Friday, January 07, 2005

Lifesaving

My husband and I adopted our twin boys when they were a mere seven months old. Ever since, people have been telling us how much one son looks like my husband and how the other looks like me.

TwinBoyA jumped into kindergarten with great enthusiasm. TwinBoyB hated the very idea of kindergarten. By second grade, TwinBoyB was sitting in the hallway getting additional help with math, while TwinBoyA was in another classroom, freaking out over timed math tests. Their handwriting was illegible and on Open House nights at school, I could compare their schoolwork on display with their classmates' work and see that they were lagging behind.

By fifth grade, I realized that things had gradually gone from disconcerting to seriously wrong. The second week of school, TwinBoyB's teacher called to say that TwinBoyB was failing every subject. We had his ears cleaned out and his eyes checked and bought him glasses and tethered him to the kitchen table for grueling homework sessions, but he struggled through the year. TwinBoyA had a compassionate, encouraging teacher, and he did great work (despite his scrawling handwriting with no spaces between the words and no regard for margins). That's why I didn't realize until the end of the year just how bad things were for him socially.

I asked him yesterday, "So, did the kids call you names the whole year last year?" He paused and looked out the window at the flat gray sky. He said, "Well, they didn't really call me names. They just made fun of me." I said, "Was it just the last year or two?" And he said, "Well, really the last three years."

And what I have to ask myself is this: Did I not notice them drowning? Couldn't I see their heads bobbing underwater? When the other kids splashed them until they couldn't breathe and pressed their faces into the water, why didn't someone intervene? Why didn't I intervene? Why didn't I see that it wasn't good-natured fun, but cruelty? How could a mother not see that her children were tiring and about to go under?

Well, I did finally pluck them out of the water. And I didn't even push anyone else under, though by then, I was tempted. I once overhead my son being mocked and ridiculed and I wanted to knock together the heads of the culprits. But I thought, it's all part of growing up.

No more. I won't let them sink or swim. Not until they are stronger swimmers, able to swim against the current and smart enough to avoid the jellyfish and driftwood. And the bullies.

I'm still reading a book about learning disabilities and as I read it ("A Mind at a Time", by Mel Levine) I cringe. What I have attributed to quirky genetics and annoying personality traits are probably actual learning disabilities, neurological impairments. I wonder how much of this is genetic? I wonder why the teachers at our acclaimed schools never investigated further? I wonder if my boys will actually grow up to be productive members of society? Or did I leave them floudering too long?

Our adopted sons do not look like my husband. Or me. They don't think like us, talk like us, walk like us, or resemble us in any way. But we are family and we will stick together, lashing ourselves to our life-raft if need be. I will not let these kids drown.

That's my job, the job I accepted without actually reading the contract. . . the one that says in fine print, "Please note. No refunds, no returns, no do-overs. Good luck and don't call us when you find out how poorly prepared you are."

9 Comments:

Blogger Marykay said...

You aren't a bad mom because you didn't realize how difficult school issues were for them - most of us don't see things clearly 100% of the time - and my experience says kids don't articulate things or talk about them. My youngest had impetigo around his mouth for EIGHT WEEKS and I just thought it was a weird rash. Duh! And my ten year old got bullied on the bus once and didn't mention it for four months then it all poured out with tears.

Also, consider and take courage in the fact that you don't have to be booksmart to be successful. There are thousands of people who were "failures" in the current education model, but because they were diligent or savvy or curious went on to make great achievements. My own dad only went to school through third grade, but went on to become a captain of a ship and passed a very difficult master seaman's license test.

And best of all - they have you! You aren't going to let them down, Melodee. I know you will see them through! I have confidence in you.

4:51 PM  
Blogger jackabug said...

I have a niece with Asperger's syndrome. After years of
quirky behavior, strange outbursts and rituals, they
diagnosed her. This is a kind of autism. She now chooses to go to "regular" high school and does very well in her classes. She says some students make fun of
her but she doesn't care. Hang in there!It's so very
difficult for these children.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Wash Lady said...

Bravo!! Damn skippy you won't let them down.

You'll do what you need to do, help them with the resources that you access and fight with/for them. In the end, that will be far more valuable than the fact that they weren't served well by the school system.

You are asking the right questions, and my prayer for you and them is that you find good answers and resources to utilize from here on out.

You can do this. You can do it because you are motivated by love - and there's nothing more powerful.

Blessings on your journey :)

3:32 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

Yes, I believe your boys will grow up and be productive members of society....because they have you looking out for them. It is so easy to miss the distress signals, when they aren't given very clearly. You have seen them now though, so it is not too late.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I'm with you, Melodee. I pulled my son out of an excellerated math class because of the stress the teacher was causing him. Some people told me to leave him because he has to learn how to deal with all kinds of people. I said, "Not when he's 7, he can't fight for himself, that's my job" You're doing great! Your kids will be fabulous, you'll see!

12:57 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

It sounds to me like you are a great mom. It's so hard, you know? Several times we've brushed aside our daughter's complaints that her stomach hurts or whatever, only to find that she's actually sick. There's just no way to do it right all the time.

I've been reading "A Mind at a Time" too. It's the Staff Development Book Group book at my job this year and we've been discussing it at staff meetings. A lot of the teachers have found it an eye-opener. Including me.

11:10 PM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

Having a mom like you puts those boys on a level way above so many other children. They are fortunate to have someone looking out for them so diligently and lovingly.

I don't know if anyone is truly prepared for what parenting throws at them. But we can soak up the goodness, learn from the badness, shower our children with love, and grow in so many ways during the process.

Suzanne

10:03 AM  
Blogger Jules said...

I've read through a few posts and have enjoyed your writing - your use of tone in this was excellent.

Only de-lurking to admire! I may link to you so I can keep track.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Bella said...

What a brilliant post. It really started me thinking about a lot of things in my own children's schooling.
Thankyou.

7:20 AM  

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