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the ocean always dreamed blue dreams

Graduation

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My son graduated from high school last Sunday, June 5, 2011. I am very proud of him.

It has been a bit of a journey, getting him to this point. When he was in the fourth grade it began to be apparent that he was struggling in school. His teacher had assigned a research paper which she had broken down into kid sized bites, but still he hadn't done anything. So I got his things together and I helped him get his research done and the paper written. I mean that in the best sense. I didn't do the work-he did. But I sat with him, asked questions, made sure he stayed on task.

My oldest son had
also struggled once he hit middle school, so I was concerned. I wrote a letter to Scottish Rite Hospital and explained the problem and asked if they could help with a diagnosis. They said yes, and the appointment was set for May of that year. The upshot was that he had Attention Deficit Disorder, inattentive type. We were to discover later that his older brother has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

So my youngest son began to take Concerta for this late in the fall of that year. When I met with his teachers in January, one of them said the change in his behavior was like a miracle. He continued to do fairly well in school through 7th and 8th grade.

Then it was time
for him to go to high school. It became obvious fairly quickly that his current prescription was not going to work. His grades plummeted dramatically. We went back to our pediatrician who sent us to a specialist. We, or rather my son, tried the new drug, Vyvanse. I think it did help him focus, but he developed a tremor in his hand. We went back to the doctor who said it was not connected to the drug, but we decided to discontinue it anyway (the tremor went away). We went back to the pediatrician who prescribed Adderall, and he took that for a while. His grades got a little better.

But there was, of course, another problem. He had entered not just a new school, but a new phase. He was an adolescent, and with that came other...things.

One of those things
was his clothing. I don't think what he wore was all that important. There were other things that were of a little more concern to me that were going on in his life. There was the school dress code, though. Dropping him off at school he didn't look all that different from the other kids, but somewhere in his 9th grade year he caught the attention of the vice principals of his school and so began what I will call the Jean Valjean period of his life. He didn't steal bread, but neither was he bad at school. But in the next several years he incurred a huge number of referrals for violations of the dress code. Of course we were arguing about this at home, too. A lot. I feel tired just thinking of it. I tried to support the schools rules, and I also tried to let him have his freedom of expression in his clothing. It didn't work. I remember one time I took him back to school after he was actually suspended for a dress code violation. I think they said he was sagging. We walked in behind a kid wearing a letter jacket, plaid boxers, and jeans. I told the administrator this. She replied simply, "We're not perfect," and looked at me a little sadly.

About a year prior to this, around the end of the fall semester I had received a phone call from this administrator. She had my son in her office. A kid had told her that my son was selling cartons of cigarettes. When she called him into the office he did have a large amount of money on him, so she called me. "It's for his birthday present," I said. "Is it $70?" "Yes," she said-somewhat reluctantly, I thought. "I told him I thought he ought to leave it at home, but he wanted to take it with him," I said. "He's going to get a hoodie at the mall." Which, by the way, he did do. Maybe he did think about trying to make a little extra money on the side, but I've never seen him use money that way. Or get in trouble for that kind of thing. My point in telling this story is I felt then, and still do, that for some reason these two administrators got it in their head that he was a bad kid. Well, he was a kid, and sometimes bad, but never in the way they thought.

He kept those
referrals for awhile. By the next year he had a stack that was several inches thick. He was still falling behind in his classes, but when he took the state assessment tests he always passed, and sometimes even got commended, so we all knew he was learning something. But school was frustrating for him, so around this time he decided to go to his districts' alternative school. I was a little concerned about the kind of kids who would be there, but in the end it's what he wanted, so we went forward with that plan.

Which turned out marvelously, by the way. The staff was kind and helpful. They are terrific, and I can't say enough about them. I give them and my son all the credit for helping him get through high school. They liked him and never gave him any trouble. Nor did he get into any trouble there, ever. He got packets of work and very slowly worked his way through them. The thing about this school was that it was entirely voluntary. He could leave anytime he wanted. He was no longer taking medication-his decision-and he usually left before noon. They finally put him on a plan, and he finally finished up. There were some bumps in the road, but he did it. I don't think he knows what he wants to do in the future-I don't think he wants to go to college, at the moment, anyway-but he's willing to work, and for now, that's enough for me.

