It’s been a while since I posted last.

I’ve been busy!

Wrapping up the end of school activities for the kids, figuring out what I’m going to do about work and being there for my friend going through a very hard time in her life right now.

But – I have some good news to share!

LaLa has made the Color Guard team – WOOHOO! She is very excited about this and can’t wait to start her senior year. I can’t wait to attend all the games to watch her (and the others).

She also just received her grades from the latest state testing board. She was given a Commended scoring (the highest grade possible) on her history portion (a subject she feared she would bomb). Granted, she barely pass math – by only 2 points – but she passed and on the first try! She told me with obvious pride in her voice and I could tell she was wanting to hear my WOOHOO! at her success. It was a very loud WOOHOO! indeed.

This is the same child, just 6 years ago, who was testing as learning disabled because she was so far behind in all of her school work. At the end of her 5th grade year, when we were granted custody, the school district she had been in with her mom was recommending holding her back due to state laws and placing her in special education classes.

Her mom, Jetsam, gloated with pride that she, SHE, had been right all these years while the teachers had been wrong about how hard it was for her daughter to learn. One of the earliest encounters I had with Jetsam was her informing Hun when LaLa was in the 1st grade that she was learning disabled and the teachers weren’t believing Jetsam. She stated that the teachers thought LaLa was learning just fine, but she didn’t believe them and she knew they were wrong. That, by god, she, Jetsame, had trouble in school, so she just knows the signs of her own child struggling as well and the teachers just didn’t get it.

I left that encounter almost 11 years ago feeling very sad for LaLa that her mom didn’t believe she was capable of doing better than she was being given credit for.

Later, pointing out to Jetsam that LaLa was struggling to learn because of being transferred so many times during elementary school (around 8-10 transfers by my count) was met with stanch denial. Reminding Jetsam that she had refused to send LaLa to summer school, like the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade teachers were recommending to help her catch up, contributed to LaLa falling further and further behind was scoffed at.

Hun and I were told we had no idea what we were talking about because we didn’t give birth to LaLa and only Jetsam, by the power granted to her by virtue of her Golden Uterus, knew what was best for her child. Not us, not the teachers, only her.

Okay – maybe we weren’t told those words exactly – but that sentiment came through loud and clear.

So, how did Hun and I handle LaLa’s schooling after she moved in with us?

First thing’s first – we placed her in summer school for 5th grade in our district. We then had a conference with our elementary school principal. He was frank with both Jetsam and I (Hun attempted to be at the meeting, but was held up by work and traffic and made it to the last 5 minutes of the meeting). He stated he had no idea what to do with LaLa as she had never been at his school before. Based on the state’s recommendations, he was supposed to hold her back and have her repeat 5th grade. In good conscience, he couldn’t make that call as he didn’t know her like we did. He was leaving the decision to the parents in this case.

I advocated holding her back to allow her to review work she may have already learned, to allow her to catch up with things she may have missed, and to give her confidence in starting out middle school. Jetsam advocated allowing her to advance into 6th grade and place her in special education classes, where she rightfully belonged. Bringing up the multiple transfers in the meeting resulted in Jetsam screaming at me (in front of the principal) that SHE gave birth to LaLa, that LaLa almost DIED at birth, and I had no idea what I was talking about. The principal and I just looked at each other in disbelief! What did any of that have to do with what was happening right then and there?

So….like most things where talking to/with Jetsam are involved, nothing was resolved.

What did we do?

We allowed LaLa to make the decision at 11 years old. Did she think she needed to be held back to catch up with her studies, or did she think she was capable of handling the new work with additional help to catch up with things she had missed?

She chose to go to 6th grade.

It hasn’t all be roses – and we told her it wouldn’t be, but we’d help her to the best of our ability. She struggled with proper homework tasks. She struggled taking tests. She struggled to fit in. And she struggled to stay at grade level for the first three years. She wasn’t placed in special education classes, but did have multiple remedial classes. Middle school for LaLa meant relearning everything she should have learned in elementary school and her grades and self-esteem suffered for it.

Every year since she’s lived with us except for one (we gave her a break last year), she’s attended summer school to try and catch up. But catch up she did. Slowly, surely, and with every effort, she’s caught up. Going into high school, her remedial classes were dropped. Small victories, but victories none the less.

High school recommended some Pre-AP (Advanced Placement) language courses for LaLa. We were thrilled for her! LaLa wasn’t sure she’d be able to do the work, but was willing to try. Jetsam expressed disbelief that it was in LaLa’s best interest to take on the harder course work – after all, she’s learning disabled – don’t we know that? When LaLa’s grades came home in the Pre-AP classes as 70’s and low 80’s, Jetsam again gloated to us that LaLa was struggling just like she predicted she would and what was the point?

The point, my dear Jetsam, is that your daughter is very smart, becoming very confident and learning to be very sure about what she wants out of life – if only you would allow her to believe in herself and to dream big.

These past 6 years have allowed me to get to know LaLa in a way that I never could have if she had stayed living with her mom. I am witness to this young woman blossoming into the great adult she will be one day. I believe in her, in her potential and in her abilities.

It hasn’t been easy for her, but I am so proud of her and her accomplishments.

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