All went well for a while. Then came last Tuesday. My son (according to him) fell in the school. His teacher told me that he only began crying suddenly at home time while waiting for me to come pick him up. He couldn’t tell her why he was crying.
It mortifies me to see my kids cry outside the home and its a heartbreaking moment for me because I did not get to see why he/she is crying.
I took him home trying to comfort him on the way back. He kept whimpering and crying. He told me he fell and hit his ear. My heart went Oh nope nope nope not his ear! He recently had surgery where tubes had been placed in both his ears. I was very afraid it was something of that nature related because there was no visible external injury. I took him to the doctor the next day and sure enough, it was red inside, a beginning of an ear infection.
Besides this, in the midst of his crying, his teacher said something that bothered me this whole week and in the back of my mind I am still bothered about it.
I hate comparison. I hate comparing siblings. I was my parents golden child, I know how my siblings felt ( they were very vocal about it) when compared. Its enragingly annoying.
In my kids case here, ( I hate doing this), but my daughter is the smart one. She is a vibrant person who befriends everybody in sight, very vocal about her thoughts and feelings and ideas and an ace at speaking since a very very young age.
On retrospection, as soon as my son was born, my whole attention went to my son. I tried hard, but I held my son dearer than her. I made sure though that she caught on literary and writing skills very early. I worked hard to make sure she watched the right TV shows that built her vocabulary, engaged her in as many books as I could. But I would not spend friendly time with her (hectic chores managing a joint family tired me out). So she would sit with her Grandma and spend hours speaking with her on many topics. Some would be absolute nonsense of made up characters and stories. My MIL would sit by the open door in the little room that was their both favourite, and God bless her, would listen and actually respond to everything my daughter would narrate to her. Even if so much of it would not make sense. She would so go along with her grandma to other peoples homes or stores.
My son on the other hand, was attached to me. I spoke little. There was always this mental stress I was in constantly. Also I have to admit, he did have slow physical progress since birth. Also he was a natural silent baby just with a loud booming voice. His laughter was loud but hilariously contagious. He would speak little but mostly do actions of immense fun. He would watch. Everything. He was more of an onlooker. He did not have a great understanding with his sister back then. They fought. A lot, a lot, a lot. And just because he was tiny and most of the time, he being at fault when not seen, my daughter got to face the brunt of all of our reprimand. In a joint family, you don’t scolded by just one person. Every walking person in the house makes sure you get to hear an earful. My strong girl. Faced all that. I would hug her later on. But it was mostly not her fault.
Somehow, my son ended up not speaking clearly. Whenever he did though, he was laughed at and ridiculed. His words were pronounced with difficulty and he always got very embarrassed when he was laughed at. He spoke less and I noticed that. I kept telling my folks to avoid laughing at him, and to speak to him clearly instead of responding in the same muddled way as he did. But who listens? No one did.
We moved here to Canada. I sent my daughter to school within 3 weeks of our arrival. She was 5 years old and eligible to enter school. They admitted her to Junior Kindergarten. When she was gone to school, I would give my son his Ipad. He would watch Mister Bean all day. Big mistake. Mr Bean does not speak. Nor does his cartoon version. It was all a mime mute comedy. I would be making lunch. Or clearing up the house. I was adjusting around life. Time would run fast.
By September, he turned 4. Despite everyone in my family saying he was little and shouldn’t go school yet, I decided he should go. He was of the right age and staying at home was visibly damaging to any learning skills. He was also becoming a loner. There are no little kids in my owner’s house.
With a heavy heart, I put him in school. He knew absolute zero English. He never wrote a letter. He could just scribble lines. He was horrid at coloring. He just turned 4, I did not worry much. I knew school would do good. He has been blessed with the best of Teachers. In the beginning, they couldn’t understand why he was so silent all the time, so withdrawn. Then I explained to them his lack of vocabulary and hence his silence. Also his fear of being laughed at. God bless the teachers who explained it to his classmates and they all came together, offering him comfort, friendship and being friends with him and speaking to him even if they couldn’t understand him. He was inching closer step by to step towards learning.
Then October came. His hearing issue started. He started hearing less and hence that screwed up whatever progress he had made till now. All went mute till the surgery in February, when he could finally hear well. I thought, now there was no stopping him and he would speak rapidly.
Yes, he became vocal. Yes, he made a good group of friends. Yes, he writes the alphabet now and count till 20 and write till there. But he still can’t understand most instructions and is still stuck with the same vocabulary. He has no words for actions. I thought all this would iron out by itself. Like for my daughter.
On Tuesday, his teacher told me, he still doesn’t communicate, it is hard to understand him, he doesn’t say anything in class and is still academically withdrawn. It broke me. It made me sleepless that night.
It gnawed at me so much. And do you know why? Because it brought me back to my childhood. My mother taught me how to read and write the ABCs, she taught me verbally close to 20 nursery rhymes, she taught me how to count till 200, and spell till 100. All before the age of 5. She was also able to do that with my brother too!
