Thursday, November 26, 2009

He has a Dream

I have written before about my sweet sensitive J who, if I do say so myself, is wise beyond his years. He struggles with the way a few children in his class act and, in turn, how they are "managed" by the teacher. Recently I picked him up at school and he was a little quieter than usual. He had responded "fine" when asked how school was so I didn't push him, I just waited and as usual as soon as we were in the van driving to our appointment he starts his confession. He told me how he has begun to feel angry toward a particular boy in his class who is in his group. In the group they have an opportunity to earn popsicle sticks. The team with the most sticks at the end of the week gets a prize (my back was up about that one - but I have some pretty strong feelings about rewards for some being a slap in the face to others - but this wasn't about me so I tried to remain neutral).

"oh really?" I said "I didn't know your teacher did that"

"yeah" says J, followed by a big sigh "and with John on my team we will never win."
(not his real name of course)

"Why do you say that?" I ask as I fleetingly look at him in the rearview mirror and I can see my little boys lip quivering and eyes moist as he tries hard to manage his tears and his disapointment.

"well, remember how we talked before about John and how he's kind of like C and how maybe his brain works a little different and he ends up doing stuff and getting into trouble?" He pauses, waiting for me to confirm that I remember this so I nod and say "oh yeah, I remember"

"well, so he does stuff and the teacher takes away our popsicle sticks and then I start to feel angry at John". At that moment I'm torn in several directions - I'm frustrated that such a "reward" system has been set up - it seems so punitive and setting this child up for failure - which pulls his team with him - which then leads to hard feelings amoung a group of otherwise very caring and kind kids. It flies in the face of inclusion. And I am sad for my boy who seems so torn about wanting to win but feeling bad for the child he is pitted against. I'm just about to launch into a reminder about how John must feel about the situation and blah blah blah and before I can say anything . . .

"Mom" a little voice piped from the back of the van "then I realize (yes people my 5 year old says words like "realize") that it's not his fault and so I can't be mad at him." This is followed by a big sigh and a sniffle and then a quiet, contemplative, almost wistful tone overcomes him

"mom, i have a dream. My dream would be that everyone in my class . . . well, that we could all work together, like a team, to be the best. That way on Fridays we could all get the prize and NO one would get left out".

Seriously people does it get any better than this little person? And you know what I did? I pulled the van over, opened the back door and gave the boy with the shocked and uncertain look on his face the biggest hug ever. I held his precious little face in my hands and looked in his sad but hopeful little eyes and I told him "THAT is the BEST dream ever!"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


As with many older adopted children, C has had, well, issues, with bonding with his father, A. In the first few weeks of visits and the early placement in our home C seemed to be ok with A. He would let him pick him up and rough house a little but seemed reluctant to get too close. We figured, ah let him get used to us - he'll come around.

Now throw in there some sensory issues and we quickly came to see that for the most part C was not a cuddly kid. He disliked anyone trying to hold his hand but we sometimes would insist. He would initiate some closeness with me but definitely not A. In fact, after a month or so anytime A would touch him C would hurl himself to the floor and yell "You're hurting me". Makes for a difficult and tense relationship.

Over the years some progress has been made and I often catch C watching his father and younger brother rough housing - at times he will try to join but it often does not end well. He just can't tolerate the hands on and he usually ends up in tears or angrily trying to punch someone.

More than just the physical contact though - C and A struggled to really connect. I just intuitively get C somehow, A not so much. It makes for some tense moments in our house when C will only come to me for comfort or assistance and his father is saying to him "I'm RIGHT here - I can help you". It's a complicated web of family functioning (or dysfunction??).

A few months ago C discovered Geocaching while on a Scouting outing. It's the perfect meld of his passions - maps and treasure. Guess who else is a BIG fan of maps/geography - you guessed it A! So to my delight my dear husband and son could be found eagerly searching online, researching which GPS unit to purchase, signing up on Geocaching websites. For C's birthday A gave him a GPS - he was in HEAVEN. This past weekend C was highly agitated and A took him out for several hours to geocache. C came back excited but much calmer - an amazing transformation had taken place. As C told me of his adventures he leaned into his Dad who was sitting on a bench at our entryway. He slung his arm around his Dad's shoulders and leaned against him. When he finished telling about their adventure he turned and hugged his father and thanked him for taking him out. I had tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face. After C walked away A told me "He took my hand". It seems they were out walking, in search of a cache and C just took his fathers hand.

My wonderful husband waited 8 years for his son to take his hand. Now THAT is a father!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Last in a Long Line of Lasts

We tend to celebrate "firsts" with our children - first word, first step, first day of school. Yesterday I tried not to tear up as C lost his last baby tooth. My boy is getting way too big. I drove us home from the dentist, him beside me in the front seat (don't even get me started on how weird it is for him to be able to ride "shotgun"), trying not to cry. I don't know if he knew how nostalgic I was feeling - but as we hit the driveway he bounded from the van yelling "hey - let's go write to Santa!". Sniff. Contented sigh. He's still my little boy.

C when he lost his first tooth at age 5

Thursday, November 12, 2009

To a Mom

Dear Grade 1 Mom

I know it took a lot of courage to call me and talk to me about your son. I will be honest - I've been wanting to call you or to catch you in the school yard - I've wanted to reach out to you since our boys were in JK together. When we went on the fieldtrip to the horse ranch and your son struggled. I wanted to reach out to you then but I didn't know how. I didn't know where you were in the journey, I didn't know if what I would have said would have felt supportive or if my words would have cut like a knife.

I should have thought back to when C was in JK - how I felt so much like an outsider. His epic meltdowns at school events and the one and only birthday party he got invited to - parents actually moving away from us, recoiling in horror as I lead my boy out of the party room. The feeling of being judged. The absolute shame as a parent and gut wrenching sorrow I felt for my son - so misunderstood. I should have remembered how much it meant to me when one or two parents reached out, however tentatively and awkward, trying to understand and to give support.

So when you called a few weeks ago and began to share, trying to figure out how to allow your son to come to a party he so desperately wanted to attend and yet you were quite sure he could not handle - I eagerly jumped in. I offered "I don't know how much you might know about my older son C and his struggles . . . " I began. I could almost feel your relief through the phone as you began to ask questions and to marvel at the similarities between our two boys. Your relief as I also explained that I work with exceptional kids and their families. That truthfully, your boy won't bring anything to this party that I haven't seen or dealt with before - personally or professionally. When I extended the invitation that wholeheartedly he, and you, and his sister - anyone and everyone that he wants - is welcome in our home at our party. When I suggested that should he need time away from the craziness that would be 17 6 year olds and that he could go on our computer or watch a movie or play in J's room - I think you might have started crying from the relief.

I want you to know that when your son was the first one out in the first game - I SO would NOT have planned it that way but I would have understood if he had melted down and I would have been right there with you, offering any support I could have. When he looked around and announced "That's ok, I'll try harder next time" and happily moved away from the group, I want you to know I did have tears in my eyes - the wonder that is your boy to have come so far so fast. You had every right to be so proud that night. I am so happy we got to be part of his magical night. I am happy for you that you got to witness his success and to witness the kindness of so many of his classmates who intuitively knew what he needed and made sure he was included - even before I could move in!

In case anyone hasn't told you this lately - you are a wonderful mom and he is going to be ok. So much more than OK - He's FABULOUS and so are you!