The World’s Best Kindergarten Teacher

Luke with Miss Jackie at Unique Prints. He had to try to stay inside the barrel why she tried to toss him out. He loved that game. The look on his face is pure joy. Money well spent.

My boys were fortunate enough to have the world’s best kindergarten teacher. She literally changed their lives with her insights into them and their issues and with her genuine love for them and their uniqueness. Sandra was the first one to suggest to me that there might be an issue that was causing our oldest son to be years behind his classmates in terms of fine and gross motor skills. It was Sandra that pointed us to Unique Prints, a therapy gym specializing in children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Sandra gently helped us to see what we had not understood or were not willing to acknowledge. Our boys needed extra help, and there was no shame in that.

As I look back now over the last five years, it’s amazing the progress I’ve seen in my boys. They still battle some sensory issues, but they’ve come such a long way. The time I spent driving them an hour round trip to Unique Prints two or three times a week so they could “play” in the occupational therapy gym while I sat in the waiting room was well worth it. Because of Joe’s original diagnosis with SPD, we were able to diagnose more quickly that he had ADHD as well. Therapy is expensive, but we were fortunate to have great insurance that paid for most of what our boys needed. There are plenty of people out there who want to do the right thing to help their children but don’t have the means we do to get them the help they need.

When our youngest was in Sandra’s kindergarten class, he had a classmate with whom he continually knocked heads. I often worried about Luke in these tussles because Luke is a small kid and his classmate was on the other end of the size spectrum. I was concerned that Luke was being bullied because Luke told me he was sometimes afraid of the other boy. I went to talk to Sandra about my concerns, and she pulled me aside and let me know that the other child involved had issues of his own. She never disclosed exactly what was going on with him, but she told me that his family struggled with his issues the same way we were struggling with Joe and Luke’s issues. She also told me that they were good parents who were trying to do the best for their child that they could. Her honesty about the situation helped me to understand. I felt bad that I had looked at that other child the way I’m sure other parents had looked at my children with their issues, with no compassion or desire to understand but with judgment. And, in the end, when the other boy left the school to get more specialized treatment, I was truly sad to see him go.

Today, Sandra posted a link to this video for a family looking for assistance for their not one, but two, sons with autism. The family would love to get a therapy dog to help their boys. But, therapy dogs cost around $6k, and that’s a lot of pocket change for most families. I watched the video because Sandra had recommended it, and Sandra is good people. I immediately recognized that the older son in the video was Luke’s old classmate. I watched the video and had a good cry. It’s amazing how life works sometimes, how it puts you in touch with people and situations that, if you’re lucky enough to be paying attention, will teach you the lessons you need to learn.

Life is hard. We all have our challenges and limitations. We all are on a journey that no one else can take for us. I can’t expect other people to be patient with my sons’ issues if I’m not willing to be patient and understanding about the struggles other families are having. And, as hard as it has been at times to parent my unique, sensory-challenged boys, I’m so incredibly blessed to have gotten off as easily as I have. Sometimes it takes a special reminder to bring you back to gratitude and peace with the way things are. Today I’m grateful for such a reminder courtesy of the world’s best kindergarten teacher ever….the one who even manages to teach adults a thing or two.

How To Survive Chuck E Cheese

The birthday boy practices his Skeeball skills.

Eleven years ago, when hubby and I were the definition of semi-young, urban professionals living in Denver without children, we swore up and down that you would never catch us in Chuck E Cheese. We would drive by one and shiver. Why would anyone purposely enter an establishment with mechanical, singing characters, an underpaid dude wearing a large mouse suit, sub par food, and way, way too many noisy and germ-enhanced children. Ewwwwwwww. When we had our boys, we vowed we would never take them there. Never.

It turns out never is a really long time when you have a 4 year old and a 6 year old who have been invited to a birthday party there and don’t want to miss it. In fact, it’s amazing how quickly “never” becomes “imminently” when you’re listening to your children whine non-stop about a place they’ve never been. So, hubby and I decided that attending a soiree hosted by the incredibly popular Chuck E Cheese was simply a right of passage into the American Parenthood Club, and we caved.

