Thursday, September 07, 2006

Struggling to be seven...

I am getting glimpses of what the teenage years must be like for a parent lately, and I am not ready for that in the least. This is intensely personal and a difficult thing in which for me to write, but it is also something I need to put to words so I can work through it. Written words have always helped me make sense in my most difficult times...

My son is struggling--and in so many ways that I can't even really detail it fully here. And, my heart is deeply aching, because I don't know what is wrong or how to fix it for him. Surely there is something that can be done, but nothing we've tried seems to work.

A seven-year-old should be all about telling gross jokes, giggling in class, and making funny faces at the little girls. A seven-year-old should not fall completely apart when he comes home from school each day, crying uncontrollably when he gets is first "number" in conduct.

A seven-year-old should feel wild and free, and laugh and be obnoxious, but know he's loved regardless. He should dig up worms and get messy, collect "bee-bees" and bugs with his friends, and enjoy sweaty games of kickball in the street. He should not feel like he's "the worst person in the world" or the "slowest person in his class."

A seven-year-old should be able to handle his Dad coaching his little league soccer team without going from the extremes of tackling other players in highly aggressive mode, to falling down and crying when the rest of the team votes for a different name than he wanted.

I want my seven-year-old to be happy and he is not. And that is killing me.

When I look at his problems, I see some of my own from when I was a teen struggling with perfectionism and self-loathing. I faced the worst of it when I was 15, not as a seven-year-old just starting off in elementary school. The fact that he's struggling now scares me to death, because what will he be like in a few years?

And, then there is first grade. First grade is eating my son alive. It is not that the work is too hard. He is able to do the work, he is just choosing to not do it. His teacher tells us he is "in another zone" in class and sometimes doesn't even hear her when she speaks to him. I would actually happily embrace a negative teacher's report if it was about him being the class clown, or talking too much with friends. But, to be told your child is just not doing anything at all...not even "able to take care of himself" and do the simple things the children must do every day to move from A to B, well it is almost too much to take. This child was labeled as the best "rule follower" and constantly got praised for doing extra things in class just two years ago in preschool.

We are taking steps to help him. We've called his pediatrician. We're making sure there is nothing physically wrong. We are going to then tackle the emotional issues as a family. But, that doesn't mean we'll figure out what this is or be able to fix it. Like my own issues, this just may be "in" him and a part of him forever. And, the hardest part for me is realizing that.

As someone who tends to blame herself for any negative thing that happens within a 50 mile radius of my being, I am struggling probably as much as my kid right now. What about all those times I raised my voice at him? What about the words I've said in anger or frustration? Am I the reason he's in such pain? Is it my fault he's shutting down completely on his everyday life?

I suppose this is the "mommy guilt" I have read so much about, coupled with my own emotional triggers all being fired at once. All that I know to do is to do whatever I can to show him we love him. I am now my son's room mom at school--something I never really wanted or intended to be with another small child at home. But, when I was called it was like God was saying, "Here you go...this is where you can get started." I am trying to put together this puzzle that is my son and trying so hard to also improve myself at the same time and it is draining beyond belief.

When you are seven years old, you deserve to be happy. You deserve to think you're the best soccer player in the world and you're going to be a professional race car driver when you grow up. You deserve to feel smart and important in your class. You deserve to be noticed and not ignored through your kindergarten year. You deserve a day without breaking down in tears, without nightmares, or stomach and headaches.

You deserve all of that and more. And, until my son can have that, I don't think I can ever feel normal or happy again myself...


Blogger daysgoby said...


I don't have any answers, just a hug for you. I'm glad your boy has you (and DaddyCat) looking out for him.

10:16 PM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

I'm so sorry to hear your pain. I don't know if it will help any, but my oldest is in first grade, too, and he's having an adjustment period. He's been more tearful lately and worrying about weird things like: his ears falling off, his skin being blistered, his arms aching. And he won't drink anything or go to the bathroom at school. Two books I would recommend are "The Birth Order Book" (I don't know the author) because it seems first-borns have a unique set of challenges, and "The Wonder of Boys" by Michael Gurian because it really opened my eyes to how they think and communicate. Prayer never hurts, either! You are an awesome mom. Don't blame yourself. And remember, things never stay the same for long with little people.

10:24 PM, September 07, 2006  
Anonymous Sitting Still said...

I can't imagine how hard it was for you to write this post. It sounds like he is having a rough go, and while some of his difficulties may be woven into his fiber, there may be something else going on. It sounds like you're already taking steps to figure out what/if something is going on.

The hardest part of being a mom is watching your child struggle. and fail. over and over again. But we humans are resilient. Trust that he can change. Trust yourself.

11:02 PM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

Dear oh dear. Has he one or two really close bestest friends among his classmates? That might help.

12:39 AM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

Hi CMC -
I've been thinking about this... a lot... I am really wondering what is going on in that classroom... The stomach aches tell me something is going on in there... something he can't put his finger on, but something isn't right...

You might talk with him about school right before he goes to sleep. They tend to be so tired, they tell you things they wouldn't normally tell you...

(Oh - and quit the mommy guilt. I have enough of that for all of us. That's my gig! ;-) )

5:19 AM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger Alison said...

