La maternelle, déjà?

I don’t know what happened.

I feel fairly confident that it wasn’t that long ago that I gave birth to our 2nd son.

Wasn’t it just last month that I introduced Robert to his baby brother, Sullivan? The baby Robert begged me, at every chance he could, to hold? The one he proudly called “his baby”?

I don’t know what happened.

I blinked, and 2 boys became 3.

And suddenly, I’m getting ready to send Sullivan to school in the fall.

Sullivan… my boy who came so quickly our birth photographer almost didn’t make it. The one who was so determined to join us on the outside, my midwife ordered me to stop pushing so she could untangle him. He didn’t let anything stop him, not even his umbilical cord. He was ready to meet us!

My 3-year-old boy is going to school in September.

I don’t know what happened, but in September, he starts la maternelle (also known as junior kindergarten or full-day kindergarten).

We had a virtual introduction to his school, with many smiling faces on camera. We saw some of the staff he will likely see at school in the fall and some potential classmates’ smiling faces.

And as I sat through this virtual session, it struck me how easy it was to enrol him. I didn’t write a 10-page document outlining all there is to know about him. I didn’t have to have a big meeting, complete with his daycare staff, his OT, his PT, his SLP and the school administration. I just clicked a few buttons online, and that was it.

But that’s not the reality for everyone. It certainly wasn’t our reality 3 years ago with Robert.

If this is your reality, I want you to know you aren’t alone.

It can feel overwhelming, daunting, exhausting… and just not fair. Advocating for everything you want for your child and everything they need to succeed. I hope you are lucky enough to be partnered with a team like the one we have. A team that recognizes your child as intelligent and capable and that s/he just needs a few more supports in place to achieve their potential.

And after you go through those meetings and feel like you’ve prepared everyone for what to expect the next year, there’s going to be someone you forgot. Sometimes, the teacher or the educators that work with our kids aren’t at school. They might be sick or are caring for a sick child. When they aren’t there, the person who replaces them might not know about your child. And, even if they know that your child is in the class, they might not have had time to read the 10-page document you wrote. In those cases, a one-pager that outlines your child’s challenges, strengths and preferred communication styles can make all the difference. Here is a template version (in French) of the one we made. If this is useful to you and for your child(ren), I encourage you to edit it and provide it to the school. Send paper copies to the school, and email the teacher and staff a copy as well. And hey! This can also help the bus driver if your child rides a bus.

Un défis pour nous était de trouver des ressources en français, alors, le document en question est en français pour aider ceux qui pourraient se trouver dans cette même situation.

Getting to meet the school staff and administration at the early transition meeting also had its benefits. For one, we were able to see how the team works together, how organized they are, and how they value their colleagues and the students. It was a great foundation for us to build on and made us feel more comfortable with what Robert’s educational path looked like. It helps that we chose a school with an outstanding team.

And while registration for Sullivan only took a few clicks, I miss being able to sit around a table with the staff and telling them about my child. They don’t know that he’s very shy and reserved only up until the moment he feels comfortable, and then WATCH OUT! He’s full of intense energy he is still learning to harness and will need their help to navigate this. They don’t know that he is a sensitive, kind, caring boy who isn’t afraid to play “chevaliers!” or “pirates!” the second he sees anything that remotely resembles a sword. When he goes to school on the first day, he will be a stranger to them, and they a stranger to him. I know he will be OK, and that school will challenge him and help him grow in ways we can’t, but I do miss that introduction meeting. It makes dropping your baby off for school a little less scary.

But I still don’t know what happened.

How it feels as though he was born only yesterday, but this week I registered him for la maternelle.

Time, you’re a thief.

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

Transition

Can you believe the school year is over? On one hand, it feels as though the extended March break + the unexpected Covid19 break were both just announced, but on the other hand, it feels as though we’ve been attempting to help our kids learn from home for a year.

The school year ending brings with it a lot of emotions. Some relief at knowing the “summer break” is here, some apprehension as to what the next school year will look like, some pride at how far Robert has come this year, and some sadness because we are saying goodbye to an incredible education team.

Fini le jardin!

Next year we won’t be teamed up with the same people at his school, and with COVID restrictions we have no way to truly say goodbye to the current educational team.

