It is my absolute delight and privilege to announce (for your enjoyment) my very first guest post here.
Just pause to absorb the moment.
Not only is it my first guest post here, but the absolutely-the-best thing, is that it’s written by a pig-wrestling, family-taming, chicken-keeping, volleyball-playing wonder-woman, who I am constantly a little bit in awe of, and honoured to count amongst my friends.
Please all welcome Christine, from ‘A Fly On Our (Chicken Coop) Wall‘
Take another moment…
“When I can use my thumb, I will get to go to school.”
That sentence confused my husband and me completely when our oldest spoke it 11 years ago. Fortunately, he went on to explain.
“When someone asks me how old I am, and I have to use my thumb to show them, I’ll be old enough to go to kindergarten.”
Aha! Makes perfectly adorable sense.
|Then: Phoenix at ‘one thumb’ old
Of course, that boy did turn five, went to kindergarten, and has now been all the way through elementary and middle school. He needs to “use his thumb” three times now when someone asks his age.
Part of me so desperately wants to go back in time to when he was starting kindergarten. I want to be able to hold him on my lap and read a book to him. I want to be able to kiss his booboos when he falls. I want things to go back to where the hardest thing he had to do was tie his own shoes.
My boy started high school four weeks ago. Already, we’ve had some Big Things to deal with, at least as far as Big Things go for a 15 year old. When he was cut from the high school soccer team, oh how I wanted to hold him in my lap while he cried. Unfortunately, he is 5 inches taller than me now, so holding him on my lap is out of the question.
The second week of school, my boy started spending all of his free time in his room. He stopped doing his chores unless I hounded him to do them. I never saw him crack open a book, despite the fact other kids in his class were up until midnight or later doing homework. He wasn’t smiling or joking around like he used to do. He basically turned into a boy I didn’t know, and the only time we spoke was when I was getting on his case for not doing something.
I was really worried. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was, and he wasn’t talking. Fortunately, one thing I had going for us was our community of friends I had built over all these years. I was getting some information from my friends and the parents of his friends. I was hearing about things that were going on in school. I knew more about his days than he thought I knew. People who care about him were keeping tabs to make sure he was OK.
After three weeks of this, we hit a low. We found out that he wasn’t turning in homework and was failing two classes. The classes he was passing were barely passing. On our lowest day, we had a pig emergency at home, and when I yelled for some help, he chose to go back to bed instead. My patience was all used up. After the emergency, I went to his room and let him have it. At one point I told him, “I know something is wrong. Either figure it out and tell me what it is, or give me some clues so we can figure it out together, because we cannot go on like this!” I then stomped out of the room.
Later that day, I went back to talk with him in a much calmer manner. We hashed it all out, talking about how overwhelmed he was, how much harder school was. He has always been a very laid-back kid, never causing me any trouble by throwing temper tantrums or arguing with me. That laid-back attitude was coming around to bite him in the butt. His inability to think outside the box and figure out a solution to his problems rendered him immobile, and as a result, failing.
The biggest revelation in our talk, though, had nothing really to do with school. The words, “I miss you” actually came out of his mouth. Through all these weeks, he wanted desperately to talk with me. He wanted to talk with me without interruptions from his siblings. He wanted to talk with me without fear of being scolded for something he failed to do. It never crossed his mind to simply ask me.
Since our talk, things have gotten much better. After the other kids go to bed, he and I have a bit of time together, just talking about whatever is on his mind. He’s been working very hard to dig his way out of the academic holes he’s dug for himself. Asking for help when he needs it has become the norm. Too bad he doesn’t always realize he needs it.
He’s never really had to study before, and has never had trouble understanding the material worked on in school. Last week, he got a zero on a math assignment, even though he had done it and turned it in. He said he thought he knew what he was doing, so didn’t ask for help. When I asked why he didn’t check his answers in the back of the book as he went along to make sure he was doing it correctly, he replied, “That would be cheating. I can’t look at the answers!”
Clearly, we still have a long way to go, but we’re on the right track. Plenty more Big Things are going to come up, and we have things in place to help get us through them. (I say get “us” through them, because some of these Big Things I’ve been dreading for years. Namely, his interests in a girlfriend. My husband and I met when I was a 15 year old freshman. I am most certainly going to have to “get through” this.)
We can’t go back in time and do things differently. We can only go from where we are now, and pray that we do it right.
However, I am kind of going back in time without him.
While my oldest boy treads through the murky waters of high school, one of his younger brothers is of the “uses his thumb” age and has begun kindergarten. Not only do the two of them look almost identical, they have very similar personalities. You can bet your bottom dollar I will be doing things differently this time around. I will most certainly be doing a better job of teaching him how to identify problems and come up with solutions. I will be sure to prioritize a more consistent one-on-one time, so we can work through any difficulties he comes across.
|Now: Turken at ‘one thumb’ old
I will be sure he knows how to check his answers in the back of the book.