Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crying into a pillow

I daydream sometimes, of days of summer home schooling grandeur.

I dream that we will stick to our 9:30am start time. I dream that the day plan I mapped out the night before will go smoothly, working from page to page, with discussion and understanding. A few breaks will be taken for water, to laugh at the cat as he spreads his outstretched paws towards us or creeps on my back when I am leaning over to help.

I daydream that we will end on time, with only having had a few difficulties. Then we will get on with our day. Perhaps we will pick from our boredom summer jar that I made, see a friend, have a friend over, go for lunch. Oh the many possibilities of  perfectly planned summer holidays.

Like I said, sometimes I DAYDREAM of summer home schooling grandeur.

The reality is somewhat different. The reality more likely has me sitting across from my girl, with an assortment of money in front of us. Coin, that I know she can't count. Coin that she never learned to count in school. Perhaps they taught it briefly, perhaps not. Either way it is now my responsibility to teach her. When she gets frustrated with the process I ask her if she wants to go to the movies with her friends when she is older, go to the mall to buy clothes, go to 711 to buy a Slurpee. She says yes to all.

I am trying to teach her the value of learning to count money.

Now, a few days later, she is still struggling to understand. She gets frustrated, so we move on to something else. This lesson seems so long already.

She looks at her worksheet, she reads it, I help her with the first few questions. She seems to have a grasp. Now is where I practice the art of walking away, leaving her to learn some independence when doing her work. What I am unknowingly doing is just walking away to leave her to figure it out by herself. Just like in school.

What she doesn't know, is that what I am doing is going to wash half of the kitchen floor, or the whole floor. Whatever ten minutes gives me. In that ten minutes I just want to cry. I want to see my tears fall on the already wet floor, drop into my bucket of soapy water. I want those tears to flow because I am so frustrated. I am so unbelievably angry that in grade 5, she has not a bit of knowledge about money. I had hoped that the school would teach her that! I was hopeful that money would just come easily to her. But why should it, nothing comes easily to her. Nothing.

Well OK, laughing does. That is a big something.

My tears don't come, they rarely do anymore. I have tried a long time to be strong, to be ever hopeful and positive. I think my heart has just been broken for so long that it sometimes feels impossible that it will mend. I do try to think of how good it sometimes feels to cry. Thinking about it, the tears nearly come, they are close, but my ten minutes is up.

I have to stand up, and be encouraging and positive in the seven steps it takes to get from the kitchen to the dining room.

I sit down and I see that she did not "get it". She does not have the skill set to do this particular assignment I chose. For some of the answers, she has even guessed. In a look, I know that she knows I am disappointed. I grab the eraser and erase what she got wrong. Question by question I help her. There are five she got wrong. Once we complete it, I tell her to go to her room and take a little break. Slowly I go to my room, close the door quietly so she doesn't hear me, stuff a pillow into my face, and I cry. The tears come, the sobbing starts, and I cry.

I think of how she will be ripped to shreds in this world, of all the mean kids who will tease her, the friends that will abandon her, the teachers that will fail her, the people that will judge her. I cry harder now with the pillow in my mouth so she won't hear me because I don't want her to feel guilt, shame, stupid.

I think of how her real father has no idea, our families have no idea. I feel like I should call someone, I wish I could call someone....but there is nobody. Because unless you are me, or have a child like me, you have no idea how desperately sad it feels to know that your child is considered nearly mentally retarded and she looks so damn average. Unless you are me, you would have no idea what to say, and you would feel to listen would not be enough. Yes she was assessed and tested as near mentally retarded, and I can assure you those are NOT my words. I do not use that word.

I can feel an actual ache in my heart, because I want so badly for her to learn, to use her brain, to train her brain. I know she can, I have seen what she can do! She can do anything she wants to, if she tried, if she believed it, if she wanted it. I can feel the hardness in my throat when I think that having a teachers aid is something she doesn't have. Having a teachers aid is no longer about one on one attention with a child for the betterment of their education. I am pissed off beyond belief that she does not qualify for a teachers aid, and that school really has so little to do with actual teaching, learning, caring.

