Month: October 2013


I Didn’t Want That.

Shane had an all-day field trip to the Chesapeake Bay, and I chaperoned.  He’s been talking for a week about sitting with Andrew on the bus, but when we arrived, I could tell that Andrew wasn’t an option as a seat partner.  Shane hung back, way at the end of the line – mainly because I was so late in getting him there, but also because that’s how he is.  He would never just walk up and stand next to his friend.  Shane is a rules follower.  He goes to the end of the line.

The ride was 2 hours long.  When we arrived, I asked Shane, “How was the bus ride?”

“Good,” he said.

“Did you read Harry Potter?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I didn’t sit with anybody.”

“You got the whole seat to yourself?” I asked.  “That’s good.”

“I didn’t want that,” he said.  Tears sprang to his eyes.  He immediately choked them down and stopped talking about it.

He’d spent two hours wishing he had someone to sit with – and no one sat with him.  He’s a sweet, lovable kid – but he would never sit near someone and talk across the aisle.  He wouldn’t sit on his knees and talk to the people in the seat behind him.  He’s an introvert and a loner.  We know this.

So when I watched him at the field trip, it was no surprise.  There were four boys in our group, none of them his intellectual equal.  One of them was in my math group last year, when I volunteered to help teach third grade math.  I was teaching him to count by 2’s and 3’s – a skill Shane mastered when he was in preschool.

Still, I tried to get them together, because they were partners for some activities.  They did their activities together, and then the boy ran to be with his friends.  Shane walked by himself, sometimes with me, sometimes spinning in circles as he went.  He had not a care in the world – but I was crushed.  Why didn’t he talk to anyone?  If he wanted someone to be with him, why didn’t he get out of his comfort zone a bit and talk to someone?

After more than an hour, Celeste – a girl he’s known since 2nd grade – started talking to him.  They talked and talked and talked.  They compared shell collections and discussed their field trip activities.  They were in synch, in tune, able to communicate.  They ate lunch together and alone, still talking, while the other kids bunched together in their groups at tables of six or eight.

Celeste is smart, sweet and fun.  Shane has been begging me for a playdate with her for two months.  And I told him to find a boy instead.

This is why I chaperone.  Sure, I like to go places and see the things they do.  But mostly, I get to see my child in action, in his social group, with his peers.  I learn more about him in one day than I can learn in a whole week of asking questions about his day.

Today, I will email Celeste’s mom with one of the many pictures I took, and invite her over for a playdate.  And I’ll wonder all day long why I couldn’t just listen to my son.

Who Needs a Pill?

The kids had a three-day weekend, meaning no medication for Dylan.  Since I am now convinced that the medication is the root of all evil, I paid close attention to Dylan’s behavior.

First, and best, there was not even a minor incident with his becoming irritable, crabby, despondent, despairing, morose or even sad.  He was happy all the time – just like he was when he was a toddler.  He smiled constantly.  He wanted to do everything.  He didn’t have even a moment of depression.  And this was over the course of THREE DAYS.

Second, he was bouncy.  I mean, he was everywhere.  He is BIG – taller than me already, with enormous feet – but he was climbing on things, hanging on people and touching, Touching, TOUCHING everything he could see!  It drove me crazy.  It always drives me crazy.  Again, this is how he has been since he was a toddler.

Third, he couldn’t keep his hands off of Shane.  Because Shane is smaller, Dylan has no trouble forcing Shane into submission for whatever he wants to do.  He grabs Shane by the shoulders, pushes him into things, head butts him and tackles him.  He constantly HUGS Shane – although they are not comfortable hugs.  So this weekend, I took it upon myself to stop yelling at Dylan about his brother, and I started hugging Dylan instead.

This worked BEAUTIFULLY.  He stayed off of his brother (more), and he was able to get that physical stimulation.  AND I was able to hug my son!  Woo-hoo!  He may be almost a teenager, but he’s not gone yet.  Double bonus.

