This post has been on my mind for some times now. It’s not a ‘How To’ guide that carefully lays out how I’ve mastered the parenting skills required to put my kids on the right track while simultaneously taking enough time to care for myself and keep stress at bay. THIS DEFINITELY ISN’T THAT KIND OF POST.
It’s more of a cry for help. A plea to those out there with more experience, patience and obviously better stress tolerance than I have, because I’ve been at a loss the last few weeks.
Buddy (who is 9) has always had a rough time at school, since kindergarten when we still lived in the big city. Back then his issues were mostly revolved around lack of social skills,he wasn’t much of a talker and had trouble interacting with his peers calmly (he would get incredibly hyper and worked up) or at all (he would walk away or completely ignore someone communicating with him). He also had trouble listening to guide lines like class schedules, basic social and safety rules, and self care/ hygiene management.
While a lot of those traits can be seen in a lot of 5 year olds, heck now that Princess has been through a whole year of kindergarten I get it. The transition from pre-school to big kid is a giant step and every child struggles in their own ways to adapt and learn how to grow up. Buddy is different, over the last 4 years while much has changed, it really hasn’t changed for the better.
Every school year has started the same. We hope for the best, he seems to have adapted better over the summers, made some friends, stopped a lot of his deceitful habits and we’re all confident that he’s ‘outgrown’ this stage. By the end of the school year (by second parent-teacher conference in spring) we’re proven wrong. It hasn’t improved, he’s just A) gotten better at hiding/ lying about the problems or B) he’s found a new way to still get to what he wanted in the first place.
Our oldest son is 9 and already we are being told that if he can’t stop his behavior we might have to relocate him to a different school. Honestly I don’t blame them for that attitude anymore.
Over the last year alone we have dealt with him stealing food from fellow students lockers/lunch kits, bullying both physically and verbally on the school yard, lying to school staff about not having breakfast at home/packed lunches to get extra snacks, bringing toys to school to sell to his friends for money and/or time on their electronic devices (which they are not supposed to have in the first place), stealing school supplies from teachers desks and supply closets, cutting various parts of his clothing (and trying to convince other students to)….The list honestly could go on, at this point I’ve lost track of the running tally of new inventive issues he’s had.
Of course this is on top of the ‘normal’ Buddy issues of interrupting, hyper-activity, not following class schedules, sloppy self care and hygiene, inappropriate humor, and some obsessive behaviors. I say NORMAL because I acknowledge that he’s a little different, while it’s still not the greatest behavior, it’s not specifically harmful and it’s manageable if these were stand alone and we weren’t having the other complications. Over the course of time, we’ve adapted and adjusted to make sure we provide a safe environment for him to be able to be himself while controlling some of the more awkward and unwanted problems (like constant reminders for hand washing, rules about volume and quiet time consequences for getting too worked up and out of hand). While these issues themselves already make it clear that we could benefit from some help from a child psychologist the other issues and serious problems make it down right necessary.
Over the last years we’ve come to associate a lot of his behavioral differences with Asperger’s syndrome and even his previous teachers agreed that it seems to fit. While for the most part it’s just a different way of social interaction and trouble blending in or making friends, but now it’s grown into something that needs attention and a diagnosis from a professional is the only way we can go any further than we have already. Adaptation and understanding just isn’t cutting it, and we have gotten truly worried.
Our Provincial Health code stated we had to wait until he was at least 6 years old to officially get him tested for possible behavioral disorders and after that we found out that most doctors require a referral from a pediatrician and/or a resource teacher. Well our pediatrician is useless, he gives the kids their necessary shots, other than that its to the hospital for emergency or talk to resource teacher for referral. The problem is our tiny town’s school doesn’t have a resource teacher anymore. Our division does, but they need a referral from a teacher that actually knows the child. WHICH WE FINALLY HAVE!!!
