Summer Camp

Hoo boy friends, it’s a return to the 1970s. There is no summer camp. We’re staring down three full months of free time while still working full-time. My kid is a delight but she isn’t a go outside and come back when the street lights come on kind of a kid. She’s not a curl up with a book kind of kid. She’s an almost 10 and I want to DO something WITH you kind of kid.

This house isn’t really big enough for an in-home day care teenager to spend time with her and, right now, I can’t picture them going out to do anything other than go for a walk. The pools are closed and won’t reopen. The libraries are closed. The parks are closed. Life is closed and it’s hard to conceive of what it will look like when it reopens.

So I’m making schedules in my head. We’ll get them down on paper. There will be reading and math. There will be walks and exploration time. There will be screen time and cooking class. There will be boredom. There will be stressed out parents and a frustrated kid. There will be happiness and laughter. There will be plenty of free time that she’ll figure out how to fill. We’ll work it out.

I Think We’re Alone Now

Lots of adult conversations happen in our house. Are the pipes really failing? What’s the budget look like right now? Is she ever going back to school? How are interest rates? Should we refinance the house? Are we going to have to put the dog to sleep? And how does this pandemic affect…well, everything? Lots of adult conversations and very little adult time.

You know what else we have? A pair of little ears that want to know about EVERYTHING. What are you talking about? What does investment mean? Why doesn’t the grocery store have food? Will I miss school in the fall? What do you mean no camps? Most of the time we catch ourselves before we launch into adult talk but she seems to always be there.

I know we’re not alone in this (we’re never alone it seems) so what is there to do but send her to play in her room? She desperately wants to know what we’re talking about so she doesn’t want to do anything else but listen. It’s like we’re the most interesting people on the planet. Maybe during a pandemic we are.

Privilege

For as much time as I spend wondering if we’re qualified to homeschool our child, I spend time thinking about how privileged we are as a family. RR has comprehensive lessons provided by her teachers, not just math and reading but co-curriculars, like music, ecology, and art. She has multiple devices with which to do her work and multiple rooms in the house where she can do it. She uploads her work and gets feedback from her teachers. She still has a book club and her friends are all there (who also have fast enough internet) and parents to keep them on track with reading. As I reread that paragraph, I realize I haven’t done it justice.

RR’s teachers have not only replicated her school experience, they have enriched it. The personal attention is still there plus some. She’s getting individual attention from learning specialists whom she normally would only have seen in a group setting. Her teachers hold office hours, including the technology teachers, to help with anything that might go off the rails. At times her lessons seem like private tutoring. Not to mention the fact that she has two adults attuned to her every educational need.

Her workspace is large and well-lit, there is a whiteboard, printer, scanner, clock, calendar, chest of small plastic drawers stocked with pencils, art supplies, paper, notebooks, etc that the school provided. She has everything she needs for an optimal learning experience and she appears to be soaking it up. She has us. We have jobs that are flexible enough to allow us to be with her.

We are so very lucky.

Spring Break

Spring Break is nearly upon us. We know for certain that the teachers won’t be teaching (if they ever needed a break, the time is now) and it leaves us with an entire week to structure for RR. We’ll keep up some of the language and math – we know she needs it – and come up with something, anything else to do.

This is made more complicated by the fact that both of us are working from home. I read something that resonated with me: We are not working from home, we are in a crisis working in our houses. In fact, we are working in a crisis and it’s exhausting balancing everything. So what to do for a week of open-ended time for a person who wants nothing more than to watch youtube and hang out with us?

I know I spent time outdoors finding things to do, but this child isn’t that kind of child. Maybe she could be if I sent her out more often but the fact is, right now, she isn’t. And, before I go further, let me be clear that I know how fortunate we are to get this time with our child. That this is an unquantifiable, incomparable gift. But my stars, if I have to listen to five days of Why can’t I play games on my iPad. It’s not a school day, I’ll take that gift and crumple it right up.

So, help me with a list of stuff to do. Parameters: won’t go to the mountains, can’t wander around shops, limited ingredients for baking, low tolerance for pillow forts and mama-centric pretend. Here’s what I have so far:

Scavenger hunt
Rearrange bedroom
One board game per day
Some math and language everyday
Making breakfast for dinner
Painting a tape on canvas painting
Making ice cream
Choosing a recipe to make that she’s never made
Raking mulch and planing flowers
Taking a walk to the river with the dog
Talking with friends
Self-face-painting

What else have you got?