Meanwhile, I emailed some of my lists about possible medication changes.  Apparently this is not an uncommon problem.  Parents who have lived through this say that medication works differently as the hormones start raging through our kids’ bodies.  So we are going to either have to find a new medication or – as some moms did – take away medication completely.

This morning, I gave Dylan the choice – at least until our appointment with the neurologist next week.  He opted to take the pills.  He also told me I shouldn’t start arguments with him.  This is so laughable, I can’t even go into the details – but Dylan debates every single word that comes out of my mouth (especially when he’s taking those pills).

So we’ll just hang in there and see how it goes…!

Why Am I So Afraid for Him to Fail?

I’m no stranger to drugs.  I know things.  I know people.  I was aware, when I put my son on stimulants, that there could be side effects.

But it never occurred to me that those side effects would include depression.  My son, the enthusiastic, fun-loving optimist, is depressed.  He hates his life.  He feels unloved and unliked and unappreciated.

For weeks now – maybe months – I’ve believed that this was just a symptom of being a teenager.  His hormones are raging, I thought.  There’s nothing I can do.  We’ve had some pretty rough days, evenings, nights.  He’s spent time crying when I wouldn’t have expected him to cry.  The things he said were so morose, so incredibly sad.

And I could relate to those things.  I felt awful for most of my life.  I recognized the feelings as similar to mine. But I forgot that, for most of that time, I was severely depressed.  I hated myself, my life, my unapparent reason for existing.  So when these words came out of my son’s mouth – followed immediately by the comment that he would never, ever commit suicide though – I just figured he’d have to get through it, like I did.

Then tonight, after dinner – after yesterday’s drawn out, emotionally draining, six-hour moan, whine, sob session…  Tonight we noticed that he was 100% normal and happy.  Unlike many, many days when he comes home from school, tonight he was happy.

He had a field trip today.  He doesn’t take medication when he goes on field trips, because he doesn’t need it to focus on the teacher.

And for the first time – in all these months, in all this time, even with all the warnings – the things he would say about not feeling like himself … Tonight, for the first time, I realized that my enthusiastic, optimistic son is having a reaction to the drugs.

OF COURSE he is having a reaction to the drugs!  They are stimulants, which eventually cause a crash.  And the longer one takes the stimulants, the harder that crash can be.  He is having a reaction to the drugs.

I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.  He’s been on the same drug – in an increasing dosage – for two years and two months.  He doesn’t take it on weekends, or in the summer.  And we’ve never, ever had a knock-down, drag-out horror session like the one we had last night unless he was taking medication.  We haven’t had one because without the drugs, he feels fine.

Later, I’ll rehash everything we tried – for years and years and years – before we tried medicine.  I’ll tell the story of the miracle drug that changed his life.

But for now, we have to get off this drug.  I am calling the neurologist in the morning to see if we can get an appointment and discuss our options.  Maybe we can try a new drug.  Maybe it will be better.  Maybe we can try the Feingold Diet (the only natural cure we haven’t tried yet).  Maybe we will just send him to school with his under-focusing brain and let him be himself – and miserable with school, instead of inside himself.

Funny thing is, we decided to medicate him the day we learned that unmedicated kids with ADHD are 80% more likely to become addicted to drugs as teenagers – while trying to medicate themselves.  At least, that’s the statistic we heard.

What if we work on his self-esteem, stay vigilant about positive reinforcements, and pump him up instead of making him feel like he needs drugs to keep up?  What if we let him try 7th grade his way?

And why am I so afraid for him to fail, as long as he is happy, healthy and brilliant?  Einstein was one of school’s biggest failures ever.  Maybe Dylan – honestly – is okay being like Albert Einstein.  And why on earth am I concerned about that?

Don’t Tell Me What to Wear!

It’s fall.  It’s 42 degrees outside in the morning.  Dylan is wearing shorts.  I should know better by now than to open my mouth, but I’m cold inside and I just can’t keep quiet.

“Wear pants,” I say.

“I don’t have any pants,” he says.  We open his drawer.  There are two pairs of pants.

I say, “There are pants.  Wear them.”

“These ones are too long,” he whines, “and these are my P.E. pants.”