Perhaps it was because we were so terrified of the place that our first experience there was actually not that bad. We quickly discovered what many parents already had; the beauty of Chuck E Cheese is that you can spend two hours without your children while still technically being with your children. We hardly saw our boys during the time we were there. They were off tearing through the place like squirrels on crack, and no one even noticed their behavior. With all the commotion, our kids’ usual decibel level (which hovers somewhere between snow blower and rock concert) seemed not at all off-putting. Steve and I somehow managed to have an hour’s worth of mostly uninterrupted conversation and we played video games for the first time in 25 years. It was very nearly a date. Our babysitter was a human-sized, baseball-cap wearing grey mouse.

Over the years we’ve come to embrace the occasional trip to Chuck E Cheese as less of a prison sentence and more of a night at the carnival. It’s not something we want to do all the time, but once in a while we can stomach it. Here is how we do it.

1) We bring a friend. Tonight’s friend was Captain Morgan. If you’re going to have kid-friendly pizza and soda for dinner, you might as well make it a meal you enjoy. It’s a little easier to palate the pizza and ignore the ambiance when you have a drink to take the edge off. Sure. Some of the restaurants sell beer and wine, but it’s not worth your money. Besides, it’s more fun to be a rebel, smuggle in your own booze, and spike your own punch. Come on. All the cool kids are doing it.

2) Set yourself up in a booth as far away from the party space as humanly possible. I mean, you can only tolerate singing mechanical animals for so long before your IQ begins to drop. And, it will only depress you when you realize that the animals are singing songs from when you were in high school, and that’s why now you’re singing them too. If you leave singing “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight,” don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3) Come prepared to spend a wad on game tokens. You’ll need an ample supply to keep the kids away, and you’ll need some for yourself too. Think of Chuck E Cheese as Vegas without the show girls. You’re not going to win big, but you’re not really there to win. You’re there to play. So, play. Check your decorum at the door, throw some footballs at a target, and play Frogger if you want. No one will judge you if you try to beat the high score you left behind in 1985.

Chuck E Cheese is not my favorite place. It’s certainly not where I would choose to spend my birthday dinner. But, it was where my 9 year old wanted to have his birthday dinner tonight. Five years ago, I would have freaked out at his suggestion. Tonight, I merely relished the opportunity to kick his little butt at Skeeball. Chuck E Cheese isn’t the Antichrist. It just seems that way at first. Like most things in parenting, it’s all about perspective.

 

 

Every Age With My Boys Is A Good Age

Our little boys

One of my husband’s college roommates came to breakfast at our house today. Because Scott lives clear across the country near Philadelphia, this was only the second time he’s had the immense privilege of hanging out with our boys. The last time he saw them, they were roughly 4 and 6, and a bit more difficult to manage than they are now. Today, while we enjoyed steak and eggs and a few hours of conversation with Scott, our boys played quietly either upstairs or in the basement. They interrupted us only once to ask us to look at the whale that had appeared on Wii Sports Resort while Joe was jetskiing.

A couple times during his visit, Scott commented that our boys were so well-behaved. I had to laugh. While I know our boys are pretty good kids, I never truly think of them as being well-behaved. I suppose that’s because most of the time I’m with them they’re driving me insane with non-stop chatter, fart noises, and references to “gunships,” “hot lava,” and “Sector 4.” But, today, they were quite accommodating while we were with our friend. They didn’t stay in the room eavesdropping or run in and out being noisy or even bother us for snacks or drinks. They were inconspicuous and borderline polite. It was pleasant.

