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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer without summer school

A couple days ago, it occurred to me I'd barely thought about the fact that Janey wasn't in summer school.  It wasn't just that I didn't regret my decision not to send her---I barely remembered that usually she has gone. 

It's not that everything is perfect, but more that summer school always seemed to add more stress than it took away.  The first day, the bus showed up, although I'd sent back two forms saying she wasn't going, and also answered an automated phone call that way.  That shows about how organized summer school is.  The bus honked---45 minutes after the time the form I'd received (also after saying over and over she wasn't going) said the bus would get there.  I pictured the other summers, waiting out in the hot air for a bus that took forever to come, trying so hard to convince Janey not to go back inside and take off her shoes, trying to keep her calm and not screaming.  And then when she got home in the afternoon, dealing with her being very unhappy, most likely due to a program that just wasn't good.  And getting calls like the one I did last summer, from the only teacher so far I've ever encountered in the Boston schools that just didn't seem to like Janey, asking me if I had any ideas for keeping her from crying all day.  I did have an idea---and it was to take her out of summer school for the rest of the summer.  Next year, I'll try again, as Janey will be in a different program then, a pre-high school one (hard to believe).  But for now, I am quite sure I made the right decision.

What have we been doing?  Not as much as I planned to, as always.  I've tried to get Janey out of the house some every day, and mostly, we have---maybe not to exciting places, but to stores or fast food or errands.  We also do our daily walk to the "ice cream store" for chips.  We play outside after that walk.  Up until this week, Janey was napping a fair amount (and still sleeping at night).  She needs a lot of sleep, and I don't think she always gets as much as she needs during the school year, despite a bedtime of 7pm (which is her choice---not one we enforce!)  She watches plenty of videos, and we snuggle a lot.

The thing we've been doing I love the most is reading.  I've always read to Janey, of course---books are my life, and I love to read aloud to my kids.  But Janey didn't always want to hear what I had to read, or she just wanted the same book over and over and over until I couldn't take it any more.  Her teacher told me about a way she had been getting Janey to pick books and listen to them more, and I have been using a modified version of that.  I pick out three books I'd like to read to her, and ask her which one she wants.  She picks one, I read it, and then I set it aside and show her the other two, and ask again.  I read her next choice, and then lastly read the third one without asking.  Usually she doesn't want to hear all of the third one, which is fine, but sometimes she does.  Then I ask her if she wants any of them again, and often she re-picks the first choice.  Then I put the books back on the shelf.

Today I tried something new---reading her a chapter book.  I picked "Betsy-Tacy" by Maud Hart Lovelace, one of my favorite books and the start of a great series.  She listened a bit, and then did something that I loved.  She said "I want...I want...bones!  Bad!"  I knew right away what she meant.  She wanted to hear a book we've been reading a lot, "Katie Loves the Kittens" by John Himmelman.  The cool thing is that the book is about a dog, but doesn't have a bone or the word bone in it, and Katie the Dog is a little naughty, but no-one calls her bad.  Janey just picked the words to describe the book that related to it---"bone" for a dog and "bad" for how Katie scares the kittens by mistake!  It's very rare Janey forms a totally new request like that, one that shows she understood the book and wanted it enough to work hard to tell me what she wanted!

We've had our share of tough times, of course.  One day, Janey had been napping and Freddy and I were watching something on TV.  When Janey woke up, she wanted her own show and she wanted it RIGHT NOW.  I told her she could watch it when we were done, and she started screaming.  I said "You know, Janey, you are being a little selfish"  Evidently, that was not good for me to say.  Janey screamed loudly for a long time.  I gave her a shower, which usually calms her down, but it didn't, this time.  Then I snuggled on the bed with her, with some screaming still going on.  I did what a do a lot---tried to give her words for what she was feeling.  I said "You know, it's okay if you want to say 'I am very angry at you, Mama!  I didn't like what you did, Mama!' You can even say 'I hate you, Mama!''

Well, that is just what she did want to say, I guess.  She immediately said "I hate you, Mama!"  She said it like she meant it, and I am pretty sure she did.  Then she said it about five more times, in an ice cold, angry voice.

I had a mixture of emotions.  I was very glad she was expressing how she felt!  But at the same time, it was something I've never really heard from her before, and I'm pretty sure never from the boys (there seems to be less of that kind of drama with boys!)  It surprised me that I felt hurt---but that is part of being a mother, especially of a teenaged girl, and it's part of how Janey is in many ways no different than any other 13 year old, especially when they are spending large amounts of time with their mother.

Most of the time, though, Janey still seems to like me fairly well, and although some days I'm quite (extremely) glad to see Tony coming home from work so I can collapse for a while, we are getting through the summer in pretty good form.  I hope Janey would agree with me.

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