Category Archives: Edge-ucators

Followed by the Lows

I hate to follow-up a series of posts about the Happiest Place On Earth with a post that could very well be one of my unhappiest, but honestly, I predict there will be even more unhappy.

Doodicus saw a child psychologist a couple of weeks after our return from Disney World. I’ll have to go back a couple of weeks before that to explain how we got there.

After the meeting with his teachers and principal in November, it didn’t seem as if any of their proposals to help improve the situation at school were implemented, including assigning him a “buddy” to make sure assignments were written and homework brought home. That being said, the things seem to hit an even keel. In other words, it didn’t get worst, but it didn’t get any better.

Then I got a call from his teacher: Doodicus got into a classmate’s backpack and took some candy without permission. I was very upset and called the district school’s psychologist, the one who had evaluated Doodicus to figuratively cry on his shoulder and to plead on Doodicus’s behalf, “He’s not a bad kid. I don’t know why this is happening, and I want him to get help.”

Melodramatic much?

I don’t take my son’s snooping through a kid’s backpack and taking candy lightly. At all. Personally, I don’t see it any differently than stealing something from a store, or even out of a stranger’s house. In fact, after I picked Doodicus up from school that day, I drove him by the police station and told him the next time, we’ll go straight to the station and he won’t be coming home with me. He’s only ten, you might say? I would have been way more lenient if he had been four, five, maybe even six, but not ten.

So I am back to worrying that I’m not doing enough to make sure Doodicus can succeed not only in school, but in life generally. I hate feeling like there’s some doubt as to whether his behaviors are a result of ADHD or to lenient parenting. I decided to be proactive and schedule this appointment with the pediatric psychologist. I was hoping we would go in, spend some time talking, review his history, and be told to go home and keep doing what we had been doing – we’re doing great!

We are not.

Approximately half way through the hour-session, I brought up the fact we were discussing moving him to a different school next fall. When I looked over at Doodicus, his face was red and there were tears in his eyes. I stopped, stunned. The doctor, Dr. Ashley, asked Doodicus why he was upset. No response. We let him breathe through the moment and calm down and at that time he admitted he not only was scared to go to a new school and leave the friends he knew, he was scared of how the teachers will continue to treat him if he stays. But the scariest moment came when Dr. Ashley asked if Doodicus if he had ever thought about hurting himself. I can recall that Doodicus has been so upset in the past over a punishment that he wished he hadn’t been born, so it came as a punch to the heart when he confirmed he has more recently thought about self-harm.

My initial concerns for making the appointment – the lack of organization, the oppositional behavior – they are now nothing. This anxiety Doodicus is feeling is not uncommon for children with ADHD and Dr. Ashley mentioned it may or may not be related to the medication, but these emotions are priority. Obviously. It was surreal to be told by his doctor to make sure we remove any instruments he may mention in crisis, because while being ten is old enough to know better about getting into other people’s things, it’s way too fucking young to be so anxious and considering that there’s an extreme solution. I won’t even say the word. I can’t.

16 January, 2012 13:23

I won’t blame you for thinking Sparring Partner and I are at the minimum, morons. We are kicking ourselves here, trust me. It’s easy for all of us to talk smack about the current situation Doodicus is experiencing at his school because it is happening at his school. The job-setting comparison is a good one, but sometimes leaving a crappy job is like leaving the devil you know for the devil you don’t. What assurance do we have that the public school would be any better equipped?

That’s a rhetorical question, obviously.

My husband and I had a serious discussion about what this next fall will bring as it specifically relates to moving him to public. The idea scares the shit out of me. He will go from a class of 50 to approximately 400. His body will literally be in constant flux, moving from room to room and the poor kid’s anxiety levels will be through the roof.

