Category Archives: education

A Hula Hoop of One’s Own

“Mommy, today’s lesson was hard.”

“Is it because you didn’t practice enough?” In these final days of summer, structure—and instrument practice and pants wearing and tooth brushing—has been of little concern. Case in point, my son changed from his pajamas into clothes just before and only because of his 5:30 p.m. drum lesson.

“No, it’s because it was complicated. I learned the flam.”

“What the heck is a flam? I’ve never heard that word before.”

By the time we reached the car, he explained that it’s when you hit two drums at two different heights at almost the same time. Or something like that. On the drive home, he showed me the flam using the passenger side dashboard as a drum.

“The car is not a drum!” I scolded him, only half-believing the words as they came out of my mouth.

Not to be outdone by his older brother, my little guy who began taking guitar lessons earlier this summer piped in from the backseat with, “Oh yeah, ‘Eddy ate dynamite good bye Eddy!’”

“What the heck is that and who the heck is Eddy?”

“Low E. A. D. G. B. High E,” he said proudly. “It’s music notes,” as if it were obvious to everyone in the world but me.

“Woah, kid. That’s a lot of awesome information.”

And because sibling rivalry is absolutely a thing, my front seat drummer boy upped the ante with the presentation of a seventeen stroke roll. On the dashboard. Again.

My kids were schooling me. “What in the world is a seventeen stroke roll?”

I didn’t discipline him for using the car as a drum again because his explanation and demonstration of a seventeen stroke roll was explosive. Also, I was too busy being in awe of (1) how much stuff my kids know and (2) how much stuff my kids know that I don’t.

I’ve been stumped many times by my boys. Minecraft realms, YouTube “vids,” and ridiculous text talk come to mind, but that knowledge gap feels generational. You know, In my day, we walked uphill…in the snow…both ways!

At school, common core math has been a major stumbling block. Don’t even get me started on multiplying mixed fractions, but there was once a time when I knew how to do it (I think).

Flams, stroke rolls, and Eddy’s dynamite, though, were way outside my hula hoop.

I’m not my kids’ only teacher (nor should I be!) but it’s startling when knowledge and skills from other sources surpass my “mom” curriculum. Even more, it’s humbling to witness them learning things I never dreamed of learning myself.

When we got home, I asked my son to teach me how to do a seventeen stroke roll. On the stairs to the basement where the drum set lives, he explained that there were five, seven, and nine stroke rolls, too.

“Okay. I’ll try a five.”

I did it, but it was awkward and my hands moved in slow motion compared to my son’s machine-like rhythm after more than a year of lessons. His drum skills were impressive, and it was an utter joy to find myself in his hula hoop. I think he quite enjoyed it, too.

I fumbled through a seven and a nine stroke roll just for the fun of it before handing the sticks back to the professional. Upstairs in the kitchen, I asked my younger son to tell me more about Eddy and his dynamite while I marinated chicken. He happily obliged.

These little human beings belong to me, but they are not mine. Their hearts and minds and curiosity and drive will take them to hula hoops far away from mine, and I can’t wait to see what they teach me next.

 

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A Special Education

Dr. V. wore a pinstripe collar shirt and a light gray tie with small brown dogs printed all over it. It matched his personality. During my son’s assessment, he laughed at his jokes and answered every one of his questions, even the silly ones.

Dr. V. spent the last 45 minutes explaining to me in depth the results of my son’s vision evaluation. Not be confused with his eyesight examination. His eyesight was fine. He didn’t need glasses. If only.

The vision evaluation unearthed some concerns. While Dr. V. described oculomotor dysfunction, loss of fixation, accommodative level and facility, exophoria, convergence insufficiency, and visual perception, my mind raced into the future.

I knew where we were headed, because we’d been there before. Vision therapy. We would spend the next six months (or more) – including the summer vacation – doing twice weekly vision therapy, and it would break my son’s heart.

“Do you have any questions?” Dr. V. asked.

How is it fair that one kid has to deal with all this crap? Do you know how many doctors, therapists, and tutors he has? He’s 10! There aren’t enough hours in the day! Will it even help? Should I just let him be? Am I ruining his childhood? Will he like reading when it’s all done? Will his handwriting be neater and his homework be less unbearable? How do I know when I’m pushing him too hard or not hard enough? Does he know how smart, kind, intuitive, brave, and imaginative he is? Will he live a happy life? Does he resent me for insisting on these interventions? Does he begrudge me for not doing more? Will it get worse or better as he ages? Is it affecting his self-esteem? Is it my fault? Why do I have to be an OT, ST, VT, SPD, ADD, IEP expert? Why can’t I just be his mom?

“Why is this so hard?” I blurted out.

Dr. V. chuckled. “No one teaches us about this stuff before we have kids,” he said. “Being a parent is a special education, isn’t it?”

