No Dots

Liam and his point sheet

Liam and his point sheet

A lot has happened over the past few weeks. We had a gorgeous family weekend in the mountains, where Liam toured the Biltmore Estate, his ear plastered to the audio tour device as he took in the Gilded Age in all its finery. We came home, settled back into the routine, and then I was laid off from my job.

We thought we had everything under control. With all of the amazing help from everyone, between donations to our GoFundMe campaign to Amazon commissions, we’ve scraped by and we saw a light at the end of the tunnel. We could do this. We were going to make it, the budget was set, and even if we didn’t bring in any more direct donations, our salaries and side gigs could support Liam’s new school.

But life has a tendency to keep you on your toes.

That’s not what this post is about, though. I want to share Liam’s progress. I want to commend him for his second day with no dots. This is a big achievement for Liam.

At his school, kids get a daily points sheet that looks like this:

Liam's point sheet

Liam’s point sheet

And every fifteen minutes, a teacher fills out a line on the points sheet. Was the student kind? Did they follow directions? How did they participate? They can get bonus “bucks” for exemplary behavior, too. At the bottom of the sheet is the student’s big objective. Liam’s is “listen 1st time,” which he writes (in his charming handwriting1) at the bottom of the page.

One benefit of being unemployed is that I get to pick Liam up at 3 o’clock, when school lets out, as we can’t justify the cost of afterschool care. Yesterday, he flounced into the car, eyes red from crying. “My worst day yet. Six dots.” He was frustrated and sad.

Today, I was waiting in the parking lot, chatting with his director. She’s there nearly every day, shuttling students to the cars.

“I want to tell you how great he did today,” she said, punching his name into her phone to call him to the car. “No dots. He was perfect. And he’s been doing much better lately. Don’t let yesterday get you down.”

“We’ve noticed he’s been much better at home, too,” I told her. “He calms himself down when he’s angry. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff as much2.”

Sure enough, when Liam hopped into the car, he gave me a fistbump. “Best day ever!” he exclaimed, a satisfied grin on his face. We drove out of the parking lot, headed home.

“That’s so awesome, Liam. I’m so proud of you. So are your teachers. What made it so much better than yesterday?”

He shrugged. “It was easy. I just had a good time today. I had fun.”

That? Having fun at school? He’s never really said that out loud. And getting our son to enjoy school and learning? That’s one of our top goals, one of the reasons we’re spending all this money.

It’s worth it. And we’re going to find a way to keep him here, because of the changes we’ve seen in him. We have to. With all this progress, how could we stop?

If you’d still like to help, there are a few options. And thank you in advance.

1 I keep noticing how it resembles Calvin’s handwriting from Calvin and Hobbes… we keep hoping he’ll go as Calvin for Halloween this year, but no dice so far.

2 Case in point: last night, Liam played Carcassonne at a get-together at our house. A number of my friends were playing with us. Liam came in third place. He did not get angry, leave the room sobbing, or yell at anyone. Not a single time. This is, in a word, miraculous.