Even though our summer got off to a rough start, we tried our best to shift our attention to the joy and excitement of Matthew starting school in September. My baby was growing up and I was so proud to see him heading off on a journey that would take him the next 13 years to complete. He seemed to be looking forward to school and was not apprehensive about it at all. We met his teacher back in June and we were very pleased with her. She ws a lovely lady and thought of each of the children as her own. Matthew would be attending a small school and it took no time at all before we knew all the teachers and support staff. He was making quite the impression at his school. He loved to tell stories and always had something exciting to share with his teacher, principal and fellow students. His teacher was amazed with his vocabulary and thought process. He was a very well-spoken boy for his age, seeming to be far beyond his years; an “old-soul”, his teacher said.
After just getting Matthew settled into the routine of school, our house sold in mid-November. Even after we lost Emily, we decided to keep the house on the market as we felt it may help with the healing process – we were all in need of a fresh new start. So it’s mid-November. A closing date was requested for the end of November! Two weeks! We didn’t have another home yet, but we couldn’t pass up the only offer we had received on our house so far. I called my Dad and he came down to talk with us. He said to accept the offer and move back in with them until we had the chance to find something. There was only one catch. The basement apartment was being rented by university students and if we moved back in with my parents we would be “in” with my parents. The three of us would be living in their tv room converted into a bedroom. We had no choice. It wouldn’t be for that long. We’d find something soon. I knew what I wanted anyway.
The home I grew up in was built by my Dad. It was sold when I was 11 years old. I loved it. It was located in a quiet neighbourhood and was surrounded by all my Mom’s family. About 5 years previous the people who bought the home from Mom and Dad put it up for sale. They didn’t get an offer and decided to take it off the market. Mike and I talked about it and decided that we would go and speak to them now to see if they were still interested in selling. They were. The day we went in to look at the house is a day I will never forget. It was like I walked back in on my childhood. So much of the house was identical to what it was when I lived there as a child. The part I was most excited about was the Bar down in the rec room that my Dad had built. It was still there! I had to have my home back! I knew I had found what I wanted and it wouldn’t matter if someone offered me a $500,000 home, this is what I wanted. We made them an offer and they said no. I was devastated. They came back with a counter-offer and although it may have been a wee bit more than what the house was “worth”, we made a deal. I added a few things that I would like and we were good to go. I couldn’t believe it – I was going home! The only thing standing in our way was the owner’s had no intention of selling, so we had to give them time to find something. We were at Mom and Dad’s until March 17. It was a long 4.5 months, but we made it through. It was a different Christmas for everyone and lots of sacrifices on all parts, but the end result was awesome.
During all this we had to try and keep Matthew’s schedule and routine as normal as possible. That was kind of tricky living out of one room at the grandparent’s home. His Christmas report showed that he was having trouble settling in at school. His attention span was practically nonexistent and he had no interest at all in doing any work. Group work was also very difficult and continually resulted in Matthew crying in class. He spoke out of turn and didn’t want to follow any rules set out by the teacher as to the day-to-day routine of the classroom. We felt that perhaps because his little world had been turned upside down so much over the last few months, he was just acting out. This was not an excuse, by any means, but it certainly was a lot of turmoil for a little boy to deal with in a short time. Just to be on the safe-side, we decided to make an appointment with the pediatrician as we have thought for a while that Matthew was having trouble focusing on things, yet spent too much time focusing on other things.
By the time we received the appointment, it was April. We were settled into our new home and loving every minute of it. It was a real full-circle moment for me. We were living in the home that was built by my Mom and Dad. In a home where I had so many wonderful memories of my early childhood. Now I get to make memories of my own with my son and husband in the very same home. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I was happier than I could ever remember.
The result of that doctor’s appointment began another chapter of our lives. Matthew was diagnosed with ADHD and the doctor wanted him to start on medication right away. I was heartbroken. I cried until I had no more tears left in my body. I was so confused. I had heard so many bad things about medicating and overmedicating children with ADHD. It was over-diagnosed and the medication was used to keep children quiet. I was freaking out!
We have an excellent relationship with our family doctor, so I immediately made an appointment to go in and talk to him about this. He would see how wrong this was and make everything better, right? Wrong. I had the best conversation with him that I have ever had with anyone. He tells me how things are and has no problem bringing me back to reality. I went in there on the defensive not wanting to believe that our son had a “problem”. He let me ramble and tell him all my misconceptions and erroneous facts about ADHD and the medication. When I was finished with my verbal diarrhea he looked at me asked me a series of questions. “If Matthew was diabetic, would you give him insulin”? Of course. “If Matthew had high blood pressure, would you give him medication”? Of course. “If Matthew had any physical condition requiring medication or treatment, would you make sure he received the best care possible”? Of course! “ADHD is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. His brain is not wired the same way as yours and mine. The medication will allow him to focus and concentrate. It will slow him down.”
We talked at great length and learned a lot that day. The following morning we started Matthew on 5mgs of Dexedrine and within 48 hours saw a huge improvement. His teacher was amazed. It was like a tots transformation. His wonderful personality continued to shine through but now she was able to get him to sit, do some of his work and take his turn. Even at home, things were easier. None of us were as frustrated which meant a happier home.
However great all Matthew’s leaps and bounds, because of how much of the school year had passed, it was strongly recommended that Matthew repeat his first year. In speaking with the teacher and principal, I again cried until I no longer had any tears. Over the next few days and weeks we had a lot to think about. Once more we called on the advice of our pediatrician and family doctor. Matthew had already missed a year of school due to his birthday. He would be 7 years old repeating his first year. How would this affect him socially? After many hours of talking and crying and talking some more, we agreed that it would be better to hold him back now, than have him go on and struggle in higher grades because he failed to get the basics. Now the hard part. How do you tell your son that he won’t be moving on with his friends to a new grade in September? We decided to be upfront with him. While he’s been doing fantastic in school, there wasn’t quite enough time for him to learn everything he needed to learn to go to grade one since he started taking his medication. If he returned to grade primary next year, he’d be able to learn all the stuff he had trouble with at the beginning of the year, he could also be a “helper” for his teacher with all the new kids coming in and he’d be able to have a super year right from the get-go and grade next year knowing that he had all the work that he needed for the next grade. He seemed pretty ok with it, although I knew he was disappointed. Understandably so.
Did we do the right thing? Would we be sorry?
Until next time….