You probably don’t remember this, but I distinctly do. Remember the incident at daycare that got us “fired” from the care-giver’s services? Doodicus kicked one of the other kids in the head. This had been the proverbial straw for the care-giver. We were fortunate to find the daycare Doodicus currently attends but for weeks – WEEKS – when I would pick him up from there, he would sob and sob and sob. He had no friends. No one liked him. No one played with him. One time, I pulled over to the side of the road and parked the car just to run to open his door and try to comfort him from the cruelty of it all. He never got over feeling it was his fault for losing everything that was routine to him.

So here we are, six years later, talking about the very same thing, racing time and the boiling points to see if it will be a voluntary decision or if the private school will make the decision for us.

I know realistically that I am only make excuses. He’ll adjust. He has adjusted. We would have put him in the public system after sixth grade anyway, so aren’t I just expediting the process and doing us all a favor by just doing it for the fifth grade? Wouldn’t it just be equivalent to ripping the band-aid off instead of lifting it slowly, hair-by-tiny-hair?

More rhetorical questions.

One other issue comes to mind, and someone touched upon it in the comments: Aitch. If Dood stays at Private, they would be in the same school. At least until he hits seventh grade. That would give them two years “together”. But really? Would they even see each other that much? If we put them BOTH into public next year, they wouldn’t be in the same school anyway (the public school system has a middle school for just fifth and six graders). We thought about going ahead and keeping her in the private school since she’s already registered for pre-K, but then we worry how would Doodicus handle the fact that while SHE keeps to go to the school where all HIS friends are, we are shuffling him off to be amongst strangers. Illogical for you and me, but not for him. Wouldn’t he perceive that as more of a punishment than us trying to get him the help he needs? I can answer that one: yes, that’s exactly how he’ll think of it.

I casually mentioned to Doodicus the idea of going to a new school next year. I said we think the public school might have teachers who are more equipped to help him specifically with his needs. He told me that one of his friends went to public and then came back to private. This other child told him the teachers were mean. The kids were mean. He then bluntly told me that he doesn’t want to leave “his” school.

You all know I don’t expect answers. Life would be too easy if all one had to do was to ask the internet and to get a clear and concise response. Sometimes I need more than just to hear myself think.

13 January, 2012 09:19

These episodes at school are like the big storms coming through. One is never prepared enough and it seems like only when you’re snowed-in under 100 inches of snow do you feel the brick hitting you on the head which triggers your ass to get to the store to buy the damn shovel you’ve been putting off for six months.

I mull over my head the things I really, REALLY want to say to the school’s teachers and principal, but what keeps me from utterly losing my shit is that I know it will be Doodicus that they’ll take it out on. Each year I seriously consider buying ADHD informational flyers, books, packets and handing them out, but I don’t want to come off as passive-aggressively telling someone who supposedly has an educational degree how to do their jobs teaching MY kid.

What really bugs me is that we go through this every damn year. The web-adage: lather, rinse, repeat, comes to mind frequently. Before I can even finish the question, “Why aren’t they better prepared for a child like mine?” I answer, “….because they blow them out of their tuition-padded doors and into the free public school system when parents realize they are paying to have their child treated like crap.”

IMHO, of course.

And this is where you ask, “Why are you paying tuition for a school to NOT provide your son a learning environment suitable for his ADHD?”

Ah, yes. Here’s where things get really stupid. Pull up a chair. Would you like lemon or cream in your tea?

This elementary school has a great reputation scholastically; for the normal child (note how I give you the air-quotes as I say that), that is. While we may (or may not) get the IEP or 504 assistance in the public school system, they are very 30-years-ago in lesson plans. What’s really at the heart of that question is simple: WE don’t pay the tuition. His grandparents, who insist that we educate the kids through this elementary school, pay the tuition. When we originally enrolled Doodicus in the private school, we had no idea that he was ADHD. Not that THAT is any excuse, but more of an FYI. I guess if I’m going to tell you gammy and grampy pay the tuition, I might as well tell the whole story.

So you might ask as you hide your accusing eyes by looking into your cup for an imaginary piece of lint, “Now that you know, why don’t you save your in-laws some money and get him out of that school?” Because we haven’t told our families that Doodicus is ADHD, and frankly, we have no intention of doing so. Two of my four sisters know, but that’s because they took care of the kids when I had my cancer surgery and they had to be prepared for the morning behaviors and to administer his medication. They are also a bit more forgiving, too.

