We had a very rough, first year of school. Kindergarten was so very hard. Our sweet, kind, little boy exhibited actions that were unfavorable. We started the year with phone calls and visits to the principal’s office.
Riley has always been so sweet, so kind and so well mannered. He cared about his friends, he wanted to protect them. And then on day six, he stabbed a little girl with a pencil.
He did what?
Yes, he stabbed a little girl with a pencil?
He didn’t know. He didn’t mean too.
How did he not mean to?
Enter the worrying mother. Enter the questioning parents. Enter the disbelief and the fear. What are we doing wrong? How are we failing our child? So, lots of talking, hugs and questions later, this is the story we got. It was math, they were writing number. It was hard for him. She was talking and talking and talking. He wanted her to be quiet. He tried to ignore her. He wanted to tell her but he had numbers to write and her talking was making it harder to write and he couldn’t tell her because he couldn’t think to talk because he was concentrating on the numbers and trying to ignore her and she was talking and then his pencil left the paper and ended up on her leg. It happened so fast, he didn’t know what had happen. But he hurt her and she cried and he felt really bad and he was sad.
This was the night that my child told me his brain was bad. This was the night I cried. Oh, my sweet, small boy. Where have I gone wrong? Where have I failed you? And so I read and I read and I read. And then, I read more. We worked hand and hand with his teachers. We practiced impulse control. We played impulse games. We tried reward charts, negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, special guidance classes. You name it, we tried it. Things were not getting better. They were getting worse.
He was constantly in trouble. He was constantly, accidentally, hurting someone. That tends to happen when you have the uncontrollable urge to spin like a helicopter in the line in the hallway. And you do, with your arms stretched out and a heavy, plastic, lunch box in your hands. You tend to take out a few kids in the process. Lack of spatial awareness. Lack of impulse control. It puts you and those around you in danger.
He was becoming the bad kid. He was becoming the scapegoat. He was being blamed for things he didn’t do. It was believable. He was always doing something. He was coming home from school defeated. He ask, “Why am I bad?” How do you tell a kid that is always in trouble that he is not bad? We always told him, “You are not bad, you just make poor choices.”
Man, it is hard. To see your five year old, little boy defeated and broken. And then he said, “Mommy, my bad brain is so loud. I can not hear my good brain.” He said it sounded like his bad brain was yelling all the time and his good brain was whispering so he could hardly hear it. Sometimes, he couldn’t hear it at all. If he couldn’t hear his good brain, how could he be good? These are big questions for a five year old. Questions that I did not have the answers to. Question that kept me up at night.
So, we continued talking and continued trying and continued to struggle. His sixth birthday hit when were half way through the year and nothing had changed. We were talking and planning with his teachers, and we had run out of options. We were stressed and they were stressed and we were failing to find the a solution. Off we went to the professionals for testing and testing and more testing. We worried what we would find out. We worried we would find nothing and we would only have ourselves to blame for all his issues. Was I really a bad parent? I was questioning myself. We worried we would find something out that could change his future. We worried and then, finally, we got some answers.
All along, we were expecting our child to act like a normal kindergartener when he was everything but that. When the results came back, we were not surprised. Riley’s IQ was extremely high. We always knew he was very bright, we just didn’t realize how bright. His cognitive thinking was on par with a teenager, but he still processed his emotions like a little boy. So, that only met that he could mentally understand things that he was too little to emotionally deal with. Additionally, he was diagnosed with a dual presentation of ADHD and executive functioning impulse issues. At least now, we know what we are up against. We can plan and treat and get him the help he needed to succeed. And so we did.
We were blessed to find the magical solution very quickly. We worked with teachers. God bless these amazing two women. We would not have made it through this year without their unwavering love and support. They will forever hold a place in my heart for the kindness and grace they showed my struggling little boy. You get teachers that go above and beyond the call of duty and then you get these two teachers. What a difference they made in our lives. We can never thank them enough.
Things were changing. Things were getting better. The small boy was having successes in places he had never had them. We were getting notes from teachers that were positive. What???? That had never happened before. I was sparkling! We were working on his issues. We were talking about them. And all the sudden, he said to me, “Mom, I can hardly hear my bad brain.” Amen! Praise Jesus! I hugged the him and I cried.
A glimmer of hope that my sweet, small boy was going to be okay. A glimmer of hope that he would not spend his entire life feeling like his bad brain was yelling at him. Not knowing why he did something. Not knowing when he was going to get in trouble.
Don’t get me wrong, things aren’t perfect. They never are. But they are better than they have been in a while. I can see the light in his eyes again. He laughs a little more. He talks a little more clearly. He is no longer defeated. He is thriving. No one truly understands how heartbreaking it is to watch your child struggle and have know idea how to help, until it happens to you.
I remember snuggling with him one night in bed and he said, “How will God love me if I’m bad?” Oh, sweet boy. All I could do was hug him tight and fight back the tears so he didn’t see my heart breaking. God made him perfectly, imperfect and he gave him to me. He must have known I liked a challenge. He is God, he knows me better than any other and he knew this small boy needed me as much as I needed him.
And so, we will advocate for our child. We will make sure he has everything he needs to succeed and when he falls? We will pick him up. We will dust him off and we will help him get back on the right path. I think we have a zigzagged road ahead but at least we have a map to follow.
Parenting is hard. I never knew that I could love someone this much. I never knew parenting would make my brain go 100mph, 24 hours a day. I never knew one person could drive me so crazy. I never knew one person could make my whole world sparkle, but he did.
When do you stop worrying about them? When do you let them stand on their own two feet? I’m not sure but I know it’s not yet. I, also, know that when it happens, it will come too quickly and I won’t be ready for it. Please keep him little for a while longer. So for now, I will enjoy the noise. I will enjoy the crazy. I will remember, in the midst of chaos, sparkle. Don’t let life dull your shine.
The Manicured Mom.