Did You See That?

This weekend we took the boys to see the movie PAN. Without giving any of the story line away, there is a moment where Peter is trying to read and what you see on the screen is the words jumping around the page and letters changing form. He says “I can’t read this.” And someone else reads it to him. This theme continues, but for me, it spoke volumes.

Three boys.
Each with their own abilities and challenges.
We have been suspicious of the younger two boys reading ability for a while. We read to them, but they refuse to read to us. Reading frustrates both of them. We work on handwriting (because we understand the importance) and words and letters, and the boys take piano lessons (where the youngest transposes his hands). We have tried so hard to make books a natural part of their lives, as they (books)  are a natural part of our home.
I realized while doing homework with the youngest that he reverses many of his letters and even writes them quite literally backwards. I then asked him to read me a page, he did, and while the first letter matched sound, the words did not make sense and did not create a story. They were just words.
Luckily he knows words. A lot of them.
Our middle son is in a year at school where there is more homework than he can do in an hour, and every two weeks he needs to complete the reading of a book and do an Independent Reading Response (IRR).  He has read half of a 300 page book, and written the same IRR twice. I had to pull answers from him to get him to write. So I asked him to read. Words that were close to other words were switched, and it ended with him in tears.
He told me “you remember in PAN when the words and letters moved around the page? That is what it looks like when I try to read.”
Reality check
Dyslexia – A learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading.
noun
  • a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.
    Do Not Affect General Intelligence
    This.
    I needed to read this. They will be ok. But damn. Two boys at once? How did we get here? How did I not know? My major is special education. I am trained to assess, but I missed this?
    Reality is, I did not miss it. I just didn’t want to see it. I tried to help the middle boy read. Pretended that everything is ok. I tried so hard to believe he was ok, and just didn’t like reading.
    I don’t think I’m going to get the hang of this mom thing ever, but then will any of us ever? I will be writing a letter to the principal asking that both boys be assessed. Why? Because I need to know. I can’t ignore it.
    Mama might only be human, but mama knows her boys, and mama should have acted sooner.
    But mama won’t sit back any more.
    It is time to figure out what they see when they read, and how we as parents can help them.
    *we do not have a diagnosis of dyslexia, but we are seeking an opinion. If you or a loved one has concerns please reach out to the teachers, caregivers, and doctors in your child’s life. More information can be found at: http://dyslexiafoundation.org/

Revamping Mama

this is a statue in our hotel, it is from Africa, and reminds me of how any mother holds their child.
this is a statue in our hotel, it is from Africa, and reminds me of how any mother holds their child.

As we travel for our vacation my husband likes to drive. I am sure it is some masculine testosterone thing about leading his family and being in charge. To me, it is him feeling comfortable. Safe. So I let him. Besides while he is driving I can read.

I have met many people who tell me how carsick they get it they read in the car. (and as of his reading this, I discovered my husband is one of them!) I feel very blessed to not be one of those people. I love to read, and long car rides are a great place to escape and do it.

I brought 6 books for this vacation, and I may need more because I am through 2 already, and we just arrived!
The one I started yesterday has me captivated. I haven’t finished it yet, but I am afraid for it to end. You know that feeling when a book ends and you wonder what happens next. I get as engrossed with the characters in the books I read as I do with my best friends. I am emotionally invested for better or worse, These characters have me.

This book is captivating me.
This book is captivating me.

This story is about a mother.
About a daughter.
About relationships.
It weaves in and out. Every chapter from the point of view of a character, almost every character in the book having a chance to share their perspective.

from the floor of our hotel.
from the floor of our hotel.

The mother works with elephants. Why is this important? It is important because as a mom I have a child who is obsessed with Elephants. We went to the zoo every day to watch them eat and get bathed. We have books, stuffed animals, drawings, mugs, mobiles, blankets, t-shirts, etc… With elephants. His room is painted elephant grey.  We know elephants. When I chose this book, I had no idea that this was going to be such a major topic. There was a reason this book spoke to me louder than the four I had in my hand at the bookstore that day. This book is speaking to me louder than any other. The relationships jump out at me.

A mother elephant has a strong connection with her calf, and elephants as a whole are a matriarchal society. The mom is in charge. The details in this story are gripping me to see the mom I once was and the mom I want to be again.

staring our the window at the ocean.
staring our the window at the ocean.

The hustle and bustle of life take away my ability to be patient. I have no tolerance for silly or crazy actions in my house. Sword fights? Forget it. Painting? Too messy. Legos? Well ok, Legos are everywhere. I used to be the mom whose house had crafts everywhere, trips to the beach and the zoo. Picnics in the backyard. Walks to the playground. I will admit, as my oldest aged, I tired of these things. For him everything had to be routine. If we did something once it had to be part of the routine every day. It became harder to manage his needs and raise a second and then third child. His demands for everything to be the same were becoming more and more unrealistic. And so, I became unable to enjoy those things with him, or any of them. Selfish? Maybe. Worn thin? For sure. Matured? Probably not.

I have all these questions running around my head. Can I be a good mother if I am bored with childish activities? Can I function as a mom if I have more energy for teaching than I do for playing with my boys? I don’t know. Am I the mom I want them to remember? No.

What I do know is that for the last year or so I have been trying to rediscover my love with the “mundane”. To tap in to my child side while maintaining my authority and their respect. We travel to the beach or the zoo. Aquariums and museums. I will let them get soaking wet at track practice in the sprinklers (and then soothe their rashes when we get home). I am playing video games with them, letting them share in picking the music in the car, and doing more of letting them make choices. Trying desperately to put a hold on their childhood while it is still reasonable to do so.

I am also starting to help them be independent. I should have done this a while ago with the oldest, but I didn’t. Am I a bad mom? No. I just wasn’t ready to let go. I wasn’t ready to let them make a mess, make mistakes or even make the decision that I had failed them as a mom. I wanted them grown up, but dependent on me. So they had to be still, not speak unless spoken to, no toys got played with. You can’t have a mess. This wasn’t helping them. It really wasn’t helping me.

this quote hit hard
this quote hit hard

I have to remember that my job as their mom is to teach them love, kindness, respect, compassion (for others), and joy. I am working on this (although it is a true uphill battle sometimes)! I am picking my battles, finding the joy in their chaos, and learning what they love. There is a fine line between loving your child with love, and loving your child with disciple and boundaries, sometimes that line is impossible to see. We as a family needed to find an escape from our current routine.

Track was probably the best thing for this because we were together. Their father and I assisted in coaching and were able to give each child attention and love in a way we hadn’t before. We supported them, raised them up, believed in them, kept them focused on their goals, and allowed them to make choices. They in turn felt respected, respected us, and had fun.

A few weeks ago the boys and I visited the zoo for a nighttime zoo event called “born to breastfeed.” It was a night about mothers and breastfeeding. Women supporting women. And I was drawn to the elephants. These three elephants have lived in the zoo for a long time. The same ones my oldest loved when we could go to the zoo every day. I reminded him of bringing him to the zoo every day and he said, “you did?! I don’t remember that!” My heart broke a little. I want them to have memories. Good ones, and ones that they ( like an elephant) will never forget.

As we journey through this vacation together, I am trying to remind myself to stop, breathe deep, and let the children I am raising remind me how to be a kid again. Tonight that meant getting in the pool and going down the water slide. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.