Some of this reminds me of my own sons. Last night my 2nd grader had a complete meltdown saying he was unable to do his homework. It was a very simple assignment--all he had to do was write down what the Flat Stanley doll did when he visited our house last night, which we had already talked through with him at length, even giving him exact words he could write down if he wanted! Instead he cried, scratched big X's all over his paper, and fell on the floor saying he couldn't write. He has done many writing assignments harder than this, so it was odd. But last year in 1st grade, he actually had that same reaction in class a few times, hiding under the desk on more than one occasion. The 1st grade teacher called a meeting between us, her, the counselor, several other school staff members, and even a social worker, trying to figure out if he needed a diagnosis or therapy or something. As far as I know, it hadn't happened this year until now, though he did apparently freeze on a school assignment in class a couple of weeks ago, and have to re-do it because he just scribbled on his paper instead of doing it. (The assignment was to tell what you did over the weekend, and he felt pressure for some reason to have something perfect to say and different from everyone else!)

What really struck me was your notes about him seeming "in another zone," not hearing her, or doing the things it takes to move from A to B. That sounds a lot like my son sometimes--and he's even in the gifted program, but he just has these issues. We actually did have him checked out by a neurologist when he was 6, and they found that he has mild ADD--which is of the inattentive kind, not the hyperactive kind, so teachers don't always recognize it for what it is. Also, he has an auditory processing disorder, which means that although his hearing is technically fine, he *literally* does not hear the teacher many times when she speaks to him because of distraction by other sounds, etc. That was eye-opening. These may be things to look into, although in our case there was no help offered for these things, just some labels!

My younger son is the one more likely to melt down about things like the team choosing a name other than what he wanted--he cannot bear to lose or be wrong and will throw a fit about anything. But my older one is the one who always has to stay with the teacher on field trips because they're afraid he'll zone out & get lost otherwise! He always seems 20 paces behind the other kids (even though, like your son, he's one of the oldest in his class). They've actually assigned an aide to walk to class with him every morning because twice he got lost on the way to his portable building.

Two problems we've seen that made his school issues worse were: (1) when he was really bored in school. In 1st grade in Texas, a lot of his work consisted of coloring stuff (which he hates) and cutting things out, and nearly every day he'd bring home very easy assignments that said "He never finished this. He had 1 hour to work on it," etc. When we moved to Florida and the work was much harder, which worried me, he never had incomplete assignments because it kept his interest more. And (2) when his teacher was quite strict and not very helpful. His 1st grade teacher in Florida said she would tell the kids things one time, and that was it. If they didn't hear, they were out of luck and not even supposed to ask questions because they needed to learn to listen the first time. I think this led to many of my son's meltdowns in school! His 2nd grade teacher says she says everything aloud, AND writes it on the chalkboard, AND will be happy to answer any questions. So he seemed to be doing better in there, but then had this meltdown at home last night. He obviously felt completely incapable, and I don't know why.

But I really don't think it is your fault! I was trying to tell the teacher last year, "I promise we don't yell if he doesn't do his work perfectly or something!" From the way he was acting, one might think he was in fear of what we'd do if his work wasn't up to our standard, but we'd never berate or punish him over something as silly as these school assignments, and we've always been trying to build him up instead! Turns out, the teacher was equally worried that I'd think SHE was berating him or being mean. Really, it just seems to be his personality, but it is nerve-wracking. I hope 1st grade gets better for your son!

8:59 AM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger Northern_Girl said...

A friend of mine had her son tested by a neurologist and discovered that the cause of her son's trouble (much like what you describe - meltdowns, "in another zone" etc.) was Asperger's Syndrome. I wouldn't rule out something physical/neurobiological.

9:16 AM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger Babaloo said...

My heart broke a little for you and your son when I read this last night (I would have commented, but kept getting errors, F%&*^#G Blogger, UGH!).

Please don't blame yourself. I see from the comments that you are not alone so keep the faith that you will figure this out. Don't stop looking for answers until you find the right ones.

Your son is precious and you are his wonderful mom. Together (with hubs and little sis) you are INVINCEABLE!

Take care and please keep us posted.

4:32 PM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger Lilly said...

If you find that there's nothing physically wrong, I have a few suggestions that might help. This is the first time I've read one of your posts so I'm commenting without knowing anything about your son or your home so forgive me if I'm way off base here.
I'd eliminate any TV. Kids videos would be fine but TV is too much for many kids, both the speed and quick cuts and also the content. If you're watching TV, he should not be overhearing or seeing it. How do you do that? You just move the tv to your bedroom and only watch it when you can.
I'd do what someone else suggested here and lie down with him for a while as he goes off to sleep. I usually lie there with my son for about 10 minutes or so and it's amazing what little troubles of the day kind of bubble up at that hour. It allows him to talk about things that bother him.
If you can you might look into a Montessori school. Their program is more geared to each kid's individual style of learning. If it's an AMI approved school it will be a solid program. They also take a lot of care to nurture each child socially and emotionally.
You're obviously a very loving mom. Hugs to you....

5:54 PM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

No wisdom that hasn't already been offered--just a sincere hope that things get better and a note to let you know (as if it isn't already clear) that you're not in it alone! :)

7:27 AM, September 12, 2006  

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