12,15,16

December 22, 2017

family life

I didn’t know that it was possble to love your children MORE every day, especially in the teen years.

Well, it is.

This trio of boys never fails to surprise and delight. They are all so different. Despite their differences they are quietly tolerant of each other, and frequently kind.

12

My youngest boy is now 12. He is the quirkiest of the three.

He has sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia, and hypermobility in his joints. He tends to be anxious and has some obsessive-compulsive traits.

Since finishing occupational therapy at the end of 2016, he has demonstrated a lot of resilience.

Earlier this year he brought home a note from school about a middle years drama ensemble. I went to throw it in the recycling bin, but thought I would ask him first. “You don’t need this note about the drama group, do you mate?” He replied, “actually Mum, I was thinking of trying out for it”. Parental anxiety goes into overdrive, “it’s an audition”. ‘I know, but if I don’t try I’ll never know”. Apart from playing Templeton the rat in the Year 2 play, he has never shown an interest in drama. I err on the side of honesty, “OK, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t get in because there will be kids there who have done drama their whole lives”.  “I know Mum.”

I had to complete a three page application form explaining why my son was suitable for this group. I had to be honest. He has some learning and social challenges, one of them being dyspraxia which affects writing and speaking. He has had no other drama experience or ever shown an interest in drama, but his grade 2 teacher said he was the best Templeton she had ever seen in her forty years of teaching.

He went to the audition. I sat outside the hall and waited. My nervous presence would have made him nervous. They did various group activities for close to an hour, and then they came outside to where I was sitting. Each child was required to deliver a 2 minute monologue on a topic that they got on the spot. My heart sank. His dyspraxia affects his ability to form, plan, and execute ideas. Great. His turn came. He said the same thing over and over about the topic he was given, but he stood with confidence and projected his voice. He had done a good job.

Two weeks later, the email came through. He had been accepted into the group. The group was for children from Year 5 to Year 8 and was being held at the local high school. He would be interacting with a wide range of children and get to know them and the high school in preparation for going into Year 7.

He went to the group once per week, he participated in a performance with the group at an eisteddfod, and he did a solo performance at the end of the year. He didn’t love it, but he liked it, and he kept going. I turned down a dream job which was full-time (and inflexible) so I could continue to take this boy to his drama class after school.

And the year has been like that. He excelled in computer coding and won the school’s technology award. He did extra soccer goalie training and proved to be a very competent goalie. He started writing stories and drawing for fun at home (what?!!). He demonstrated that he was responsible enough to walk home on his own after school. He did his homework and completed assignments independently despite his difficulties with writing.

I did the “OK but” thing when he wanted to take the test for the gifted class in Year 7. Silly mama. He got in ! He has shown me resilience in bucket loads. He has been driving his success, and has shown a quiet confidence in his abilities.

A bullying situation at soccer and at school threatened to derail his progress and self-esteem and I went into action mode, handling everything kindly and assertively with the class teacher and soccer coach when it was clear that my boy was not able to manage it on his own. He didn’t want me to intervene, but I was not prepared to see his hard work eroded so easily.

This boy has come such a long way.

15

This kid has also surprised me this year.

He has been well all year. Only one mild bout of illness from his coeliac disease.

We were worried about him not being active enough. Granted, he hasn’t had much energy these past few years because of his illness. All of a sudden, he developed a keen interest in basketball. He joined a local club and is quite good at it.

He asked if he could have his friends over for a game of Dungeons and Dragons, and now every fortnight this group of friends meets at our place for a rambunctious and raucous game of D & D. They role play, they joke and laugh, and they argue. They are so funny and smart and quirky, they make me laugh. They also cost me a small fortune in snack food and cordial.

This boy is a quiet achiever. He refuses to attend award ceremonies, saying that he is just doing his best. He does not crave attention. He enjoys going to the Aboriginal mentoring programme which is organised through the high school. He took the opportunity to attend a dance workshop with an Elder, and participated in an Aboriginal dance for the NAIDOC ceremony at school. And he wore a lap lap. He is a quietly spiritual young fella and vey self-contained. He has grown his thick wavy hair long, compared to his brothers who like their fine straight hair short and styled. He has a keen interest in politics and he astonishes me with how much he knows. Are there enough hours in the day to accumulate that much knowledge? He says that he wants to study political science and become a journalist.

He can be too self-contained and intellectual at times. I have to remember to give him hugs to ground him. He wants for nothing. When asked what he wants for his birthday he can’t answer. And he has a dry intellectual sense of humour that always has an element of social justice and puts everything into perspective.

16

This boy is champing at the bit to explore life and independence.

