Friday, October 26, 2007

An Epilogue to The Boy and The Note

One of the things I'd been meaning to post (before this week's big news) was an Epilogue on The Boy and The Note situation. Last week, I found yet another scrap of notebook paper in H's backpack that had some sort of scribbling on it. I always have to check them because I never know if it's work she's done for school, or a reminder note from a teacher, another child, etc. This note read something like:

"Im relly sory for telling on you. Do you forgiv me?"

There was no addressee, but the name of one of her friends was also on the paper. So, I asked if she and her friend Brooke had recently had any problems. She insisted that they hadn't, but after some coaxing, she then explained that she'd hurt Brooke's feelings somehow and was asking Brooke to forgive her. She said that everything was okay now, but she wouldn't tell me what happened. She argued that it was "private."

My response: "Okay, if you say so... You're the only one who knows the truth."

A minute later...She caved.

H: "Okay, here's the truth."

She proceeded to explain that the note was to The Boy, asking for forgiveness for getting him in so much trouble. As it turns out, The Boy's Mother (TBM) is crazy. Like, wacko-strict-parent-with-a-possible-temper-issue crazy. After hearing the report from the after-school program, TBM responded by "whooping" her child. This 8-yr old boy got a spanking for asking my daughter - in a note - if she'd like to kiss "French style."

I'd anticipated the possibility of him returning and being a bit upset with H because he'd been outed, but I figured the worst punishment he'd face might be a grounding or something. I never imagined he'd be physically hit! He, obviously, was more than a little resentful, and because H is a super-sensitive kid. She'll cry at any human interest story on the news. Naturally, then, she felt incredibly guilty about the whole thing. To make things worse, he circled the "No" box on the note H wrote him, asking him for forgiveness!!

I tried to explain to her that he'd probably come around, that he just needed some time. I also reminded her that she didn't tell on him, but rather I'd found the note in her backpack by chance. She told me she'd lied about the note because she was afraid she'd be in trouble for violating the "No more notes to The Boy rule." I think I did the right thing. I didn't even mention the rule. Instead, I explained:

"Wow, when you heard how much trouble The Boy got in, you must have been really sad, huh? I can completely understand why you felt bad, because he's someone that you're friends with...So it makes sense that you'd feel like you should apologize and ask for his forgiveness."

I didn't freak out. I didn't give her any consequences for breaking the rule. I tried to establish this as a precedent that things - the Law especially - aren't always black and white. And that many times there are other feelings we have that make us do something even when we know it's against the rules. I used this as an example of showing her that when she talks to me and is honest with me about her problems, that I'll listen and try to put myself in her shoes.

I think it's worked so far because when I took her out to dinner last night - just the two of us, eating our favorite Indian food - she was open about the questions and concerns she has about this ADHD thing (that will be my next post). I just don't want to take any day for granted because I know how precious of a gift it is that she's still willing to be open with me and talk about her problems. My (natural) father put the Fear of God into me when I was a child, and it's not something that goes away easily (maybe not at all). I don't ever want my children to be afraid of me and have that fear driving their decisions and the dynamic between us.

So for now, here's another tic mark on the I Think I Did It Right side of the parenting scoreboard.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And the Doctor Said

First, let me thank those of you who commented on yesterday's post. I think if I hear enough voices telling me not to feel guilty, then I may just believe it one day. I'm going to skip over the talk I had with H last night because it will upset me again. Needless to say, she was upset, afraid, and confused. She explained how she doesn't want anything "to be wrong with her," but she understands that we're going to figure out a way to make things better for her. The language she uses is "to help keep me from going to La La Land," a phrase her teachers have used.

At today's visit with H's pediatrician, we learned several things:

- all signs point toward her having ADHD - Inattentive Dominant

- girls are more likely to have this type, and they usually go undiagnosed because they're not disturbing anyone. Rather, they sit quietly at their desks, concentrating on something else, playing with a toy in their lap, etc. Because they aren't bouncing off the walls, the teacher doesn't always notice a problem

- comparatively speaking (b/c of the above), we are catching this early in H

- in our doctor's experience, medication is the most effective treatment, though he also recommends other coping skills (for example, instead of telling H to clean her room, I will now ask her to do one thing at a time, like picking up her shoes. Then, I can start her on a new task.)

- the psychologist's testing process will take about two hours, and the results will then be sent to our doctor, who will consult with us about the results and discuss treatment options

- there are two types of medication: stimulant and non-stimulant. Regardless of which one she may use, chances are high that she'll be on the medication until she's out of high school

- whatever prescription option we choose, our doctor will absolutely begin with the lowest dose possible

I feel like I have a bit more focus on this today, but my main concern remains on H and how she will cope with what she sees as a "problem" with her brain. Of course, I'm also worried about the possible side effects of any medication, especially after all the horror stories I've read about kids being turned into Ritalin zombies. The doctor gave us some pamphlets and other material to read through, so I'll tackle that tonight while she's in dance class...

