Squid has just started high school in what is probably the most progressive high school in the country. He’s been giving his pronouns as he/him/they/them – and most are assuming he’s non-binary, despite him explicitly telling them he’s cis, but wants to be an ally. The fact that the teachers are supportive is great, but we have a lot more work to do.
And yesterday, he said he’s noticed that people speak to him differently depending on the gender they presume him to be. If they think he’s female, they tell him his name is “pretty”, and if male, he gets told it’s “interesting”.
The powhiri was amazing and I cried. The school is the first in the world to enmesh the best of Māori cultural practice into the best of pakeha education. Where the school not only pays lip service, but genuinely reflects the respect all of us should have for the culture.
Most of the speeches were in Te Reo, with apologies to those of us that don’t posses the gift that is the language. The words were about kindness, respect, connection, and resilience. Nothing about academic excellence or achievement.
Lucas, Jacob, Mohammed, and many other friends were there. After the welcoming ceremony he walked away and didn’t turn back.
And this afternoon? “After today, I’m actually excited for tomorrow”.
He’s had three years away from conventional mainstream education, and I could not be prouder of the young human he’s become.
In NZ, what would be the last year of primary, and the first year of high school are completed at intermediate school. His peers in Australia all started high school at the beginning of 2020, but here kids get an extra year of maturity and nurturing before entering the big bad world of high school. Even then, the practice seems to be to keep the first year about settling in, finding your way, and making connections without too much focus on academic achievement.
With amazing support from Diana, Bron, and Andrea (and many others!), he’s decided he’s now ready to take a step back into mainstream and start high school with his age cohort. Our local school has a brilliant reputation, and some close friends will also be attending. We’ve made connections in the learning support unit, and he also has friends who are current students.
So, while he has had an incredible three years at Age, and our family has gained so much from the time we’ve been there, now seemed like the right time to dip a toe back into the waters of mainstream education. This choice is a reflection of the success of Age and the nurturing he has had there. That this is even a possibility speaks volumes about the educational philosophy, connected community, and responsive and uplifting teaching he has had from Age, and from Diana at MindPlus.
We knew from the start that the early years of school were going to be the hardest for our tender kiddo, and opening the door to unlimited possibilities that come from a deeper pool, with more opportunities to explore, and more new and interesting people to get to know is a delightful thing to ponder.
This kid is a darling. Last (probably!) day of Age school on Wednesday, last day of Mindplus after six incredible years with Diana, and he’s ready, able, and even excited to move on to new opportunities at Western Springs next year.
He’s been through so much, and to see this smile and confidence is a testament to us trusting our guts that school distress isn’t normal, and we weren’t going to pretend, and the incredible people who’ve been there along the way to lift us all up, and nurture and support us through. Bron and Andrea, our amazing psychologist, and a focus on strengths and growth, have us looking forwards with hope.
Ten years ago, I went into labour. Aubrey was already dead. Archimedes wasn’t expected to survive. I was 28 weeks pregnant, my waters had broken at 15w.
At 17w, I was told that both babies were dead. My private (expensive, homebirth friendly) obstetrician transferred into the public system for medical management of my “miscarriage”. That same afternoon an ultrasound confirmed two strong heartbeats.
The chances for their survival weren’t high. The risks for me were great. But I was grateful to live in a country where termination was available, and where I also had a choice to refuse it, and give my babies a chance.
I developed sepsis, and labour started. My wonderful specialist had a night off to celebrate her wedding anniversary(Roshini, if you ever read this, know that you were a bright, wonderful, lovely light on my horizon every time I interacted with you, and you made a traumatic experience so much more bearable). I told the duty nurses, I felt “funny”, and was told to go back to bed. I knew then that the signs of sepsis are hard to identify, and hard to communicate, but that feeling “off/funny/strange” was a red flag. My concerns were dismissed until I was obviously in labour.
They didn’t give me antibiotics. They didn’t try to stop the labour. They gave me a surgical consent form, and I had my second caesarian section.
I was wheeled off to recovery, and Archimedes was taken to NICU, with Mark. I was then taken back to the ward. It was hours and hours before I was wheeled to NICU to see them. Mark had been told it was hopeless.
Eventually I was allowed to see him. He died. Fe came and took photos. Family came to meet him. We were allowed to see him, they brought him to me from the cold place, and we did the crossword together. Eventually we said goodbye for the last time. I was due to be discharged from hospital, when my infection returned with a vengeance. I was hallucinating. Having conversations with people that weren’t there.
