Month: May 2014
Dylan’s hour with his algebra tutor was practically useless.
After one day at a-pill-and-a-half, Dylan couldn’t sleep. He was awake until almost midnight. When he’s tired, his ADHD symptoms become exaggerated almost to the point of absurdity.
I was going to let him sleep until 7 a.m., but then I remembered that he hadn’t done his English homework (already a week late) so I woke him at 6:45.
To say he was tired after school would be an extreme understatement.
By the time the tutor arrived, Dylan was like a walking blob of jelly. He could hardly keep his head upright. If I hadn’t already known that he was on drugs, I’d have thought he was on drugs.
It took him 15 minutes just to get his algebra packet ready, especially since he had to find a pencil. Pencils have been very elusive lately. Then he sat down and stared out the window.
His tutor sat patiently, trying to engage him.
Then Dylan asked me if he could get a glass of milk.
“Sure, Dylan,” I said, “but it would have been nice if you could have gotten that glass of milk sometime in the past two hours before your tutor arrived.”
He sat down with his milk, singing and humming and tapping his pencil. Ten minutes later, he required another glass of milk. And his responses to his tutor’s simple questions were agonizing.
“Let’s look at this one,” his tutor said calmly.
“Leeeettttttttssssss loooooook at thaaaaaat…” Dylan responded with a sharp drawl.
Or, “Why did you choose that answer?” his tutor asked.
“Ummmmmm…” he said. Then, burbling his voice as if he were underwater, he said, “Because I like this one…..”
His tutor was exceptional. He not only put up with Dylan’s ridiculous behavior, but he kept re-focusing Dylan and they actually got a few things done.
The tutor said, “Which one is your Y intercept?”
“I don’t know,” Dylan said.
The tutor calmly buckled down. “You know this. Which one is your Y intercept?”
“Yes,” the tutor said, as if Dylan had accomplished something.
Then he pushed his luck. “Which one is your slope?” the tutor said.
“Ubbbbb bubbbb blubbbb….” Dylan responded. “Wowwwww…”
I sat in the other room listening, trying to keep my mouth shut. It was like teaching algebra to a toddler.
Dylan has six days to turn in his review packet. He has to know the material inside-out and backwards, in order to pass the unit test and the final exam.
In order to get a B in the class (which would be rewarded with a new iPad, actually), he needs to get at least a B for the quarter and an A on the exam.
Yet, he spent his valuable tutor time going “bubbbb blubbbbb” and drinking milk.
The blog is starting to irritate the children.
Shane came to me the other day and said, “I heard you are putting extremely personal details about me in your blog.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, truly puzzled.
“Like Granddad said that he read in your blog that I was taking Lilly to the dance,” he said. “That’s very personal.”
“That’s personal?” I asked, relieved. “You’re going to be at the dance with someone in front of the entire fourth grade class! I don’t see how that is a personal detail.”
We discussed it for a minute. “I do not intentionally put anything in my blog to harm you,” I told him. “But you are welcome to read it whenever you’d like and let me know if it bothers you.”
Shane didn’t care to read it. Dylan reads it once in awhile.
A few days went by. Then over dinner, we were discussing Dylan’s pill dosage. He is taking one-and-a-half pills this week, instead of the single pill he took last week.
He pointed at me. “And she’s going to write all about it in her blog,” Dylan said, as if this were a bad thing. “Because she has to write every single thing about my pills and my ADHD and everything that happens to me!”
He didn’t seem angry. A bit loud, probably thanks to the extra half pill, but not angry.
Still, I wonder how much longer they’ll allow me to broadcast the details of their lives on a website – even if it’s a website very few people read.
I try to keep the focus on parenting. After all, I’m writing this blog because I wished for years that someone had written one that I could read, to know I wasn’t alone in my struggles.
I want to help other parents who have kids with ADHD or vision processing disorder or – well, anyone with kids!
I like reading stories about the lives of other moms. It makes me feel less alone. And I think the honesty in my blog is important. I want to portray both good and bad, because nothing is all roses and bluebirds – least of all while parenting a tween and a teen.
So I hope they will allow me this little respite in my life, this one thing that I do for me – and for other parents. I hope they can understand that my sharing about them is for a greater good, to help kids and parents everywhere.
