Commentary and Philosophy Fiction posted May 21, 2012


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Children... perfect ... just the way they are ...

Wakey Wakey, Eggs & Bakey!

by visionary1234


Why do we feel our children are "ours" so therefore, by default, they must be "like us" ... with similar tastes, talents, strengths, weaknesses?

I have a love of language ... a fascination with the artistry of the written word. Words are like playthings to me. I look at those big fat dictionaries and feel like Picasso with a million colors.

So when Nalu, my magic child, comes into this world, I assume in my arrogance, that of course he'll be a chip off the old block - moi. I conveniently forget that "moi" is only responsible for 50% of his gene pool.

Beloved #2 - the other fifty percent - loves books. They make excellent paperweights and can be used to whack a cockroach or a darting cane spider. The book pile by my bed is a handy arsenal ... and Beloved #2 prides himself on his easy going tolerance, watching my ever growing mountain of literature by my bed much as I watch his every growing mountain of dishes in the sink. He knows in both cases though, that these piles will magically ... disappear.

But a reader? Nope. In fact, I find out, after we've tied the knot and reproduced with foolhardy abandon, reading is a challenge, a chore, hard work. If it's not on TV, it's probably not worth bothering with.

But my genes are strong, I'm sure. I'm determined to be the culturally enriching Perfect Mom. For years, I read to Nalu every night. At seven, he has the vocab of a college student, though he's still not reading by himself. But I'm not uptight about it. I don't like the pressure cooker idiocies of the education system here and, being the Perfect Laid Back Old Hippie Mom, I encourage him to be his own man ... Relax, I tell myself, one day he'll just pick up a book and start to read ... when he's good and ready.

Until I talk to his teacher, who decides that my son has a "problem" ... a specific learning problem ... something to do with visual space perception?

"But my kid can shoot a basket at forty feet!"

"Yes, but can he cut with scissors?"

"Well, no, but he's a boy."

"And he misbehaves in class ... doesn't focus."

"Yes. He's a boy."

"And he can't copy shapes or patterns ... the pre-requisites for writing."

"Yes, he's a boy. He keyboards at a hundred miles an hour."

"Get him tested."

Of course I do. I'm a Concerned Parent.

Turns out that my son does see the world differently. Straight lines of writing or numbers become stormy waves of spatial misadventure. Very amenable to therapy though, I'm assured. So I tell his teacher, suggesting we work together. She's a tanned, thin, grey eyed woman - softly spoken - a softness, one gathers, garnered from years of holding in her annoyance.

"How soon can you get him out of the school?"

I stop breathing. This is the school I wish I'd gone to as a kid ... full of art and music and literature. My son has friends here. So have we.

But now apparently, with this diagnosis, my son is ... different. Difficult. Challenged. Disruptive. Inappropriate. One day he's bored, so he sits under his desk.

"How soon can you get him out of the school?"

"Aaaah ... today's Wednesday ... Is Friday soon enough for you?"

"Yes. Friday's fine. Have you thought about sending him to Horizons?"

I'm reeling. "Horizons" is for kids with real difficulties. No one has told me my child has a severe problem ... just a small spatial perception thing ... totally amenable to therapy ... he's not autistic ...

I'm trying hard to be receptive, not in denial. I'm a speech therapist. I've seen the look on parents' faces when they've assumed their child is "normal" and then ... there's just a little something ... wrong ... different ... I've seen those parents' faces - the heartbreak in their eyes, the denial ... the resignation. And the strength of the love that is needed to get them through an unexpected future they never dreamed could be so painful.

Be open, Sharyn ... this woman is paid to know what she's talking about. She's just telling you what's best for Nalu. It's not about YOU.

"Ok. I guess I'll check out Horizons."

I do. They say Nalu is an ideal candidate. Though he's nearly eight, he's reading at a less than five year old level.

"Don't delay! Start him immediately!" says the cheery principal. "If you get him out of his other school on Friday, he can start with us on Monday!"

Great.

"On one condition. I get to sit in on his classes for the week."

"Certainly."

"Wakey wakey, eggs & bakey!"

That's Kevin, a thirteen year old autistic boy. He'll be in Nalu's class.

Great.

"Is there a sports program? Nalu loves to shoot hoops and play soccer."

"Absolutely! Every lunch time!" says the oh-so-bubbly principal.

Nalu's surprised when we drive up to his new school on Monday morning. He has no real idea why he's being yanked out of one and moved to another. I'm not so sure either, frankly. But I can hardly tell him the teacher he's trusted for two years doesn't want him in her class any more. I tell him this school is closer to home, not so much driving. He likes that.

Day 1: Horizons Academy. And my non-believing heart is breaking.

This is not right. This place is not right.

Shut up Sharyn. Get your ego out of the way.

This place is depressing. It smells depressing.

But I'm determined to put on a happy face.

I'm a good parent. The school, not so good. You'd think the thought of the $14,000 tuition fee walking through the door would be a memory jogger, but no, the school has actually forgotten that Nalu is coming this morning. Miss Oh-so-cheery Principal has forgotten her dire don't delay warnings and she's also forgotten that I'm sitting in on the classes. After some furtive whispered conferences I'm reluctantly shown into the first class and sit beside Nalu.

"Wakey wakey, eggs & bakey!" Every five minutes or so, Kevin chimes in.

It's a Language Arts class. Some broken coloring pencils in rusty boxes are handed out and for the next stimulating forty five minutes the kids get to write down their schedules for the week, on lines two inches long and half an inch apart, first looking at the blackboard and then transcribing to grubby lined paper on their desks - the treacherous journey of letters and numbers out of synch.

