Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not the 'A' Team

When I got to the football ground I was embarrassed to find that I was the only mum from son's class to be there.

It was our wedding anniversary -- our nineth -- and I had plans to do as little as possible. But son wanted me at his football game. So there I was jumping up and down by the goal-line of the opposing team. They had a larger fan club.

But the goal-keeper was really bored. All the action was on the other side of the pitch.

My son's team was thrashed. O, never mind.

I was heartened, however, to see that he was taking an active part and had indeed made many good defensive moves to keep the score difference down.

Amongst other things, they had at one point, the boy with the smallest stature at goal. The opposition kicked the ball so hard he managed to catch hold of the ball but the momentum of the kick pushed him across the line, at which point he dropped the ball. So it was a goal to the opposition.

At other times this and the other goal-keepers had their backs to the rest of the team, watching the 'A' team battle it out on the adjoining pitch. "Stand in front of the goal line!" I found myself shouting at whoever was at goal.

It was hilarious. It was.

The other consolation is the boys whom I know have been taking football lessons weren't any better than my son. So, there!

When we got home there was still homework to do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Made it to the football team

Son did manage to get to school yesterday (Monday). I was on edge all day waiting for the school to phone to say he needed to be brought home.

No phone call came.

The football match they were supposed to play was postponed due to an administrative oversight.

Pick-up time: son was smiling after having three periods of 'Games' in the afternoon. He was excited.

He had been picked to play in the postponed football match now on Wednesday. He would have to miss the theatre visit of a group presenting Wizard of Oz, but "who cares?" he said.

He's not in the 'A' team, but in the 'Mixed' (meaning mixed ability, I think) team. But who cares? And he has the right attitude towards it, too.

But this morning, there was a moan about having to go to school. It's swimming day and again he's not feeling confident about his swimming. Sigh. After having done so well to "escape" being put in the "beginners club" he is finding swimming very tedious.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fever Las Vegas!

Young man woke up early yesterday with something bothering his throat. But he didn't let him affect his activities too much.

By evening, however, it was clear that he was not well. It was difficult to get him -- wrapped in his favourite blanket from head to toe -- away from watching the Elvis impersonators on TV, but I managed and sponged him down.

When he got to bed he was able to say, "I'm feeling a bit drowsy now ...."

He was perspiring a lot in his sleep and yet drew the duvet well up to his neck. This morning it appeared that the fever had finally subsided, but it could just be the effect of the medicine.

Any how, he is good as gold and being most polite. He's always most polite when he is most unwell.

I am not complaining.

He had been going on about a football match at school tomorrow. He's been trying very hard to improve in his football and would really like to put his new skills to the test.

We shall see whether he even gets to school.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Being obtuse

Yesterday, as a special treat, I bought a little chocolate fudge cake, organic, of course.

Just as well, because son was not very pleased when he got home. He had been to 'Fun Choir'. It appears that the older boys were asked to vote who was the best singer amongst the youngest boys, and vice-versa.

Son thought -- it goes without saying -- that he was very good, but every older boy bar one voted for the youngest boy in the choir. One brave soul voted for one of son's good friend. But nobody voted for him at all.

He couldn't contain himself any more when we sat down to have our snack (said chocolate fudge cake). "Why didn't even ONE boy vote for me? I can't understand! B-- was rubbish and mucking about and yet they voted for him."

It wasn't made easier when one of these older boys said to him as we were going home, "... you were the best. Really, you were the best."

Look of distress on son's face and then, "If I was the best, then why did everyone vote for B--?"

It took some time to calm him down. I can't think why it mattered so much to him that someone "at least showed appreciation" of him.

Any way he did cheer up after this. But he couldn't have any more cake after dinner as it was past six o'clock. Chocolate after six makes it quite difficult for him to fall asleep.

This morning he looked at the cake and said, "I am going to have a piece with an obtuse angle. That will leave Dad with one with an acute angle."

"What is an obtuse angle?" I asked.

"One that is more than 90 degrees."

"And acute?"

"Less than 90 degrees."

"Have you been learning about angles at school?"

"Of course not!"

"Then how do you know obtuse and acute?"

"From a book, perhaps?"

He then proceeded to show me a "reflex angle".

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Marching boys

Walking home from my business group mentoring session (I walk through a fairly large park, it helps to clear my head after three hours of talking business and exchanging ideas) I ran into the school cook who asked about my son.

She observed that he seemed happier. He was always so serious looking. Then she recalled that a few days ago he and two others were "marching" into the Dining Room. So he does lighten up a bit.