He wants to experience it all, and now! He is dazzled by all of the opportunities and doesn’t know which to choose.

He has always been a people-person. He has developed a keen interest in positive psychology and philosophy. He reads my books on Buddhism and Christianity. He reads my psychology books. The most recent one is Tales of Solutions by Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer, pioneers of brief solution focused therapy. He has five books on the go at any one time and always has a book at hand.

He was asked to be a literacy and numeracy mentor this year at school and he jumped at it. Every morning at school, he spends 20 minutes teaching a child who is struggling. He loves leadership opportunities and is enjoying the Aboriginal mentoring programme organised through school, which alongside Elders is teaching him to be a leader.

He has won awards at school this year for his workmanship in woodwork. He is an all-rounder.

He would be a very good psychologist, but he wouldn’t cope with the study. Staying still is not this kids forte. He needs to move. Full-time study would be too restrictive for him. He is a lot like me. He needs to be able to relate life experience to what he is studying. A cadetship where he works part-time and studies part-time would be perfect.

He was thinking that he would like to be an engineer, as he is good at maths and science. He did work experience at a surveyors office this year, and suspects that engineering may be too sedentary for him. Too much desk work. He has been accepted into an Aboriginal Engineering Summer School in January 2018 at Sydney University, and hopefully he will get some idea whether engineering is for him.

I suspect not. I’m still thinking human services is the way to go for this kid. My husband found an anthropology course at the local university, and our boy got excited about that. Practical, related to people and culture, travel, statistics and research.

He frequently laments that he can’t do everything all at once. One night he had three options. Go to youth group at the local church where he is in a leadership team, go to a friend’s birthday party, or visit a close friend’s cousin in hospital. He chose to go to the hospital to cheer up the 4 year old who had an operation because he thought it was the best thing to do.

He has been at me all year to get a part-time job. I told him not to be in a hurry to grow up, you are an adult a long time. He is perhaps too optimistic about what he is able to achieve. He is studying an advanced maths programme (and doing 2 to 3 hours of maths homework every night), playing soccer and cricket, having an active social life, and helping us on the farm every second weekend. I am working full time (three part-time jobs) so I can’t readily transport him to and fro. He does not handle stress well and he broke down the other week saying he wanted to leave school. The advanced maths is too hard, too much pressure, and he will drop that next year. Yesterday he got an email accepting him into the soccer referee programme for which he will be paid. Perfect! we already do the soccer thing.

He was voted by his soccer team as the most outstanding player for the year. Other parents have told us that he might make the rep team and we should pursue that option for him. Yes, he is a very good soccer player, but he is more of a hard worker than he is talented. We don’t have the physical or financial resources to travel all around the state every weekend for a game of soccer. It’s a hard call.

He still has to learn his lessons the hard way. I only prompt him once now, and let him learn by logical consequences. He wanted to go with his friends to Bondi Beach by public transport (two trains and a bus, a 2.5 hour trip one way) to celebrate a friend’s birthday. All good, but I told him to do his research beforehand and plan it well with his friends. He didn’t. He realised too late that he stuffed up and was going to take the later train to his friends. He wanted me to rescue him and drive him part of the way to catch up with the train his friends were on. I reminded him of my instruction, and took him to the local train station. He was not going to meet up with his friends until he got to Bondi Beach. He coped with it. The next day he wanted me to rescue him again when he had mixed up plans to meet friends at a park for a game of soccer. No mate,, I’m home now cooking dinner for the family, you can figure it out. And he did.

.

It’s been a busy year. I got vey unwell with Ross River Virus, then had a bad flu for two months, and more recently have had a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. I now have three part-time jobs. I finished my Graduate Diploma of Counselling. We work hard on the farm every second weekend and whenever we can organise some leave. And we have beehives on our suburban block and our bush property. I have made some beautiful friends this year. And we lost our dear old Fergus, and are adjusting to life without his presence.

I will only have these young fellas for a few more years, and I like watching them grow up. They are not world beaters, just ordinary kids doing a pretty good job.

I want to do a Grad cert in Aboriginal studies next year, but my husband says I have done enough study. I think there is room for more.

I wonder how life will surprise us in 2018?

 

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About hakea

groupworker, parent educator, therapist, mother of three boys.

View all posts by hakea

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2 Comments on “12,15,16”

  1. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    Marvelous post! There is NEVER to much studying! Go for it!

    Reply

    • hakea Says:

      Hi Michael

      I think so too, but husband has a point. Our youngest boy will need our full support this year in his transition to high school.

      And I probably need to learn to be more mellow. Maybe next year.

      Reply

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