lost on all of us that while I would have to transfer to a new high school, I WOULD STILL HAVE TO FINISH EXAMS AT MY OLD SCHOOL.

Since driving back and forth was out of the question, it required some creative thinking to come up with a solution.

That came in the form of  my Gramma. She lived in the same town as my old high school. She lived only three short blocks away from the school itself. What a perfect solution!! Could this be more convenient?

Did I mention she lived in Semi-Care?

So for two weeks, while I finished my exams, I slept at my grandmother’s apartment in a senior care centre. I would try to sneak out to be unseen by the staff doing their daily checks on the residents, since “visitors” were not people who stayed overnight, and certainly not for multiple nights. For those of you who have not had the “pleasure” of staying at such an establishment, let me tell you this; the smells and sounds of a Seniors’ Residence are not something one can get over in the short term. I still have flashbacks!

I would actually take a longer route to school, in the hopes that anyone who noticed me would not connect the fact that I was living in the local seniors’ home. Come on – I was 16. This was THE. WORST. SOLUTION. EVER.

There was no long-term impact for my Gramma, or myself. Or so I thought.

Recently, certain commercials have caught the eye of Second Born Son. He has announced that when he’s an adult, he’s going to move into a Seniors’ Home; after all, with all the down home cooking, bus trips and conga lines they are promoting, he’s thinking it’s Club Med.

I don’t have the heart to tell him about the smells and sounds…..