Last Monday I drove to the school to pick up Robert’s belongings. The school set up the end of year belongings pick-up in such a way that prevented very much interaction between parents and staff. While I saw the school principal, I wasn’t really able to express my gratitude for the hard work that Robert’s educational team demonstrated throughout the school year. It was so anti-climatic after such a profoundly impactful two years with his maternelle/jardin teacher and ECE.

While we weren’t able to adequately express our gratitude in person, we did have one last exchange with his educational team via a video call.

Each year, we have a meeting with our educational team at the end of the school year. It’s purpose is to review how Robert has done over the past school year, and to plan for his transition into the next school year. Typically, the meetings are done in person in a small office/conference room at the school. Naturally, with the current restrictions in place, this year’s meeting was held virtually.

I wasn’t sure how this meeting was going to play out. What kind of comments and feedback would they be able to provide due to the learning from home over the past few months?

On the video call we had the current school educational team, his OT, and his grade 1 teacher for next year. We discussed where Robert was in terms of the SK curriculum and also how his IEP goals were being met. The teacher, ECE and EA all took turns sharing information about Robert’s successes and where he had to work a bit harder to demonstrate his full understanding of the subject matter.

After we ended this call, and the video was turned off, I cried.

I couldn’t help it. My eyes just slowly overflowed. I turned to Robert’s grandmaman, who was sitting with me for the call, and she was also wiping away tears.

We were both so happy, and so proud.

Robert has met the expectations for le jardin (senior kindergarten). Not only has he met them, but he will enter grade 1 without a modified learning plan. The grade 1 teacher will eventually have to sit down with us to create an academic IEP for Robert as she sees where he might be struggling with concepts. BUT, he is entering grade 1 at the same level as his peers.

WHAT!?

This is huge!! I think back to when we were given the news that it was suspected that our newborn had Down Syndrome. How the genetic specialist (or whatever her official title was) tasked to break the news to us announced the suspected anomaly to us with such sadness in her voice… as though the birth of our son wasn’t something to celebrate.

I think back to when my grade 10 science teacher told me that having a child with Down Syndrome would be one of the worst things that could happen. This comment was in response to the paper I wrote about Down Syndrome for our chromosome unit in class.

I think back to those moments and silently cheer. My boy is proving them so wrong. He is showing the world what we know to be true: he is a joy, he is unstoppable and he WILL succeed. This achievement is just one of many, and I couldn’t be more proud of him!

And while I’d love to take all the credit for his smarts, I can’t. It would not have been possible for Robert to be where he is now without a great team working with him and us. His teacher for maternelle/jardin is the kind of teacher who adapts her teaching to the classroom, who uses music (which Robert responds to really well) as a teaching tool, who is clearly so passionate about her job and cares so much for all of her students. His ECE provides such great support to the classroom. She is encouraging and caring. More importantly, she doesn’t let our little guy pull any fast ones (which is especially important when there is a supply teacher in the classroom). And as far as his EA goes, I can’t even begin to find words to describe her and the impact she has had in Robert’s learning.

Sometimes we struggle with how Robert is treated by adults around him. Expectations for him can border on being unrealistic, and sometimes adults forget that he is just a kid. Yes, we want him to achieve milestones in learning and socialization. Yes, this means we, as parents, have high expectations of him. We also know that it’s important to let him be a kid and let him push and discover his own boundaries. So if most kids will only sit still on the carpet at story time for an average of 2 minutes, don’t make him sit still for the entire 10 minutes. Let him get up and wander the way his peers might, and redirect him as needed.

Robert’s EA excelled at this. She truly knew when to give him freedom to be a child, and how to set clear boundaries to best allow him to learn. She understood how to praise him so that he wouldn’t shut down if he felt like something was too difficult, she knew when to give him extra time to accomplish a task, and when to push him to keep going even when he wasn’t sure of his own abilities. I don’t know what her educational background is, but she had such incredible teaching strategies. I would have loved to have been able to hug her, to truly thank her for all she provided to Robert and to our family over the course of the year. I would have loved to have found a more suitable way to express our gratitude than what COVID restrictions allow.

I can’t forget 2 of the most important people in Robert’s educational journey this year: my parents. Over the course of the school closure, they were Robert’s primary educators for at home learning. They worked tirelessly to give him a strong foundation going into the summer break, and it’s thanks to them that Robert has flourished during this trying time.

