Posts tagged ‘elementary school’

Silence and Heartbreak

Many years ago, when C was in second grade, I experienced the single most traumatic event as his parent – even to this day. This is saying a lot, given his birth could not have been much more dramatic than it was, or all that’s occurred in the last several years. Even now, all these years later, I can still conjure up the pain of that day in vivid detail. It taught me a valuable lesson, however, about silence, trauma, and what it really means to be a Mama Bear. Moreover, when looking back on it, I am reminded that despite all of the frustration I have felt over the years at being the person who gives C the most while being the biggest recipient of his anger and despair, I would do anything for this kid. I might screw it up completely, but I’ll go to the ends of the earth to help him. If that isn’t being a Mother, I don’t know what is.

You can read about that day here. Be warned, it is a bit longer than usual, and perhaps a bit more painful. But silent? Never again.

April 24, 2019 at 12:06 am 1 comment

Part of something

     C has always felt very much a part of things. While I suspect there have been moments where he’s felt left out, I think most of the time he feels right in the middle of it all, even when he really is not. Yet I’m thrilled to report that this year, he actually does seem very much a part of things. He still struggles; there are days when he tells me he sat alone at lunch because he wanted to, and days when I observe him at recess while he wanders around the playground by himself. But for the first time in C’s entire life, I feel as though he might just make it through okay.

     On the heels of doing some data collection at recess where C had 0, count them: 0, productive interactions with other children, I have also seen him respond and relate to other kids in a way I never have before. I listened to him carry on a true back and forth conversation with two of his classmates at lunch the other day, and tonight I had to nag him to get off the phone with a friend simply because he was talking far too long. He’s had playdates at our house nearly every weekend, with several different kids. Even bigger, he seems to be branching out, somewhat successfully, from the safety of girls to trying to make it in the boys’ world.

     All of this causes me to wonder whether C is growing up or growing out. Out of his diagnosis, that is. I suspect it’s more growing up, and that all it will take to validate his diagnosis once again is a birthday party or school field day (a haven of insanity that brings all of his challenges forward). After all, I’ve been here before; lulled into complacency and the thought that C’s struggles nowhere near compare to other children who share his same diagnosis. True as that may be, I would no more take away his quirky, interesting personality than I would take away his dimples. C just is who he is – and he’s perfect.

On an aside, please, please, please read this post about a child who needs a family and share it with anyone you know who might care.

October 8, 2009 at 8:37 pm 5 comments

The ties that bind

     C has gone through developmental stages at various times, none of which seemed to quite match the evil developmental charts posted in the pediatrician’s office. Separation anxiety reared it’s ugly head at the start of 1st grade. In preschool, it was, “See ya’ Mom!” Or at least that’s what I imagined him saying if he could talk. At the time I thought perhaps he had skipped that developmental step altogether, and I patted myself on the back while I walked out of the building, teary eyed from my own separation anxiety.

     When the anxiety hit in first grade, it hit hard. I remember one particularly dark day when a teacher had to pry C off me, screaming and thrashing as the other kids looked on. C of course was fine five minutes later, although I spent the remainder of my day in that same teary eyed state. I’m sure the teacher was used to it, but I felt bad for her too.

     The anxiety has mellowed, although there’s always a few weeks at the beginning of the year where the tears flow in the car on the way to school, and I find myself using every trick in my book to distract C and stave off a complete meltdown. Now, however, one month in, he goes to school with a somewhat steely resignation that I know is replaced by happiness the minute he gets in the door.

     C still, however, wants me to walk him onto the playground and stay until his class lines up and goes inside. Thankfully, there’s at least one other parent in the third grade whose child is the same way, and we commiserate on the way to the parking lot about whether or not we’ll be walking our kids to their college classes in the future. We hope not.

     I’m sure teachers everywhere would like us to just drop our kids off and get the heck out of the picture. Things would probably be a lot simpler for them, which is always a good thing. If I had a typical kid, I might do that, but I figure there’s a time and place for coddling C a little bit, and if my being there in the morning lessens his anxiety, then I’ll do it. Frankly, I’m in no rush for it, but I’m hoping the developmental stage of C’s wanting me to drop him off at least a block from school – so as not to be embarrassed by my geeky Mom demeanor – will happen at some point. Hopefully that will happen before college.

September 16, 2009 at 11:26 am 4 comments

Predator and prey

     I watch the playground, wondering if it was so fraught with landmines when I was a kid, wondering when it became, in my mind, a war zone. It looks completely innocent with brightly colored plastic play equipment and smiling children running around. Everything seems fine on the surface.

     I watch deeper. For those of us that always look deeper, that have to look deeper, that are forced to look deeper, it is a far more sinister place. It is perhaps the most dangerous place at school except possibly the bathroom. It is the place where our kids, our very vulnerable kids, take the most abuse at the hand of the other kids.