Even if, for now, readership is limited. Hopefully, somehow, it is helping.
The rule for Memorial Day weekend was that Dylan have his homework done before having his girlfriend over to his house. I left town, leaving Bill in charge of the kids, and gave instructions to both Dylan and Bill about the rule.
Apparently, my instructions were not specific enough.
Dylan told Bill that his homework was done, and Bill told him that I would be checking the homework when I got home. The girlfriend came over, they had a great time, and then I found an envelope from his science teacher on the floor.
It turned out that he still had a ton of incomplete work. So I sat down with Dylan’s binder to go through it. Papers were shoved in upside down and backwards. English was in with Algebra, and letters to parents and school pictures were haphazardly shoved in with classwork. And his “ready to turn in” section was crammed with garbage.
Dylan simply has no organizational skills whatsoever. Nor will he follow a system – any system – of organization. We’ve tried color-coded folders, a separate folder for homework, new binders, different kinds of agenda books, and (highly unsuccessful) color-coded, labeled dividers.
Yet, Dylan’s response to my help – and my husband’s help – was to scream at us:
“Why can’t you just let me do it MY way?!?”
“This isn’t going to do any good! Nothing you EVER do does any good!”
“For 13 YEARS, all you’ve done is HELP ME and it’s not helping ANYthing!”
“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET ME FAIL?!?”
Dylan did not seem to appreciate our input.
Bill offered an elaborate metaphor about standing by and watching a friend who was about to burn himself on a hot stove, then doing nothing to stop the friend from getting burned. I thought it was particularly effective, but Dylan seemed unphased and continued fuming at us.
After sorting through a few sections of Dylan’s binder, I allowed him to sort the other sections. He did this with a venomous rage, slamming every single page down onto the floor, one by one. His behavior was the equivalent of a very tall two-year-old.
(I couldn’t help but wonder about the new pill, which he is not taking on weekends. Withdrawal, maybe?)
He growled and stomped about for half an hour, causing the dog to run upstairs with her tail between her legs. His brother, who had been happily listening to music, was forced to take his music elsewhere and try to ignore the absurdities. Bill and I exchanged shrugged shoulders, and did our best to remain calm.
When the binder was done, I threw a piece of peanut butter toast on the table, along with some blueberries and water.
“Dylan, food!” I yelled.
He scarfed it down without a word. Then he started singing. Singing is his normal modus operandi, so I knew the raging was over.
He came in to see me, spinning the plastic blueberry bowl on his fingertips.
“I was just hungry,” he said in a completely normal tone.
I explained that the consequences for his actions still stood: he wouldn’t see his girlfriend and he needed to finish his homework before he did anything else.
“Okay,” he said. He came back about ten minutes later.
“I’m sorry for whatever I said to you,” he said. “I didn’t mean it.”
“Okay, thanks,” I said. And he went off to finish his homework.
Every now and then, my hopes soar. Such is the way I feel this week with Dylan.
He is taking one low-dose Ritalin before school. The dose has doubled since last week, but is still very small. Nothing else has changed. And yet, he is concentrating in school, completing his homework when he gets home, and being incredibly nice all the time.
He had an algebra packet due on Friday – and he finished it four days early! He worked with his tutor, then he stayed up late to get it done. He chose to do it. He worked like the dickens and stayed hunkered down until 10:15 when I told him that a break would help – so he took a shower, then did the rest.
He’s also remembering to talk to his teachers about his grades (which are abysmal) and he’s turning in papers when he can. He hasn’t found his lunchbox in a month, but I haven’t given up. He’s eating well and sleeping well, too – which is utterly amazing, since he’s on a stimulant medication.
And meanwhile, he’s being really pleasant. No matter what I say to him, or ask him to do, he responds like a mature person. Here are some of the things he’s said this week:
“That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
“I can do that.”
“Here, let me get that.”
“Not a big deal, I’ll take care of it.”
I don’t remember him having this kind of overtly pleasant personality since he was in … maybe third grade.
Dylan was born pleasant and had a strongly developed kindness, even empathy, long before his peers. He talked like an adult even as a toddler, but he also had this over-developed sense of how to treat other people.