Lately I’ve been doing a bit of walking down memory lane, reviewing old videotapes I recently found of our boys when they were roughly 4 and 2. The videos tug at my heart. The boys were so cute with their speech impediments, their mischievous grins, and their funny dancing. I watch those videos and feel a bit sad that I didn’t enjoy that time in their lives more. When they were at that age, though, I was exhausted. I was simply too tired to be zen about the whole thing and live in the moment. And, every time a woman stopped me and told me to appreciate this time with my little boys, I wanted to scream, “I’m too tired to appreciate them. I’ll appreciate them later when they’re bigger and I have the energy.”

So, now that they are bigger, I am trying very hard to live with them in the present and pay attention to this time in their lives. After Scott left today, my well-behaved boys and I spent a perfect rainy day afternoon watching Iron Man and Iron Man 2 together, curled up on the couch discussing how much Luke wanted to be Tony Stark. Having the time and energy now to appreciate them has helped me understand that it’s okay that I wasn’t better about relishing the present with them when they were smaller and such a handful. I was doing the best I could at that time. And, I did enjoy them. If I hadn’t found them darling and interesting, if I hadn’t treasured the place they were at, if I hadn’t understood how ephemeral it all was, I wouldn’t have recorded hours upon hours of video of them dancing, celebrating birthdays, taking baths, and playing with Thomas the Tank Engine.

I’ve cherished every phase with my boys. I’m sure in the end I will think they all went by far too quickly. But, for now, I’m not focusing on that. I’m busy being here with my guys. They’re amazing. And me? Well, I’m doing the best I can, and that’s good too.

An Unexamined Life Might Be More Fun

Me and Heather acting a bit goofy at the Polar Plunge last year.

My friend Tracy posted this quote: “Don’t take yourself so seriously. Nobody else does.” I’ve heard this before and there hasn’t been a day of my life when it hasn’t applied to me. I was raised by parents who were always asking me to behave a particular way, not to get in the way of anyone or be a bother, and not to (under any circumstances) be an embarrassment to myself or anyone else. When you’re raised with those messages, you become a bit serious about just how important you are in the grand scheme of things.

Truth is, though, everyone is mostly concerned with themselves. At a party, most people are only interested in how they look, what they say, and how they appear to others. And, if we’re all so wrapped up in what’s going on with us, we’re not spending a lot of time paying attention to others. When I think about the people I know who live a life not too serious, I only regard them with admiration. I often wished I was a bit more open to life and joyful, less timid and fearful. Okay. Sometimes maybe I would roll my eyes when my friend did something goofy in public, but I was secretly wishing I could let go once in a while like that.

I’m getting better with this idea. I will probably go to my grave without ever being labeled a free spirit, but I’ve taken the first step. I no longer think anyone is watching me or sizing up my behavior because I understand that most people can’t see past the end of their own nose. I also no longer truly care if they are watching me, scrutinizing my actions, or judging me. Let them look. This is my journey and I’m doing the best with it that I can. Now, if I could just convince myself that I don’t care if I’m acting like a jackass, then I’d really be getting somewhere.

 

 

Looking For A Pay Raise Now

Luke in his self-imposed cleaning exile.

Being a parent is work. It’s work every day. Some days the work is difficult, and you need a drink before 5 p.m. Other days the work is less stressful, and it feels more like play. In either case, parenting is a job that you can’t escape. From the minute that child comes into your life, things are different. You are different.

Today, my little Luke came home from school with summer break fever and without his homework folders. The math homework he was supposed to be working on tonight was apparently left on his desk instead of making its way into his backpack for the ride home. Luke hasn’t forgotten his homework once all year. His oversight hit him hard.

“I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I forgot it,” he said repeatedly.

“It’s okay, Luke. It happens. You’ll just have twice as much to do tomorrow, but it will all be fine,” I reassured him.

“I can still work on some other stuff,” he said, reaching for the memory verse he needed to work on. He took it in the living room and started practicing it. A few minutes later, he returned. I could tell he was still angry at himself. He’s a lot like his mother, proud and stubborn, but I want him to be better than his mother so I tried reasoning with him.

“You’re being too hard on yourself, Luke. You haven’t forgotten anything all year. It happens sometimes. It will be fine. No worries.”