I want to yell to someone who will listen...She is dumb! She can't count out $2.65 in coin, she knows not, the difference it should feel like to be 1 hour or 6 hours. She sometimes forgets and thinks that after 399, comes 100! I want someone to hug me and understand. Don't tell me it will be OK, don't tell me she is so great and so kind, and so happy. I know all that. Just hug me and let me cry, just listen. Tell me I am doing the right thing, or the wrong thing. Tell me what other moms in my situation do. What do they do? I wish I knew.

I can feel now, unable to breathe. I think to myself, now what? We were supposed to go to the water park. I hate this day. This is a horrible day for me, but I don't want it to be a horrible day for her. I can hear my husband saying she shouldn't go if it was a matter of her having a bad attitude or bad behaviour. I can hear the resource teacher saying she is still a kid, she should enjoy summer. I hear myself say, it is not her fault that her brain is like that. She doesn't "not get it", on purpose. She can't know what she doesn't understand. Her brain needs practice and repetition, that is why I do what I do with her. That is why we home school in the summer. I am not mad at her, and none of this is her fault.

So I take the pillow out of my mouth, remove it from my face and go shower. We end our lesson with some spelling practice. We pack a lunch, and go to the water park.

We wait in line for over a half hour in +31 degree weather and I think to myself - I am a patient person, I am a patient person, I am a patient person. Later as I bite into my sandwich I look over at Haley who is smiling back in appreciation. I think to myself, God help me because trying so hard to be a patient person could one day kill me!

I am writing this at the water park and I think, it must be time to go. After all, I do have cleaning to do, laundry to do, and groceries to get. I walk over to find her, wondering where she is, only to find her using the huge water gun to shoot water at kids she doesn't know. Her face has a huge smile, her belly jiggling up and down with laughter, and I think to myself, I can wait a few more minutes, I am a patient person.

Today, or tonight, I will find some time to pray to my God, thanking him for all the strength he does give me, that I recognize there are bad points about me, but I'll thank him for all the really good things about me too. I will tell him that I will keep going, keep trying to be positive, keep on teaching and above all, keep on loving her.  Every day, I learn. Every day I am amazed that I can love her even more.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Road Trip

Setting off on a road trip across Canada. Some people would love it and others would hate it-looking at the long days sitting in a vehicle with dread and anxiety instead of glorious anticipation.

I am not sure what I like about it. I would like to say that it is the thrill of being on the open road, wind blowing my hair. It's not. Driving makes me tired and the wind gives me a headache! I wouldn't say I really love it until we get to the mountains. Before the mountains however, I do not find the flat land all that appealing. What I do like is the the smell, the random churches standing alone, erect with looming authority. I love the groups of silos, enormous in the fields. I love the farmhouses. The old farmhouses. I imagine white lace curtains on open windows, blowing, letting in a cool breeze. I imagine men, dirty and hot from the heat with tired bodies from the hard work all day. Women in the kitchen, cooking, baking, canning. Children running free with their siblings, playing with water and running wild in the big yard, while the family dog, faithfully follows.

I love the colors of the fields. Bright yellow with canola, hay bales, the beautiful purple of flax fields. I like to see the horses gathered in the fields. The cows don't interest me so much. I can only imagine their miserable existence while waiting for slaughter to be someones food. I love to see the seagulls, flying low, grazing the ground, soaring high above. Always I love the clear sky, spotted with the kind of clouds that are thick and fluffy, and seem close enough to touch! You can see the shadow they cast over the fields and hills and you are reminded of the simple joy of finding shapes within them.

I love the times when the highway in front of you looks wet, but when you get there it's dry. I don't know what causes that, but it mesmerizes me and can keep me entertained for far longer than it should!

We have gone through Saskatchewan, spent Canada Day in Medicine Hat and soon the open road will take us past Calgary, into the Kananaskis area and the beautiful mountains.

I will put my feet up now and get lost in the music. That's another thing I love. The right kind of music, loud so you can sing along. We have a great c.d, Songs For The Open Road. We can blast it and listen to Van Morrison, Lynrd Skynrd, BTO, Don McLean singing American Pie (which I have been known to sing really loud, to which Haley says "oh no" when it begins. It also has Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, and would not be complete without Jim Croce with Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown! The best travel c.d ever! Do you have a favorite c.d for driving on the road?

As always, thanks so much for reading.