life skills

Let’s be real….

This a little bit of a rant, so brace yourself.  After a very interesting (and frustrating) conversation with someone close to me yesterday I was reminded of something that I have often thought about, albeit in a fleeting manner. The following verbal vomit is the result of some less fleeting, more focused thinking on the matter:

SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL.  I think that on the surface we are aware of this.  But when we follow our friends and our non-friends, celebrities, pseudo-celebrities and a whole host of other veritable strangers on instagram, facebook, snapchat, blogs blah blah blah, we can lose sight of this critical fact.  While some people use social media to further their own agendas (think politics… or celebrity image…. or marketing of products and ideas), some of us are also using it as a way to keep in touch, as an outlet, or even with the hope of helping others.  It actually doesn’t matter what the original intent is, as long as we can remember that SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL.

My blog, instagram and facebook accounts all reflect true experiences in my life.  But as a whole they are a fantasy.  I don’t post a lot of instagram photos of me crying in my bedroom with a glass of wine in a coffee go-cup (so that the dog doesn’t judge me and so the kids don’t think that drinking is an appropriate coping mechanism…hypocritical, I know), and a bag of chocolate that I would NEVER let my kids have because it is absolute trash.  I don’t post them because I don’t actually photograph these moments.  And I’d actually prefer not to remember them. But perhaps I should.  I don’t post on facebook when someone says something shitty to me that makes me want to punch them in face, nor do I post when I say something shitty to someone and hurt their feelings.  I don’t post about how I didn’t talk to my husband for 3 days because neither of us have figured out how to find balance in our lives and so we sometimes unwittingly sacrifice our time together or the times I pretended to be asleep because I was too tired to…. I’ll let you fill in the blank on that one.  I don’t post about my bad parenting moments (you guys DO NOT HAVE TIME to read about all of them…they happen at least hourly most days).

I have had friends and acquaintances tell me they admire me, or that I’m a good mom, and that they couldn’t do what I’m doing.  While I do think I’m a good mom, and I try really hard to be great (some days…some days I say eff it, and grab the coffee go cup…).  But I wonder now, when those people are looking at my facebook, instagram or this blog, do they think my life is really like what is reflected online?  And do they feel worse about themselves because of it?  If so, I hope you are reading this now.  We are a normal family with a consistent ebb and flow of joy, anger, sorrow, yelling, hugging, laughing, door-slamming, stomping, chatting, nagging, eye-rolling, frustration, contentment and discontent.  I think most adults can reconcile this with some conscious effort.

Here is what worries me.  My daughters use social media.  A lot.  My dancer follows Tate McRae (Calgary dancer same age as McKenna who is currently the likely winner of So You Think You Can Dance), and if that’s all the context you have about Tate, it looks like she never has a bad day, loves every second of her dance training, has a perfectly happy and supportive family who are always smiling, never feels disappointed, never is exhausted and just wants to go to bed, never has a fight with her friends.  Multiply this by the 10s or 100s of social media accounts my kids follow, and I wonder if their perspective is altered by these ‘real’ people and their perfect lives.  Do my kids look at their friends and celebrities and think their own lives pale in comparison?  It’s a bit like how magazines used to be the evil that convinced us our bodies were not good enough, multiplied by a gazillion.  It’s no longer a few supermodels airbrushed in magazines.  It’s everyone.  Absolutely everyone.  And they all seem to have perfect lives.  Avi follows a YouTube family.  This family records moments of their lives and posts them weekly on YouTube.  Once again, a real family.  But NONE of the bad stuff.  The time mom and dad had a huge fight about money – nope, not on there.  The time the brother closed-fist punched his snotty little sister because she was being a PIA…Nope, edited out.  IT IS NOT REAL.  But for 11 & 13 year olds, who have grown up in the social media era, can they really reconcile this?  Or do they just look at themselves, and find themselves lacking?

I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what to do about it.  I limit the time the kids can spend on technology, which in turn limits their time on social media.  I’d love to take it away altogether, but I know they will just create secret accounts (if they haven’t already) and then I’ll be in a worse position.  All we can do is talk about it.  And I am going to use myself as the example to illustrate it to them.  They know the realities of living in this house.  So we are about to engage in a family project where we look at my social media accounts, and compare them to the reality.  Maybe that will help promote some understanding of how all social media (and regular old media, for that matter) only tells one small part of the story.  Looks like Berrik isn’t the only one getting some homeschoolin’ this year.

Language & Literacy

When I decided to take time off work, I knew I needed some kind of plan…some way to figure out how to help Berrik learn to read, improve his language skills, figure out what type of learning works best for him, and on and on….  It was a tall order and I wasn’t really clear on how to go about it.  There are so many ‘programs’ and theories about how best to teach a kid with learning disabilities, but since the strengths and weaknesses of every child are so unique, I found myself going in circles trying to figure out what to do or where to start.   I researched obsessively, I attended some info sessions – and as an aside, I was shocked by some programs that made incredible claims of success, but required HUGE payments up front…like thousands of dollars – and at the end of the day, it all came down to a somewhat random conversation with a friend who I consider to be the most disciplined, and thorough person I know. I don’t see her often and I was telling her about what was going on with Berrik and my plans to take some time off work.  She mentioned, in an offhand way, that her children attended a program called Sound Connections, and were experiencing incredible success.  Like goosebumps on your arms, life-altering successes.  Little did I know that one conversation would lead us down the path we are now on!

I looked up the website for  Sound Connections and thought it sounded good.  The website was less impressive looking than some of the other program websites I had seen, (which is maybe very telling – not so much money and time spent on website and over the top marketing and more time on actually helping kids?) I trust that friend of mine implicitly so I gave Sound Connections a call.  Annette Rogers, the creator of the program, called me back and we spoke for the better part of an hour.  It was a very ‘eureka’ hour for me, as Annette clearly knew about what I was experiencing with Berrik, and said some key things that really resonated.  Things like, labels don’t matter – she was not concerned with IQ, attention issues, dyslexia…etc.  She said that her program will work for any kid… for all kids…regardless.  She didn’t say, Berrik will learn to read in 3 months and will never have issues again…but she did say, that he will be literate, and it may happen quickly and it may happen slowly, but over time he will be literate.  Realistic.  But confident.  For a natural cynic, it was interesting how quickly I trusted Annette.  Added bonus, she is a speech and language pathologist, and Berrik has had expressive and receptive language delays since he was a young toddler…  Annette understood what that means, how it impacts literacy and performance in school, and her program helps with that too.  SIGN US UP.

We started Sound Connections in early June – literally the Monday after I finished work.  We now attend 3 days per week for 45 minute sessions, one on one, and do the rest of the work at home.  In another post I will describe what these sessions are like, and what it’s like to implement it at home…and I’ll tell you about how Berrik is doing!

Foreshadowing here….  I’m discovering that teaching Berrik at home, throughout the day, integrated into our day to day lives, in a way that works for him, is so much more effective and efficient than a classroom environment….  Stay tuned for more information about that!

In the mean time, if you have a kid who is struggling with language and literacy, call Sound Connections.  Don’t wait for your kid to lose all confidence or fall years behind.  And if you’re already there, years behind, frustrated, and feeling overwhelmed, then DEFINITELY call Sound Connections.  I cannot say enough about this program.  You pay as you go (a month ahead), and it is WORTH EVERY PENNY.