Which makes me think: do I now need to tell her dance instructor about this? Will all of her teachers need to know? What about the parents of her friends when she has a sleepover? I get the impression she's embarrassed, and I don't know how to get her to understand this in terms of quality of life and health, as opposed to normal/abnormal, right/wrong. I'm really overwhelmed by this all, so I'm hoping my husband and I can have some evening time to ourselves tomorrow to unwind and talk about this together. On the other hand, I just want to hold H in my lap and hug her forever.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where did I Go Wrong, and How do I Make it Right?

From day one of 3rd grade, H has been struggling. At first, and for good reasons, we attributed it to a really bad 2nd grade teacher/experience. Over time, though, it became clear that her struggle was more than a matter of her not having a solid foundation when she started the year. For example, her weakest subject was math in 1st and 2nd grades. We expected there would be problems with this again, and there were. Then, we started seeing her language arts skills drop, her grades in social science and spelling also went downhill. She has had occasional upswings, usually after we imposed a series of consequences at home. Her behavior was never an issue. Rather, when we conferenced with her teachers, they explained that the problem was with her inability to focus. Again, we thought this was something we could "motivate" her to improve by taking away privileges (t.v., movies, computer time, and most important - time with friends).

Things didn't change. Not only did they not change, last week witnessed an unparalleled downward spiral as she brought home a packet of failed worksheets and tests. Concerned, her teachers requested a conference (of course, I'd immediately had the same idea).

This morning, I met with her teachers and they recommended that I take H to see her pediatrician and have her undergo testing and evaluation for Attention Deficit Disorder. They described her as often looking like she was paying attention for about a minute, then drifting off with another thought that had just entered her head, only to return to the present moment as the teacher called on her for an answer. Of course, she'd find herself unable to answer and unable to move forward on her work because she'd missed critical instructions and information. They both believe that she's been doing her best to improve focus, but that this is something that's beyond her control. Between the two teachers, they have over 50 years of experience, so I trust that they know what they're talking about and can recognize the difference between a daydreamer and a child who's suffering from a neurological disorder.

She's not a hyperactive child. She's got energy, but she's never been one to bounce off the walls. But suddenly, as I listened to them describe my daughter's efforts to pay attention, her personality, history, and daily habits flashed in my mind's eye in a completely new way. I thought of all the times I'd had to ask her to do something 3 or 4 times, or remind her what task she was supposed to be working on. Just this morning, after I told her twice the three things she needed to do to finish getting ready - brush teeth, put on shoes, and put folders in her backpack - I found her in her bathroom singing into the mirror and picking at her teeth. She'd simply lost track of what she was supposed to be doing in there.

I'm still sort of reeling with questions, emotions, fears, and tons of guilt. I ask myself how I failed to see this. I kick myself for giving her consequences for something that she had no control over. I try to rehearse the talk I'll have to have with her before she sees the pediatrician tomorrow. I think of how to help her not be afraid or think there's something "wrong" with her. I imagine how hard this year has been for her, as she has tried her best yet continued to face my disappointment. I try to avoid using the internet for "information" on ADD and its treatment. I feel completely out of my league, with no plans or certainties for the how to go forward and make things better for my child.

I can't bring myself to actively seek out any information right now, other than what I'll receive from our doctor tomorrow (and the psychologist thereafter). So, I'm asking the few readers who visit to share positive stories, experience, and information about ADD, its treatment, and dealing with it as a family.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Buzzy Bee: She's One Year Old Today!

Today is E's first birthday! Instead of a party, on Saturday we took the girls to a Country Fair that was sponsored by our church. We pulled E around in her new wagon (a great gift from my dad) - which she loved - and let her take a pony ride, pet goats and llamas, sit next to a baby deer, and munch on the apples her sister went bobbing for. A fantastic family day! No decorations, no planning, no was just what we wanted. On Sunday, she did have one birthday guest; her friend Wild Man, who was born just three days before her, came over to exchange gifts and enjoy some of the Buzzy Bee cake I made! Again, very low-key, but still special to her and us.
So, a big Happy Birthday to E, one of the busiest bees in my house!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Done, and I'm Off

Taking another big breath. More like a sigh of relief. The conference paper is done, despite E deciding that this week would be a good time to get a yucky stomach bug and cut two new teeth, which prevented her from being able to attend montessori until yesterday. Her staying at home meant hubby staying home with her, while I worked furiously at the office to:

- write the damn conference paper,
- prepare materials for Friday's class and the instructor who'll be filling in for me (thank you again Supadiscomama!),
- hold several conferences with students who are still floundering with the concept of writing anything other than a mere summary of a poem.

