Monthly Archives: June 2014

GRADUATION!!!

Happy & proud - you earned it!!!

Happy & proud – you earned it!!!

So, as I promised, I thought I would share my thoughts on graduation…. A Monday morning quarterbacking, if you will….

The day after graduation, I dragged my butt into yoga – I felt incredibly tight.  I realized that the previous week, I’ve been clenched in anticipation and dread, and my body was feeling the effects.  I was still dangerously close to crying if anyone asked me anything about Henry… God – what’s wrong with me?!  This is a happy time!  Not only has my son worked his butt off, but its the culmination of a hell of a lot of hard work and anguish on my part (not that he’ll ever know this…)

The room was about 150 degrees Fahrenheit…  Do schools do this on purpose?  I think churches do it too for weddings….  There were 10 graduates, all marching in with huge smiles on their faces.  The evening began with awards (not just to graduates), which are voted on by their peers.  The awards are based on the 6 core values of The YMCA Academy – I won’t bore you with all of them, but Henry won the Responsibility award.  In his entire high school career, not one assignment was handed in late – I think he only missed 5 days of school in 4 years!  His favourite teacher “Z”, gave a very funny presentation of Henry.

I have to give a huge shout out to the extremely enthusiastic and energetic teachers that were all there for the big night.  Three of Henry’s teachers, who have enjoyed his wacky sense of humour over the years, actually looked depressed!  So – the diplomas…  Everyone got one – Thank God!

Then the kids were given the opportunity to speak, if they wanted.  Not one to miss an opportunity for the dramatic, Henry opted to go last!  I don’t know where he gets this from!  (Left Brain is rolling his eyes at this one!)  So – I’m waiting in anticipation – I’ve been pretty good as far as not breaking down and crying so far.  Then one of his classmates, who has been with Henry since Grade 1 in Dunblaine and is a lovely girl, got up to speak.  She started crying in her first paragraph, thanking the school, her parents (her wallet and rocks), and eloquently telling us what it means to be in a place where her learning disability wasn’t something to be ashamed of.  Where she’s been allowed to shine and excel.  There was not a dry eye in the place…

Henry is next…  He talks about his dreams of eradicating the world from stupidity!! (to huge laughs of course).  I’m only concerned with our small corner of it at this point…  He thanks his teachers and the school, his friends, and lastly, his parents, for the love and support (and being his bank)!

Just so you get a sense of the thespian's abilities....

Just so you get a sense of the thespian’s abilities….

I’m reading this back and realizing that it doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel on this night.  I can’t be eloquent or clever enough to express my feelings.  All I can say is, Holy S–t!  We’re here – my son has graduated!  We weren’t ever sure we would be standing here at all.  When we began the YMCA, I asked whether he could graduate without math… I asked how long would he be allowed to stay in high school (until the age of 21, FYI…)  And we’re here!

One final note…. Henry received an Ontario Scholar diploma.  This means he obtained an average of at least 80% in any six of his Grade 12 courses.  What a guy!  We are SO proud…

Graduation – A Catch 22

As I sat this morning, surfing the Web for sales, I realize I’ve been postponing this particular post…. (and I don’t even like to shop – even from the comfort of my own home!)  Graduation is tonight, and I am so conflicted.

Obviously, I am happy and proud with Henry’s achievements, as well as the countless others who contributed to his success.  At times, we weren’t sure whether or not he would even graduate from high school – or how long it might take him.  For his part, he is excited about the fall – college, residence, new friends…. But we are leaving a safe and happy place to enter the unknown, very adult world of college.

I ran into a group of friends this week on the street having coffee.  It went like this…  “How’s Henry?” they asked.  “Fine,” I said.  “He’s going off to college and living in residence this fall.”  “How will he be with that?” they asked.  “I think he’ll be fine – I hope so – we’ve set up a lot of support for him,” I say.  “How will you be?”…..  I realize in horror, that I’m perilously close to bursting into tears.  Thank God for my Maui Jims!  I haven’t been this emotional since I was 14, crossing over the threshold into “womanhood” (BTW, health class didn’t even come close to preparing me for the next 60 years….)  I manage to pull myself back from the brink of the cliff and tell them the in-house joke of the past couple of months.  I’ve been telling Brian (Left Brain), that come September, he’d better start paying more attention to me or I’m getting a dog for each room of the house!  He tells me not to threaten him….

So, with these mixed feelings, I am charging up the camera battery, checking the flash, ensuring I have waterproof mascara, and picking out an outfit that is comfortable, and not too hot (basically one of my menopausal uniforms…)

I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow….

Birthday Parties

Are birthdays scary?

Are birthdays scary?

