Friday, February 25, 2011

The Meeting

I met with WC’s teacher and school guidance counselor the other day. Let me start off by saying that I think WC has an excellent teacher. I don’t think he could have gotten a better one for his personality. She is truly amazing. The meeting started a little late, when the counselor couldn’t be located. But his teacher said that we’d start without her. She wanted me to start off and explain what my concerns were with him. My list included his sudden “I can’t” attitude; his perfectionist attitude- to the point where he believes he has to do the task perfectly the first time with minimal effort and if he thinks he can’t then he will not even attempt it. And his focus issues. We each shared our experiences in dealing with him and we are both experiencing the same things. She asked me about homework. And honestly, when we suffer through it, he appears to be being physically tortured. I’d rather have brain surgery through my nasal passages without anesthetic than to deal with him and writing sentences.

For his teacher her main concern was his lack of focus. She said that since he is very bright that right now it isn’t interfering with his ability to get good grades. But her concern was that as the material begins to get harder he will not be able to compensate any longer and his grades will suffer. And perhaps that’s why his self esteem is also dipping because he is bright enough to figure this out. His problems aren’t that he can’t do the work. In fact, he can do even better. She doesn’t give him the challenge vocabulary words, not because it’s too hard but because it stresses him out. She said that she gives a pre-test at the beginning of the week and those who get the regular words all correct, get the challenge words. She suspects that he purposely misses two words every week. And I believe her because most of the time when he gets home Monday evening and I go over the words, he already knows them all. So, mama here is going to start sneaking in some of the challenge words on my own. She said that he is very logical and she has to appeal to that sense of logic. Say, he gets to question four and melts down because he instantly doesn’t know the answer. She says to him now if you sit here and don’t move on you will miss the last 10. Now if you skip number 4 and move on to the next questions. You miss one. Would you rather miss 10 or 1? Of course, he picks one and moves on.

The guidance counselor finally makes it into the meeting and we have boiled down our two issues: his lack of focus and self esteem/image/confidence.

His teacher said that he doesn’t have any behavior issues but there is a lot of redirection going on with him with numerous reminders to return his attention to his work. I see that at home too. The guidance counselor puts it out there right away: ADD/ADHD- my feelings on this? His teacher said it was definitely not ADHD…perhaps a touch of ADD, BUT he is a 7 yr old boy. I immediate state that I do not feel that even looking into the idea of medication is remotely appropriate right now. I explain my feelings based on my experience having a sister diagnosed ADHD in 2nd grade and the subsequent guinea pig like adjustments with medication. And to top it all off, I don’t recall that it helped her in school. And to this day, as an adult, she “can’t do because she’s ADHD.” It became a crutch. It turns out we were all on the same page with the idea medication. The counselor wanted to know what after school activities he was involved in. I let them know that in addition to scouts that he will be starting back with Karate in March. They both felt that this was a very good thing.

The counselor explained that traditionally the role of guidance counselor dealt with children who couldn’t. It’s relatively new thing for her- in the past couple of years that she’s seen children with WC’s sort of issues. I would argue that it isn’t a new phenomenon but that people realized earlier that children with developmental delays needed specialized help. And they do. I wouldn’t want to take that away. Now parents of children on the other end of the spectrum are realizing their kids might also benefit from being helped. Just because a kid is on the bright-gifted spectrum, that life isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. He’s bright, he’s sensitive, he’s aware of everything around him and paralyzed by his own need for perfection. Where it comes from and why, I don’t know. I racked my brain for months trying to figure out the ‘where’ and the ‘why’. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. We just have to figure out what to do now and move forward.

The guidance counselor felt that his teacher and I have done appropriate things. And she wanted to meet with him. She was about to begin meeting with a first grade girl who had very similar issues to WC. She wanted to know if it would be okay with me if they worked together. She wanted to take both of them and run them through some self image and confidence building exercises/games. Of course, she would need to clear it with the other mother first. And if for some reason the children wouldn’t open up with the other in the room/it didn’t work out, etc. she would meet with them individually. Once they were into this, if it came out the issues were deeper than what they deal with in the school she would refer us out.

I left the hour and ten minute meeting feeling very good. I felt hopeful, finally. We have a plan in place. I’m still continuing my reading and researching on self esteem/confidence in kids. And I’m trying out new parenting techniques in ways of dealing with both of them. It isn’t going to get better over night. It isn’t going to be easy and I’m sure to not get it right 100% of the time. But I have plans; steps to take that will take us in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Here Goes Nothing

Panic struck at 4 am on Sunday morning. I woke startled with one thought- Oh God, what have I done?