Tropical Nut Island

Three-year-old RR gave us the saying Tropical Nut Island. Long time readers will remember that it’s how she referred to herself over a short period of time, usually shouting at the top of her lungs, “I’m a TROPICAL NUT ISLAND!” The non-nut island folks near and dear to her have never figured out where this came from but we can dissect its meaning well enough. When she was three, it meant running around, hair flying, arms waving, laughing. Craziness, we called it. Now, at nine, it feels more like Enough Already.

The other day she brought her Tropical Nut Island self to the observatory where we were having an intimate gathering of co-workers and their families to sky gaze through the giant telescope. There were other children there – a 4 and 5 year old – and a few adults, all of whom were ushering the little ones calmly from place to place. Our child eventually laid on the floor and spun herself in a circle. I don’t think she was bored, rather the opposite. She just had nowhere for the enthusiasm to go. Now we call it ADHD but not I’m going to take you home right now. I truly think she was doing the best she could to find an outlet for the bouncing inside her head.

I’m probably the stricter of the two of us, with a (probably needless) focus on manners and seemliness. But even my wife’s body language was WTF even though she, mostly calmly, snapped at RR to get up. RR was a bit dismayed as being sharply spoken to but I’m 100% with my wife on this one. There’s no floor spinning outside of your own house. At home, with just your family, spin all you want. Not that she ever has. This was…new.

Mostly her ADHD manifests as distraction and wandering. She either has a laser-like focus on what she’s doing or she has no focus. There’s no middle of the road. The resurgence of Tropical Nut Island made me question whether we’re doing her a disservice by not looking into medication. I have really complicated feelings about that and it wasn’t recommended, not yet, so I have a spit of time to wonder about why my feelings are so complicated and what we’re going to do about that. In the meantime, welcome to Tropical Nut Island.

Observation

My childhood self would have very much liked to be in a Montessori school, I think. Ours in particular. We had the chance to observe RR’s classroom and it was a revelation. All of the children were focused and working on different tasks, a lesson on finding areas was going on in one corner and another on geography in the quiet ecology space. Even my child, the one full of vim and vigor, was settled on her knees, deep into square roots.

I’m sure there are days when the volume is louder and the kids more antsy. Just as there are days where a stillness falls over the room. But I imagine the sheer number of places to work – carpet, tables, comfy corners for reading, a laptop area, even outside – mean that the kids have just enough room to spread out. And by kids I mean all 30 or so of them. It’s not a small class. At one point, the sun came out from behind the clouds casting warm light over the entire classroom, leaving the kids with little halos of sunbeams.

Every month when a bagillion dollars comes out of my account, I think of this classroom and these teachers. The kids with their work ethics. And, of the gorgeous grounds over which they have the independence to roam. It hurts, the money, but we are so very lucky that we can do it at all. Very, very lucky.

ADHD part 2

You should know that I really appreciate your comments and offers to chat about RR’s ADHD diagnosis. We were altogether hesitant to tell anyone, including RR, and it has made it easier to know that there’s a semi-silent (not everyone, I know, but lots!) army out there who are meeting things like ADHD and all of its cousins head on.

One of my biggest concerns in telling RR was that she would start to use it as an excuse or a crutch. That may sound harsh – it is, after all, nothing she’s doing on purpose. I’ve had some up close and personal adult ADHD professional interactions over the last couple of years that have left me in despair, yes, actually. From what I understand though, these folks are perhaps not managing their diagnosis or need help finding new methods of management that would help their professional lives stay…professional. And that’s enough said about that.

This diagnosis is having wider repercussions on the family and we’re seeing a family therapist to find coping mechanisms that work well for all of us. No medication was recommended at this point but as school gets more demanding I can see us getting there. I worry that, outside of her Montessori environment, she might be less successful. That’s several years away though and while I’m a worrier, no need to borrow trouble.

Speaking of, I was also reticent to tell the school and concerned that they would…I don’t know. Kick her out? They aren’t obligated to provide services for her. It’s not like an IEP situation that she might have in public school. But they were, as I should have known, wonderful, and I’ve felt like her teachers and the learning specialists have all been on top of it, low key, and supportive. We’re winning all around.

As for RR, she seems satisfied to know there’s a reason she struggles to be attentive and hasn’t once used it as an excuse. So far, it’s the best possible situation. Thank you again for telling your stories and lending your support. It’s appreciated more than you know.

ADHD Strikes

Since June, we’ve officially known that RR has ADHD and a remarkably slow processing speed. We suspected before (or we wouldn’t have had her tested) since she is both vibrating with life and blissfully inattentive on the regular. We wondered if it was interfering with her ability to learn (it was) and with her ability to make friends (it might be). So now we’re fully in the throes of making life as consistent and as motivating as possible.