     I watch C try to initiate play with a group of four kids who were particularly mean to him last year. I watch, as though from underwater for as long as it takes me to make myself believe their mean-spirited play is what I think it is. Not mean enough so that C will know, but mean enough that he doesn’t even realize – which is somehow even worse. The level of sophistication of their teasing and their awareness of C’s own obliviousness is incredible to me.

     I watch these children and marvel at their cleverness on one hand, while silently urging C to move on to someone else on the other. When I realize he’s playing along with them, I sit back to see what he will do. After all, I can’t be there every day, and I hope he’s learned from last year that these kids just aren’t nice. But when I see the one girl in the group start kicking sand at C’s face, I head on over to them.

     I watch the little girl walk away as I remind her she shouldn’t be kicking sand at someone. After she throws a remark to me over her shoulder in a sassy tone of voice (one I wouldn’t have dared use with my own mother as a child, much less someone else’s mother), I fight the urge to give her The. Look. Reminding me of what we called “crusties” in high school, The. Look. is a penetrating stare that conveys all the wicked thoughts in one’s head to the person on the receiving end. I resist. She is 8. They are all 8, I remind myself.

     I watch these children, and I’m not sure what disturbs me more: that they remind me of a pack of hyenas, so conniving and ferociously social, or that C didn’t even realize he was their prey.

September 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm 6 comments

It’s about that time

     It is student council election time. C has been completely fixated on student council since last year. The elders of their school, the second graders are the ultimate in coolness. The last day of first grade, he went in search of the second grade teacher who runs the student council to ask her about it. He fell in love on the spot, and now she is the delightful “Angel,” Mrs. B., as previously discussed (see here). Shyly, almost circling the ground with his toe as he looked at the floor, he asked her what he needed to be elected to student council. “Good character,” she replied. “You have to show your classmates that you have good character so they will vote for you.”

     He mulled it over all summer, bringing it up frequently and talking about how cool it would be to get elected. The kicker, however, is that the student council members have to sometimes give up their recess for meetings. He told me this yesterday, and I waited, thinking this might be the out, the end of his desire to be his equivalent of the President of the United States at the elementary school level. “But that’s okay with me,” he said quickly. “I still want to do it.”

     So tonight, he wrote a little speech to give to his class tomorrow. Like every good speech, it starts with a really powerful selling statement. “I would like to be on student council because I would be a very good student to be voted for.” It continues with statements designed to hook even the most cynical of voters with the promise of treats for everyone. “I could order smencils (scented pencils) for the whole school and many other things. And I would try to think of good ‘Spirit Friday’ events.” Then it leads into the meat of the issue, the points about his moral fiber and ability to be a good leader. “I am trustworthy, responsible, and I always turn in my library books.”

     What more could any second grade class ask for than this kind of representation? It was all I could do not to make “Elect C” buttons to pass out to his class, but I thought that might be going overboard. So we’ll play it low key, wait and see what happens, and anxiously await the results. I’m pretty sure if he’s elected he’ll try to play it cool but won’t be able to contain his excitement. If he’s not, the sky will likely fall down. Keep your fingers crossed.

September 4, 2008 at 9:39 pm 2 comments

What a difference a year makes

     One year ago, we were unpacking boxes in our new home. The third home in as many years, in a string of towns in which we have lived. For the most part, they’ve all been lovely places we chose because of the life we wanted to lead. We had to learn twice that ski towns, wonderful as they are, can be challenging for a family like ours. Therapists, treatments and safety in numbers (numbers of similar kids, that is) are all missing. The activities we want to do sit tantalizingly close but may as well be a million miles away given the challenges C can face in this arena.

     The town we’re in now, however, was handpicked for C. A mere 15 minutes away from ready, willing and able grandparents; near big city services and doctors but still in a very small town; in a school district that seems to be moving forward in handling the special needs of children instead of backward; and in a state that graciously provides necessary therapies and respite care based on a child’s diagnosis and needs. We’re in a town that for once, isn’t a one hit wonder when it comes to Husband’s job; if he needs to leave his job for some reason, there are many others in his field from which he can choose.

     A year ago, we were coming off a mostly disastrous school year, and we were anxious about what the upcoming year would bring. And while I am always a bit nervous for C at the start of a school year, for once the issues seem less about the big picture and more about the little details. Will he get elected to student council, something he desperately wants? Will he feel able to ride the bus this year or will he continue to want me to walk him into the playground and wait until the bell rings?

     Sure, I know the big picture items are still there. Will he make any close friends? Will he grow a little bit and perhaps look more like the 7 1/2 year old he is instead of looking like a preschooler? Will his anxiety issues return? Yet for once, it’s nice to sweat the small stuff. As he heads off to 2nd grade tomorrow complete with a dream of a teacher, I am, for once, almost calm.

August 11, 2008 at 1:30 am 10 comments

It’s all autism, all the time.

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