I've been confident all along that if I survive the month, everything else is cake. This week, it became an issue of, if I can survive this week, I'll be happy to be alive!

With the backpack loaded with conference paper, stacks of papers to grade, and materials with which I must plan the schedule for the remainder of the semester, I'll soon be off to Home State. Since E made a recovery in time, and my mother is convinced she can handle the minor crankiness of a teething baby, E will be joining H and I on the 6-hour drive back home. While I'm at the conference, E will be staying with my parents - Nana and Papaw - for the very first time without mommy and daddy. Tomorrow morning will find me flying to Conference City, putting in a long day at the conference, complete with dinner and plenary lecture, and then driving to my aunt and uncle's house for lodging (I finally have a conference near relatives!). Aside from all teaching duties, my goals for the weekend are to

- Make some good contacts!
I have a horrible habit of shutting myself up in the hotel room, only attending the sessions that sound interesting, and only speaking to others when I'm spoken to first. This is not good, and I know it must change. The plenary speaker is also an editor for one of the journals in my field, and she's someone I've considered inviting to campus as part of a symposium on early modern women playwrights.

- Watch the football game of Home State College Team on Saturday.
I realizes these goals are somewhat at odds with each other, as my panel is on Saturday and so is the game. And, English academics aren't known for vegging in front of the lobby bar's t.v. to watch some pigskin. But, one must make room for change, right?

I may blog while I'm gone, taking advantage of extremely rare Time Away from Husband and Children. Or, maybe I'll do as a friend recently recommended: go wild and crazy on the town! :)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Boy Situation: An Update

The Boy situation has been least, for now. On Thursday, I spoke with the afterschool program's assistant director and explained what had happened. I asked that the counselors make sure to keep an eye on H and The Boy during the free time they have on the playground. Since their interaction is limited to the afterschool program, the asst. director felt like it was their responsibility to contact The Boy's mother and inform her of the situation. After hearing this, and considering my usual Wait 24 Hours Before Making a Decision Policy, I decided to wait and see how their conversation with her went. As hubby pointed out, if The Boy's mother took my call the wrong way, there may be the risk of some sort of retaliation against H, especially if The Boy got in trouble.

Thursday evening, I sat H down for an informal talk while hubby was in the other room, hoping that his exclusion would help her feel comfortable to say whatever she needed to say. I didn't give her the chance to deny asking The Boy to "go out." Rather, I simply asked why she did it. She said, "Because I thought I was old enough." Yes. That's the best she had. I explained that she was indeed not old enough. Nowhere near old enough. Then, I asked her if she knew what kissing "French style" meant. Here's the exchange:

H: "I don't know."
Me: "Really? You don't have any idea? What do you think it might mean?"
H: "Maybe the way they kiss in France?"

Yeah, I'm not buying it either. If she knows - and there's a good chance she knows - she clearly wasn't comfortable talking about it. Or, she simply doesn't want me to know that she knows. Either way, just for good measure, I made several things clear:
1) she is no longer allowed to pass notes to The Boy

2) she should tell me or her dad immediately if The Boy says/does anything that is hurtful or inappropriate. This is the only way we can deal with the situation in a timely manner and find a solution

3) kids who are caught kissing in any "style" at school have major suspension, so this is clearly not a wise idea

4) talking to me about things like this is the only way I can help. As long as she's honest with me, we can work together to solve problems, and not telling me about this disappointed me and made me feel like she was trying to hide it.

The next day, I checked back with the ass. director. He reported that The Boy's mother was equally shocked...ahem, bullsh*t...and couldn't imagine where her son had even heard of such a thing....(Gee, I wonder...). She asked him to apologize to me on her behalf, explained that she'd be picking The Boy up extra early this week to allow some separation time, and requested that the counselors work to keep the two separated when possible. She also said that should I (or H) have any future problems with The Boy, to feel free to call her and let her know. This was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for, so I was glad that I waited and let someone else make that call to her.

I know The Boy situation is larger than this particular boy. I know that sometime between now and the end of next summer, H and I will have "The Talk" because I want her to get that information from me first (the school shows a video in 4th grade). But for now, I'd like to enjoy a few more months of my child being a child, protected from all the details, conversations, and playground antics that work to sexualize children as young as 8 and 9 years old. I want to savor the time in which I'm the one she comes to with questions, problems, and concerns. The Boy situation will be much larger soon enough.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Guess What I Found!