Most people don’t believe a toddler can be that way, until I tell them the story of my mom’s foot.
Dylan was a toddler, following my mom up the stairs from the basement. He was scrambling up the steps quickly, while my mom was climbing at a normal pace. So she inadvertently kicked him in the head at the top of the stairs.
As my mom turned around to cuddle him and make sure he was okay, and before she could even say a word, Dylan said, “Oh, I’m sorry, Mimi, that my face got in the way of your foot!”
He was 100% sincere.
He’s always had an absolutely enormous heart. But for the past few years – starting sometime around the middle of sixth grade – he’s been a bit irritable and anxious and crabby. He was depressed, even when on stimulants or anti-depressants. And he was – not mean, but definitely not pleasant.
I thought grumpiness and rude behavior was just part of being a teenager.
But this week, he is beautiful and sweeter than I’ve seen him in years. And he’s still 13.
And I’ve no idea if this is because his brain has been properly rebalanced by the Ritalin. Maybe it’s because he has a really sweet new girlfriend. Maybe it’s biorhythms. Or maybe it’s because it’s spring now, or because school’s almost over.
But it sure is a coincidence that this behavior appeared on the very first day that he took a full Ritalin tablet.
I won’t know for sure until we give it some more time. But this week, I am happy to sit and observe. I am even beginning to hope.
Shane got into the car and announced, out-of-the-blue, “I have a new date for the dance.”
“You do?” Having been recently dissed by a good friend, I thought he’d never ask out another girl – even though Shane is only 10 and the “dance” isn’t likely to be a hoppin’ event.
“Yeah,” he said. “I asked Lilly if she would go with me and she said sure.”
Lilly has been his friend for two years. She came to his birthday party one year and I could hardly stop staring at her. She is only a little kid, but she is breathtakingly beautiful. She has long, dark hair and gorgeous dark eyes. Her skin is unblemished and her smile is perfect.
“You asked Lilly?” Dylan interrupted. “So let me get this straight. You were going to the dance with somebody else, and then you were just going with your friends, and now you’re going with the best looking girl in your whole class?”
Being in middle school, Dylan notices these things.
“Yeah,” Shane said, utterly non-plussed.
We don’t place a lot of value in external appearance in our home. Or at least, neither Bill nor I take a lot of stock in our own appearance. Bill cares a little more about how the house looks than I do, but overall, the way something or someone looks is not our first concern.
In middle school, of course, the way someone looks is top priority. Dylan started patting down his hair somewhere in the middle of fifth grade. By the end of sixth grade, he had developed something of a style. His current girlfriend, he says, is “the most beautiful girl in her class, and maybe in the whole world.” So it matters more to him now than before.
Shane, on the other hand, has always had a sense of style – but never cared about how anyone looks. Quite honestly, I don’t think he cares how Lilly looks, except that he appreciated that Dylan took note.
I think he likes Lilly because she’s nice to him. She’s nice to everyone, but Shane seems to appreciate it more than most kids.
Shane chooses his friends – and now his dates – based on the quality of their character. I can only hope he’ll continue using that gorgeous gift well into his middle school years.
With four weeks left of 7th grade, Dylan’s grade-and-assignment report is terrifying.
It’s a standard scale of A through F, but they don’t use “F” anymore because of the stigma that the word “failure” implies. They use “E” instead. (The stigma is still there.)
Keeping in mind that Dylan has great athletic capabilities, wants to be an engineer, and sings like an angel, here are Dylan’s grades in the classes where he is allowed to move and make noise:
In PHYS. ED, he has a high B. He got straight A’s but has 3 missing assignments.
In CHORUS, he has a low B. He got all A’s – but is missing 2 assignments and has one irrevocable E. Last week, Dylan forgot to bring a pencil, paper or binder to class.
In ENGINEERING, he has a low A. His projects were all awesome – except for the incredible foamboard house he designed. He forgot to put in doors.
Now, keeping in mind that Dylan can’t think while sitting still for more than four seconds, here are his grades for his non-movement classes:
In SOCIAL STUDIES, he has a low B. He started off with two D’s, then got all A’s. Well… his teacher gave him full credit for assignments that were turned in last week – and due 6 weeks ago.
