What the heck?

IMG_0740I wish I didn’t always want ” to do something about it” when it comes to kids. I’d like to sit it out, wait and see, trust the process instead, but it’s you, a life, an important time in a life and I adore you. I watch you struggle with daddy, report your frustrations and I listen, ask you what you might try and step back. But I ask myself why. Why you are not allowed to dig the hole to plant the bare root rose you got at the plant store, you can’t gather the eggs from the hen house, clean out the filthy water trough or pick up the empty feed bags daddy leaves to clutter their coop?

He wants you to leave his stuff alone. Does he want you to go away and leave him alone? I told him kids like to help, you are all a team. More things get done, its fun when families work together. I should have kept quiet. Yesterday I went over when you were at school and no one was home and so I cleaned out the disgusting hen water trough, picked up the garbage in their tiny coop and collected 23 eggs left in the nest. There are only 4 chickens. Neglected chickens. Little animals penned up by your daddy for his pleasure and then neglected. Dirty car, yard, house, dirty daddy. This is me trying to step back. I have to learn to let go. But I still notice and I wish for you that you had a more structured, consistent set of daily tasks, jobs, that you would clean up your yard, the coop, the car together.

But I no longer expect it to change. Do you ever get fed up? I pretend to not notice. The way we pretend not to be afraid of a coyote staring at us on the trail in front of us, but know she knows we are. You are afraid. I am too. But we walk aggressively toward her anyway, and act “as if “and it is so. She turns away, we looked scary, we seem brave. Pretending sometimes works just fine.

Let’s pretend that you have a morning routine that includes getting ready for school on time, that you remember your lunch kit, your homework and a jacket, that you remember to put it in the classroom and replace it after recess and replace it after lunch and hang up your jacket and bring it to the car at the end of the day with your homework folder and your lunch kit. Does it make a difference in your sense of yourself? Are you now a guy that remembers things? A guy that has things handled? Will daddy say you are responsible enough to collect the eggs? To plant your own rose? What will it take for daddy to let you get there? Let himself let you?

I sat with you to do math homework, adding double digit numbers with regrouping in the tens column. You got the crayons and began counting crayons. I asked you to focus on your math. And you said that you are supposed to get 20 like items for math. What? I think, I told you, today now that you are 8, we will try it with head numbers and fingers if needed, no crayons.

You agreed and I asked you what you had to do first. I watched you, coached when you started on the wrong set of addends, the tens not the ones, and you held the totals in your head, carried your ones and did twenty problems. Your mathematical thinking is spiffy. You even guessed, estimated one and were one number off. You wanted to do them on your own, without distractions did all twenty in minutes and then went to play. Relaxed, successful. Remember last week you told me you were bad at math. I didn’t believe it. Today you changed your mind, “I guess I am good at math.” I guess you just needed nothing in your hands but a pencil, a quiet space and your cleverness, your own skills. And a coach. We all need a perceptive coach. But mostly buddy, you need to believe you can and no one should ever lead you to think otherwise.

Today is Saturday. I’ll come over and ask of we can plant your rose, or it will die. A rose is like the chickens, we made a promise to care for it when we brought it home. Its not okay to let it wither and die. We step up in the case of roses and chickens. We have no choice, do we?

Dropping off the Coho

coho-salmon-shari-ericksonI drove a half hour back over mountains roads past the new farm where they are putting up fence posts and the older one with the cows shading themselves under a stand of redwoods. I wonder if they would let you milk the cows someday? I remember each time I look at them because you ask me at least once a week. I made it to your school just before noon, stopped in the office to see where your class might be. I walked past the kindergarten area, the office and down a path under the tall redwoods and span of oaks to your play yard. The picnic tables surrounding the redwood tree are the same ones your daddy ate under when he went to the school. Your shark lunch kit was there, by itself, in the sun… hot today. I expect you left it out there at morning recess. I picked up a jacket I saw in the dirt, shook it out and went to hang it on the lost and found rack, saw one of your missing jackets and then noticed the one I had picked up was familiar too. Yes, all yours. You are all over the place at the school. Everywhere. Everyone know everyone there, I feel warm and fuzzy at the school. Glad you are known. You can pick a leaf of kale just once a week, I hear, or you’d strip the plants bare if allowed.