A couple weeks ago we had our parent teacher conference with Buddy’s teacher, he was telling us he was doing well and he wasn’t worried (like past years he would fake sick or even hid appointment times so we couldn’t show up). He was putting on a very brave front, that quickly disappeared as his teacher calmly reminded him that he had had his chance to come clean to us earlier, she had given him the opportunity. Now she was going to have a chat with us. Saying that our worst fears were realized is an understatement. It felt like being shot in the heart. While it was difficult to hold back tears and stay strong (as he was with us, this new stupid parent teacher thing where it’s normally led by the students themselves) there was a moment of relief. She said those few words that meant we could move forward with testing and get our much needed referral.
We are lucky he has such an understanding teacher these last two years. She tries to give him the benefit of the doubt time and time again. She has adapted the classroom and her teaching method slightly to allow for him to express himself a little differently and to within boundaries do his own thing during class time IF he has done a good amount of work, but at this point both us as parent’s and her as his teacher have lost faith that what we are able to do as his care givers isn’t enough to coax him in the right direction. From now on both at home and at school there is no more trusting him with communicating issues, its a direct parent to teacher line. He will have random locker and desk checks, the rest of the staff is informed about the stealing and lying and have been instructed to ignore his pleas unless there is a signed note from us AND her. At home he has daily bag checks, clothing checks and we are in contact with his teacher so we don’t miss anything. It’s like our 9 year old little boy is an inmate, not a happy healthy elementary school student.
I feel like a failure as a parent.
All this would be complicated, stressful and difficult for the healthiest of parent, or at least so I’m told. I wouldn’t know. There are days I can barely will myself out of bed. There are days where my physical pain is so draining that I don’t have anything left in me mentally to handle even the very basic of scheduling complications, forgotten lunches or Little Dude’s tantrums. How am I supposed to feel confident that we can handle this when I can’t even feel confident I can handle myself.
I wish I could say I could leave the difficult parenting up to Mr. Mango but between his long hours and OT and his step father issues (he is not Buddy’s biological father and doesn’t want to be like HIS stepfather who was abusive, abrasive and all in all a filthy scum) he is honestly having a harder time than I, figuring out what we can do in the mean time until the doctors office gets back to us.
I literally laughed the last time I saw my GP when we were talking about lowering stress. I mentioned 3 kids at home and he said “No no, I mean REAL stress”. I don’t know how much more REAL it could get!
Yes I’ve found ways to cope with anger management, disappointment and fast tracking getting to the truth, but nothing seems like a permanent help. Buddy is highly adaptable, he is easily able to find new different and exciting ways to get away with his bad habits behind our backs so what worked to communicate with him honestly, calmly and openly one week, no longer works the next. The more time goes on, the more stressed and disappointing I get. Disappointed in myself, that is. Of course I’m not happy that my son is acting out this way or treating others so disrespectfully, but I constantly think, if only I wasn’t sick.
Would I have more energy to be pro-active about the harmful behavior? Would having more energy help him feel comfortable getting out all his jitters and issues out at home, leaving him ready for school? Would having more mental clarity make it easier to catch him in the midst of bad behavior, manipulation or lies earlier on so it doesn’t become the worse scenario possible?
I don’t know. When he started having harmful behavior at the end of kindergarten I was not yet diagnosed with lupus. I was however dealing with pregnancy complications, other health complications and other family drama. Since he started school to begin with our plates really have been full. Would it have made a difference if they weren’t?
Again, I don’t know. I’m at a loss. In the end there’s no point even focusing on those sorts of thoughts. I am the mother I am, I have the health conditions I have, we have the busy life we have and we have Buddy as he is. Dwelling on the past isn’t going to help any, unfortunately worrying about the future is just about as equally useless as it stands.
All I can do is hope and pray that the tighter reigns at home and at school and better communication between all the adults can at least prevent the worst of the harmful behaviors and that the referral goes somewhere quickly.
So sorry for the long, random and probably ranty post but I think I just needed to get it out. To be able to get frustrated, vent and feel insecure in a place I know won’t effect him. He i,s after all still my Buddy and oh how I love it when the time’s are good and we seem his true loving brilliant self shine. If anyone actually managed to read through this whole dang thing and has any advice, I would love to hear it. I’m in unknown territory here and would definitely appreciate any words of wisdom.