They tried stronger and stronger antibiotics. I didn’t respond. My doctor signed the paperwork to have me admitted to ICU. They brought in a special drip bag, covered in warning stickers. The staff hovered, I had special authority to use the “in case of emergency” antibiotics, and that afternoon, I recorded my first normal temperature. I got better.
It wasn’t rapid. I still have flashbacks and cold sweats about some of the procedures I was subjected to, and some attitudes from jaded medical staff who didn’t know my story. Who didn’t know how broken I was, how raw.
When they released me, I couldn’t walk 100m to the car park without a rest. I couldn’t go to the supermarket without sobbing. I couldn’t parent my beautiful child, who couldn’t understand why his world was upside down, and why his mama cried all the time. I couldn’t fathom the cruelty of the whispers and stares of the playgroup mums. I couldn’t do anything else but be “that woman” the one who went through that awful thing. The thing that we cannot believe could ever happen to us. The thing that we know we would never survive.
Inigo and I talked a lot. I did my absolute best to try to answer his questions with honesty and openness. One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life was discussing the philosophy of life and death with a three year old with a giant brain, while also not crashing the car through my tears, driving to playgroup, driving to see friends, determined to make life as normal as possible, when nothing was ever going to be normal again.
But we do survive. We don’t know how we can get through another minute, another hour, another day. We’ll lose friends because our sadness is self indulgent, and we’ll have to learn how to exist as a broken person in the world. It starts by breaking down our ideas about the world and how it works. our schemas, built up over a lifetime are shattered, and have to be rebuilt. Our new worldview needs to incorporate the idea that babies die, and that life can continue. And this is WORK. Grief is WORK. It takes so much effort to just exist, to just scrape away at pretending to be normal, and also recreating your mental building blocks.
And then today you wake up and it has been a decade. Our babies would be turning TEN today. And although their birth was followed by so much sadness, the intervening years have shown me the gifts that their birth have brought into my life. Having lost friends, I know who my real, ride or die friends are. Having survived losing them, I know my strength. Having rebuilt my world, I know who I am.
I know who I am.
Happy Birthday Archimedes Hare and Aubrey Michael. I am better for having known you.
Woke up beside the bloke that chose to spend his life with me sixteen years ago today, and has chosen to stay with me every day since.
I ran an online D&D dungeon crawl game for a group who were mostly strangers to me a few weeks ago, but are fast becoming “my people”. Squid and Mark joined in today, and many orcs had ignominious ends.
One of my bridesmaids video called me in her bunny pyjamas and tiara, so I also grabbed one and spent the rest of the day wearing it.
We had cheese, tomato, and branston pickle sandwiches in the shade of our lovely lilly pilly tree in the front yard, and waved at all the neighbours who were out and about.
Cooked some bulk dinner while the boys rejuvenated the veggie garden, and they found some baby mice that we warmed up, fed a little, and returned in the hopes that mama would come and take care of them.
And the story of the day?
Squiddo went to Countdown for some garlic stuffed olives (it was an emergency, ok?), and the paper bag he was using as a shopping basket tore. He left the groceries and the torn bag in the aisle, and went to purchase a fresh bag. The countdown staff gave him the bag for free, and when he returned, someone had left a reusable bag beside his little pile of groceries.
There is a growing body of claims that Role Playing Games, and D&D in particular, are great for kids.
Being the owner of a kid, and also being scientifically minded, I have been doing my own single subject research for the past few years, and have come to the conclusion that smiting + social support + consistent play = engaged, happy, creative, social kid.
And since I’ve now been playing games with kids for more than half the year (one weekly game at each of two schools, plus another home campaign with kids, plus a campaign where the adults welcome a kid player), I thought it might be time to gather a few resources about playing with kids.
This article has a great overview of the benefits of RPG’s in a school setting.
An “official” video (featuring some famous faces) about the lifelong impact of D&D. Please note that one of the people featured in this video is an ex “adult” film performer, so don’t google her unless you have your filters on!
A TEDx Talk – “Why D&D is Good for You”
I have set up a slack channel for the kids I DM for to communicate with each other, I welcome parents to join up too. Please contact me to get access, as this is a closed server. I’ve also set up an account on D&D Beyond, so that the kids have electronic access to the Players Handbook and other resources that I have (they don’t have to pay to access this). Once they have set up an account I can send you (or them) a link to join my campaign.
At some point I may set up a virtual game so that kids can play from home, but for now I am trying to encourage face to face games to facilitate social connection, and get away from endless screen time!
I’ll continue to add resources here, and I welcome any questions you might have.