As we transition into the uncertainty of the next year, I know Robert will be OK. We may have to continue to do virtual learning in the fall, but with his stellar educational team (including his grandparents) and his own determination, I know he will continue to excel.

I’m one proud mama!

An Open Letter from a Mama to her Boys

My dear boys,

I’m sorry I’m failing you.

Every day I wake up determined to be a better mama to each of you.

A mama who is more patient.

One who is on top of your needs.

One who doesn’t raise her voice or get upset that you are asking something of me, again, even though I’m stretched thin (and your dad is sitting right there).

As I lay down at night and thoughts run through my mind, I keep circling back to the same feeling. The feeling that today I wasn’t successful at being the mom you deserve.

I am asking so much of you.

At 6, 2, and 1 years old, you aren’t able to process what is happening. This experience is shaping you, and I am not equipped to guide you through it.

I don’t know how to be a full-time mom while working my full-time job and teaching you all the things you would normally be learning in daycare or at school – especially the life lessons you’d be learning alongside your peers.

I don’t know how to process what is happening, and I certainly don’t know what to expect from myself, and yet, I expect so much of you.

Be quiet I tell my little 2 year old, as though 2 year olds are capable of ever truly being quiet (unless they are getting into mischief).

Stop whining I tell my 1 year old, who is teething, and growing, and learning to walk, and needs the comfort of his mama.

Prends ton temps I tell my 6 year old, who only has 2 speeds: fast and faster with a zest for life that is unparalleled to anyone I’ve ever met.

Jouer ensemble sans chamailler! I beg of you boys, who have been only each others playmates for over 45 days (and counting). You are each vying for some 1:1 attention and craving time with your peers.

And so my patience wears thin as I try to get my work done, do a load of laundry, wash the dishes, sweep the floor, read a book out-loud to you boys, plan dinner, walk the dog, have a cup of tea, and referee playtime (the last thing we need is a trip to emerg!).

But oh, my dear boys…

Thank You.

Thank you for giving me every opportunity to try again.

Thank you for showering me with love and laughter, and for reminding me that every moment can be the right moment for a dance party.

And that taking a break to sit on the swing in the backyard or to kick a soccer ball around is the best kind of break because we are in the moment together.

Thank you for showing me compassion and love during this difficult time for everyone.

Thank you for reminding me of my 2020 Word of the Year : Focus. Because where focus goes, energy flows.

Today was a good day, and tomorrow will be too.

Je vous aime gros comme le ciel mes petits cocos.


If you are also feeling overwhelmed and think you need some support, please consider reaching out to The Kick-Ass Mom Academy, run by my friend Chelsea. She specializes in helping working moms kick-ass at all they do.
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Rencontre de transition

We had Robert’s transition meeting recently. This transition meeting was a time for his team to sit down together and discuss how his transition from junior kindergarten to senior kindergarten was going.

Robert’s team is amazing. It’s comprised of an occupational therapist, his educational assistant, his teacher, the resource teacher, the principal and us, the parents.

These meetings can be very difficult to attend as a parent. You see, we strive to shout the worth of our child to the world. We don’t want limits placed on our beautiful, capable, intelligent boy. These meetings are not about all the amazing things Robert can do. These meetings are a place for you to learn about where your child is struggling.

As a parent, you don’t want to focus on what your child can’t do. It’s difficult to hear that he isn’t keeping up with his peers.

Did I mention that Robert’s team is amazing?

When we sat down with them, they told us about what he is capable of. The teacher and EA tell us all about his strengths and what he brings to the class. Did we discuss where we need to help him improve? What areas appear to give him more difficulties? Yes.

But the thing is, when we are focused on who Robert is as a person and we are all working together to help him reach his full potential,

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So yes, we need to help him improve on his gross and fine motor skills. We need to do work with him to be able to recognize what letters make which sounds (he knows T makes “t-t-t-t” but he can’t identify that “t-t-t-t” is made by a T). We’re working on helping him master those skills. We know it will take time, and like everything, practice will make perfect.

We also know that he is doing much better at following school routines. He’s playing games with other kids and his handwriting is slowly improving. He is well loved by his peers, and after a difficult year around being toilet trained at school, he is much more successful this year, and we couldn’t be prouder.