It really hit me this week, that things have changed this year. We still live in the same house. The kids go to the same school. My husband and I are both working at the same jobs. But things are vastly different.
Problem one: Last year, at about this time, it became very clear that the daycare I had all the kids in, was just not working for any of them. Prior to that, my then almost-three-year-old had been looked after by my sister on my workdays. She is great with kids and she had managed to get him mostly out of his difficult phase. I was even starting to like him again (See entry, I Like Your Hair–Parenting on the Edge). Within two weeks of starting him at the new daycare, he was back to being his agressive, wild, angry self of before. The daycare workers were complaining that he was screaming and the other kids didn’t like him. So, after much fretting and wringing of hands, we pulled all three of them out of the daycare. I went to my employer and explained the situation and really, truly, amazingly, they agreed to let me come into the office only one day a week and work the rest of the time from home. I love my employer. Then, my sister agreed to look after the kids on that one day a week for the next few months. I love my sister.
Problem two. My daughter has ADHD and learning disabilities. Severe ones. She has almost no working memory and processes information VERY slowly. So, you can imagine that if it takes you a long time to learn something and then even when information gets in it just empties itself out of your head in seconds, you might have a problem paying attention. And then, on top of it all, in the summer, our neighbours had a burglary, and this sent my daughter into a tail-spin of anxiety.
Problem three. Throughout his schooling life teachers have been telling me that my middle child, while being very bright has trouble paying attention, calls out, has terrible handwriting and is easily distracted in groups. I took him for his eye exam and the optometrist told me that she believed he needed vision therapy. He might also need auditory therapy and occupational therapy.
So, here I am with three kids, all of whom are suffering from some kind of inability to get along in the world. And then to top it all off, I started to have back problems.
All this means that by the time October rolled around this is what our schedule looked like:
Daughter: Math Tutor twice a week ($200 /month), Psychologist once a week ($600 / month, although we will eventually get that money back through extended health), Dance Class once a week ($42 / month).
Son: Vision Therapy once a week ($400 /month), Gymnastics once week ($65 / month)
Son and daughter both go to Catechism once a week $125 per year.
Me: Chiropractor twice a week ($40 / visit, although again, I will get most of that back through extended health).
Youngest son: Gets dragged around from place to place.
When I added it up, it turns out to be around 40 appointments in any given month. 40!! At a total cost of over $1000 / month + daycare.
So, where are we now?
First, a new daycare opened up in town. My youngest started going in November. HE LOVES IT! The daycare workers tell me he was difficult at first. His lowest moment was when he hit one of the teachers. But they’ve persevered and with their guidance, firmness and genuine like of who he is, he is just thriving. He’s making friends. His vocabulary is increasing by leaps and bounds. And most importantly, we can like him again! He’s affectionate and loving and just a joy to have around. We still have some arguments mostly around computer time and bedtime, but that’s pretty normal I think. So, problem one solved.
Second, my daughter has overcome most of her anxieties. Her school managed to get her a designation that gets her some additional help in school, so while this is still a struggle. It’s getting much better. and, for the first time ever, (my daughter is in grade 6) a girl at school wrote BF on the Valentine’s card she gave to her (my daughter). I can’t tell you what a difference that makes to have a friend. The math tutor closed up shop for a while, so we don’t go to her anymore, and we only need to see the psychologist once every 6 weeks. Very manageable. She didn’t want to continue tap dance, so we’ve dropped that.
Third, my son (the middle child) went to vision therapy for 5.5 months. On all their criteria he is now at his age or well above. He is reading at a grade nine level and his visual memory is that of a 12.5 year old. (He is 9 and in grade 4). Pretty amazing when you consider that on a lot of their criteria, he started out at about the level of a 6-7 year-old. On his last report card he got mostly B’s and two C’s, a vast improvement from the all C report card of only three months ago. And his teacher most importantly reports that he is much better able to focus and get his work done.
And me. These are the things that don’t hurt anymore: neck, right ankle, left knee. My carpal tunnel symptoms have been reduced by about half. I have an amazing chiropractor. I still have a bit of trouble with my right shoulder and right hip (the soaz muscle, or as my husband likes to say, my so’ ass), which I think is mainly due to the hazards of a short person, on a long drive when she has to drive a standard transmission. I need to go only once every two weeks now.
So, this is what my life looks like now. I go into work two days a week and work around an additional 8-10 hours from home over the course of a week. My youngest goes to daycare three days per week (and loves it) I see the chiropractor if it’s an on-week. My son and daughter go to Catechism once a week. There are no other lessons, tutoring, or specialists. I go to rehearsals between 1 and 3 times per week and a voice lesson once a week. I now have the most demanding schedule of all of us. But even then, it’s a joyful thing and not fraught with “have-to do this thing to ensure child isn’t living in my basement suite when they’re 30.”
There are still problems of course, but there are truly fewer of them and they are more focused instead of seeming all-pervasive.
I felt badly for a while that we’re not signed up for soccer, baseball, or even swimming lessons, but you know, given where we’ve come from, I think we’ve earned a couple of months of no pressure. Don’t you?
I am so grateful to so many people for helping us through this last year. My husband, who has been working himself to the bone to earn enough money to pay for all the stuff our kids needed. My boss who was brave enough to change his mindset from being paid to work a certain number of hours to one of being paid to do a job. That takes courage. My sister who has stepped into the gap countless times to lend a hand and other times just to talk it through (or at times cry it through) on the phone. My parents for being the after-school care and advocates for my daughter. Our kids’ school for trying their hardest to get the extra help my daughter needs. I am grateful to my nearest and dearest, Nicole, Bill and Silvie for letting me rant, rave and cry when it was just too much and too unfair. I am grateful to the moms who I collected over the year who are also going through this maze of learning disabilities. Swapping stories is powerful stuff. And finally, I am grateful to the host of specialists, Dr. Davies, Dr. Johal, Sharon, Dr. Irving, Dr. Darby, Julie-Ann, Joanne, the school-team, who listened and gave their expertise and liked and loved my kids. Just writing this all down is making me cry.
It really does take a village. And for my village, dispersed as it is from Granville Island to Hollywood, I am so very grateful.