Books and dinosaurs

Today was the dreaded Parents’ Evening. We have regular meetings with the school to discuss Norman and Marvin’s progress, but usually it’s away from the classroom so we don’t see the wall displays and photographs and such; we don’t see the special desk that Norman sits at in case he gets silly or cross and jabs someone with a pencil again; we don’t see the work they do in their school books.

Three years ago, when our boys first came home, things were tough. Norman was due to start school in the September, barely seven months after being with us. We actually missed the deadline for school applications for him, so went and looked at schools during an afternoon off while we were bridging. So we chose a school when we’d actually only met him a few times! Thankfully, I think we got it right. But at that point, at almost four years old, our boy didn’t know how to hold a pencil. He had no evidence of mark making from his nursery. Marvin had only been in nursery for a few months, he could barely string a sentence together let alone do much else.

I absolutely love books. I always have, since being really young, and I can’t ever remember not being able to read, I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t find some comfort from getting lost in someone else’s world. So when the boys came home, we already had plenty of books, that we’d either bought, or been given. In my mind, we’d have lovely bedtime stories where we’d all snuggle up and escape. It didn’t happen. At least, not for a long time. There was only one book that the boys would ever look at – it was a cardboard alphabet book with very few words, mostly photographs. They would fight over it, but neither of them actually knew how to hold a book, it was usually upside down and I think the only reason either of them ever wanted it was because they didn’t want the other to have it!

They didn’t have the attention span to listen to even a short story, they couldn’t sit still, it took us a long while to build up the trust so that they could sit close to us and let us read to them. I took it for granted that all children loved to have a story read to them, all children were keen to learn to read… it just didn’t occur to me that that wasn’t the case. Now that I know better, I think for Norman and Marvin, “getting lost in a book” would be a terrifying concept, because they are so conscious of their surroundings all the time. The clinical psychologist and the books I read like to call it hypervigilance – they are constantly on high alert for any possible danger. If all you’ve known is safety and security, that must sound really strange, but a lot of the time our boys are just trying to survive.

The problem with going into the classroom is that I see some of the work the other children do, and I realise that their start in life has stopped our boys from achieving their potential so far. There was a display of pictures that Norman’s class had drawn of Henry VIII, only Norman’s picture wasn’t there, if he’d even done one at all. Yet a couple of weeks ago, I felt so proud of a dinosaur he had drawn!

I have to say, I still think that it’s the most amazing dinosaur picture I’ve ever seen! Three years ago, we started reading stories to our boys. Now they read stories to us too. Three years ago, holding a pencil seemed like an impossible feat. Now my boy can draw a dinosaur! And they can both write!

We can’t change where they’ve been, but we can help them with where they’re going. We can be proud of how far they’ve come in just three short years, of the fact that they survived some of the years before that at all. Our boys are carving out their own path; they’re doing things in their own time and at their own pace, and I will love every picture they draw, every spelling mistake they make, every number they write back to front, because they’ve already climbed a mountain that I can’t even begin to imagine, and I’m proud of them. And on the next Parents’ Evening, I’m going to be prouder still of how far they’ve come.

What’s on the needles?

A scarf/shawl, a test knit for some lovely ladies who dye beautiful wool. They’re called Wool is the Answer, and I think they may be right!

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