Which brings us to the moment. I was very pleased that he wanted to walk the walk. As it happens, the hometown team, The Mavericks, were in the NBA playoffs, and my sons, who had the money, wanted to get tickets. I fronted the initial money and they ended up with seats in the rafters, but seats, nevertheless, for an NBA playoff game. My youngest son wanted tickets for the first game on June 5th. "There's going to be a lot going on that day," I said. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" He was, so that's what they did. The next day he was looking at his packet of information for the graduation. It said that the graduation was at 7 p.m. "But that's when your game starts!" I said, my voice rising, somewhat shrilly, I might add. I was so disappointed. "They told me it was at 4 o'clock," he said, somewhat sharply. "So you'll have to call them tomorrow and find out," I said. I had to go to work, and I didn't think any more about it until I got home. I had already resigned myself to the fact that he might not get to go through the ceremony. "I think it was more important to me that I realized," I told him. As it turns out, he had the correct information. The ceremony was at 4 p,m. that Sunday. Hallelujah!

The day went perfectly. His father had visited, but did not stay for the ceremony. He had gotten himself a white shirt, he had the black slacks, socks, and shoes. It turns out he didn't have a black tie. My oldest son looked in vain for one, but friend of his had one, so that worked out. I also had to stop for gas-I was on empty. I thought it would be just my luck to run out of gas. I could feel little shards of glass running through my veins. We finally made it onto the highway, and since it was a Sunday were able to quickly make the thirty mile drive north to Denton. I dropped him off at the auditorium and found a great parking spot just two blocks away. My oldest son and a friend of ours joined us. I was glad this friend was with us. He and his wife and their kids used to live around the corner from us. One day a couple of years ago my son told me that M told him to do well in school, and if he did he would get him some new shoes. It's been awhile, but I think he did bring home a good report card that six weeks, and one day he came in with a new pair of Jordan's. So we were really glad M could be there with us that day. We saw my son walk in, and he found us in the crowd too; we saw him walk across the stage and shake hands with the principal of his school. It was done. He was a graduate.

We were able
to find him fairly quickly when it was over. We took a few pictures, then they were on their way. They made good time getting to the American Airlines Arena. It's off the highway that we drove on to get there, so it was all very convenient. They had a blast yelling their hearts out for the Mavs, who in the only down note of the whole day, lost that game. But it did make for a memorable day.

So this is the end of the story. There is more to it, of course. There were some more bumps in the road, and because of that I still hold my breath when he goes out at night. I think in the end, though, that he understands what it means to be a good and decent person, and thats all I really ask for.

The important thing is, he graduated. And I am proud, so very proud, of him. Congratulations, son.

Updated 06-13-2011 at 02:48 PM by qimissung

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Comments

  1. mtpspur's Avatar
    A milestone indeed. If this helps my guttersnipes were OFTEN in trouble in school and never graduated though second son Dan is working on his Masters right now and Jim is also workng on a degree--the Army helped greatly. When they were in school they quickly got the rep of being trouble and I saw little to no effort to help them overcome their problems. A friend from church (a teacher) frankly said she would rather invest her time in kids tht wanted to learn then on ones that didn't. I have agreedwith that statement and most of my respect for her went out the wondow that day but I beleive I understand the view she had. So I'm glad things worked out and you hung in there. He'll find things are different in the real world so to speak so luck with the future ahead.
  2. Buh4Bee's Avatar
    I have some many things to say:

    Congratulations to your son!

    Congratulations to you!

    A very moving story, on many different levels.

    I am so happy to hear that the alternative setting was successful. Sounds like he was being discriminated against by the administrators in his former high school. I could be wrong, but this kind of thing can happen.

    It is very cool that you let him make his own decisions. I have learned that these sorts of life choices help define a young person's character later on.

    It is very hard raising two kids with ADD/ADHD. In my family, I am the ADD and my brother is the ADHD. Medication works for me, but I know it doesn't work for everyone.
  3. qimissung's Avatar
    Thank You, Rich and jersea. Your comments are interesting and meaningful to me.