You see back during the summer before WC entered kindergarten, I’d enrolled him in karate. I was worried, with his personality that he would be picked on. So he spent a year going to class. It was trying, initially- he cried every class for the first 6 weeks. Eventually he seemed to come into his own and become comfortable with it. He excelled quickly and learned easily. Of course, he had his meltdowns when he didn’t catch on quickly as he thought he should. Unfortunately, he graduated to a belt that no longer met at the time I could take him. The next class level up was an hour earlier- virtually impossible for my schedule to accommodate. Sadly, I turned in notice. And put him scouts for an activity. He stopped karate practice at the end of July. After his seventh birthday in October, is when I began to notice that he was beginning to go downhill- as far as focus, concentration, and self image. I’m not sure if it really has anything to do with it- but it got me to thinking recently. I really wanted to put him back into karate. I began to search out dojo’s closer to our home than our previous facility. The ones that would work on the time wouldn’t work as far as nights. Thursday night is open library at school where we read and he takes his tests. It’s the only time he gets to do this required activity. And he wants to finish scouts, which is Tuesdays. Initially, I was looking for class for both WC & CJ-But decided to put that away.

Then someone I work with told me about the after-school program her daughter attends that picks her up from the school- takes her to the karate studio where they have homework & snack and then a karate class for 45 minutes three days a week. And conditioning skills class the other two. And to top it off this only cost two dollars more a week than what I pay now. When I asked her who it was, I was floored to discover it was already one of the people I’d spoken with when I was looking for class for both kids. I’d really liked him. She had nothing but positive things to say about him & the program.

All four of us went in to meet him on Saturday. WC walks in and starts to say, “I don’t know about… Are those swords on the wall? Cool! And (sparring) gear!” He was off to stare at the swords hanging on the wall. He went over the program and he only has ten other kids in his afterschool program. It’s just him and one other woman (who we also met) and he has no desire to grow beyond 15 kids. So we signed him up. He’ll start March 7th. I think the small size will benefit WC- who doesn’t like large crowds and is easily overwhelmed. WC’s main concern seems to be not knowing where to go at school once he begins to be picked up by the karate instructor. I explained to him that once I let his teacher know about the change that she would make sure that he knew what to do.

This leads me back to my 4am panic attack- I’ve never had anyone else pick him up from school and transport him elsewhere. He’s going to be scared. What if something happens? What if someone hurts him, teases him, or (God forbid) abuses him? Am I really doing the right thing? Will this really help?

I’m still not sure. The only thing I can do is pray about it.

Tomorrow morning is my conference with his teacher and school guidance counselor.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Picture It

     One of the first tools that I used from the parenting book on reading is called positive picturing or mental rehearsal. Basically it’s where you use your imagination to picture a positive process and outcome of an upcoming activity. The author says to tell your child, “Make a picture in your mind…” And then run the child through a guided visualization of the activity where the results are what they want. I’ve never done this, but this author assures me that this will influence how the child sees himself and how he will perform. Use of this tool fell into my lap the other night at bedtime. WC started in on how he can never get his work done on time. He is always the last person in class to finish and he feels like a baby because younger kids help him. So I asked him to close his eyes and make a picture in his mind. It took a while just to get him to understand what I was asking him to do. I started when he gets out of bed and ran him all the way through getting to class and told him that he was listening to every word the teacher said and he understood her directions. He had his paper in front of him and he worked his way through it without any trouble. There were lots of interruptions from him during this. And I was patient and calm the entire time. He asked what if he kept thinking about other things. I told him to say to himself that he was thinking about something else then place it out of his mind and return to his work. I kissed him goodnight and left the room.

It was fifteen to twenty minutes later, I’m in the living room when WC emerges, upset. “Mommy, I keep thinking about other things and I haven’t even gotten out of the car yet!”

It was all I could do not to laugh. Jay, who wasn’t aware of what had transpired at bedtime, was confused.

Dear All Knowing Child Psychologist- What now?

I take WC back to bed. He asks if he can skip getting ready in the morning. And I agree that we don’t have issues with getting out of the house in the morning. Since, we have that down pat, I tell him he can move to class. But, I also say that I think it’s okay if he just gives his brain a rest and go on to sleep. On the positive side, he was attempting to do the exercise on his own. I was afraid he’d balk at it. On the downside, at the moment, he can’t even visualize himself finishing his class work.

