I’m still a lovely person…

20140128-201322.jpgIt’s the week of parent-teacher meetings and marque 4’s learning support teacher also needs to meet me. We’ve been writing to one another to come up with a suitable time. She is, she says, really looking forward to meeting me. We settle on 8.40am as I drop the five to school. She has an 8.55 group. We cannot be late.

I get up at 6.00 to ensure punctuality and it all goes swimmingly until marque 3 bangs into marque 2 spilling his drink all down his uniform. There’s a domino effect. They all tip off one another cascading down with an inverse rise in volume coming from, well, me.

It is raining, of course, so the traffic is backed up and we have to abandon the car and walk/run while I rant about turning up for my meeting as a late drowned rat.

I would’ve liked to pass off the impression of calm mother of five, unperturbed by marque 4’s late out of the blocks reading. Instead I am the harried, wet, nose dripping, breathless mother she probably expects to see. I am offered, and accept, a soothing cup of tea.

Down to business. I do not wince when she uses the word ‘alarmed’ at the level of reading. I do not baulk at the suggestion that he has skipped a developmental stage, much like a dog who needs to be retrained. Although perhaps I should. It’s true that his reading hasn’t kicked in like the others. Nor did his speech. And his left handed writing isn’t so neat. But he hasn’t missed a trick. I do not flinch when she says that in her opinion there is a misfire in his brain. That his brain sees a word and he calls something out before his eyes have a chance to read it. Ah god, I think to myself smiling. He’s trying so hard. His brain too quick for his eyes.

I am clearly not getting it. She moves on to forecast mode. If we don’t crack this there is doom ahead. ‘You don’t want to be getting a call when he’s in third class saying there’s something seriously wrong here.’
No, I concede. That would not be ideal. ‘And there could be self esteem issues down the road because, as you know, reading is the basis of everything, even maths…’ I’m beginning to feel like a child myself at this point. Or a recalcitrant teenager. Someone who seems to be being told off but doesn’t know why. Maybe I should let her know that I zoned in on the sociology of education for my Masters degree. Which was pretty helpful when I was doing my PhD. That might cheer things up a bit.

‘Could he be dyslexic?’ I ask instead. ‘As the others have no difficulties and there’s dyslexia in the family…’ There’s surprise in the room. He could be, yes, but the exercises they’re doing are for dyslexics anyway and he’s too young at 7 to know so …

The baulk, the wince and the flinch do come though.
‘He had the best response I’ve ever heard’ she says. ‘I had him here by himself and I was going on about his reading, this, that and the other and when I’d finished he looked up at me and said “but I’m still a lovely person” and my heart was on the floor …’
That’s it, I reach for her tissues, dab unashamedly at my stinging eyes, shuddering at the idea of him and what he must’ve been feeling about his floundering reading for him to speak out like that.

The tone shifts to solution focused mode. We are to be ‘success engineers’, her and me together. She writes her mobile phone number down for me to call at any time with any concerns. ‘God bless’ she says as I leave, you poor stressed out wretch writ large on her face. I smile. ‘Out of the mouths of babes’ I say in my head.

Ellen Kelly

Mindfulness Guru

Robin Redbreast

I have my very own mindfulness guru. In the chaos that is big family life he is essential. I wouldn’t have time for the books or the courses, of course. But an in house mentor is hard to ignore. He whips me out of fretting about the future and regretting the past. He tells me to stop, look and listen. He says let’s just sit here and have a little relax. He is four years old.

Yesterday we were cutting through the school yard on our way to pick up the brothers. Thoughts of impending homework and dinner clogged my mind. Not to mention the to do list to do with the subsidence issue in the sitting room. Insurance, builders and the like. He said stop, listen. There amongst the bare branches of a January tree perched a robin red breast chirping and tweeting away. We hunkered down to listen. He seemed to notice us. The chirps and tweets got faster. He seemed excited to see us. After a couple of minutes of attentive robin listening we stood up. I was decidedly lighter and chirpier myself. Look he said, pointing up at the sky. Purple clouds dabbled across a pale blue canvas. Like a child’s painting with free reign on the colours. I might’ve missed these present moment beauties without my guru. He, like other small children, is fully aware in the present, undistracted, revelling in all of his senses. Long may it continue.

Ellen Kelly

Airplane in the Sitting Room

Airplane HouseI was telling a school gate Mum our tale of a Sunday evening of late and she told me I should blog. I’m a mother of 5 boys, a sociologist (resting), a short story writer (active-ish) and there’s a feeling that things just need to be shared.

I was doing myself a favour, stacking the bread 10 high on that Sunday night, to save me from cursing myself on the Monday morning for not making the sandwiches the night before. Marque 4 appeared around the door and told me to come quick, there was an airplane in our sitting room. Eager to deliver the message he had skipped the word ‘sound’.  There was indeed the terrifying sound of the roar of an airplane in our sitting room. We parents glanced at one another, mimed in unison ‘chimney’ and he scarpered out front to witness the fire work display courtesy of our house. I threw saucepans of water into the grate, but the roar continued and a volcanic like substance poured from the breast onto the hearth. We glanced again, us responsible parents, and mimed in unison ‘fire brigade’. We were told over the phone to evacuate the premises. Marque 1 grabbed prized possessions, guitar, photo album, lap top. The others screeched that they didn’t know what to grab. Just yourselves, just yourselves I heard an unrecognisably calm soothing mother tell her brood. But what if the house explodes Marque 5 asked.  Into the car, don’t worry, we’ll be back in in no time. They were semi-clad, getting into PJs when the airplane came, so I hoped I was right.

Chimney FireThe fire brigade was there in seconds. There was fever pitch excitement in the car witnessing the flashing lights and hoses at OUR house. IMAGINE. The neighbours poured out to offer refuge. One poor elderly neighbour was tearful. I’m sorry that this has happened to you he said, damp eyed, having to look away from me and my refugees. No I’m sorry for upsetting you I said in my head. It was on my to do list for months, the old chimney sweeping thing. Marque 4 had been given the task of chief reminder. Remind he did. Mother of 5 was remiss, again.

The fire men were lovely. They did not mention chimney sweeping. They told us that logs which we use can be damp and throw gloop up which sticks and catches fire. They’re seeing a lot of this. No aspersions cast at this mother this time by the kind dutiful men. Phew. We got back in and I stuck ham in those 10 slices.

I told my school gate Mum friend that I thoroughly recommend a Sunday night like that. We’re about creating memories after all.

Ellen Kelly