“Those ones are not too long – you tried them on last week.”

“I just don’t want to wear them,” Dylan says.

“Then wear your P.E. pants,” I say.  I paid $30 for those sweatpants and he has worn them exactly once – and not to P.E.

Dylan says, “Then everyone will say, why are you wearing your P.E. pants to school?”

I say, “You can tell them you are wearing them because you don’t have any other clean pants!”

He puts on the ones that are too long.  “They’re too tight,” he moans.  “I just really want to wear shorts today.”

This discourse goes on for a while.  Finally, frustrated beyond my capacity to NOT YELL – which I am still trying not to do – I say, “Fine, Dylan, wear shorts.  Freeze to death.  I don’t care.”

(I am so pleasant when I don’t get my way.)

And today, I will do laundry and go shopping, so that he has at least 10 pairs of pants in his drawer at all times.  His P.E. pants will sit there until the end of time, and he’ll never wear them for P.E. or otherwise.

Five minutes later, Dylan sits down to breakfast in his shorts.  “Thanks for breakfast, Mom,” he says.

He is serious.  He is sweet and kind and caring.  He thanked me for making his breakfast.

All is well with the world.

What Vitamin Do You Want?

Today, Dylan raced.

I got an email from the social studies teacher, who said that Dylan’s “Z” meant that his assignment could still be turned in for credit.  Of course, that assignment needed to be completed.  So we insisted that Dylan complete the assignment before he raced this week.  The deal is, if he doesn’t turn it in as expected, he will not race on Sunday of next week.

He finished that paper so fast, you’d have thought he didn’t have the slowest processing speed on the planet.  And I bet it will be turned in, as expected, without another word from me.

It is hard, hard, hard being a parent.  It is hard having to discipline someone you love more than anyone in the world, someone whose happiness matters to you more than your own.  It’s agonizing, trying to make sure they grow up to be responsible, self-sufficient adults when you just want to hug them and tell them it’s all going to be all right, and give them everything they want, all the time.

Every morning, we take vitamins.  We take Flintstones chewables.  I take them, too, because they have plenty of supplemental nutrients for adults. And they remind me of my own childhood.  So in the morning, with their breakfast, I dole out the vitamins. Dylan takes his vitamins nearly two hours before Shane, because he leaves for school earlier.

When I dole out the vitamins for Shane, I shake out one for me, and one for him.  Shane and I both like the orange and red Flinststones vitamins, but we don’t like the purple ones so much.  So some days, I shake out an orange and a purple vitamin, and I offer him first choice.  I want him to be happy.

He used to always take the good vitamin, and leave me with the purple one.

Most days, I would just smile.  But one day, I got grumpy.  “Why,” I asked him, “do you always take the one I like best? Sometimes it’s a good idea to care about other people, too.”

“I do care about you,” Shane said, clearly perplexed.  It had never occurred to him that I would care about vitamin flavors.  Since then, sometimes he shakes out the vitamins and asks me, “Which one do you want, Mom?”

I wanted to teach him empathy, but I just felt bad about taking the good vitamin from my baby.

Most days now, because I worry about him worrying about me, I grab the purple one before he even sees it, so that he can have the orange or red one.  He never knows the difference.

And sometimes I leave him with the purple one.  Sometimes I work extra hard to shake out two reds.  Sometimes I shake out a dozen Freds and Dinos and Bam Bams, so we can both choose whatever we want.

And sometimes, we just take whatever we get.

As much as I want everyone to be happy all of the time, taking what we get – and being happy with what we have – is really what it’s all about.

They may as well learn this lesson now … if only I could learn it myself fast enough to teach it.

Who is Right and What is Fair?

So we have this rule.  If Dylan doesn’t turn in his assignments on time, he doesn’t race go karts on Sunday.

Go kart racing is his favorite thing in the whole world.

The school has a computerized system, where the teachers enter grades, and we can check those grades at home.  It’s awesome.  If Dylan has a missing assignment, he gets a Z, and the next day, he can go and remedy the situation by turning in whatever is missing.