A first grader, the daughter of the wine maker up here, a preschool buddy of your sister sat on a bench with a third grader drawing a picture, talking and laughing. A class was out at the field for PE, I could hear the joy, the glee as they ran for the ball, the teacher, too. Four of five children had shovels out at the parking lot getting compost for the garden. They were working hard loading it into a wheelbarrow. I hoped that’s what you were doing. You weren’t there. Five children from the kindergarten ran up the walkway following their teacher heading back to their classroom. Three girls worked outside at a table, older girls maybe fifth or sixth grade, talking about a project they took notes, made plans. The school was quiet, busy, and I could see inside the rooms. One was empty, sweaters and papers as if left in a hurry. Another had children reading in their seats, a small group with an aide. The after school room was set up with an art activity, the central hub of the campus.

I took your lunchbox into your class, ten children were working at their desks, your teacher moving between them. Talking quietly. You were not there. I collected your winter jacket and a raincoat from the hooks near the door. No wonder you had to borrow my sweatshirt. And put the salmon a fork and crackers in the kit in your cubbie. Your teacher told my you were in the library. You were one of twelve children with a classroom aide.

She worked one on one with a child and the rest of you had headphones in front of computer screens. You were doing math, fully engaged, surprised when I tapped you on the shoulder, jumped up and hugged me. I steered you back to your seat and told you I had put the fish in your lunch kit and put it in your cubby in the classroom. Stay and eat with me, you begged.

I left anyway, leaving you to that beautiful scene, in that wonderful environment and hoping you’d get your turn at the compost heap soon.

If you can’t make it there buddy, we’ll search for something that works better. I think its a perfect place to work out the kinks, and will help the teachers, some of whom are working very hard to support your learning. I can see you are working hard, too. Its a good place, keep at it.

School Daze

I forgot the coho salmon spread you and I made this morning for your lunch. you wanted to scoop it out at school lunch with rice crackers packed in a little packet of six perfectly square sesame rice gluten free crackers…no cracked crackers for you. The spread, the crackers and a fork in case the scooping is too slow, all sit on the counter. I forgot to pack it. I’ll head back to school in a bit. I can hear the little stack of goodies teasing, na-na-na-na-na, like the school yard bullies you have been telling me about. Maybe not really bullies but certainly unmediated teasing, taunting and exclusionary play going on. You tell me you try but are having a hard time finding a loyal friend. Time for a serious intervention and friendship sessions out of school. Harder than one might think to identify a potential candidate. You suggest the girl who bullies you the most. Go figure.

You were the focus of an IEP meeting yesterday, you, they worry are easily distracted, cry easily turning to wails during PE and music sessions, the overstimulating group times, too frustrating, noisy…sensory integration issues? Autism? They gave you headphones to cancel noise you choose to wear when you wish, making it more difficult to make friends but less likely to cry and break down in public. You will just look like a weird kid instead.

Drew some beautiful horses after your riding lesson, simple, quiet, one teacher, one kid on a horse, no over stimulation there. In fact may be good as sensory integration therapy. You post beautifully, go over ground level jumps and are relaxed and confident. You are a kid that goes from none too over confidence easily, bragging about how wonderful a rider you are as if relieved. So much in need of success. Daddy was a little like that, too. Esteem like your moods, zigging and zagging from moment to moment.

Liza came home after school delighted, singing in the car, a Donovan song, forgetting the words, but capturing the delight, joy of the song. She sat at the art table drawing a a big piece of paper from the water color pad. lines to the left, right, across and then focused for an hour and a half coloring each resulting section a different color. You saw her art and complimented her. Liza said, I can teach you how to do it. And she did. You and your sister worked together another hour. Bright colorful designs We could show you here but they took them to school. Liza handed hers to her teacher, Diana, and she cried with joy that Liza had taken the project idea home and initiated it and then taught her brother. Very sweet. Liza is loving kindergarten. Enjoys every bit of it. tells me all about learning Spanish, the classmates escapades, injuries, illnesses and shows me how she can cross the bars and make a goal in soccer.

“Happiness runs in a circular motion

Thought is like a little boat upon the sea

Everybody is a part of everything anyway

You can have everything if you let yourself free.”

Your teacher is a folksinger, Liza learned the song from her, Ms Mendez.

Next car ride we can try it as a round. Maybe over several rides we can practice. Remember this song?

See the Donovan You Tube singing the full song.

Another sunny and where’s the rain? InIMG_0268 beautiful Santa Cruz where we have to make our own water. That’s all we get. gma