Can we all admit, now that our kids are older and we don’t have to give those big, elaborate, expensive parties, that they were the WORST???  When my kids’ birthdays approached, I thought in dread of the fete I was expected to throw….  Being politically correct, every child in the class had to be invited (which I agree with – since I lived in fear that Henry would not be invited….)  Gone are the days of the relatively calm birthday parties that I grew up with.  A few friends from the neighbourhood, a few games, a nice lunch, birthday cake (with coins in it of course), a small but cool loot bag, and everybody went home!  My parents had 4 kids to contend with, and had no money, so large parties would have been out of the question.  Nobody had big parties for little kids…..

 

Party sandwiches, chocolate milk & cake - what could be better?!

Party sandwiches, chocolate milk & cake – what could be better?!

So, back to those big parties…  First, you have to come up with a theme or something for them to do…  and it can’t be the same thing that your friend dreamt up for their kid’s birthday.  And you’re trying to avoid taking out a loan to pay for the damn thing!  And inevitably, the most irritating, pain-in-the-ass kid was always picked up last!  You might think I’m being awfully hypocritical, given that Henry couldn’t have been a walk in the park as a little guy.  Well – he wasn’t – and I’m not!  I was always on time to pick up Henry!  You know why?!  Because, I had to attend the parties he was invited to as well!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong…  I was very grateful to the Moms for including Henry in everything – and all of the kids liked him.  But, he often did have meltdowns during these crazy, overwhelming, sensory overloads called birthday parties!  I could hardly expect the Moms of the birthday girls or boys to handle him as well as handling all the other little darlings.  So, instead of a few hours of peaceful respite with a book, I was at the parties….

Some of the parties stand out in my memory.  One in particular….  There were at least 40 kids at this party, and every relative that the kid had….  Henry had had two meltdowns during this party (which was also too long).  During pizza, the birthday boy absolutely LOST IT!!!!  He started crying and yelled at the top of his lungs, “This is the WORST birthday ever!!!”  Right on, little dude!!!  I can’t WAIT to get home and have a glass of wine, and I don’t care if it isn’t the cocktail hour – it is somewhere in the world!

I can laugh now at these silly things – in the big scheme of things, birthday parties were not the end of the world.  And thankfully, I do remember the feelings of warmth at watching my children’s faces in joy as they ran, jumped and laughed at their own birthday parties.

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Is The Bar Too High?

fosbury

So… Henry is standing beside my chair (thankfully, before Game of Thrones starts!!!  I mean really!  What is happening with Tyrion??!!) and he is shifting from one foot to the next, as he tremulously says, “Mom?”  Now – I’m no genius – but I figure, something is up.

Indeed – he produced a math worksheet – God – I hate math word problems!!!  When are any of us ever going to have to manually figure out how to compound interest?!  Isn’t that one of the wonders of technology?  And if you have a child with a language based disability, math word problems are the dearth of our existence!!!!

Anyways, we worked through the problem.  But not before his anxiety started to ramp up and the shifting from one foot to the other became a frenzied dance.  And not in a “Dance like nobody’s watching” kind of way.

Next year, Henry is taking a foundation course at college (since he was in applied curriculum courses during high school), to get his university level english and math – and some sciences, because why not?  His eventual ambition is to take a course at The University of Ontario called Energy & Environmental Physics.  YIKES!!!!

Are we setting him up for failure?  Is the bar too high?

When John set off for university 2 years ago, it was to the same institution where some poor kid jumped out of a window and killed himself.  Now – I’ve always been pretty open and frank with my kids – especially John – and we let him know that there was absolutely no problem that was unsolveable.  Still – it’s a fairly scary thing as a parent to worry about whether or not your child is suffering in silence.  (Check out http://www.thejackproject.org to see the good work they are doing to open up the conversation about mental health).

I have asked Henry’s teachers repeatedly whether they think he can succeed in this program.  They assure me that his work ethic, organizational skills, enthusiasm and desire to succeed will get him through.  I know all these things about him…  Am I being a shitty parent worrying that he might not be able to do this?  I don’t want to be a Gloomy Gus Naysayer… my parents were like that – it was all about having a marketable skill.  That’s all fine – but, if you hate what you’re doing, how marketable are you going to be?  It’s a long life and everyone should have the privilege of pursuing their passions.

So – although we are setting up every conceivable support system that I and the team at Durham can think of to help Henry succeed, there is always a Plan B.  We’ve already set him up with tutors; he might have to take a reduced course load…  If he finds the math and science courses are too tough, then we will look at alternative courses that he might be interested in….

I guess the point is, it is not Brian and I who are setting that bar higher and ever higher.  It is Henry!  And like the cushiony pad under the high jump bar, we will be there to cushion his fall – if there is one.  One thing is certain – we will always, always be on the sidelines cheering him on until our voices are hoarse….