So today is a Professional Day for Teachers.  Kids are home, teachers are off at a conference somewhere.  And Dylan has TWO Z’s.  So I tell him he can’t race on Sunday.

Dylan is crying.  Dylan says he really turned in his English assignment, for sure, and that it must not be marked.  “I turned it in yesterday!” he says. And he probably did, because he checks Edline every night and diligently takes care of Z’s.  In English, nothing has been updated since Wednesday.  (I follow Edline, too.)

But for his other Z, in social studies, Dylan says the homework assignment was turned in on time.  He just didn’t answer two questions.  He should have gotten a bad grade, he says, because he didn’t finish it, but he definitely turned it in – and he got it back, ungraded, since homework is always ungraded.

It is only marked for completion.  And it wasn’t complete.

“The teacher never told me to finish it and turn it in again!” he says.  He is stomping around like a two-year-old, screaming that it’s “not fair.”

I hold up the sign that says, YOU ARE YELLING.  PLEASE STOP.  (We are still trying not to yell here.)

I believe Dylan.  I believe Dylan thinks he did everything right.  But he did get a Z for incompletion, too.  In his other classes, he gets incomplete answers marked “wrong” instead of incomplete – and oddly, he is fine with that.

Finally, I email the teacher with our quandary.  I call the school, and ask them to leave a message for the teacher at home that we really need an answer to our email ASAP.  I explain the whole thing to the school receptionist, who can’t even imagine that a parent is calling on the kids’ day off.

And now, I am waiting to hear back.  Dylan has stopped crying, sure he will be justified.  I am not so sure.  I think it’s going to go poorly, and the teacher will say he needed to finish that work and turn it back in.  And we’ll have to go through the whole temper-tantrum thing again.

I don’t like the temper-tantrum thing.  I don’t like taking Dylan away from racing.  But this is the rule.  If he has Z’s, he doesn’t race.  And he has Z’s.  I am supposed to be a consistent, disciplining parent.  I am not supposed to give in to temper tantrums.  And I know he’s trying so incredibly hard to get everything in on time.

In this case, is it REALLY his fault?  I have no idea!  I am lost, floundering between knowing the right thing and following the letter of the law.

So I will wait to hear from the teacher, and hope for the best.  It’s going to be a long wait.

Meanwhile, Dylan has created a giant puppet theater that is better than the professionally built one he had as a child.  Shane has set up a video-taping tripod, so the puppet shows can be taped with a single push of a button.  And they are scripting a Sesame-Street-themed puppet show based on You Tube’s infamous Harry Potter Puppet Pals.  The new puppet theater is one of the most creative, wonderful things I’ve ever seen.

How can I be so worried about one piece of paper that may or may not have been turned in on time, when they can do all this?

But I am.  So I will wait.

Should Instructions Be Terse?

Today Dylan has his first crack at the PSAT test.  He is 12.  It seems a bit early in life, but this morning over breakfast, I gave him pointers on how to take a standardized, college entrance exam.

Having been to Open House on Monday, I had just seen the practice work they did in preparation for the PSAT.  Out of 20 questions, I was only sure of maybe 15 answers.

One question, for example, was “Should instructions be terse?”  You are supposed to answer YES or NO.  I had a 50-50 chance, right?

But I couldn’t decide.  Should instructions be terse?  My first instinct was YES.

Well, I thought, of course they should be terse.  You need to get to the point.

Then I thought, But ‘terse’ does not mean pleasant.  It’s a negative word. Instructions shouldn’t be given harshly. Who would listen?

I debated myself over this one question for several minutes, finally giving up and thanking God that I didn’t have to take the test.  But this morning, when preparing Dylan for his first PSAT exam, I mentioned it again.  I told him that the most important thing he could do when taking this test is to NOT agonize over the answers.

“Go with your gut,” I told him.  “Your gut is strong and your head plenty smart that your first instinct is probably always right.”

When I was in school, I agonized over answers, like I did on Monday. I agonized for so long that I simply had no idea what was right – and ended up randomly guessing based on what I thought that someone in the upper echelon might be hoping to get as an answer.  I was incredibly insecure, had no faith in my own abilities, and certainly couldn’t be perfect. I wish I had known that my best guess was sufficient.

