Matthijs’ school did a trip to a farm this month and he was full of all the things he saw. This lead to some creative translation on his part: stumped for a word for “boerenkool” (curly kale) he translated it literally as “farmer broccoli”.

The creativity also expressed itself in an outburst of drawing by both Matthijs and Daniel, fortunately this time not on the walls: they have taken to drawing lots of pirates and then carefully sticking them on walls, doors and even windows. Marjolein noticed Daniel meticulously positioning one pirate horizontally on one of the windows and managed to refrain from comment. He stepped back to admire it and said proudly, “there, that’s a dead one”. Daniel NEVER does anything without a (good/really bad) reason.

Daniel also had his final check up at the child clinic. He will be four in a few months and will be followed up by a school doctor. He proved to be 16,7 kilos and 102 cm long. They checked his development, but he was already up to the level they were looking for now on his previous visit, so no worries there. He also got two injections but, typically only said “ow” dutifully and then asked politely if he could go and play.

Halfway through the month we had an appointment at Matthijs school to talk about his performance and how we could get him to enjoy going to school again. The appointment should have happened in November and again in December but had been put off each time by both them and us because of illnesses. I had taken a half day off work to attend, but we were informed as soon as we sat down that they were running out of time and could only spare us a half hour. We moved on quickly to the goal of the meeting: discussing the report that the schools internal consultant had written after observing Matthijs dor several days. We were very interested in her findings as Matthijs’ performance at school had been steadily declining and he had been telling us that he absolutely did not want to go to school for some time. Unfortunately the report proved to be low on content and the internal consultant was evidently not prepared and had to reread her own document during the meeting. They had no plan or method for dealing with the problems, there were no useful conclusions, no diagnosis and we were told that we must refer Matthijs to the RIAGG (Dutch mental health authority): a somewhat drastic step in my opinion. I experienced the visit as deeply unprofessional, demonstrative of a profound disregard for our needs, the importance of our son’s happiness and my costly working time. I asked them on two seperate occasions (second time to check) if they had any suggestion for dealing with the sitation within the school, rather than passing it on to an institution and they said no both times. In this way they neatly declared themselves incompentent. We are now looking for another school.

What also got Marjolein’s goat is that the teacher used an incident that occurred at home (Matthijs cutting the electricity cord of the lamp) as evidence of his “destructive nature”. She considered that to be (and I heartily agree) a betrayal of confidence. We were also informed that after a morning of being dragged through repetative work he burst out of the classroom at playtime, grabbed a tricycle out of the hands of another child and rode it furiously round and round the playground. Wow. Amazing. Why on earth would he do that…. I saw the worksheets: they consist of approximately 50 repetitions of the same material (drawing a letter). Obviously he is bored stiff, does not like the teacher (it seems to be mutual) and is utterly frustrated and alienated. As I said, we need a different school: one dud teacher is one thing, but they have made a total lash-up of responding to us as an organisation. No sign of the headmaster, no plan, no structure. No more of this nonsense. Not with OUR son!

When we read the observation report ourselves later we were stunned by lack of substance: there were no well defineds problems with Matthijs’ behaviour. There was nothing that I would regard as abnormal for a five-year-old boy. Matthijs is apparently easily distracted, talks a great deal, has a great deal of nervous energy and he is rather impulsive. Shock, horror. There were quite a few passages where it was painfully obvious that he was trying his damndest to be good and do the right thing. There was nothing remotely to support the picture of destructive and anti-social behaviour they were holding up to us. I actually shed a couple of tears because I had not trusted Matthijs more and taken steps to protect him from this situation.

Marjolein dutifully planned an interview with the child psychologist at the RIAGG. We will see. It cannot be worse that the school…

Marjolein then got terrible toothache under a crown that had just been put in a month ago. At first she thought it was just the crown settling in but it got worse and worse until she ended up going for an emergency appointment with all three children along for the ride. There was no way she could have an extensive treatment with the monsters running riot in the waiting room so she had to get some shots, painkillers and an appointment to have it properly looked at. They ended up making an nice new hole in the nice new crown and removing the root. That was a very rough weekend and she will have to go back in two months to get it finished off.

Daniel came down with another ear infection and chickenpox. Lots of little blisters, no energy and off his food (then you KNOW he’s ill). He woke up at two in the morning and Marjolein found him standing at the top of the stairs crying. He then threw up and the entire contents of his stomach came rolling down the stairs towards her… Oh the joys of parenthood. He also got diahorrea and a nasty cold on top of it. He perked up towards the end of the month but then Matthijs and Falco got the chickenpox, but fortunatly not the tummy bug.

We were still getting snow and ice and the pictures show the boys holding up pieces of ice from the local lake with an intricate “woven” pattern of ice crystals in them. Daniel found them so interesting that he managed to dive in headfirst and I had to drag him out by his heels and rush him home. Fortunately the ducking in icy water seemed to have no ill effects on him.

Falco is ever bouncier and more capable. He is walking pretty well and had obviously inherited the family monkey genes. While Marjolein was encumbered with sad sick little Daniel, Falco dragged his high chair to the kitchen and started goofing around with the gas burners. He is altoghether too good at stairs for my comfort but eats neatly with a spoon and it picking up words rapidly.

He has yes, no ‘Attiss and Da-el down pat and even calls his brothers “tout” (= “stout”, which is Dutch for naughty) when they do not immediately do what he wishes. What he frequently wishes is “gho-gho”, that being yoghurt-drink, to which he is addicted (also to porridge, strangely enough). He can also find ears, nose etc. pretty handily and (like all our kids) when saying “aaay” sticks his sharp little tentacles straight in your eye: Daniel used to do that so much that at one point he thought the English word for eye was “ow”.

Naturally all these skills disappear if you every try to get him to demonstrate them.

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