Thursday, March 25, 2010

How do you say toilet?

I dropped Thomas off to school camp yesterday morning. It is three days long and they don't get to speak anything but Italian. He couldn't believe that the teachers wouldn't speak English to him for the whole trip. Neither could I but for slightly different reasons. He has spent the whole week practicing things like where is the toilet? coming up with strategies to manage any possible social gaffs and working out who he wants to have in his cabin.

They don't let parents go on camp anymore. When I was teaching (and when I was a kid) the parent helper was an important part of camp management. Now it seems it is all about having some time away from us (perhaps we are all a bit helicopterish). I think it is a shame really cause I loved it when my folks came on camp and I was kinda looking forward to doing that. Thomas however seem completely unconcerned about having time away from us.

He wasn't at all keen about me coming into the hall to drop him off - all the other parents were! And was told very firmly and clearly NOT to kiss him goodbye in front of his friends. Sigh... shoulder rub and have a good time darling was all I was left with.

I am thinking of him alot - I am sure I haven't even crossed his mind!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Really honestly I want to live on a commune

Well sort of a commune.   I was born in the sixties but I want the 2010 version.

I want to live in close radius (my idea is four or six houses in two rows that back into each other so we can take down the fences and have a huge backyard) in the middle of Sydney with friends and family who are all raising children.  I want our kids to go to schools nearby to each other so we can share the drop-offs and pick ups, I want to share a couple of cars, a lawn mower and set up a grocery  run roster.  I want to take it in turns to go out to the markets and buy our vegies for the whole group.  I want to share dropping of dry cleaning and letting in the tradies.  I want to share after-school care and the occasional I’ll feed and bath your kids cause you need to work late or are studying tonight.   

I want to have our own houses for each family so we can have our own space and setting and things.  I want us to be able to pay our own bills so each can spend on what is important to them.  But I want to do that in close proximity to other people I love and trust with my children.

I want a huge back yard for my kids to play in and for me to know that there is a community of people with their eyes on them.  I want to share the occasional dinner along a long table set up outside in that backyard where we would each bring plates of food to share and celebrate significant occasions in this way as well.

Every week at somepoint I have a conversation with a friend about the juggle and the busy and the stuff that needs to be done and the time spent doing things that we are all doing.

And every time I think I want to live in a commune.

Monday, March 08, 2010

weekends away

We really love a weekend away in my family. Whenever we have one I declare we have to have them more often (I also make this declaration after every holiday) but the reality is we are lucky to get away every 6 - 8 weeks.

Gaye has been away ALOT this year for work and to be with Carol and so we haven't been away at all this year until now.

This time Thomas, Al and I travelled by (two) trains and plane (and a walk through the pouring rain to get to the station) to meet Gaye who was in Brisbane for work. The boys were gorgeous together. Thomas downloading a popular little kids tv show on his new i*pod for Al to watch. Al would only watch if Thomas did to, they sat on the train, Al's hand on Thomas knee - honestly I thought my heart would break.

We had a truly lovely time in Brissie (do only non QLD'ers call it that?). We caught up with Carol's family on Saturday and then spent the best part of the rest of the weekend at Southbank streets beach.

A perfect spot for the just 11 year old and almost 3 year old (and you can't say that about many places) with decent coffee to boot for the mummas.

We slept and ate and hung out and caught the plane and two trains back home. Thomas made more trips to the buffet than you can count at the Q club out on the way home. Al watching intently for the seatbelt light to go off on landing.

The boys - weekend away bonded - bathed together last night. Thomas calling out 'we need tea cups Gaye!!!' from the bath while Gaye and I had a red together.


Friday, March 05, 2010

should we talk about talking

Al doesn't talk much yet.

That is right he is almost three and only says about 10 words. The clearest of which are 'no' and his versions of his brother's and the dog's names. So worry right?

Gaye and I have taken it in turns to worry about this; with one parent thinking it will be okay while the other is concerned about it. This worry alternation has facilitated a series of appointments and tests for hearing and development - with one parent almost always at the 'just in case'/'just to be sure' stage at anyone time.

See the thing is Al understands everything. EVERYTHING. He can follow and understand two or three part instructions, he is able to communicate - through signs and charm and sounds - to have his needs met. He is a happy and joy filled child. Who is engaged and connected with the people in his life and the world around him. Not even the slightest bit frustrated by his own lack of talking. As it turns out all the appointments and tests have endorsed that he is meeting all his other development milestones in fine form and has almost perfect hearing. So surely I shouldn't worry? But should we do anything?

I have learnt to use completely different language about Al's language development when talking to different people. With professionals I talk about his perfectly developed receptive language but under developed expressive language. With our families and friends I talk about how the professionals say he will talk when he is ready. With Thomas I talk about everyone developing 'at his or her own rate' and how sometimes 'we all need help with something' and in our family when we need extra help with something we are lucky enough to be able to afford a 'teacher' or a tool to do that. 'Like you with reading darling, remember you needed a teacher to help you catch up. And now look at you, years ahead of your class level.'