In SCIENCE, he has an E. His grades are all A’s and C’s, but he has 4 missing assignments. For some reason, Dylan isn’t worried about this failing grade in the slightest.
In ENGLISH, he has a low B. In this class, his assignments drop a grade when his work is late – and all of Dylan’s work is late. But his teacher is persistent, so today he only has one missing assignment.
In ALGEBRA, Dylan has a dangerously low D. He has 7 A’s and 10 E’s. All the E’s are for missing or incomplete work.
Dylan has five years until he goes college. Only four years until he applies. And he still claims that he doesn’t “know” what homework he has, when it’s due, or what he’s supposed to finish for whatever class.
People say things like, “he’ll come around” and “don’t worry.” And I know that it’s not my job to do/find/fix his work for him.
But I am worried. Oh my, I am worried.
Dylan is back on stimulants. His neurologist, who worries substantially more about suicide than grades, prescribed the new stimulant “with trepidation.” She was very clear about the trepidation. He is taking Ritalin now instead of Adderall – and a very, very, very miniscule dose.
On day 2 of his minute dose, Dylan went to all of his teachers, turning in lost work and making arrangements to complete incomplete classwork.
“You did a really great job today,” I said.
“Well, DUH,” he sneered. “I think we know who to thank for that.”
I was stunned. “Who?”
“The doctor, of course,” he said. “I can finally understand what the teachers are saying!”
“Really?” I said. “The pill is helping?”
“DUH,” he said again. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”
I’m not sure when he was trying to tell me that. I thought I’d been listening pretty well.
During the doctor’s visit, unmedicated Dylan rolled around on the table, ripped up the white paper that covers the table, paced around the room and rammed his head into the wall a few times for good measure.
When I mentioned the rebound effect he’d had – the severe depression after school – he said, with dripping sarcasm, “Oh yeah, I wonder why that happened.”
So when the doctor stepped out of the room to take a call I said, “Do you think it’s my fault that you’re depressed after school?”
“No!” he said. “But do you really think I’m only that way at home?”
Ah, I thought, the light bulb going off over my head.
“So you are depressed all day long?” I asked my super-smiley, always enthusiastic, bouncy baby boy.
“Of course I am!” he declared with no smile.
“And you feel like that even without the drugs?”
So gee, he may as well be back on stimulants.
And next week, the dose goes up ever-so-slightly. “With trepidation.”
This morning on the drive to school, after months of looking forward to it, Dylan said he didn’t want to go to his youth group at church.
“It’s boring and I don’t have any friends there,” he said.
“Oh,” I said. “It’s boring. This doesn’t have anything to do with your getting a new girlfriend and not having one at church anymore?”
“No,” he said, “but the girl from church totally stopped talking to me and doesn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore.” Then he got out of the car and slammed the door without even saying “bye.”
Hm, I thought. The term ‘totally stopped talking to me’ sounds familiar. Dylan has used that term at least ten times in the past few months. His best friend and girlfriend “just totally stopped talking to me” back in February. Since then, he has said the same thing about at least five of his “friends.”
I have no idea if this is normal behavior. Since Dylan is my first child, I don’t know if kids just randomly stop talking to other kids for no reason – or if my son is doing something really terrifying to scare them away – or if it’s something in between.
I remember middle school as being an agonizing ball of confusion. I liked a lot of the other kids, but I sincerely believed that most of them didn’t like me.
This is a glorious trait that I carry with me to this day. I’ll be talking with a friend, and will suddenly believe that I’m boring them – and therefore end the conversation abruptly and head for the hills.
With my closest friends, I can say, “Am I boring you?” and some will even say, “yes” without offending me. But for many, I suppose my running away doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Dylan, on the other hand, is likely to miss the cues if he’s bothering someone. But he’s not a terribly bothersome person – unless someone who constantly bounces and sings is “bothersome.”
So I have no idea what’s going on. Obviously, I need social help of my own. I did not succeed socially in middle school – not in any way. So I don’t know if Dylan is doing something to irritate all of these people, or if middle schoolers just bop around changing friends like they change clothes.
I’m open for advice on this one. I just don’t know what’s normal.
Months ago, Shane asked quietly, “How do you ask a girl out?”