So on Monday, after giving up on the question about the word “terse,” I whispered to the teacher, “I couldn’t get all of these.”

And like any good teacher, he handed me a list of vocabulary words and their definitions, as if they would help me figure out the right answers.  He said, “You can keep these.”

Unfortunately, he gave me the wrong list.  They were a completely different list of 20 words.  And, worse yet, they certainly didn’t answer the subjective question of whether or not instructions should be terse.  The definition of the word terse was not the problem.  I knew what the words meant.  I just didn’t know if my opinion was the “right” one to have.

My gut said, YES.  But I have no idea – and never will – if my gut was right.  I just know now, at age 49, that going with my gut is good enough.

I sincerely hope my son realizes this long before I did.

Why All the Worry?

Today was Open House at the kids’ schools.  This means I could do my very favorite thing in the world: observe my children without having to do anything at all.

First, I drove Dylan to school, where he walked five paces ahead of me on his way to the Morning Show.  Dylan works in the booth, running captions, sound, etc.  He is much needed in that booth – which gives him not only a sense of importance, but actual importance.  The show is a glorified and televised version of middle school morning announcements, and I commented that it went very smoothly.  As I was chasing Dylan down the hall to his first period class, he said, “Yeah, it almost always goes that well.”

English took place in the computer lab today, so I watched Dylan excel – since he is one of the few students who already knows how to type.  He was forced to learn in 3rd grade, thanks especially to his developmental disorder (whatever it is) that makes it hard to get words from his brain to the paper. In the 45-minute class, most students finished a paragraph, while Dylan pounded out two full pages.  And it’s really good.  It’s a fictional story based on a photo, and I can hardly wait to read the completed version.

Then we went to Algebra I, where Dylan struggles immensely, and he seemed to be doing just fine.  So I promised the teacher I’d email her to set up a conference, and headed off to Shane’s elementary school Open House, which was just starting up.

As I walked out of the building, I felt as though a large boulder rolled off my back – and down the middle school hallways, where I didn’t have to deal with it anymore.

I wasn’t worried anymore.  I knew that, whatever the issues with Shane may be, I didn’t have to worry while I was at Shane’s open house.  He has dysgraphia but comparatively, it’s such a minor issue.  And Shane performed admirably today.  This once absurdly shy boy raised his hand a few times, offered some delightful answers, and waved to us as we left.  (My husband and mom were there, too.)

After the elementary school tossed us out, I went back to middle school to watch Dylan in P.E. I don’t want anyone to think life is only about math and reading.  I was thrilled to watch him flip and fly around during gymnastics, and hang with a contortionist’s skill on the rings.  He’s not only brilliant, he’s athletic, too.

I spend hours and hours and days and days worrying about my kids.  Then I go to Open House and I see them happy and well-behaved and doing an absolutely exceptional job in whatever they attempt.  I beam with pride, smile at the other proud parents, walk out talking about how wonderful it is to see them all so happy.

Today, I went home ecstatic.  Then I realized: Dylan didn’t turn in his homework in English!  I was THERE and I didn’t see him do it!  So I yelled in to the other room – as the fears kicked in again – “Dylan! You didn’t turn in your homework in English!”

“Yes I did,” he said.  He did it, and I didn’t even see it.

I think I can stop worrying now.

Why All the Yelling?

Dylan is having trouble with a girl.  He likes the girl.  The girl likes him.  They call each other “best friends.”  The problem is: the girl’s parents don’t want the girl spending so much time with Dylan.  They don’t want her to come over to our house anymore.  They don’t want her to spend so much time texting him.  And as a parent, I understand.

But I thought there might be more to it, so I emailed the parents to see if they knew something I didn’t know.  Girl’s Mom admitted that she has been reading her daughter’s texts.  (This is something I don’t want to do.  I respect his privacy and see no reason to read his texts.)  Girl’s Mom doesn’t like what’s in them.  She says Dylan talks about me, about how I yell too much. My guess is, she doesn’t want Dylan over here because she thinks I’m some kind of screeching lunatic.

