Today was the first day of school and after seven years of practice, I think we’ve almost got it. It’s helpful to know your children well enough that you can anticipate their reactions and help them compensate for their weaknesses.
I have one in high school, one in junior high and one in elementary school, all with different schedules, start times and finish times. It’s a little bit like being in a Paris train station with the destinations, arrival and departure times whipping around the boards continuously.
I knew Gavin (10th grade) was going to be very anxious until he actually got to school this morning, so I didn’t worry too much about him trying to sleep all day yesterday, or the diarrhea he had last night. Sure enough, he came through the door this afternoon with a big smile on his face and said he had found his friends at lunch.
From painful past experience, I knew to pull out all of Gavin’s papers, make a list of all the supplies he would need for each class and tell him he would have the items tomorrow. No more trying to get him to be responsible and make his own list. That just doesn’t end well. It isn’t about responsibility and I’ve finally realized that. He has weaknesses in planning and organizing, and it’s just an exercise in extreme frustration to try and make him do that task. So now I do it for him, no hard feelings, and he can save his energy for homework. I always think about needing to train my kids for the real world, but in fact, Gavin will always need someone (a co-worker, wife, etc.) to help him plan and organize. That’s OK. We all need help with something.
Kaylyn (8th grade) just had ankle surgery on Friday so she had to start school today with a cast and crutches. I could have done a better job handling her anxieties. She cried about her vitamins, she cried about her breakfast, she cried about her backpack, and she cried about brushing her teeth. I wasn’t as understanding as I should have been. After the umpteenth thing that upset her, I just started telling her to hurry up. Even so, she came home from school today just beaming. Her school is brand new and every student gets a laptop to use during the school year. Kaylyn feels very special and couldn’t wait to show me the bubble screen saver she had picked out.
With Kaylyn I know not to get too worked up about the details of anything. In all likelihood, she will misunderstand, forget and perhaps fib about some things but rather than me working overtime trying to prevent all those things, I’ll just wait for it all to come out in the wash and work with the teacher when it happens.
This morning I asked Justin (3rd grade) if I could walk with him to school and he said no. I took that as a good (developmentally speaking) sign. I went to meet his teacher anyway and I know by now that I have to prepare my kids’ teachers for them or they can be misunderstood and misjudged.
I explained to Mrs. R that we had been trying Justin on ADHD medication but that we hadn’t been able to find one that didn’t wreak havoc with his emotions. He has been totally med free for about a week because he was so upset and angry all the time that his friends didn’t want to play with him anymore. For a kid who is all sunshine and usually the life of the party, that was nothing short of tragic.
I wanted the teacher to know that if Justin was just too hard to handle in class, we were more than willing to try again with a different med. Teachers don’t like to tell parents that their kids need meds. I’ve heard that and I understand why, so I told Mrs. R just to tell me that Justin was “hard to handle” and I would know what she meant. She leaned in and said, “I’ve got one of my own.” What a great feeling to know that Justin’s teacher will be able to have compassion for some of his behaviors and will be frank with me if she thinks he needs help.
So 1 day down, only 215 to go. Lunches are made, clothes are laid out for tomorrow, teeth are brushed, prayers are said, backpacks are packed, and I am going to bed!