He went upstairs, and I lost track of him while I started Joe on his book report, a game board about the historical fiction work he’d recently finished reading. (Have I mentioned how much I hate grade school book reports?) When I found a good stopping point to escape from the dreaded game board, I went in search of Luke. I found him in the basement. He was sitting in the middle of a big pile of Legos, cleaning up.

“Luke…what are you up to?” I inquired.

“Cleaning. Since I forgot my math homework I thought I should try to do something else good.” My little guy was punishing himself for his oversight.

“You realize, sweetie, that I’m not angry at you for forgetting your work. It’s the end of the school year and you’re excited. Sometimes people forget things. It’s not the end of the world,” I told him.

“I know,” he replied. “I still can’t believe I forgot it, though.” He was taking this much harder than I thought.

Damn. He is my kid. Poor thing.

Now, I’d like to say that I immediately stopped him from cleaning the basement because I didn’t want him torturing himself any further, but I can’t. He is me. I can completely relate to his need to be angry at himself a little bit longer for his error and to try to make up for his mistake in some small fashion. Not wanting to interrupt his process, I let him keep right on cleaning. Besides, a clean basement is a clean basement however you come by it, right?

Parenting is work. It’s a lot of work for something you volunteered to do and will never be paid for. But, there are days like today, when I look at my sons and truly understand that the investment of time I’m making in them right now is worthwhile. Yes. They’re learning some bad things from me (like how to be hypercritical of their mistakes, apparently), but they’re also learning some good things from me too, like how to take responsibility for their actions and how to turn a negative into something positive. Today I received the first positive performance review I’ve had in a while. It felt good too. Now, if I could just find the person who could give me a pay raise, I’d be all set.

Life On The Edge

The perfect ride I could have missed.

I’ve never been much of a risk taker, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to be a bit less cautious. I don’t know if that’s because with experience I’ve learned that I have often avoided things that turned out to be no big deal or if it’s because I’m older and figure I’m going to die anyway so what the heck? Either way, I definitely throw caution to the wind more often than I used to. Most of the time it pays off.

Take today, for example. It was a perfect day for a bike ride. I mean, picture perfect. Clear, deep blue sky. 65 degree temps. Light breeze. Amazing. It would have been criminal to ride indoors. My road bike desperately needs new tires after 700 miles on the trainer this spring, so I had to pull my mountain bike out of the garage. Years ago, hubby and I took the knobby tires off it and replaced them with touring tires so I could more easily pull the kids in the bike trailer with it. Still, I figured the tires should be able to hold up to some light mountain biking on dirt roads, right? Before leaving the house, I desperately tried to locate all the necessary tire changing materials (including a tube that would fit the touring tires) just in case. No luck. I decided to go anyway. The day was too nice to waste. I would take the risk, figuring that the worst that could happen is that I could end up having to walk home with a flat.

I rode out of our neighborhood and down into the state park across the street and hopped onto a dirt trail that leads to a nearby Audubon Society nature area. From there, I rode about two-tenths of a mile to the dirt road that runs up Waterton Canyon where I have hiked with my boys for years. The road travels about 6.5 miles up before you reach Strontia Springs Dam and a hop-on point for the Colorado Trail. It’s 5 miles from our house to the entrance to Waterton Canyon. I figured I’d ride up a couple miles only and that way if I ended up with a flat it would be just a short walk back to the entrance of the canyon where hopefully some nice fellow biker with a vehicle in the parking lot would be able to offer me a four mile ride back to the entrance to our neighborhood. But, damn, if the day wasn’t just too nice to stop two miles up. I was feeling great, so I kept riding. I rode 5 miles up. Then it occurred to me that if something happened at that point, it would be a 10-mile walk home. I decided a 20-mile round trip ride was good enough and I headed back down the canyon. Why push my luck, right? Of course, nothing bad happened. I got in a ride on a flawless day and was so glad I hadn’t sweat the small stuff and given up before I’d started on the off chance that something could possibly go wrong.