Note to self: start smaller next time.

In a move that I should have done months ago, I emailed his teacher. I explained to her what he’d been saying to me. I wanted to find out how accurate his perception of the situation was. She didn’t send home unfinished class work, so is he really lagging behind in it. And, in her reply he does have focus issues. It hadn’t affected his grades but she worried that as things get harder that will change. And she doesn’t send his work home because she doesn’t want to stress him out anymore. She would prefer that we just do his regular homework. So as of now, I have a meeting with her and the school guidance counselor next Wednesday to discuss his issues and what we can do to help.

I’m not abandoning the visualization technique. I’d like to try it again with him soon. And just limit what I ask him to think about.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

After the Storm

The other day, I had an explosion. Shortly after this explosion, I had an epiphany. Of all things it began while WC filled out his valentine cards for his class party. There are 18 kids and we had 16 valentines. So I asked him, “We have 16 valentines and there are 18 in your class. How many more valentines do we need?” It isn’t question that is beyond his capabilities. I genuinely expected an answer back rather quickly. And was floored when he began to stutter and grow frustrated with me. His immediate reaction was that he didn’t know and there’s no way he could possibly figure out such a complicated question.

I attempted to clarify the question. No go. I asked him to count from 16 to 18. He started at one. I tried to correct him to start with 16. Next thing I know we are in a shouting match and I pop him in the mouth with an open hand for screaming at me. This silences him, of course. And in anger, I unload on him just how frustrated I am with his issues. How I don’t understand that he can’t see how smart and wonderful he is. I will not narrate my entire rant. It was not my finest moment in life. But, when I was done, I knew that I was in the wrong. What I had done would not help his self esteem issues. Even though I can’t figure out where they initially came from- it doesn’t matter. It was my frustration in my inability to help him. It was my frustration at how much of my own childhood lack of self esteem that I see in this child.

I am his mother; it is my job to bring him up with a healthy sense of self worth. And I’m failing miserably with him. It has to change. I have to change, as a parent, as person. I had put to rest all my childhood issues during my 20’s. I don’t want him to wait that long. I’d recently received his mid-year benchmark test results. The benchmark test is where they give the exact same test at the beginning of school year, midyear and year end to gauge their progress. Well, on his was a note from his teacher that he didn’t even try. From the test score, I’m betting he only got his name correct. If you didn’t know this child and judged on the score alone, not only did he not learn anything new, he’d forgotten everything before that. When, I asked him about it, his response was, “Well, she said if we didn’t know it to just guess.” Of course, since this child operates under the assumption that he doesn’t know anything, in his mind she just gave him permission to guess every answer. This is also weighing heavily on me as he clams up and refuses to even attempt to answer my valentine question.

In the aftermath of my explosion of frustration, we spent some time on opposite ends of the house. CJ, who witnessed the whole thing, tells me that he is angry with me and retreats back to his room with his brother. I agree with him. Then I go back, to apologize and tell him that I was the one in the wrong. At the door, I hear him talking to CJ. He states that no one likes him. CJ immediately replies, “I like you.” WC then points out that CJ said he didn’t like him when he broke his balloon. CJ then says it was okay. WC tells him that he still upset about his best friend moving away (right before Christmas). Okay, I’m feeling lower than shit right then. I go in to face them.

That afternoon, I began to search for books that could possible help. I needed to learn new ways of dealing with them. That day’s events led to think about what all had been going on. The more they “misbehave” the more of tyrannical dictator I was becoming. I’m spending what precious little time we have together on weekdays, barking orders at them. The more I bark the worse they become. This is not the life I wanted. I’m not being the mother that I wanted to be. I settled on a book after reading excerpts and reader reviews of numerous items. In this entry, I am not going to post the name of the book just yet. I have not gotten all the way through it or tried out enough of the suggestions- yet. I’m going to do everything that I possibly can to change the way that I mother my kids- Even if I have to put aside my own personal pursuit of becoming a published novelist for a little while. Even if my blogging schedule is delayed between posts. I’ve spent my lunch break researching websites on kids self esteem and raising happy kids instead of how to write query letters. Right now I have to put WC on the front burner of my life and make sure that he is getting what he needs most.

This post is running long, for me. I do have a story about using a method from the book I’m reading. I will save it for next post.