I mean, he often has us in stitches at home with his jokes and the way he describes something (that happened or in his imagination).

Yesterday I mentioned that after a hard slog I finally managed to get tickets to the British Museum to see the Terracotta Army exhibition. Daddy has always wanted to see these soldiers and has planned to go to China for a visit at some point to see the "real thing". So he was chuffed when he found out that the exhibition was going to be here, right in London.

I said, it's once in a life-time, a bit like Daddy being taken to see Tutankahmen.

"Tut who?"

"Tutankhamen, you know that Egyptian Pharaoh ...."

His response was, "What do you do with an Egyptian door bell?"

"What do you do with an Egyptian door bell?"

"Toot and come on in."

Of course that was not original. He read it somewhere, but at an appropriate time he was able to recall that to good effect.

Yet we were told he does not smile in class.

I ask him after school every day, "On a scale of one to ten, what was the day like?"

"Five hundred. No, make it ten thousand," or something like that.

He seems happy enough, and I am pleased.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Son was happy at the end of the school day. He could not wait to tell me how hard he tried and now he is off the "beginners" swimming list.

He was not pleased when he discovered on Thursday that he had been put on this list which means additional swimming lessons on Thursdays. It would mean his having to miss Art Club at lunch break.

So he worked very hard and now he does not have to do extra lessons, he thinks.

As to why he joined Art Club, I do not know. He tells me he's doing a special sketch for me and the Art teacher is helping him. OK.

Prep time. He was supposed to spend not more than 20 minutes on Prep. There were 40 animal names he needed to put in alphabetical order. When 20 minutes were up he was less than halfway through. I tried persuading him to stop and either carry on the next day or let the teacher know the Prep required more than 20 minutes.

No, he wanted to carry on, and when he came to the "L's" he got confused. I tried explaining but he would not listen. He said he didn't mind if he got them wrong. That way he could learn from his mistakes. Lots of tears and shouting.

He met with the same problem again when he came to "W". Somehow he managed to remain calm enough for me to show him he must not "cross-compare". Then he realized why the "L's" were wrong.

I don't know what to think of his attitude. He had been so good and positive all week, and at the end of the week he just seemed unable to cope anymore. He was clearly physically and mentally tired, but he insisted on carrying on.

More pertinently I realized that despite his reading age -- he's said to be able to read better than the 12-year-olds -- he does not yet know the English alphabet off by heart!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Voices and noises

Husband and I had a good meeting with the headmaster and two of the staff.

Basically we agreed that we need to seek professional help to ascertain what is bothering our son. I have in fact tried to kick-start this process by going to the GP. He has referred, but is not quite sure whom to refer son to.

Any way the school now knows a little more about son's peculiar habit of asking for instructions over and over again. This had previously be put down to his wanting to be perfect.

In the past three years he had been told consistently not to be too hard on himself, it's OK to make mistakes, he does not need to be perfect. I have since discovered that it might have nothing to do with wanting to be perfect. He asked instructions over and over again simply because he does not remember them.

For example I've been saying in the mornings for a week: brush your teeth, clean your face, get dressed and make your bed.

But after brushing his teeth he forgets what is the next instruction. "What do I do next?"

Yesterday I said, "OK, the sequence is 'teeth-face-clothes-bed'."

Son then muttered something like "Teeth are in the face, which is in the body, and the body rests in the bed which is where the clothes are." Sorted.

I had to print off some photos for him in a hurry and left him to his "routine". What a surprise it was that when I came upstairs again he was sitting in his bed reading a book, fully dressed on a well-made bed, having brushed his teeth and cleaned his face . Bingo!

Today, well, he got a bit distracted. He completed the routine but stopped in between to read something. Still the routine seems to have registered.

His continuous need to seek reassurance on instructions was seen as timidity and a lack of confidence and anxiety. Now I am beginning to wonder if it was just his way of checking and counter-checking, because some instructions, especially verbal ones, just do not seem to register.

Chatting with an old classmate over the net about her son said to be suffering from CAPD, we ventured into the area of being a spatial-visual learner. Then I remember how son always had trouble discerning where sound was coming from.

He's nearly pitch-perfect. You sing a note, he goes to the piano and nine times out of ten, he plays that exact note . You could even play intervals and he could identify these as 'doh-soh' or 'doh-fah', or whatever. More frequently he hears a tune on TV and he goes to play it on the piano.