With my husband’s family, they are UNforgiving and out-of-touch. They believe ADHD is an excuse for not being able to discipline a child. In their mind, ADHD is just a bullshit term by doctors to use to lazy parenting. When Dood was diagnosed three years ago, I convinced myself then that it wouldn’t be much longer and the grandparents would be a – how should I say – nonissue. Who knew that they would live forfuckingever?! See? I’m an ungrateful asshole.

But here’s my question: Why should a private school be able to shun their responsibility for continuing their education so they can be better prepared to teach children with ADHD (or ADD or autism or any other learning disability)? In the email I got from his teacher, she said (and yes, I am quoting), “…AND please discuss with him (again) the importance of getting his act together.”

Oh, yes, of course! *gives self a face-palm* It didn’t even occur to me these past six years that I should tell him to GET HIS ACT TOGETHER!

What do you think would happen if she told parent of a child with a visual impairment “please discuss with him (again) the importance of learning to see”?

11 January, 2012 12:17

It’s not been a good week for my son. While it may be the third day of the week, it’s also the third day I’ve received a phone call from him to let me know he’s staying after school because of late assignments. The count is up to five.

His teacher talked to me today. "He needs to take responsibility." "This is not going to work out going into the fifth grade." "He is belligerent." and on and on she went. I want to interrupt her and shout, "You know he’s ADHD, right??!!" I don’t know what else to do right now, hands tied and at work, so I write and hope you will understand.

After our meeting a month ago, things are no better. They are no worse, except for this week. While the teachers agreed that assigning my son a "buddy" to go over his assignment book to make sure it is complete (a total of five minutes would probably need to be dedicated to this concession), this has not been done. We do an inventory of the backpack when we pick him up from school. If the assignment book has nothing written on it, we have no idea if when he tells us just the worksheet is due if it really IS just the worksheet that is due.

I try hard not to doubt every thing he tells us. It’s not fair to him, but obviously it’s not fair to us, or to his class, or to his teacher, but god, this cannot go on.

Before I even dialed my husband, I called the school psychologist. And cried. I plead with him to help us get Doodicus the help HE needs. I hiccuped to him as I told him that Doodicus is a good kid. He’s not deliberately trying to get into trouble and that I’m sure all of his parents tell him that their kid is a good kid at heart and that "they just can’t help themselves!"

You know what he said? He said that most parents do NOT say that when they call him for help. Parents do not stick up for their kids, and my heart broke even more.

The impression I got from his teacher during our ever-so-brief phone call is that Doodicus is a burden to her. That she doesn’t have time to dedicate the time that is required when you have a student who most days is perfectly "normal" so that when he is disruptive and non-compliant, he’s too much to help through. Sparring Partner and I have talked in the past that maybe he DOES need to be in the public school system to get the IEP help he obviously needs RIGHT. NOW. but we see things improve and we stop worrying. Until something like this hits the fan at the private educational level.

I feel selfish for even contemplating the future and how I dread all the problems that come with our local public schools. I feel like a pile of shit for hesitating because I *just* got Aitch enrolled at pre-K at his school. I know she will excel, but that means my son will not. If I reverse the situation, there’s no guarantee that my son would flourish while Aitch would not, right? Maybe they both will be very happy. But of course, they both may be miserable.

This is so hard. As I paced the hallway of the office building I work in, which was the only way to have "privacy", I cried and blubbered on the phone. The psychologist said he would look into getting Doodicus into the handicapped program and now I start the crying afresh. He’s just ADHD, right?? That’s not a handicap!! His "friends" will label him. The teachers will refer to him as "THAT kid". I will wonder if he will ever reach the point of self-sufficiency when he reaches adulthood. How will he get a degree? A job?