Thomas definitely thinks we should do something if Al should be talking by now. My mother and Gaye's mother think we should leave well enough alone. 'He is clearly bright enough and understanding everything he will talk when he is ready.' My sister who spends more time with him than his grandmothers combined thinks that she would 'be worrying a bit by now if I was you'

The staff at little school were, I think, pretty surprised at Al's ability to communicate without language. I think they thought we were a bit in denial before they spent time with him but now agree that Al can get any message across that he wants and understands 'absolutely everything' that is said around him. In fact one of the reasons we sent him to little school was the hope that interacting with other children and/or having adults (and older brother) around who didn't interpret his every need from the raising of an eyebrow might inspire him to use more language. So far it has meant a much clearer and definite no!

A couple of weeks ago I saw a TV show about an early intervention centre. As we both have backgrounds in education/children with disabilities Gaye and I understand the (positive) difference that early intervention can make. We also understand the (negative) impact that diagnosis/labelling can have on how a child is perceived.

Anyway inspired by the positive engagement and good outcomes showcased on this program I rang the centre for an appointment for Al. I then rang our paediatrician for a referral. 'The blah blah centre?' she said. 'Al doesn't need to go there!' We talked about how ineffectual the local speech therapist at the hospital had been (she kept asking me if we read to him...) and so she suggested we go to another 'if you are really worried about it.'

Last Friday Gaye took him. He behaved in ways unseen before. He was unwell and had been up all night with asthma. He refused to talk, refused to play, banged his head against the door hard enough to make the room shake, signed to be taken to the toilet about 8 times in the hour, spat his food out and did not look at the speechy. Gaye said it was mortifying. As each time the speechy asked him or Gaye something Al did the opposite. Gaye said the speechy started doing that slow nodding and 'of coursing' that a person does when they clearly think you are off your rocker/in denial. Gaye also said the speechy had crap toys and was in Al's face - surely not something you would generally do with an almost three year old?

I took him to the paediatrician that afternoon to have his chest listened to. She laughed ALOT when I told her about the appointment - as the now rested and comfy Al was charming and chatty (sounds not words) with her. 'Ohhh I am looking forward to that report Al!' she said.

We think the speechy thinks he completely developmentally delayed (she says his speech is at 15 months) and we are in complete denial. So we asked her to delay the report until after she had seen him again 'when he was feeling better.' She is coming to do a house visit next week. Sigh ...

And see now I feel quite judgemental of her - who judges a three year old on one meeting? what sort of professional who works with children has missing part/not fitting and dull toys?

Sometimes I wish I wasn't the parent who did something...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

sighing with relief

I am not really a glass half full person.

About eight years ago now, thou my life took a very different course from the one I had planned, wanted, expected. And sometime since then I have made a real effort to find the half full glass ( or at least some of it!). The more I practice the better I do (and probably not surprisingly the happier I am, the better my life feels, the more able I am to deal and manage life's small and big challenges) ... but still it is not a natural thing for me to look for the positive. Gaye is a very positive and forward looking no nonsense sort of person and this certainly impacts on my way of thinking about things but still I am not likely to shout from the roof if something is … you know ….good.

And so right now, you’ll understand, I am still a little hesitant about declaring how happy I feel with the decision we made to move Thomas to a new school. Gaye and I talk about it nearly everyday. We are in a constant state of amazement at the changes in him.

Ever since Grade 2 (at infant school) Thomas has started most school days with a reason why he shouldn't go to school. Sometimes it started the night before. This hasn't happened once yet in this school.

In the last few years at old school I have often asked him - what is good at school? What do you like? And the answer has always been 'lunch and playing with my friends.'

Last Thursday as we walked to school from the bus he said (without any prompting or questioning from this mother)'you know what I really look forward to Mum - language class when we do the find-a-word and I really like my maths teacher.

I made every effort to be low key (we were in the street close to school and he is in year 5 after all!) but could not help but give him a hug and tell him that was just fantastic.

He is working enthusiastically at his homework and talking about it really positively. The teachers are talking positively about his enthusiasm and friendliness that he is doing well.

I am not sure if it is a timing thing, a maturity thing, an opportunity to reinvent himself, maybe he is being stretched more (the work seems much harder but he is taking it in his stride), maybe it is because he is more settled now he lives in one home and visits his Dad rather than living across two homes, maybe it is because the school has a real philosophy of personal responsibility and expects the kids to step up (which he is) I don’t know.

All I know is that my boy from Kindergarten who embraced new things, was excited by learning, who had a go, who was happy and settled has returned.

He asked me to come out to the swimming carnival yesterday, which I did ofcourse even though it meant a lunch hour in the traffic. He was thrilled to bits to win two blue ribbons and one bronze and so chuffed to contribute 29 points to his house.

I had missed his swims but he was still glad to see me and we sat together eating hot chips and cheered and shouted on our friend Zac (who is in third grade but another house) and watched him win his race too.

So far so good at new school