I used to plan my life based on things that might happen. I missed out on a lot of incredible opportunities before it occurred to me that I wasted too much time imagining disasters that never unfolded. Things usually manage to work themselves out. And, even when they don’t, the world doesn’t end. If I’d gotten a flat 5 miles up Waterton, it would have been unpleasant. It would have taken me a long time to get home. I probably would have been fairly cranky, but I would have gotten there and the world would have kept right on revolving. Years from now I’d have nothing left but a faint memory of the difficulty and a funny story to share. Too often we hold ourselves back from things to save ourselves possible trouble or heartache. But, what potential joy have we abandoned by living too cautiously? Yes. Sometimes things go wrong. But, then again, sometimes they don’t. Those are the times when you know with your whole heart how truly amazing life is.

 

Excuses, Excuses

What was that you said I couldn’t do?

 

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”       ~Jim Rohn

My friend Lisa posted this quote on her Facebook wall the other day. I’ve seen it before but never given it much thought, probably because I’ve never thought of myself as an excuse gal. I like to believe that, as a rule, I make things that I want come to fruition. I am determined by nature. Tell me I can’t do something. I’d love to prove you wrong.

In high school, our marching band was going to a competition in Florida over Spring Break. I wanted to go to Florida. I didn’t play a musical instrument, though. Problem, right? Wrong. The band needed a cymbal player. I could play cymbals. I mean, how hard could it be? Well, I don’t read music of any sort, including percussion music. Problem, right? Wrong. I simply got a recording of the songs we were going to play and memorized where the cymbal crashes occurred. I can walk and chew gum at the same time, so marching in formation while banging some cymbals together would be no problem for me. I was golden. So, I went to Florida with the band. I marched. I splashed in the Gulf of Mexico. I got a ridiculously painful sunburn. I went on a Journey Into Imagination at Epcot Center. It was awesome, and well worth the very early morning band practices on a cold, frost-covered field in Castle Rock.

Thinking back to the quote, though, if I’m honest with myself I must admit there have been a few times when I made excuses about things I should have attempted to achieve. I choose not to acknowledge those times, however, because I don’t consider them to be traditional excuses. I know this sounds like semantics, but it’s not. Here’s why. Sometimes an unconscious lack of confidence in my abilities convinces me that I cannot reach a particular goal. Because I inherently know I can achieve anything I want, my brain simply chooses not to want things I’m convinced I could never achieve. It lets me off the hook. I don’t have to find a way to do something if I convince myself I never wanted to do it in the first place. It’s an incredibly brilliant rationalization, but a rationalization all the same.

The reason I bring this up is because of my recent decision to brave my fears and attempt to write something other than a blog. If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve always wanted to be published…and not just by myself on a page I slapped up onto the Internet or via a bound copy of my master’s thesis housed in the library at Illinois State University. I’ve always wanted it. I’ve just never believed I was capable of it.

When I started this blog back in January and committed to writing every single day without fail, I thought I was doing it to get back into writing, something I’d given up when my oldest son was born almost 11 years ago. What I didn’t imagine, however, was that by practicing writing I would find some measure of confidence in myself. By writing every day, I was able to overcome my self-imposed road block. I realize now that the only current difference between me and published authors is that they tried and I did not. I may not write the next classic American novel. I may not become the next J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins. But, I will never know for sure what I might be if I refuse to allow myself the opportunity to find a way to do the thing I have forever longed to do. I look at it differently now. That is all that has changed. If I try, I might fail. But, if I don’t try, I will have sold myself short. That, I now believe, is a far worse fate than failure.

Stranger Things

The reason I now have an excuse to stay home and write.

“It’s not who you are that holds you back but who you think you are not. Judging yourself is not the same as being honest with yourself. You are capable of great things.”