And I feel helpless. Like I can never do enough. I feel like I haven’t done enough. And then I remind myself to stop being a self-centered whiner and think about how my son feels right now. He’s aware that the school has the option to expel him and he has to sit in the classrooms and wonder when the other shoe will drop and if we stopped loving him for something he can’t really control. My heart is breaking because I cannot and will not stop loving him.

Hat Tricks -or- It Really Is All My Fault

image from Nemerowski Media

It’s a hat trick of posts about Doodicus! And if you’ve turned my blog into some kind of drinking game where you throw back a jigger of tequila every time I complain about something, seek emergency services for the alcohol poisoning immediately. I will bring sunnier and simpler posts the next time. Promise!

Every Friday the teacher gives her students a list of spelling words to study over the weekend. On Monday they take what is referred to as the pretest. If the student does not get 100%, they have the rest of the week to study and take the “post test” on Friday. In other words, ace the first test and you get a breather for the rest of the week and free time while the rest retake the spelling.

Because I am not the good mom you foolishly perceive me to be, I did not check his homework on Friday. I did not check it on Saturday (I claim the out-of-town defense). On Sunday we decided to review his homework including the spelling words. Spelling words? What spelling words? I don’t think we got spelling words…oh, yeah, we did have spelling words but I forgot the list.

Hey. No big deal. The teacher posts the list on the school’s website. <login> <click here> <click there> <open this window> <open that window> <????> Here’s last week’s list…where’s this weeks? She. Didn’t. Post. Them.

Hey. No big deal. (lather rinse repeat) We’ll just call a classmate and get the list from them. Except we can’t find the school directory. I blame Sparring Partner for throwing it away. He blames me for not checking the bookbag on Friday. Tempers are flaring. I find the teacher’s email address and send her a note to let her know we don’t have the list (if you get nothing else from this post (and I wouldn’t) remember that little tidbit) and could she reply with it. I finally get a hold of one of the mom’s. Oooh, she says, my son has the list with him but he’s with his dad this weekend. Here’s his number…

Now I’m mad at the teacher, my son, my husband, and my son’s classmate’s mom and her stupid divorce! My eyes shoot out of my head, hit the wall opposite and what part of my brain hasn’t liquified by then is pulsing out the now empty sockets.

We finally got a returned phone call and the list of spelling words. We practiced late last night and again this morning.

Everything’s cool.

And then I check my email. This morning there’s a reply from his teacher:

I don’t have internet at home and I forgot to post them until this morning.  If he doesn’t do well today he can take it again on Friday. Thanks and sorry!

Cheezits Rice! There went my eyeballs again! BRB as soon as I find the suckers. If Aitch doesn’t find them first and get them stuck in the Ball Popper.

Parenthood

I’m not very good at showing my appreciation for your support, more so now then when I was infertility-blogging. I wish there was a way to let you know how much it really does mean to me. However, with that, I probably will then come across as some kind of asshole if I now told you that at this time we probably won’t seek psychiatric help in regards to Doodicus.

Keeping in line with being an asshole, part of the reason is monetary. Please, I know. How could I put a price on his mental health? We put a price on ours during our infertility treatments; we can now as well.

But that is only a very small part of why we won’t seek counseling in the immediate future. It wasn’t that long ago that Dood was evaluated by a psychologist, who while he thought Dood was an excessive worrier, never suggested that we schedule some private sessions with either himself or another professional. Also, I worry that taking Dood to see a counselor might make him worry even more. Worry that something is wrong with him.

To me, that’s not fair. The bullying is not a result of something wrong with Doodicus. It’s due to something being wrong with the bullies and with the system that either doesn’t recognize it or ignores it.

What we will do if he does tell us about teasing in any form is not ignore it. We hear parents tell their kids to suck it up, to grow up, all the time. Sticks and stones and all that shit, you know? But that’s not how we see it. More specifically, how *I* see it as Sparring Partner does occasionally think that Dood can be too immature and too emotional.