At least, I see it that way. All the efforts to make sure she knows when to brush her teeth hinge on early preparation, reminders, and motivators. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has an almost 10 year old who wouldn’t dress in the mornings if her clothes weren’t already laid out and waiting for her. But maybe I am. So now her parents have a fleet of routines to follow and reminders to set in place and I’m pretty much exhausted by that already. On the plus side, it’s actually working and, if we remember to remind her to pick out clothes, we can start a chain reaction that includes getting dressed, eating, brushing teeth and hair, and putting shoes on all by a reasonable time in the morning. This is a triumph.

This is also exhausting (for me). I don’t like feeling as though everything has to be done the same way every time or keeping a list of all the trigger actions we have to take to get the chain reactions we’re looking for. But I dislike reminders more than I dislike routine so, here we are. We’re also motivating her with gold coins (Brazilian 25 cent pieces) in a jar which I’m halfway against (come on child, just get the bedtime routine done, please) but more in favor of than sticker stars or U.S. money.

Speaking of money, RR has a very blasé attitude about it all: Why do we even need money, mama, why can’t we just trade for things? Money is not a motivator.

So now we have some extra services at school. This is better than what we heard from the specialist at the end of last year which was that RR was looking at others’ papers rather than doing her own work. When reframed, it looks entirely like ADHD and not malicious intent. I still don’t love the specialist but her demeanor has changed entirely now that there’s a diagnosis at hand.

I hope this doesn’t make things needlessly hard for RR. While I feel like we can get a handle on the inattentive part of it all, the slow processing speed could hurt her ability to form close friendships as she gets older. That’s heartbreaking to think about, so I don’t.

Finding Friends

Ever since RR was little, we’ve had parents approach us with “oh {my child} talks so much about RR!” and we’re always a bit taken aback because RR doesn’t really talk about anyone else’s child. Until recently, we’ve accepted that other children are friends with our child even if the feeling is lukewarm on RR’s side. But then the playdates never came. Oh, we still get my child talks about your child but the follow-through isn’t there.

On the practical side, I suppose our best answer would be, “Great! let’s have [your child] over to play!” But we’re homebodies and that takes time and energy we often want to use on other things on the weekend. We’ll have to change our tune though because RR desperately wants to have or go to a sleepover and that’s definitely not happening without the playdate stage.

This weekend she was invited to an apple orchard and we had a different friend over the following day. It’s the most social interaction she’s had outside of school with her friends other than a birthday party here and there. We were exhausted by it but RR didn’t seem either tired OR energized so it’s hard to tell whether she was digging the social butterfly vibe or if she was merely tolerating it for our sakes. Questioning gets us nowhere with her so we’ll have to see what happens with the approach of this weekend. More playdate requests from her or fewer? I guess we’ll find out.

Tales of a Fourth Grade…

You might have filled in the rest of that title but I can assure you that our fourth grader’s life is nothing like that of Peter’s in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. For starters, we actually know what Peter’s life was like. With RR, it’s vast and unknowable. That’s right, it’s the return of the Iron Curtain.

Isn’t it cute how we mused over this phenomenon three years ago and yet here we are? The Curtain opens to reveal tidbits of information and then drops with a decided thud. For example, with one week of fourth grade down, we know that she has done Tables A, B, and C. Unfortunately, that is as opaque to us as the mating habits of swallowtails which, to be fair, RR probably knows all about and just hasn’t mentioned. We also had this conversation yesterday before the close of The Curtain:

RR: Don’t judge Britt, Mama
Me: Why would I judge your teacher?
RR: For language she told me to look up the word “dic”
Me: Why would I judge her for that?
RR: You know, mama.
Me: Because dick with a k means penis?
RR: I think it means saying something.

And that was it. The end of RR’s part of the conversation anyway. And by the way, I’m not sure why I would be the judgey one here. If anyone is going to use profanity in this household, it’s me. Anyway, what I learned from this conversation is that she obviously needs a spelling lesson.

Apparently when The Curtain opens there’s a backlog there. We learned that in third grade Ecology lessons the children sat under the trees and observed the plants in the breeze. Now though, they have to take notes instead and you can imagine how popular that is. I mean, I have to imagine it because that was the end of the conversation.

To use her words here, I’m not judging her. It’s an eternal exercise in patience for her mothers. And we could probably use it since it looks like it’s us and The Curtain, BFF4LYFE.