By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
So I’m having one of those moments. Actually, it’s more like a couple of those moments. The kind, as a parent, where you feel like you have somehow managed to do all of the wrong things and it is now showing in everything that your child does – or does not – do. I’m also having a bit of parental sadness, now that the oldest has left and is officially property of the United States Navy.
A few days ago, Nicholas awoke at his Dallas hotel room with a fellow recruit, and checked in with his recruiter. They went through some last step testing, being sworn in, and finally taken to D/FW airport and put on a plane for Chicago. Once they got there, I only have speculation as to how things went, but I know that a major hair cut was involved, a ten second phone call to his wife to let her know he had arrived, and a plea to her that she had “better pray for his ass.” Apparently they had already begun yelling at the new recruits upon arrival. Nice. It will be three weeks before he is allowed another call to her, and after that, he will have to earn phone privileges for the remainder of basic training. After that first phone call, it is my understanding that his phone was to be taken and shipped back to Krystal, along with his civilian clothes.
The night before all of this took place, we drove down to Dallas to have dinner with him at the hotel, so we could say our goodbyes before he left. There were several of us there to see him off, and I hope that he felt special and loved. The actual goodbye, with the hugs and such, was short and sweet, as he had to go meet his recruiter. I still managed to cry, and didn’t want to let go of him once I had him locked in my mama embrace. The last thing I said to him was to stay safe and strong. He will be a completely different person when I see him again, at the end of basic training and walking through graduation before heading to school in Florida. These are the moments that I used to sit and wonder about when he was small – what kind of person would he grow up to be.
But as far as here, today, moment by moment with his little brother, Noah – now THAT is another story. I’m not really sure where we got derailed, but we most certainly have (with his schooling) and he is heading for a huge crash if we don’t get him back to a station soon. Noah is one of those brilliant kids, and no, I’m not just saying that because I am his mom. When he was three, I was at a tire shop waiting for new tires to be put on my Jeep. Nicholas was helping me out by chasing him around the showroom and keeping up with him, because the boy NEVER stopped moving. Every once in a while Noah would run up to me, say something, and take off again. After a bit, a man who was sitting nearby peered out from behind his magazine and asked, “How old is your little boy? He is very smart. I would venture to say that he is gifted.” I laughed and said, “Oh yeah right. Gifted at what? Being a pain in the butt? I’m sorry if he has been bothering you.” His response was, “No, I really believe he could be gifted.” To that I snarkily said, “Oh really? And how are you qualified to say that about a three-year-old running around?” He said, “I am a gifted and talented teacher. This is what I do, assess and teach children like this. And your son, for three years old, speaks very well and concisely.” Oh. Um, wow. Thank you. By the time he was in Pre-Kindergarten, he was tested and I was told could have skipped a grade based on his scores. By the end of Kindergarten he was reading on a 9th grade level. Yeah, my baby was scary smart, and his older brother used to say that his little brother was so much smarter than he! All of that aside, Noah breezed through elementary school, with grades of high A’s the entire time. He won the Spelling Bee for his entire school, two years in a row. And academics took little to no effort for him; we were so proud.
But then he went to sixth grade this year.
The first six weeks of school, I had no idea that his grades had started to tank as much as they had. Then the first report card arrived, and he not only had As, but Bs, and Cs – oh my God, no way!! By the time the second report card arrived, he was failing two classes. Erikka and I started making a point of daily discussions about assignments, grades, responsibility, etc. We emphasized that he doesn’t have to be perfect, but that he has to do his very best, and that THIS wasn’t it. By the time the third report card was to come out, with his semester grades as well, it was clear that he was in a danger zone and could quite possibly fail for not only a third six weeks, but for a semester as well. After finally receiving some emails and/or calls from teachers, we discovered that the failing grades, across the board and every class, was due to one thing and one thing only: not turning work in and taking zeroes. So then he was in real trouble – with US. ALL of us. He was grounded from television and video games. His days consist of school, band practice, homework, reading, dinner, and more reading. I hate for it to be like this, and I feel like he is missing out on the fun parts of being a kid. I guess it would be different if he was struggling and not understanding the material in his ADVANCED classes, but every teacher has unanimously concurred that he is very smart and understands, yet isn’t turning in his work. What in the hell goes through the minds of kids this age??? Erikka and I, and his dad as well, have gone to great lengths and have done everything that we know to do to help him get organized, stay organized, and get his work done and turned in on time. We created a planner for him to write his assignments in every day, and I thought that he was really starting to do better. Well the latest report cards came out last week, and while he has brought up the grades in the classes he was earlier failing, he is now failing in other classes, or barely passing in still others.
But today, I am feeling frustrated and defeated. I got another email this afternoon from yet another teacher, telling me that he has not turned in three out of four assignments and is therefore failing. This came from a teacher of one of his electives. I have sat here all afternoon, near tears and not knowing what to do. He is SO smart, and I do not understand why he continues to do this. I know that at first he started letting his grades tank on purpose because he had gotten made fun of and teased for being smart. He decided that he didn’t want to be smart any more, but rather be “normal” like everyone else and in “normal” classes like everyone else. But when I told him that I absolutely would not take him out of the advanced classes, I thought that he got the message and would get his act together. He cannot seem to give any of us a clear reason as to why he isn’t doing his work, or isn’t turning in the work that he has done. I know that in the public schools in this district, once they leave elementary school, they are kind of thrown into the middle school world, and left to sink or swim. Part of me wants to take him out and homeschool him, but I don’t think that it is the answer for us – while it works for some, I don’t know if it would for Noah. There are some schools in the Dallas area that are specifically for kids with “learning differences,” and severe ADHD like his falls into that category. In fact, my daughter-in-law’s mother works at one of these schools and has brought me a packet of information on it. I would absolutely LOVE for Noah to go to one of these schools – and then I saw the tuition costs.
That was me falling off of the couch when I saw the schedule of tuition for next year. Let’s just say that Nicholas could have gone to one of our fabulous junior colleges and gotten an associates degree for less than one year’s tuition at this specialized school.
So back to being frustrated and not knowing what to do to help Noah. None of us, his parents, knows anything else to do for him aside from what we have. My last resort, I think, is to take him out of band. He loves it, and it would break my heart to do it, but I may have to in order to have maximum impact. Sigh.
Yep. It’s been one of those days.
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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