A friend posted this quote on her page today. I can’t stop thinking about it. Oh, how guilty I am of this transgression against myself. I all too often judge myself harshly in the name of being honest with myself. I am a person who learned early on that it’s better to prepare for the worst so you’re not disappointed than to hope for the best and fall flat. It’s such a sick, self-defeating attitude, one I’m sure that has kept me from stretching outside my comfort zone and achieving more for myself on occasion.

I had a conversation with a friend recently that bothered me. We’ve known each other a long time and, as with most long-term friendships, we’ve both changed over the years. I realized as we were talking that my friend was somewhat disappointed in me because I have made choices that have kept me from becoming what I had sworn when I was younger I would become. In his mind, I’ve settled and am not living up to my full potential. (Sorry. I sounded like an episode of Lego Ninjago, there.) I first felt insulted, then angry at him for judging me, and then sad because there is a definite part of me that knows on some level he is right.

I have spent many years selling myself short. When people would ask me what I do I would tell them I’m a stay-at-home mom. I would say it apologetically, convinced that my position made me unworthy of interest. When they then reacted according to my own boredom with my situation, I’d become indignant and hurt that they were not interested in me. But, honestly, how could they be interested in my life when even I wasn’t? I was judging myself for my own perceived failure to achieve a successful career, and then I was projecting my frustration onto them. They were simply following my lead. Staying at home with my sons was a choice, a choice I would make again because I like knowing that I am their go-to person. I don’t think I could have handed them over to anyone else. I don’t think it’s in my nature. I am where I am because I chose this path. So, why do I expend so much energy feeling bad about what I am not and what I have not achieved in terms of a career?

Instead of feeling bad about not having a paying career right now, I need to look at things differently. I have the freedom to stay home and work on the book I always hoped I would write someday. “Someday” just became today. And, instead of depressing myself with the enormity of the task of writing and publishing a book, I’m going to put on my best Tony Robbins and imagine myself on a book tour, signing copies of my story. Why not? Stranger things have happened. Hell… my husband, who has had infinite faith in me from the very beginning, has already started discussing what we should do when the royalties start coming in. Now, that’s the kind of positivity I should get behind. 😉

 

I Get It Already

Oh, how I love my office.

I truly believe that when you need to learn something, the Universe will provide lesson after lesson to get you to where you need to be. The trick is being aware enough to read the signs. Lately, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with the idea of living in the present moment, mostly because I suck at it. I’m always in my brain, planning something, imagining something, dissecting something. I feel I’ve been challenged to get beyond these mental gymnastics. If I’m ever to grow in spirit, I need to get the heck out of my head. This, as my mother would say, is my “growing edge,” which is why it’s so challenging.

This weekend I was slated to travel to a conference to learn more about my options in the writing and publishing industry. I’ve long toyed with the idea of writing a book (likely non-fiction, but I keep an open mind about fiction too), but I’ve got no idea where to start. Before I devote a huge chunk of my time to writing a serious work, I thought I would learn more about the industry and make sure I know what my options are and what I am getting myself into. Well, guess what? Three days before the conference, the publishing company had to cancel the event due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s been rescheduled for this summer, which is fantastic, but I had a hotel room booked, a non-refundable, no changes, there’s-no-way-you’re-getting-your-money-back hotel room. Crap.

I immediately did what I always do when I get news like this. I had a little mental hissy fit. I mean, seriously? I was really looking forward to this. Travel by myself for the weekend. Have dinner with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time. Get out of my daily routine. Relax and recharge before summer starts and the kids are here 24/7. Crap. Disappointed here! Then, something miraculous happened. I stopped to breathe. I actually listened to my own advice and I stopped to breathe. After a couple minutes, I allowed myself to return to my head to weigh my options. There were only two. I could skip the trip. Sure I’d lose the money invested in the hotel room, but I could spend the weekend at home with my family and save up for the trip I’ll have to make later. Or, I could take the trip anyway, see my friends, and spend some quality time alone with my thoughts, my laptop, and my luxury SUV. Either way, I didn’t need to invest hours in the fabricated drama created by an unexpected decision. Instead of wasting time being disappointed and pouting about it, I could make a decision and move on with the present moment. So, I did. As an early Mother’s Day gift to myself, I’m going on my trip this weekend.