The other night, the movie Parenthood (the one starring Steve Martin) was on. If you’ve seen it, you may recall the scene where the child, Kevin, comes unglued because he lost his retainer at the family restaurant. His dad (Martin) complains later that he’s like a high-strung poodle. Kevin’s character is Doodicus. Years ago when Sparring Partner and I had watched the movie, we saw the resemblance. Now that Doodicus is 9, the same age as the character, we no longer think “he’s kinda like that.” It’s “he’s just like that.”

I think what’s important in helping Doodicus right now: recognizing that he is going to need help.

Bullying

A couple of weeks ago when I picked up Doodicus from school, he was clearly upset about something. I have to admit that at first I tried to ignore it because he can be overly emotional about what should be very insignificant things: I combed his hair wrong, his pants are too long, his toast wasn’t cut exactly down the middle; however, not even with me being a hardened bitch could I ignore his attempt to not cry.

It took some gentle prodding for him to finally admit that a couple of his classmates were making fun of his name. At first, I imagined the name that my SIL had once called him when Doodicus was a baby: “Maxi”. Sparring Partner immediately read her the riot act for obvious reasons. And if it isn’t obvious to you, then you were never a school-aged child.

Instead the name they called him was Office Max. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal, but they must have needled him to no end about it. I tried to convince him that he should have just replied, “That’s the best you could come up with? You guys are idiots,” but snappy comebacks do not come natural to 9 year olds. By the end of the day, it had all but been forgotten.

Some days later I was reading the People magazine which highlighted the deaths of several young people who had committed suicide following some form of bullying. Inside were stories from other students who briefly described the bullying they had been exposed to, including one who said she was bullied “just because.”

I knew after reading those stories that I had to say something to my son’s principal about it, especially since the recent name calling was not the first time Doodicus had been upset at the end of a school day. A few months ago, he joined the Y contact football league for the first time. He was so pumped about it, and while we knew he would never be NFL material, we were thrilled that he was putting in the effort of going to practice, a brutal 90 minutes two times a week and the one hour games on Sundays. But after the first handful of games, he suddenly stopped being excited about practice and asking if he could stay home. He finally told us that one of the kids on his team, who also was a classmate, would tell Doodicus that he should just quit football; that he sucked and he shouldn’t come back.

As you can imagine, I was furious. To make matters even worse? This kid’s dad was one of the coaches. At the next practice I pulled aside this coach to let him know, and he seemed genuinely concerned. He agreed to address the kids as a team about how this was to be a learning experience, a fun experience. Doodicus told me later that the coach had reminded the kids about what was expected of them as a team, but the haranguing from that kid did not cease until football season finally ended. I doubt Doodicus will return to football this coming fall.

If you hadn’t put two and two together yet, one of the kids that had been poking fun at Doodicus’s name was the same kid from football. When I sent the principal an email about these incidents, I did name the kid as the bully. The principal replied that they would be on the watch for future interactions, but I honestly have the feeling he didn’t take it that seriously.

Here’s why I am taking it seriously. VERY seriously. As I have mentioned, Doodicus is very sensitive and emotional. He recently got into trouble for something at home and lost privileges to his new ipod for a week. He was so upset, he told me he doesn’t deserve to be alive. You can’t possibly know what that feels like, but I can tell you my blood ran cold while at the same time the surge of adrenaline nearly blinded me. The only thing I could do was to calm and reassure him that it’s the action we were displeased with but that wouldn’t change how much we loved him for him.

And this is not the first time he has made this kind of statement. What scares me more than anything is that we know it won’t be the last. You think I am worrying for nothing? Almost exactly a year ago a nine year old committed suicide in his school. He had been sent to the nurse’s office for disciplinary reasons, panicked, and hung himself in the bathroom.

He had been taking medication for mood swings and for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and had been having suicidal thoughts for about two years, the police report states.

In 2007, [his] parents, [J] and [D], sought treatment for their son for ADHD.

And yes, those are the parents’ initials (for those who know us).

So I hope you can understand why the bullying cannot – and will not – be taken lightly. I am afraid. Please don’t tell me not to be.