Shane is 10. He explained that a school dance was coming up in May, and he wanted to ask his friend – who we’ll call Cindy – to go with him.
“If she’s your friend,” I said, “you can just ask her anytime, like part of the conversation.”
He thought about it for weeks, finally got up his nerve, and asked Cindy to the dance (which was three months away). She said she would be happy to go to the dance with him.
With the dance now looming and three months passed, nothing had changed – until one day at school when Jake, too, asked Cindy to the dance.
Shane had tears in his eyes when he told me, “I have some sad news.”
Cindy decided to go to the dance with Jake – leaving Shane in the cold.
Shane had no idea what to do, or how to handle a form of rejection that was delivered with care and kindness – from someone he still considers to be one of his best friends.
The adults who have heard this story are furious with Cindy – but Shane isn’t. As hurt as he is, and as much as this has likely ruined his ability to ask out girls for the rest of his life, he doesn’t see that Cindy did anything wrong.
“She’s still one of my best friends,” Shane said.
Cindy is also one of Shane’s seven (of eight total) friends chosen as a patrol – so let’s just add this to the Shane rejection pile, along with the GT program that refused him entry and the host of friends chosen as patrols without him.
There is only so much rejection a person can take.
Shane seems to be handling it quite well. He hasn’t crawled into a hole, or changed his activities, or sobbed about any of it. In fact, I’m a little worried about where his sadness goes. He doesn’t seem to be internalizing it – or maybe he is but I can’t tell. Shane has never been particularly vivacious.
I’m not sure I can handle any more rejection for him, though. The GT program – okay. The patrols – okay. But a trusted friend stabbing a knife through his heart? NOT okay.
So, like always, I sit and watch it happen – and wish I could do something to help. And, like always, there is absolutely not one single thing that I can do. It is the heartbreak of motherhood – loving him so much that his pain is my pain.
But his joy will also be my joy. Someday.
In addition to Dylan’s multitude of challenges, he also has many gifts – one of which is a spectacular singing voice. And he’s got a great memory for lines and lyrics.
As a result, Dylan has the male lead in the middle school musical, Once Upon a Mattress. It is the story of “The Princess and The Pea,” in musical form. Dylan plays Prince Dauntless, a flop-of-a-fellow whose overbearing mother, the queen, makes his arranged marriage all but impossible.
At the dress rehearsal, Shane and I went to the school to film the show.
The stage crew was testing microphones. “Dylan,” a voice called, “just talk normally until we get your level.”
Dylan said, “Hi, um… I’m Prince Dauntless.” He was in full dress, gold crown shimmering in the spotlight.
I was in the audience, tears already glistening in my eyes at my beloved child’s voice.
“I have an overprotective mother,” Dylan said.
My jaw dropped. Why is he talking about me? I wondered.
“Well, to say that she’s overprotective would be an understatement,” he said.
Why is he suddenly blurting out all this personal stuff? I shrieked in my head. Is it just because he can get away with it?
He continued, “As a matter of fact, I hope she’s not listening because then I’ll probably get a five-minute lecture from her. Because my mother talks all the time. She never, ever stops talking.”
My jaw was on the floor.
The voice called again, “Okay, Dylan, thanks.”
Dylan hopped off the stage and started to run out.
“Thanks a lot, Dylan!” I yelled after him, hoping to invoke laughter from the other parents. But no one even breathed in my direction.
It wasn’t until midway through the rehearsal that I realized what had happened. I watched the queen on stage, ranting and raving as Dylan stood idly beside her. The realization knocked the breath out of me.
Dylan wasn’t talking about me, I thought. Prince Dauntless was talking about his mother, the queen.
On our way home, I asked Shane about the mic-check experience: “Did you know Dylan was talking about the queen?”
“Yeah,” said Shane.
“At first, I thought he was talking about me,” I said, guffawing at the error of my ways.
Shane didn’t laugh.
Finally he said, “But it could have been about you. I mean, you do talk a lot and you probably would give Dylan a long lecture if he said that stuff.”
Shane paused, to see how I would react to his minor attack on my character.
“Yes, it could have been about me,” I said, still laughing. “It definitely could have been about me.”
Which is not really funny. Not funny at all.