This morning, as I was helping H get her backpack ready so we could get out the door, I stumbled upon what will now be known as The Note. Today is Crazy Hat Day at her school, which means children can pay $1 - the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society - to wear their favorite/most crazy hat to school. While she dug for $1 out of her piggy bank, I was putting her folders in her backpack. This required some cleaning out of the backpack. Removing a few loose papers, I noticed our home phone number written on a piece of paper. Looking closely, here is what I discover:

1st entry, in H's handwriting:
"Do you want to go out? My phone number is ***-****."

2nd entry, in someone else's handwriting:
"Yes. When we go on the field trip to the park do you want to kiss (French style)?"

Yes. You read this right. My 3rd grade daughter was not only asking a boy out on a date, but she in turn was solicited for some smoochy action!

I immediately asked her what the note was, and she desperately tried to explain that she didn't write the last part, that it was all The Boy's fault, and that she wasn't asking him on a date, but rather asking if his family would like to go somewhere with our family --- Yeah...bullshit on that last part!!

I then showed my husband the note, which he found quite amusing simply because of The Boy's word choice - "the French style" - and the fact that he'd put this in parentheses...I was not amused in the least. I explained to H that I would be calling The Boy's parents - both of them - as well as calling the after-school program she attends. Apparently, the field trip is associated with the scrapbooking club that H and The Boy are both members of.

Despite H's continued attempts to vehemently denounce The Boy's question - even the mere idea - this is obviously evidence that 3rd grade ain't what it used to be! Hell, I didn't even get my first "French" kiss until I was almost 14! I've talked to her about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior with boys, and I've made it clear that there will be no "boyfriend" business at her age. Should I just face the fact that she's getting to the "boy crazy" stage? Should I be worried that even at 8-years old, she might be lying to me about what she's doing with boys? I don't want to make the mistake of overreacting, but I also want to prevent problems before they start. Do you think I'm out of line by calling The Boy's parents? Is it unreasonable to put her in a convent now?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

So Much to Say, So Little Time

It's probably a good thing I have so damn much work to do right now - grading, writing the conference paper for next week, completing the application for the travel grant to attend said conference, course planning for next week, and oh yeah, that dissertation - because this report could easily induce me into an hours-long rant about how much I despise Cowboy George.

Let me see if I've got this right:
170 billion additional dollars for the war (which results in death) problem.

35 billion dollars to maintain/improve the health of our nation's children (which results in life or at minimum, improved quality of living)....sorry, no dice. WTF?

Notes on a Field Trip

Since I'm coming up briefly for air, I thought I'd post some notes on the field trip I went on with H last Friday. Her 3rd grade class has been studying the Civil War from a variety of angles - economics, science, math, and history - to learn about issues directly related to the war: slavery and the production of cotton specifically. Friday's field trip was to a local cotton mill, where we got to see an operating cotton gin, observe the processing/packaging of the cotton, and explore the cotton fields. Getting to said cotton mill included a bus ride with 40+ third graders in 90+ degree heat, all windows down. My observations (p.s. if anyone knows how to do bullets on here, let me know):

- Buses still suck. I'd forgotten how quickly the dirt and wind blowing through windows covers your body with the smell of "outside funk," which only adds to the "kid funk" oozing through the inside of the bus.

- By third grade, it is clear that the most important thing about field trips - other than missing class - is who you sit next to on the bus. This is critical, and if you wait too long in making a decision, you could end up sitting all by yourself, or worse: begging the girl two seats up to leave her current friend to come sit next to you.

- Nobody likes a tattletale. Not in third grade...not least not when it comes to the small stuff (like sticking three fingers out the window).

- Upon having children in school, one is no longer an individual person with a name. One is, from this point on, simply known as H's Mom. As in, "H's Mom, can you tell Mikey to stop putting his fingers out the window?!"

- Putting ear plugs in the grimy, wax-laden ears of other people's children is really gross.

- A 25-minute bus ride with 40+ third graders in 90+ degree heat, followed by 2 hours at a cotton mill and field and no water breaks until the trip is over can lead to The Most Severe Migraine Ever Known to Man.

- Honestly? The parent who comes along to document, photograph, and video every moment of their child's experience on the field trip - fanny packs, camera equipment, and posing instructions included - not only looks like a dork, but also misses the whole point of the experience.

- We really should get to take field trips as adults? They are entirely different than trips taken on weekends or vacations, per se. They are a special treat for an entire group, taken at a time when said group is supposed to be going about their normal routine. They are planned by someone else, so all one has to do is 1)look forward to the trip and 2) bring a sack lunch. Few things in life provide such pleasure with such little effort.

- Teachers who take such trips under said conditions are freakin awesome, and so are the people who help make them possible!

- Simply being there with your child can make their entire day fantastic! H didn't budge from my side the entire time. She clung to me, proudly, and I could see that having me there made her feel so special. Seeing that made everything else totally worth it!