When I joined school midterm, I was the odd one out in class. In the books, my work was impeccable. But whenever I opened my mouth, silence came out. I did not how to converse in English. My school was an Indian school in Saudi Arabia. It ran the CBSE syllabus. The strict rule was noone should speak any regional language in the school, only English. And I couldn’t speak. My classmates were all from different parts of India. Not everyone knew Hindi. Due to the school rules, they all spoke only English. I excelled from Kindergarten, to 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade. I learnt broken English. I did not have many friends. Only one or two and we spoke Hindi whenever we could. It took a huge toll on me. I couldn’t understand the lessons my teachers taught so well. I would come home, and before the test or exam, my Beloved Mom, God bless her, would translate each word and explain to me. That’s how I haven’t forgotten anything I have ever learnt in any grade. I scored amazing in all the tests and exams and was always an Honour roll student. I just couldn’t speak fluently, I could read, but I couldn’t understand everything I was reading. It was ridiculous. Girls made fun of my English all the time. It hurt me a lot. It created a huge empty void in me. I had absolutely no good friends. In grade 4 and 5, my teachers mistreated me the most. Always scolding me, punishing me and shouting at me, infront of all the class and the class would laugh. From grade 4 onwards we were expected to give verbal answers to the teacher’s questions during class. Only silence would leave my mouth. I needed mom to translate for me at home, I would ace the test like a pro. But on the class answers, nope, that was pure humiliation time.
In grade 6, I had Ms Molly Jacob. God bless her soul. I cannot forget this teacher, and I can never thank her enough for doing what no one ever could. The first thing she did, was fixed my handwriting. My writing was horrid. Sometime, I couldn’t even understand what I wrote. She made me write the ABCs all over again in cursive in a four ruled book. She would check my work each day. Some of my classmates found out and ridiculed me. She punished them. She told me that learning at any age should never be laughed upon. It should always be encouraged. It is never too late to start over. She encouraged me towards reading. I became a bookworm. Another tip came to me from my mother. She had seen one of my cousin brothers reading the dictionary like a novel. It did not make sense at first. But when I began reading books, I discovered a lot of words I did not understand. I discovered so many different English grammatical formats of writing and conversations. My dad got me this really nice dictionary. It was not Oxford. It had a brown leather cover. It became my best friend. Within a year, I had the best handwriting in class, my essays became top notch. Nobody’s ridicule held me back. I spoke fearlessly. Even if I made a mistake, I learnt from those who corrected me. From grade 8 I began poetry. I wrote to the International Society of Poets, Philadelphia. I received so many overseas felicitations for my works. I was all praise from then on with absolute no stopping. I spoke on the stage. That was another huge obstacle. My teacher of grade 10 fixed that for me. Ms Naseem Maliki, she held my hands one day like a friend. She asked me why I was so afraid to speak up, that I should stop inhibiting myself and become bolder. She gave me my first chance to speak on the stage. She then constantly chose me to compere for various school programs. Layer by layer I stepped out of my cocoon.
This was a hard journey. It had so many nights of a tearful pillow. It is pathetic not being understood. It is horrid to have a few friends and even they don’t get you. It is excruciating to understand a lesson in class. It is even horrid to be not be able to explain to the teacher that you do not grasp the lesson, not because you are dumb, but because you do not understand the meaning of so many words in every sentence she spoke. Like for God’s sake, I did not know what the word ‘blessings’ meant in grade 5. And we had to write 10 blessings from our life. My paper was blank. I did not know the freaking meaning of it. I was laughed upon by everyone.
I don’t want my son to go through my journey. It take me a long time to make stand where I do now. My whole family praises my speaking skills and my husband has always been wooed by my vocabulary. Only I knew what it took to get here. I know my son isn’t a dumb child. He just can’t respond to whatever he can’t understand.
Once I was done with my grade 12, besides studying for my degree, I took tuition. I TAUGHT NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING KIDS TO SPEAK, READ AND WRITE IN ENGLISH. FOR 4 YEARS. Kids of multiple nationalities. I worked as a KINDERGARTEN TEACHER FOR MORE THAN A YEAR. Unbelievable! Absolutely Unbelievable! I fixed so many withdrawn arab kids. I fixed their confidence like my best teachers did. I boosted their writing, their speaking. Their moms turned up each term with gift hampers to me as a token of my hardwork being recognised. They praised me infront of the Principal and I actually got a double pay raise.
Life has come at me full circle! Full damn circle. My own son. I am watching my own son suffer through all that. Hence, the sleepless night, hence the restlessness.
I know how to fix this. But I have always fixed other’s kids. This is my own. Okay let’s break down my overwhelm. I am almost now 9 month expecting my new born. I am having tiredness. So much sleepiness. So much chaos in my head. It takes up all of my energy to just cook and feed them and clean up. That is all I can do. Once the newborn comes along, there will be too much choas for attention. Hence, I got this just 1 month. I have to do whatever it takes to begin fixing this right now.
How did I begin. I spent two days and nights worrying. Then recalling what I had done earlier. So now I have begun making this Verb book. So he knows the vocabulary with pictures. Then I plan to speak to him only in English. And get him hooked to books too!
Hope it works!
(P.S: Big thank you to hubby for letting me on my own for more than an hour! He went to do laundry and in peace, I could type my heart out today 😀 … )