Helloo ... my son has a teensy weensy visual perceptual thing and problems with fine motor co-ordination tasks like ... writing ... in a half inch space. It's all in his file.


The teacher looks like she was born ancient and her nasal monotone drags on, and on, and on.

Strike ONE!

"Wakey wakey, eggs & bakey!"

You tell 'em Kevin.

I'm ready to go sit under the desk.

Ok. Try not to be judgmental, it's just the first day and I'm new to this. What's next? Math. Great. The most boring subject in the universe ... made more boring by a teacher even more boring than the last one. Am I crazy? The Special Ed teachers I know are vivacious and wonderful. These kids need to be stimulated, not put to sleep. The drugs most of them are on are already doing a good job of that.

God, what's going on? My head is pounding and I'm holding back tears.
Control, Sharyn, control. Patience, remember? Not your strong point. Breathe.

Next, geography. Ok. You can't screw that up too much. It's the shaping and adventure of the world. It's where we live.

"Now, in front of you is a map of the United States of America."

Ok. Got it so far.

"In the box beside you are fifty cardboard pieces, cut out in the shapes of the fifty states. Match the shape of the pieces to the shapes of the states on the map. Then you can color them in."

Great. My child is seven years old and has a visual spatial problem. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS THIS?

Nalu sits beside me, bored and ashamed.

"I'll help you," I whisper. "This is a bit nutty, isn't it? Don't worry, lunch is next, and they say they've got basketball. Then your favorite - computers. Then we get to go home. 'ray!

Strike TWO!


Patience, Sharyn. Don't be hasty. Don't judge. Smile.

Finally, lunch. Nalu can go eat, shoot some hoops, do his favorite things ... maybe the day will be fine after all.

Inside, I'm screaming. Are you SURE, are THEY sure, this is where my son belongs?

That's what they told me.

I am in despair.

Lunchtime! Yeah! All the kids troop outside, sit, and eat.

And sit.

And sit.

And sit.

Jaws are the only thing being exercised at this school.

"Wakey wakey, eggs & bakey!"

Nalu sits on a bench, alone, shoulders hunched, not saying a word. I finally find the rusty basketball hoop - in the car park, surrounded by cars - obviously not used for years.

My head is exploding. So this is where you think my son belongs? This is the best you can do?

Breathe!


After lunch, the lesson Nalu's been looking forward to ... my "carrot" for getting him here ... the love of his life ... computers. "Horizons" has one last chance to shine.

Everyone ambles into the computer room. Everyone, that is, except the teacher, who is nowhere to be found and the room is dark. Fifteen minutes later, the teacher is still nowhere to be found. Nalu takes the initiative, turns on a computer, starts to play a game. Half the computers in the room do not work.

Finally, the teacher honors us with his presence. He's a dry little stick of a man with the charisma of a flea. He reprimands Nalu for playing a game, first asking his name of course, because he doesn't have a clue who he is, or who I am either, or why the hell we're here.

He explains the fun activity for the day. The kids get to make a CALENDAR - ooooh goody, thirty tiny squares on a computer screen, and we get to fill in the numbers. Oh by the way, he dithers ... the program hasn't been installed on half the computers - the half that actually turn on. By now, most of the class is sitting staring into space.

Strike ... Fucking ... THREE!


Nalu hesitantly looks up at me.

"Stay right here," I say, "I'll be back."

I walk out of the classroom without excusing myself, stomp down a flight of shabby wooden steps, and accost the secretary who hasn't moved all day, probably all year.

"Is the principal in her office?"

She nods timidly towards the door, which is open.

"Good."

I march in. MISS oh-so-cheery-forgot-you-were-coming-forgot-to-read-your-file is slurping her coffee behind her desk. I don't sit. I lean over her, and enunciate slowly, carefully.

"I will not be coming back tomorrow, or ever. Neither will my son. My son does not belong here. No one belongs here. Don't bother cashing my check."

I turn to leave, but realize I've forgotten something. Something important. I turn back to her.

"By the way, your Language Arts teacher has the personality of a dead fish."

I return to the computer class, walk in, hold out my hand to Nalu.

"We're going home."

I look at the teacher.

"We won't be back."

Nalu and I burn out of the room, down the steps and head for car, Nalu running to keep up.

"Mom! Mom! Wait!"

One tear is starting to drip down my cheek. I wipe it away angrily, before Nalu can see it.

"Mom ... did I do something wrong?"

Oh God, he thinks it's all his fault! I'm so wrapped up in my own righteous indignation I've forgotten why I'm here.

Right there, in the car park, beside that damned antique basketball hoop, I kneel on the scratchy gravel and put my arms around my small blonde haired son, my special child.

"You did nothing wrong, little guy. You're perfect ... just the way you are. Now, do you want to go and say goodbye to Kevin?"

"Yes ... he's funny ... isn't he?"

**************

Six months later, one of Nalu's friends is over on a play date and very proudly claims to be able to read "Eragon" - a densely worded 700 page adventure story about a boy and his magic dragon. I can see Nalu taking in this information.

"Let me see."

Frowning, he opens the heavy book and starts to read it aloud - fluidly, fluently ... words like playthings ...

"Nalu! You can read!"

He looks up at me, surprised, and laughs.

"Wakey wakey! Eggs & bakey!"

The other fifty percent has finally kicked in.

Children.

Perfect.

Just the way they are.




Story of the Month contest entry

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This is an internal monologue which I've converted to a theatrical monologue - part of my one woman show, "Milk Street". Look for it, if I can ever get the formatting figured out to put on FanStory!
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