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March 22, 2010

the chance of being a real person

Almost three years ago, I wrote of our decision to send our son to a local Chinese immersion school. The school is a public school in the school choice state of Minnesota. I have always thought--and still think--that the school is an excellent school. Where I stand today, I see some areas that I hope they will improve in, but overall, it's a great school.

When our son started in the school, I wrote of my family's slow acceptance of our decision. I think their reluctance was due to the unfamiliarity of the idea of language immersion in general; I'm sure our choice of Chinese didn't help. I think their concerns were only slightly assuaged by the fact that J's best school chum's family comes from the same part of ND as I do. Overall, my family was slow to warm up, and mostly pretty silent on the issue.

When we decided to switch J to the neighborhood school, for a variety of reasons, some of which I've described here, we were a little uncertain about how to approach our families on the topic. So, we waited until one week of success, and then in an email, I wrote of our decision, that J needs to be able to express his ideas and that Chinese was slowing that down.

My dad's response came this morning:

Glad to hear J is out of Chinese school and has a shot at being a real person and that his new school isn't a long ways off.

Well, gee, dad. Tell me how you really feel, why don't ya? Upon reading this, my thoughts went straight to Carl, the family liaison at the Chinese school. He uses the phrase "heart-safe" to talk about our words and actions. I don't think my dad was thinking about being heart-safe here.

There's a lot of things I think about what my dad said here. I think maybe he doesn't really mean J didn't have a shot at being a "real" person before, that maybe he means he wasn't so sure of the relevance of Chinese? but wow....I'm just stunned that he somehow believed that and didn't share it before. I'm stunned that he could let those words flow from his fingers and not think for a minute that maybe there would be hurt on the other end.

In my family, there's no typical pattern of confronting these kinds of things, so I think I'll mostly have to forget about it and move on. Except that I don't really want to forget about it because it was said, and it hurts, and it shows the limitations of my own father. In two years' time, I won't remember this comment any more than I remember whatever they said when we first told them J was going to Chinese immersion in the first place.

Whatever the case, though, I hope that J will be someone who thinks before speaking, who considers the feelings of others before letting the words go. Somehow, I suspect that in those terms, J really does have a chance of being a real (caring) person, more so than my dad can ever dream of.

Posted by chri1010 at 2:30 PM | Comments (573)

March 21, 2010

Things are looking up

Some day, my posts will be about something other than family issues. Once upon a time, I was a knitter and a thinker, and...and..and.... It seems like these days, the main issues are all family related though, and so who has time to upload a picture of a half-knit sock? You wouldn't want to see it anyway. But the fact that I have a half-knit sock seems to be a sign that things are looking up.

J is now a week into the new school. He's going to our neighborhood school, which is a good school, but a plain ol' school with just the typical bells and whistles. The teachers seem to really care about the kids, and J's teacher is no exception. She's the perfect kind of teacher for him: experienced. He's not so sure he likes her, and I think that's a good thing. She's making him do the work, and so far, he's not had many nights of homework. The homework battles are gone!! So, J has more time to do this:

100_0206.JPG He's a bit of a video-game fan (aren't we all?), and our latest obsession is Doodle Jump on the iTouch. I can hardly keep my iTouch charged these days. And on the subject of video games, there's this local video shop that just opened up in our mall that has some kind of console that plays "old school" video games. J thinks it's just the coolest thing to play the original Super Mario Bros. Who knew those old scratchy graphics would be cool again someday?

C is doing much, much better. I think we've turned a corner, and it feels so good. He still has his moments, but usually they're caused by a medication issue. He takes so many different medications these days, he occasionally loses track, and I can tell when he's missing something. I call it the "asshole alert": when I want to call him an asshole, it usually means something's missing pill-wise. Funny how that works that way, but it does. It's nice to have him back to more of his old self--what a relief. I'll admit I probably believe that there's always a chance to backslide, but for the most part I'm trusting we're headed in the right direction.

Toddler S is super funny these days. She's got an opinion, and she wants to share it. The other day, I was opening a string cheese for her, and the dog was nearby. She turned to the dog and yelled, "Aaaaaah!" She can't really say anything, but she can communicate! It was really funny!100_0199.JPG She's also a really good eater, and she seems to be willing to try everything. In this picture, she was chewing on the apple core from a caramel apple I'd bought for J. She also ate some curry I made the other night, although I'll admit she shared more with the dog than she ate herself.

So J, C, and S are all good...what about me? Well, I'm going on week 4 of a nasty cold. I went to the doctor about ten days ago, and was sent home with a nasal irrigation system. This many more days later, I've pretty much had it with the unproductive cough, the chills, and the bodyaches, so I'm going back to beg for some relief. I'd like to feel better soon, but given that overall things are looking up, you won't hear me complaining too loudly.

Posted by chri1010 at 11:32 PM | Comments (484)

March 6, 2010

In parenting, happiness is a tall order

When our son J was born, I told him that all I wanted for him was to be happy. It seemed like a good wish for him at the time, but over the years I have really learned just how hard it is to make good on that kind of expectation.

For starters, as a parent, there are times when we really need our kids to be unhappy. I don't mean miserable, but I do mean that setting limits really involves short times of potential unhappiness for long term payoff. I wasn't really thinking about this kind of happiness at the time of his birth. In fact, I had no idea that "no video games until your homework's done" would ever cross my lips. But it does nearly every day, much to the unhappiness of an 8 year old boy. And that's a good kind of unhappiness.