    To say that it has been difficult raising two kids with ADD/ADHD would be an understatement jersea, but even though I got tired and we had some dark days, I, too, Rich, am glad I hung in there.

    For some reason my oldest son is adamant about not taking medication. He says it makes him feel not human. We all noticed a difference in his behavior the few weeks he did take it, and it has taken him forever to find his way, but maybe he has now.

    My youngest son, as I mentioned, also opted to quit taking it in high school. He never liked it. He said he didn't talk (isn't that a good thing in school, though? ) and he didn't like that. I did not notice any weight loss, though. That would have been an indicator of something wrong for me. Not taking it did make completing his school work harder for him, but in the end he did do it.

    That is incredibly disappointing to hear that teacher say that, Rich. You are awfully nice to see her side of it. As a teacher I can say it's easier for me to work with kids who want to learn, and I often lament that I work in a school where it seems that the majority of them don't value it. But I see their value as a people, and I hope I don't write them off. Occasionally, in the face of their determination, you end up letting them go their own way. That is all.

    And how much better for your kids and your family if someone at the school had taken an interest in them. That is what I hoped to show in my story. They went the other way though. It's easier for them, I think, but that's why I have a problem with rules. I think educators make a mistake when they make the rules more important than the kids. And jersea, I agree. I think they did discriminate against him. I didn't really know how to fight it. I think what we did worked out best.

    Well, jersea, I let him make some of his own decisions. He always had to be home at a certain time, though. Not that he was, but still.
    Updated 06-13-2011 at 03:06 PM by qimissung
  4. Paulclem's Avatar
    A good story Qimi. I'm glad it turned out well. I always think that schools are one-stop-shops that provide for the majority, but don't often help a significant minority.
  5. virgo27's Avatar
    A powerful "life" story. How important parenting is. I enjoyed reading this blog entry.
  6. Maryd.'s Avatar
    Oh dear, I felt my heart sink into my stomach darl. I'm very proud of you and your son. You are a courageous, gorgeous person and no doubt your brave new graduate is as well. ♥
  7. The Comedian's Avatar
    Cigars! Cards! and Congratulations to qimissung & son.

    I'm sort of jealous that you all got to go to the Mavs game. That must have been sweet.

    And it sounds like you've worked, as a family, very hard to get to this moment. It's quite an accomplishment for you and he. It sounds like you both should be proud.

    Any plans for the future? College? J-O-B? Or something else?
  8. TheFifthElement's Avatar
    Sounds like you have every right to be justifiably proud of your son. When the path is difficult, achievement is all the sweeter and it sounds like he's had to work his socks off against the odds to get where he's got. Congratulations to you both.

    I hope he appreciates what a loving and supportive Mum he's got
  9. Virgil's Avatar
    Congratulations to your son. And kudos to you for being a good mother that kept on top of his issues. I loved the way you phrased this: "Well, he was a kid, and sometimes bad, but never in the way they thought." It is not far a field to see how if you had not been the mother you were, he could have degenerated into a serious problem. I feel bad for most of problem kids; there was probably a corrective action somewhere in their young lives that was missed.

    I was a similar boy in junior high school, but strangely I straightened out in high school. That's probably not typical. Hormones had a positive side effect on me.

    By the way, I'm somewhat skeptical about those ADD drugs. They didn't diagnose ADD when I was a child, but I bet they would have classified me as ADD prior to high school. I think I turned out ok. Maybe.
    Updated 06-15-2011 at 10:01 PM by Virgil
  10. qimissung's Avatar
    Thank you Paul, Virgo, Mary, Virgil.

    He's looking for a job, Comedian. He had one for awhile, but it was temporary and the owner hired some college kids for the summer; they've worked there in previous summers, I gather. Hopefully he'll find something in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed.

    Thanks, Fifth. I'm, uh, sure he does appreciate me a great deal, as I'm so wonderful and all.
  11. yuka's Avatar
    Congratulations, Qim, to your son. and to you, a great mother. Perhaps from the your ways of raising your sons I can learn something .Thank you for sharing.
  12. qimissung's Avatar
    Thanks, Yuka.