Indeed.

Dr. V. looked about my dad’s age. His kids must’ve been grown. He’d been through the hard bits. He was incredibly patient and had a comforting vibe that gave me hope that, in the long run, everything would be okay.

Still, I wanted to climb across his desk and inhabit his body. I was desperate to see my journey from his vantage point. I ached for my future self to tell my present self  that everything would be okay.

But, just as I knew I had to persevere and do the hard work to get to the other side of vision therapy, I also understood I had to persist and do the heart-filling (and heartbreaking) work of raising my boy.

Someday, I would be on the other side. Someday, I would understand the meaning of everything’s going to be okay, but it wasn’t my turn yet. I thanked Dr. V. for his time, put my son’s name on the vision therapy waiting list, and headed home.

 

Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!

CLICK ON THIS ADORABLE LITTLE FROG TO READ MORE AMAZING STORIES IN THE MARCH 2017 SPECIAL NEEDS BLOG HOP…

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I have a vagina, and it’s private.

Did I get your attention?  Good.   Now it’s your turn.  Say it loud, say it proud, and say it to your kids.  Often.  Educate them about all of their body parts, and make sure they know their private parts are private.  Period.

I had the privilege of hearing Stacey Honowitz, a prosecutor of sex crimes for the Florida State Attorney’s Office for more than twenty years, speak at my preschool PTO meeting yesterday.  She’s prosecuted every heinous sex crime imaginable – from a rabbi who molested his four daughters, to a volunteer who fondled autistic children at school (and lied about his two previous out-of-sate sex crime convictions on his volunteer application), and to a small town gymnastics coach who molested his aspiring female gymnists.  She’s convicted men who ejaculate on kids in public bathrooms and janitors who take advantage of kids in schools.  She regularly interviews four and five-year-old kids in her office who have been touched, molested, or raped.  She’s prosecuted kids and she’s even prosecuted an 84-year-old man.  She had one adult victim who committed suicide as a consequence of the statute of limitations (which has since been changed) that made it impossible to charge the perpetrator who molested him as a child.  She’s seen it all.  She’s also the Mama of young girl who most definitely knows she has a vagina and that it’s 100% private.

Ms. Honowitz is a strong, feisty, and candid woman with an impressive potty mouth (I mean that as a compliment), and you should feel good about the fact that she’s out there putting bad guys in prison.  The stories she told us at the PTO meeting were horrific enough to make me never want let my kids leave the house…let alone ride a bike to school, play on a team sport, use a public bathroom on their own, sleep over a friend’s house, or go to summer camp.  (I could go on and on here.)

Hearing Ms. Honowitz speak, I couldn’t help but think (a) she’s a bad ass, and (2) evil lurks around every corner.  But, here’s the nugget of truth she revealed that made me unclench my fists and my jaw (a little bit): We can’t stop pedophilia from happening.  It happens, it can happen to anyone, and it can happen anywhere.  It. Happens.  But, we can educate our kids about their bodies and we can empower them to speak up if anyone ever touches them (because it does happen).

How do we do that?  By talking honestly about our private parts at home and doing so without embarrassment or fear. We need to make sure our sons and daughters know the anatomically correct names of all of their body parts, including their penises or vaginas.  We need to make sure they know their penises or vaginas are private and no one has the right to see or touch them. (There are always a few exceptions to this, so figure out what works for you and take into consideration the age and maturity level of your child.  I happen to like what my pediatrician says before he examines my boys: “Never let anyone touch you – even a doctor like me – unless Mommy or Daddy is in the room with you.”)  We need to empower our kids to tell the truth, speak up, and never be afraid of telling us if something happens…no matter what.

Do you wish there was a book out there to help you find the right words to broach this topic with your kids?  There is!  Ms. Honowitz has written two of them: “My Private Parts Are Private” (for girls) and “Genius With A Penis, Don’t Touch” (for boys).

Giggle if you need to, but then get to work.  These books are age appropriate for young kids and they use fun rhymes and kid-friendly illustrations to gradually and carefully disseminate the message.  Both books are available on amazon.com.

There’s so much in the world for us to be afraid of, including talking about all of this taboo stuff with our kids.  At the end of the PTO meeting, Ms. Honowitz put it all in perspective when she said, “Wouldn’t you rather spend ten minutes talking to your kids now than end up in my office talking to me?”

You got that right.

Use these books or find others.  There are plenty of resources out there to help you educate your kids (and without scaring them).  And remember, the “stranger danger” talk is important, but it’s only part of the problem because sexual perpetrators are often people we know and trust.  The sad reality is that pedophiles exist, but the glimmer of hope is that we, as parents, have the power to empower our kids to be safe.

I have a vagina, and it’s private.  How about you?

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