There's also the unhappiness that comes from temporary learning situations that we all need to experience and are better learned the hard way. We can't really protect kids from everything, nor should we, I think. I don't know that J has had many of these lessons, but he is often a tentative kid, watching the action before jumping in. It's interesting--in this way he's not so impulsive, and yet in other ways, he IS impulsive.

J's happiness has been something to dwell on lately because there doesn't seem to be much of it, and it all seems to be centered around school. I can say for sure that J is not a very typical kid in so many ways, and it really makes school a challenge. Both C and I generally liked school, and we listened to our teachers and did what we were told, and so it's completely new territory to have a child who would rather take an unnecessary trip to the bathroom than listen to the teacher, or to spend 20 minutes negotiating why he shouldn't have to do his homework than to just do it. The school tells us, "it's not like he's physically aggressive...he's just passively resistant." I gave them that language: passive resistance. It's putting your head down on the desk and taking a nap instead of participating.

It's been a hard year anyway. Did we need this? Before you rush to offer advice, I can't begin to list all the things we've tried. Rewards. No rewards. Trying to have him be more responsible for his homework. Trying to have him be less responsible for his homework. Using different colors to complete his homework. Breaking the problem down into steps.... I mean, I have a Ph.D. in education (no less). I should be able to figure something out that works.

And that's when it hit me. I felt like a failure. I really did, and in fact, I still do. Except that J has an appointment to be evaluated for Attention Deficit Disorder (a little thing we like to refer to as "attentional issues."). I think it's probably a classic sign to consider ADD when the parent feels like they've done EVERYTHING and still feels like a failure. What frustrates me now is that we made this appointment back in December 2009 AND WE ARE STILL WAITING FOR APRIL 12, 2010 to come!! I need to remember to take deep breaths. In the meantime, here's some things I've learned:

1. I am not a failure. The likelihood is truly great that J has ADD. I may not be a neuropsychologist, but I've already taken the parent survey and shown it to my doc, and she said, yep, it looks like a referral is in order.

2. Gifted kids present ADD in unusual ways. Here's a great article on that topic. Some of the things that really stand out to me are that they really don't like to do homework that is repetitious (and we have homework hell every night--to the point that I have often considered just doing the homework for him!!), and that gifted kids with ADD often perform average or even poorly in the classroom and excel at tests. Frankly, we are so there right now, it's not even funny. The school has pretty much told us they think J has stopped learning. Yet, I think he thinks they aren't teaching him. It's such a catch 22 in some ways. Sigh.

3. Gifted kids may not do well in language immersion programs.There's information on the web that counters my position on this issue, but kids who are highly verbal need to express themselves verbally, and they may not be able to do that effectively in a language immersion setting. The other aspect of this is that the content may potentially be more simplified in the language immersion setting, and the gifted child is not able to engage it differentially as easily as in a native language setting.

4. Nothing has to be forever. This was advice given to me in a slightly different format by someone who has been through similar challenges. And, this is so good for me to remember. Sometimes it seems like all or nothing when it comes to school, but it doesn't have to be, and I can make it not be. One school year at a time. Or, one week at a time. Right now, even a week seems like a lot.

So, we have really determined that language immersion is not for J. Right now, he believes that schooling is not for him, but I think that in the right setting, he will change his mind. It's sort of amazing how excruciating changing schools can be. Schools really can become an extension of the family, and I feel sad leaving a really great school behind. But I want J to be happy, and I don't think it's happening in the context of language immersion, so it's time to try something else. Stay tuned....

Posted by chri1010 at 11:29 PM | Comments (236)

March 1, 2010

Time for transition

Baby S is now Toddler S, although she's not walking yet. She should be soon, though. She likes to cruise around, holding on to things. She can stand for short periods on her own.100_0151.JPG

She's going to be 14 months in a few days, and it's getting to be time to stop nursing. I didn't think we'd make it this long, and frankly, these last few months it's just been one or two times a day, mostly at night. It's not some big, important activity, except that for me nursing has been a success this time (as it certainly wasn't the first time around), and ending the nursing really seems to be fully moving on to toddlerhood and the impending moving out to go to college that happens thereafter.

If it seems like I'm ambivalent to resistant, it's probably because I am. I think I would keep doing this for a little longer anyway, but the last two nights in a row, S has bitten me. Hard. So, it's not really fun anymore, and it's not really necessary, so I'm thinking we should probably call it quits. But then...maybe this whole biting thing is a phase. S has been sick after all. Maybe I should cut her some slack?

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We've had a bit of transition around here. Little baby bed (Arms Reach Cosleeper) swapped out for bigger baby bed (if by bigger, we mean nice looking pack and play). The bigger baby bed had been our diaper changing station on the main floor, so now our living room isn't Baby Central anymore, although we did replace the pack and play with a smallish foldup changing table from IKEA.

A trip to the dentist is in the works, so that the dentist can look at all of S's six teeth and make sure that I haven't been doing irreparable harm in letting her nurse at night. On his advice, now she only gets water at night, and although he assured me that "she'll get used to it" I'm wondering if he'd like to come take care of her at two in the morning when she'd really prefer milk, please? Or, right now would be good.

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Posted by chri1010 at 11:56 PM | Comments (101)