A perfect moment of joy between friends

Brandon has a friend at school whom he adores. This other little boy, who I'll call Dennis, kinda reminds me of Dennis the Menace, but in the best possible way - we really like him. He also seems to get Brandon like no one else. They've been in the same class for three years, and they've been mostly inseparable for the past two years.

Dennis has been out from time to time this school year - I think his family must be having one of those cursed years of one sickness after another after another. (I really feel for them on this!) On one occasion, he returned to school the same day Brandon asked me to pick him up early. I was able to get him early, but I found out later that Brandon had a really hard time leaving Dennis behind. He wanted to be with me, but he didn't want to miss a single minute of his friend being back. He actually got teary-eyed when he hugged Dennis goodbye. They have a really sweet and special relationship.

Brandon often comes home telling me plans that he and Dennis have made. We take them with a grain of salt. If moms or dads haven't been in touch, there aren't any actual plans. But a couple weeks ago the boys decided they were going to meet at the school playground to play after dinner. Matt picked Brandon up, heard the plan, and was able to take him at the time they said. Dennis wasn't there. 

A week later, I was doing pickup. Once again, a plan had been made. But I had a work commitment and I told Brandon I wasn't sure we'd make it back in time. He went with me, helped me, and I rushed to finish so we could get back to the school as soon as possible. We were 15 minutes late and Dennis was once again not there. 

While Brandon and I rushed to get to the school, I called Matt and begged him to meet me at the school so I could go home and change out of the shirt I spilled chipotle sauce all over (I was a literal hot mess). He met us, as promised, as we were walking back to the car and offered to stay with Brandon so he could play even though Dennis wasn't there. I got about 20 feet away, heading back to my car, when Matt called out to me.

I turned around and saw Brandon running for all his might toward Dennis, who was running just as eagerly to hug his friend. 

Their faces radiated happiness and their little bodies practically vibrated with joy. 

Even though I didn't have a camera ready, that image is etched in my brain as one of the sweetest things I've ever seen. 

Later, I found out that Dennis had to work pretty hard to convince his parents to let him go and I'm so thankful they humoured him.

The stories that come out of schools about mean kids and bullying (even some of what Brandon has experienced) can make us sad, depressed, and angry.

But those aren't the only stories, thank goodness. There are stories of kids who meet and form a bond that has the potential to last if life circumstances work in their favour. Whatever happens, I hope these boys will always remember the years of their friendship as happy times growing up knowing they have a friend to lean on no matter what.

We all need a better mirror and a little kindness

I was in sixth grade when I started noticing the things about myself that were different. The most obvious difference was my skin. I don't tan. I burn and then go back to my pasty white skin.

I was dubbed Casper. It could have been worse, I suppose.

And then it got worse.

"Did your mama drop you in a tub of bleach?" was just one of the cracks they made about my pale skin. 

It wasn't bullying. No, it was just inconsiderate children not knowing when to stop because they're hurting another human being.

The day it stopped was the worst day of all. Incessantly pointing out how pale I was. Making jokes that weren't funny...at least to me.

I felt like less and less likeable the longer the barrage continued.

I finally left the room without a word to my teacher or fellow students. I ran to the bathroom and cried, wishing with everything in me that I was not the person I was.

If you can’t see something beautiful about yourself
Get a better mirror
Look a little closer
Stare a little longer

Eventually I stopped listening to the voice in my head telling me that being different was a bad thing. I learned to appreciate my pale skin. I stopped caring so much what my peers thought about me. I figured out how to like myself as I was. 

It may seem like a trivial matter, this issue of having pale skin. So, let me add some context: I was eleven and lived in Florida.

It mattered to me, even if it didn't matter to anyone else.

It's still a battle sometimes to like parts of me that I view as less than perfect. But I have never let myself go back to feeling as if the person I am isn't good enough.

I hope everyone who sees this video goes out to find a better mirror, take a closer look and stare a little longer until there's no doubt in their mind that they are beautiful and valuable, just as they are.

Kindness Week in Ottawa is wrapping up today - let's go be kind to one another every day for another year, my friends.

Our first parent-teacher interview

Yesterday I posted about the impact that a strike could have on our family - particularly with Brandon’s need for consistency - if current talks with the union representatives don’t lead to resolution and acceptable compromise for both sides. Again, I don’t have a concept of what’s being asked and I refuse to put any teacher or school staff person into a box with a label - good or bad. My employment details aren’t out there for public consumption and I refuse to use any label on a situation that I’m not experiencing first-hand.