I am not a screeching lunatic, but I have had my moments.  After our catastrophe evening on Monday, I made a new resolution that there should be NO yelling in the house.  Someone told me that yelling is worse for kids than hitting them, that they will grow up to be depressed and despondent.

Dylan is already a bit depressed and despondent.  And of course, it’s my fault. I yell at him too much.  I yell that he needs to do his homework, put on his shoes, wear a coat, brush his hair.  I yell at him to stop spinning in circles and sit down and eat.  I yell at him to stop playing the same song every single day on the piano.  I yell at him because I think yelling gets results.  I yell at him because he doesn’t listen to me.

I yell at him because I think I’m losing control.  I yell at him – which shows that I have LOST control.

So far, since Monday, I have not yelled.  Not once.  It is hard.  It is very, very hard.  I feel the fear welling up inside of me and have no idea how to let it out without yelling.  Anger comes from fear.  I am afraid that things will not get done, that my boys won’t know what to do when they grow up, that I will lose them.

But I am trying – really, really trying – not to yell, one day at a time.  And I will keep posting on how that goes.  Because while I started this blog to show what it’s like to raise a GT/LD teenager, I am realizing that raising myself is substantially more difficult – and essential.

How Do You Stay Calm?

This week has been hard, and it’s only Wednesday.  Raising a teenager is a bit like taking a perfectly good car, beating it mercilessly with a metal rod, and then wondering why it doesn’t drive the way it used to.  Except I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything to make Dylan this way.  He’s simply raging with hormones and has no idea how to live through the constant drama that comes at him from all directions (including inside himself).

I’ve been practicing the principles of Celebrate Calm and Kirk Martin since Dylan was 6.  I went to hear Kirk at a local bookstore for free, while Bill took the kids somewhere.  It was fall, much like today, so they probably went to a farm while I went to listen to someone talk about dealing with difficult kids.  We didn’t have an ADHD diagnosis, but we knew Dylan was a handful.

Kirk talked about remaining calm as your child bounced all over the room.  He talked about the way we tend to lose it with “our kids,” and scream when we should, instead, sit down with them and color.  He talked so much about Dylan, I thought he’d met him before the talk.  And then he said he had lots more information that would help us, on CDs that cost nearly $300.

I called Bill on his cell and explained my dilemma.  This was the first time I’d ever heard anyone describing my child – and offering hope.  I wanted to buy the CDs but we’d have to give up food for a few weeks.  Bill said, “Right before you called, I was standing outside praying about what to do about Dylan.  This must be the answer to my prayer.  Buy the CDs.”

And we did.

{This is NOT a paid advertisement.  It’s just that nothing else worked for us.  And doing what’s on these CDs did.  So I’ll go on….}

And we bought more CDs later.  And we went to see Kirk Martin during all of his local visits.  And we inundated ourselves with calm techniques.  And they changed our LIFE.  They helped us to encourage Dylan to soar with his strengths.  And they’ve made the last 5 years more beautiful and positive than we ever dreamed possible.  Dylan wasn’t the problem.  It was the way we reacted to Dylan’s behavior that caused the most trouble.

And then Dylan kicked into high gear as a hormonal teenager.  The other night, I found myself quite literally screaming at him on the street, like some low-life insane person with a grocery cart and nowhere to go.  I was screaming.  All the CALM went right out the window.  Dylan was screaming back at me.  But I remembered what I was supposed to do and, somehow, threw a Celebrate Calm CD at Dylan and forced him to listen to it.

It was the best I could do.  I could hardly breathe, I was so angry at him for not listening to my sage wisdom.

The next day, he came downstairs calm and relaxed.  I was still an emotional wreck.  I said, “What happened?”

Dylan said, “I’m just trying this thing that I learned on the CD.  It says you don’t have to hang onto bad stuff.  You can just let it go and move on.”

I think it’s time for me to break out those old CDs and listen to them again, with a fresh perspective and a teenager.

 

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