Sunday, May 1, 2011

Facing Forward

Recently we had a parent-teacher conference with my son's preschool teacher.  When my daughter was in preschool, I barely took the conferences seriously.  Mostly it was just stuff like, here is a picture she drew at the beginning of the year, and here is a picture she drew this week.  It was cute, but hardly ground breaking.  As I enrolled my son in preschool, I had a sneeky feeling things would be different this time around.  I was already aware that while incredibly charming, this child was more of a challenge than most.  I prepared myself for reports of hitting and pushing, stories of incredible defiance, and trips to the principal's office.  I got all of those, so thank God I was prepared!  I also got a few things I wasn't prepared for.  I wasn't prepared to hear that after 3 months his teacher still couldn't get him to participate in most class activities.  I wasn't prepared to hear things like violent temper tantrums, unable to calm down, and needs to eat snack alone.  This is the ugly side of my charmer.  A side I was hoping he would show only at home.  Then came the scary things like impossible to evaluate, behavioral issues, and possible slight tendencies toward sensory integration dysfunction.  I'd never even heard of that last one before. 

Elijah's teacher is really amazing.  I've met few who understand and can connect with little kids like she can.  In our conferences she is always quick to point out his strengths and the things she loves about him.  She always ends by telling me what a loving boy he is and how much he warms her heart every time she sees him.  It's the stuff in the middle that keeps me up at night.  We've been working together over the past year to try and get him involved in his class as best we can.  We've had several conversations over the best way to avoid major outbursts.  When I dropped him off, I got in the habit of telling her whether he had slept well the night before, or eaten his breakfast.  All year we have been hunting and pecking for the right methods, the right words, the right activites and toys.  This is nothing new to me.  It has always been a guessing game with Eli.  A constant process of trial and error in order to reach him or teach him.  It was in this last conference that we heard a lot of those scary things.  I sat across from her in that little chair feeling shell-shocked and doing the natural thing that all mothers do, I blamed myself.

I've heard all kinds of things over the years about kids and how parents inadvertantly saddle them with horrible disorders like ADD and autism.  All those stories came rushing back to me at that moment.  If only I hadn't had a planned C-Section.  If only I hadn't let him watch Baby Einstein.  If only I hadn't fed him food with red or yellow dyes.  If only I hadn't had another baby just after his 2nd birthday.  If only I had held him more, disiplined him more, or loved him more.  If only...... 

I finally made the dreaded appointment with the pediatrician and spent the rest of that day and night choking back tears.  Every time a few would fall I would hold them back again - refusing to fear the worst.  Refusing to let the idea that something might be wrong with my child take hold.  But also refusing to really look at him or interact with him.  I was so afraid he might see or sense all the thoughts floating around in my head.  I let my husband put the kids to bed and a few hours later went to bed myself with a very heavy heart.  In the morning I awoke still being eaten alive with worry, but having to force myself out of bed and begin the day.  As I was sipping my coffee and planning out my day, I looked over at my kids, all snuggled up under a blanket together watching cartoons and thought, "Wait a minute!!  That is MY boy sitting there, calmly and happily.  He's not sitting by himself in the corner twitching!  His eyes register a lively intelligence and his smile is infectious."  I was able to reconcile in that one moment that while he may need some help, he clearly wasn't afflicted with a disorder that would isolate him from society.  He's still the same kid he was two days ago.

After meeting with the pediatrician, who did recommend having him evaluated, I went into information gathering mode.  Several hours of Googling reminded me of the main piece of advice I give to first time mommies - Stay off the internet!!  I decided to take my own advice.  I made the appointment for the evaluation and began going about gathering all of the information that might be needed or helpful.  I refuse to look to the past in an effort to place blame.  If anything that happened in the past, whether it be having a glass of wine while I was pregnant or cleaning my bathrooms with Tilex while he was an infant, is the reason that he is so difficult and challenging, then there is nothing I can do to reverse it now.  I did all I could to have a healthy pregnancy and provide a safe home environment.  I refuse to beat myself up for trying my best to be a good mother. 

I'm also done with feeling like a failure as a parent when it comes to my son.  I've always berated myself for not being consistent enough with discipline, not feeding him right or on time, not making sure he's getting enough sleep, not giving him enough attention, and basically not being a good enough mom for him.  When Eli's Dr. recommended we get him evaluated, I wasn't devastated or horrified.  I was relieved.  I was so relieved I cried.  Finally my difficulties with him have been legitimized.  I am no longer facing this overwhelming task of just trying to teach this kid to survive in the outside world, let alone thrive!  No longer am I faced with being the mother of the "bad" kid.  For the first time in nearly 3 years, I am breathing easier when it comes to Elijah.  I'm about to get some answers.  I'm about to get some help.  I'm about to get some tools that will help me make my child happy.  How can any of that be bad?


  1. I love you. You are a fantastic mother. To even suggest you are lacking or negligent is ridiculous. After we have a couple shots of tequila I am going to clobber you. I love you.

  2. Tonya: Awwww, thanks. You could try to clobber me, but I would probably block you! :)