What I know is that we have a teacher who genuinely cares about our son. She is the quintessential kindergarten teacher - incredibly smart, creative, energetic, attuned to the needs and readiness of all of the children to receive what she has to offer. 

We had our very first parent-teacher interview tonight and Brandon’s teacher proved she’s worth her weight in gold first by scheduling us last in the day, knowing there would be a need for extra time. Interviews were booked in 20 minute increments. She spent twice that amount of time with us. 

She focused on the positive, showing us example after example of progress Brandon has made and how he’s growing in his interactions with his peers. It’s wonderful to hear that the other children are understanding - and even supportive - of his special needs. 

I remember years ago that my mom told me that my kindergarten teacher was not one of her favorite teachers of mine. This is significant as they were not only in a parent-student relationship, but they were colleagues since I attended the school where my mother taught. I feel quite certain that my mom would not only like, but genuinely respect Brandon’s teacher. 

I know I do.

It’s fairly surreal to have a child who is attending school. I’m just so very glad that it’s going so well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I couldn’t have asked for a better group to entrust my son’s education and well-being to. 

So...apparently I lied to Brandon's teacher this week

Brandon’s junior kindergarten teacher is wonderful. She’s a lovely young woman with so much energy and compassion for children. I couldn’t be happier with the lottery that landed us in her class. She’s made so much extra effort with Brandon since before school even started. From visiting him at daycare to calling and spending nearly an hour on the phone with me to discuss his situation. She’s called almost every week since school started to talk about how things are going or give us updates on one thing or another. 

She’s exactly the kind of teacher I hoped for Brandon to get. If he has teachers like this woman every year, we will have a stellar school experience. Brandon’s principle is wonderful too. I feel like we’re all on Team Brandon - doing everything we can to help him succeed. 

So, of course, I lied to a key team member this week.

Brandon’s teacher called to tell me how well his day went after we made a change that we all anticipated would lead to some difficulty. When she called, she mentioned a book that Brandon’s been reading for a couple of weeks, introduced to him by his daycare teachers. The book? Mortimer by Robert Munsch.

I never read Robert Munsch growing up, so if you’re like me, here’s the man himself reading Mortimer:

It’s a cute book - even cuter if you’re looking at the pictures.

Why did this come up? Because B’s teacher wondered if the yelling Brandon has been doing (sometimes) is mimicking the book. I assured her that he isn’t really known for doing that. He’ll often quote books (at odd, completely out of context times), but I said it’s unusual for him to start acting them out or even copying behaviours in the books that are negative.

I found A Bunch of Munsch on Netflix last weekend and Brandon has started requesting to watch them regularly. (People, the show has trumped Thomas - this is big news.) It’s so weird, though. I can see why it appeals to kids, but as an adult seeing it for the first time I’m finding it hard to enjoy. It bugs me that the stories diverge so far from the books, too. Sure, the basic nuts and bolts are there, but there’s so much filler that makes me wonder what the writers were on when they dreamed it up.

One of the books that Brandon has been drawn to is The Boy in the Drawer. I think this one has an actual lesson in it for kids, but it’s so vague I would be truly impressed at the child who can verbalize it without help. Mind you, I could be reading something into something that isn’t there. Here’s the cartoon version - embellishments at all:

If I have to have that song in my head, you do too. :-p

Now, I know you’re wondering about this lie I’ve mentioned. I didn’t know I lied until yesterday afternoon when Brandon came running into my room and said there was a tiger in his sock drawer. Shockingly, I did not make the connection at first. I told Brandon we better go investigate. We crept into his room ever so quietly to keep from rousing the tiger. I slowly opened the drawer and screamed!!!

How did a tiger get in his sock drawer?! And he’s reading a book!

Hmmm…just like The Boy in the Drawer (click that link to listen to Munsch reading the book).

Today, Brandon ran over to tell me that the tiger threw his socks all over his room. I thought this was a brilliant opportunity to get him to pick up his mess since he was clearly play-acting out the book. However, unlike Shelly who did what her mother told her to do, Brandon doesn’t like to clean up messes regardless of who makes them.

I think next week, I’ll have to let his daycare know that they need to find some books that encourage tidiness and stop reading the ones that are so messy. ;)

Ultimately, I couldn’t be happier with this development. More and more I see Brandon using his imagination and books are such a huge part of it. I always wanted him to love reading and he does. I couldn’t be happier about it.

I should probably let Brandon’s teacher know that I lied to her now.