With that drama dispatched, I am able to sit here in the shade on our back patio, enjoy the chattering finches and the melodious meadowlarks, feel the warm, spring breeze on my skin, and just be here and now. I’m making progress. Little by little, I am getting better at refocusing myself when I get distracted from the current moment. Granted, I still have a long way to go, but my response time when I get sidetracked by minutiae is getting quicker. So, Universe, I get it already. I see what you’re trying to do here. Believe me…I appreciate it.

 

So We Beat On, Boats Against The Current

Ummm…yeah. No.

I’ve noticed lately that because we’ve had such warm, pleasant weather, spring fever has hit my boys early and relentlessly. They are already mentally finished with school, and they aren’t actually finished until May 25th. I’ve been pestering, wheedling, bribing, and cajoling to get them to focus on their studies.

Today, I made the boys sit down and get to their homework as soon as we walked in the door from school. Joe had 30 sentences to write for spelling. He did not want any help from me. Before I knew it, he was over at the counter stapling a couple loose-leaf pages together. I could tell from across the counter that his work was nearly illegible.

“Let me see your paper,” I requested.

“No, Mom. It’s done. I’m going to put it in my folder,” Joe replied.

“No, you’re not. Give it to me.” He looked at me, fear in his eyes. “NOW,” I bossed.

He acquiesced. The second the paper hit my hand I knew what I had to do. I was not happy about it.

“Seriously, Joe? Do you really think this is ready to hand in?”

It was a rhetorical question. His handwriting, usually difficult to read, was indecipherable. It might as well have been Sanskrit. While he had managed to capitalize the first word in every sentence, some sentences lacked final punctuation. Many words were incomplete. Most of the sentences did not have the spelling word underlined. Some of the spelling words were actually misspelled.

“No way,” I told him. “This has to be redone. This is not even close to acceptable work.”

“The WHOLE thing?” he gasped.

“Yes. You need to rewrite all thirty sentences. Neatly.”

“But, I’ll never get outside to play,” he cried.

“Yes, you will. It’s just going to take longer because you didn’t take your time the first time through. It’s a bummer, I know.”

Although I could tell he was livid (and sad too), he was careful to select new paper without any sign of tantrum, knowing that would bring down the Wrath of Mama Bear. No one wants to incur that. He sat focused for a while and his second paper was much neater, although still not perfect given his “sloppy Joe” penmanship.

Joe struggles with his schoolwork, not because he’s unintelligent but because his ADHD makes it difficult for him. The great weather and the approaching end of the school year are merely additional distractions he must face. I feel badly for him. It is much harder for him than it is for his classmates, even with the special concessions the school makes for him (like allowing him to print rather than use cursive for his written work). I truly loathe making him redo his work, but if I don’t make him do this now he will never learn. So, nearly every day he has homework we go through this same routine. He does it. I make him redo it. It’s like one long Groundhog Day. And this would frustrate the living daylights out of me if I hadn’t seen him catch on in other instances. It takes four times longer than it would for another child, but he eventually gets it. I know there’s hope.

I used to wonder whether the diagnosis of ADHD with Joe was unnecessary, whether we’d rushed to judgment. I’ve since realized that this is not a phony disorder with Joe. If you ask him, he can tell you that every sentence should start with a capital letter and end with a period. He knows it. He is simply unable to translate this knowledge because his brain thinks differently and he processes things unlike other people. Joe and I have a tacit understanding: I will keep harping on him until the basics become second nature, and he will keep giving me reasons to harp so that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he truly struggles because of ADHD and not because he’s lazy, stupid, or unmotivated. He doesn’t want to redo that paper any more than I want to make him redo it. We’re where we are because it’s where we are. Someday we will push beyond this, and there will be another obstacle. But, I have no doubt that we will overcome it. That is what we do, Joe and I.