Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How DOES My Garden Grow?

But you don't want to hear about me.

The kids are doing great.

Ian.  Two years ago!

Ian, at the age of 3, looks like a 4 to 5 year old.  And has the verbal capacity to clearly explain to other 4 and 5 year olds that he is (and I quote!) "going on four."  Which is only a problem because he is closer to 3 than 4,  has problems sharing and is still in a diaper.  We're not sure whether to be impressed with his intellect or to despair over the toileting issues.  He is not only my only child to teach himself the alphabet as a two year old, and to learn all the letter sounds at three, but the only one who can simulate an automatic weapon firing and name various types of pistols.    He also does a mean hip- hop dance and plays soccer with the eight year olds but won't participate at music time for pre-schoolers and has a tantrum when asked to join organised activities.  I give up.

The twins have started Year 4.  Matthew finally got the (digital) piano he has been asking for and began formal lessons this afternoon.  He is our special kid, kind and sincere.  And most likely on the spectrum but doing really well, despite - or because, of it.

Aidan and Matthew.  Also two years ago.  Imagine them taller!

His twin, Aidan, is the one person in our family who we can without a doubt say is not on the spectrum.  We aren't quite sure what to do with him.  He is a man's man, a bloke, and it kind of scares me.  Although he also likes collecting rocks and got a rock collection for Christmas.  So maybe there is hope for him yet.

Andrew is, and always has been, our wonder child.  He breezed through the Year 7 Engineering Excellence program still hardly applying himself (something which frustrated his teachers) and spent his free time playing handball or soccer instead of joining the science and maths clubs.  His passion remains soccer and I stopped telling him to look for other options - just in case his knee blows when he is 25 - when he told me that engineers could design weapons of mass destruction for the military.  Yes they can dear.  Shut up and practise your shots on goal!

Andrew.  Has since outgrown bike.

Ryan has blossomed.  From being my trouble child, she is now my friend and guide.  She has just started Year 9 at The Brisbane School of Distance Education and is thriving there.  Last year, she received a merit award for English.  She is accountable for her own education and maintained a B average last year.  This year I hope she learns to put some effort in outside of online classroom hours.  She is still dancing with Soul Dance.  And she has Bug.

We bought Bug, a 16 H, chestnut, 5 year old Thoroughbred gelding, last August.  Bug is proof that good things do find you at the right time, but also that you may have to work for them.  Bug is worth way more than we could ever have afforded for Ryan - and when his owner also threw in his bridle, two rugs and offered to deliver him to us on top of it - it really was the universe finding the right family at the right time.

Two years ago.  But horse actually on the bit!

He is SO beautiful!  And trained to a much higher level than we'd ever expected to find in our price range.  Thank you, Bec! 

Bug changed our lives.  He is the reason we moved from Narangba to Dayboro.  And the reason Ryan has learned to work a horse in frame instead of just sit on a horse and ride.  Funny enough, Bug, if you hadn't decided to give us trouble and start rearing just to test our determination, well, then we probably would have tried to save money on training and just ridden you on trails and in pony club.  And by "we" I mean Ryan since no one else in our family has the skills to ride you.

Through Bug we met Robert and through Robert a whole group of enthusiastic horse people who are happy to work with Ryan rather than threatened by and jealous of her enthusiasm and talent.  At Robert's place- where Bug spent much of the month of December - Bug, our big flashy chestnut Thoroughbred, became "that little chestnut" compared to Robert's big, 17 H Warmbloods.  And, although Robert now admits that little chestnut did give him a run for his money, we now have four feet on the ground and a trainer who only lives 7 minutes away by car.  And keeps trying to get Ryan to choose show jumping or eventing over dressage.  Baby steps, aye Robert.  We just got this horse ON the ground!

Well, at least ONE of us is a proper Aussie!
Oh dear.  Not only does this sound like one of those Christmas cards I used to spoof (did I tell you about the new house has a media room?!) but I spent more time writing about the horse than about my children.  But for the last few years I have been hiding how hard it has been - financially and work wise and socially and emotionally.  Sure, I complained about Ryan and school, but I wasn't honest about how much we've struggled to understand this place and to find our place within it. 

Only other migrants to Australia - and perhaps especially to Queensland - will understand this.  After four years I can admit that I get angry at the lack of a work ethic and the lack of a value for education and knowledge, that I see around me. (What's really annoying is that, until now, the standard of living here is amazing WITHOUT work and education!) But I can also say that there are Australians - even Queenslanders! - who have the same work ethic and educational standards and life expectations that I have and I am able to surround myself with them instead of trying to understand the others.

I have hidden the struggle, but I've also hidden the successes.  My kids rocked the National Tests - all my kids - and this year we even learned what that triangle on top of the range of scores is for.  The kids that exceed expectations so much for that year level that they don't know where to put them.  Andrew also rocked the International tests in maths and science.  Ryan received a Merit Award for English, which is really nice since the other three tend to be holding down the maths and sciences.

And we also know other families whose kids are equally successful.

We work hard for those successes and we shouldn't have to be ashamed of them.  "Tall poppy syndrome" was supposed to cut down arrogance, but is has become a way to encourage mediocrity.   Why shouldn't my kids do well at school?  Why shouldn't they succeed in their extracurricular activities?  They work hard at them.  Many Dayboro residents - especially those poor souls on our street - know that Ryan rides Bug nearly every morning, before 7 am, at the Showgrounds.  And have seen her doing hills around town - with me on foot.  Matthew plays the piano every day, multiple times a day.  Andrew practises soccer with mates down at the Footy Field.  And Aidan....collects rocks.  Really nice ones too!

And so, yes, thanks for asking.  We've had some struggles.  Way too many struggles in fact and lots of despair.  2014 sucked.  It was probably the worst single year I have ever had.  And that is saying a lot considering what I felt like in Germany. 

All I remember of the bad times is slogging through it and keeping going for the kids, struggling hard so that at least the kids were okay, so that the kids didn't suffer for our bad choices, our rotten luck and/or our personal failings.

So that now, when things are finally looking up, I shouldn't have to apologise for my successes.  I have often felt, in the past year, that I had nothing to show for my life.  I haven't published a book, had a brilliant veterinary career, I don't garden or sew or paint or sing.  What do I do?  What do I contribute to society, what do I create?

You should see her two years later!

I am in the process of creating five productive lives, five positive, happy, healthy, bright, eager and interested human beings. 

And they, in turn, are in the process of creating me!

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