But there had been countless times when he shouts "Where are you?" and I am upstairs in the en-suite bathroom with the door slightly ajar and I shout back, "Here!". Even though he might be in the next bedroom, he could not identify where the sound comes from. He would then wander off downstairs, check every room, and not finding me, starts crying, "Mum, where are you?"

And I am shouting myself hoarse upstairs in the loo, "Here, I am upstairs."

He wanders upstairs, "Upstairs, where?"

He's outside our bedroom and I shout, "In the bathroom in the bedroom." And then he finds me. He's in a flood of tears.

Of course now I shout "Here in the en-suite bathroom" or something like that instead.

Sometimes this happens when I am in the conservatory and he's in the next room. No bathroom door in between. I say, "I'm here" and he goes to the room further away from me to look for me.

It appears that he has no sense of where sound is coming from if it is not immediately in front of him, where he could see the speaker.

I wrote about how he was disturbed by the sound in an indoor sports hall. It was not loudness, perhaps, but that the noise and echoes were coming in all directions, unrelentlessly, and that upset him.

Ironically when he uses the bathroom he would turn on the light even in broad daylight so that the fan would turn on. "I like the sound," he says. The sound of the whirring fan comforts him,

O yes, when he was a baby I could not use the food processor until he was in bed, or shutting two doors between us, but the washing machine and tumble dryer were OK.

He was taken to the cinema by a friend when he was three and refused to go again for another three years time because of the "noise". (The sound level in the cinema was indeed very high.)

We have a friend who has suffered a head injury. She tells us that she too cannot distinguish the direction from which sounds are coming from. Everything is a blur and it tires her out just trying to process these stimuli. She cannot filter out the unimportant noise from the important noise. This lady also sings beautifully.

Could our son be suffering a similar condition? Does that explain why certain types of noise upset him so much?

Then I recall how much he had calmed down in the last half-term of school last year. Something caused me to think this coincided with the sudden departure of a boy who was very disruptive.

Our son used to get very upset if this boy had made it impossible for the whole class to "do any learning". He complained about this boy's whingeing. Could the whingeing have had an impact on my son?

Why do the episodes of anxiety happen only on Fridays?

Is it because he gets taken out of class for his piano lesson? And this often means he misses handwriting class? Does this make him anxious and then coupled with swimming -- which he perceives himself not to be so good at -- right at the end of the day, he gets too tired to compensate, and falls apart?

What are these "bad voices" as he was supposed to have said that bothered him?

But this week he has made phenomenal progress on the clarinet. He practised really hard to get rid of the puffy cheeks. (It helps when Mum plays wind instruments.) He tried and he tried, and by Sunday he got it. Dimpled cheeks while making a solid sound on the clarinet.

He learned to play two more notes on Wednesday (yesterday) and he's playing tunes, even those not in the book, as he makes them up.

His piano too is coming along and husband and I are really enjoying the exam pieces he has chosen to play. They are not easy to play, but very pleasant to listen to.

The teacher will decide in two weeks' time if he should be presented for exams in November or March.

Son also joined the Fun Choir, the Middle School boy's rite of passage, it seems. They are doing songs from Oliver Twist and son is enjoying 'food, glorious food'.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First day back at school

Actually it's second, but 'second day back' doesn't have the same ring, does it?

There were too many nervous parents. The 'old boys' were moving from 'junior school' to 'middle school'. They were moving from short shorts to long trousers. Instead of little plastic school bags they now have sports bags and a school-issue back-pack.

At lunch they would now be able to choose from a wide selection instead of being given a specific menu. (Junior school pupils would take too long to make up their minds, I imagine.)

So 3.40pm, give or take, parents were gathered to pick up our children. Son was making some 'happy gestures' while waiting to be dismissed.

He was all excited because, "Guess what? I was given my piano certificate today, and I received it from Mr B (the headmaster)." He was chuffed.

"I was the only one from Form I who was given a certificate."

"I was the first one to be called."

Then it was how they would all get their first house point if they could manage to remember their caps the next day.

And they now have their Prep Book, kept always in their school blazer, and he has some Prep to complete (sticking the sticky plaster-protector-thing onto the Prep Book.

He was so excited, so happy. When he got home he talked in such a grown-up way it felt like I left a seven-year-old little boy at school at 8.40am and seven hours later I got back a seven-year-old very polite young man instead.

He duly completed his Prep, did his piano practice, and was able to relax for the rest of the day.

No problems with writing so far. He's been writing names and information at various places and they are all legible. What a pleasant surprise!