Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Adventures, Thoughts and Musings

Adventures, Thoughts and Musings

The best way to keep on top of school issues and to have input into your child's school career is to actively participate at the school. After 4 active years on the Bright's Grove Public School Council, three as Chair and Co-Chair, I have joined the School Council at Northern Collegiate Institute and Vocational School in Sarnia. I have been elected as Chair and will have one or two Co-Chairs working with me. School Councils are an advisory board for the Principal and are comprised of parents, the Principal, a teachers' representative and one or two community reps. School Councils are mandated by the provincial government.

We meet monthly to discuss any issues that affect the school, including codes of behaviour and dress, security, changes in education policy, etc. The Chairs/Co-Chairs throughout the Lambton Kent District School Board meet with the Trustees at least twice each year in Petrolia and Wallaceburg. The Lambton Kent Disctrict School Board extends from Sarnia and Grand Bend on Lake Huron, south to Lake Erie, not including Windsor. Other meetings of the Chairs choose Regional representation to deal with Queens Park in Toronto.

By being involved I am in a better position to help David with his special issues in a positive, rather than combative, environment. School has certainly changed over the 40 years since I graduated from Northern and went off to the University of Toronto and then the University of Western Ontario. The kids are the same with the same teen issues, but there are greater demands made on them, particularly under the new curriculum. Further, they have crammed 5 years worth of high school into 4 years now. Grade 13 has now been eliminated. Grade 13 was traditionally the equivalent of first year university in other provinces, but at government expense. Fortunately, there are also more resources to help students with special needs, through Student Services.

David is in Grade 9 this year. First semester courses include Business Technology, Geography, Science and Music. He is struggling with the high demands of high school. Business Technology will cover the full Microsoft Office Suite, including Word, Excel, Access, Publisher and PowerPoint. Excellent grounding for whatever he does in the future. He is also using his AlphaSmart 3000 computer to take notes in class. Geography is a serious challenge, at times overwhelming to him. He needs more time to complete tests, and is entitled to that time through his IEP (Individual Education Plan). I have met with his teachers and will continue regular meetings throughout his high school career. He enjoys Science and is looking forward to doing chemical experiments. David has a background in music (piano, guitar, recorder, flute, Irish whistle) and this year he has chosen to learn the Trumpet. He is doing very well and we enjoyed a bit of a jam session the other night. This year will be a major challenge for all of us. We are balancing FASD, puberty and other changes. Why don't kids come with an Operating Manual?

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Blog Begins

No parent is ever ready and willing to see his child placed in danger. Parents spend a good part of their time trying to protect their children from danger. It is part of the job. We know from our own growing up that it is a miracle we lived to pass the age of 21, when the cerebral cortex finally begins to get its act together and permit us to actually be able to predict some consequences of our actions.

The position of "Parent", "Dad, "Mom", "Grandma", "Grandpa" is a lifelong job. No Retirement age, or pension. Just love, if we have done our job right. Even our own death does not remove the responsibility of being a good parent. The positive lessons we hopefully have taught our children will help them throughout their lifetime and even be passed on to their children.

Last week, Ann Gibson, a FASlink friend in Germany, died of a pulmonary embolism. She was also battling cancer. She had an incredible passion for life and her huge family as well as great dedication to the cause of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Her signature tag line was, "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in on your backside thoroughly used up, totally worn out and proclaiming loudy: "Wow, what a ride!"" She lived that philosophy to the fullest.

We look back on our own adventures, experiences, decisions and their unexpected consequences, with amusement and philosophy. I think Ann's tag line says it all. But dare we tell our kids of some of our riskier adventures?

So when my 32 year-old son, Scott, told me he was going to spend 10 months in Iraq in the lion's den at a place called Camp Slayer, I had a typical parental reaction - and expressed my concerns in a variety of languages. He is not in the Armed Forces. He did his time with the National Guard and served with distinction at the Olympics and during the Georgia Floods. He is now a private citizen with dual Canadian and American citizenship working for a research company.

I do appreciate that my son is age 32, extremely bright and capable, morally and physically strong and everythiing a parent could want in a son or daughter. He reminded me that at age 15, I was on an archaeological expedicion to the Yukon Territory in Northern Canada, at times in very risky situations. I survived. It was my first major adventure and was the single most formative period in my life. That summer matured and changed me forever. I reminded Scott that the bears and moose weren't hunting me. Iraq was a different ballgame. He promised to wear his flak jacked and cover his butt, etc.

The strong parental instinct is to protect your child from danger. I can now better appreciate the concerns my parents had when I travelled 4,000 miles away from home to live back in the mountains for the summer. Scott may be a full-grown, extremely capable man, but he is still my child. Grrrrr. But as every parent must, I have to support his decisions and give the greatest encouragement possible. In the same circumstances, I might well have made the same decisions.

There is no doubt but that this adventure will be a life-changing experience for Scott. He will face situations he never dreamed of. And he will endure lonliness and boredom. He does not take stupid risks but he will make himself stretch. He will challenge God, probably more seriously than he has ever done so before. But in his challenge, he will grow and develop a far deeper faith than he could ever predict. And the faith will be real, based not on Sunday School lessons, but on the day to day realities of living in a war zone. There are no Atheists in foxholes. He will also develop a deeper patience with himself and with others. He will learn about other cultures and faiths. He will find that regardless of culture or creed, families are striving for the same goals - even though their pathways are different. Most of all, he will discover himself.

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in on your backside thoroughly used up, totally worn out and proclaiming loudy: "Wow, what a ride!""

So on Tuesday, September 21, 2004, my first born entered the Lion's Den.