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Lesson in Parenting: Aggressive Researcher

12 Nov

My lungs had felt empty and my eyes flooded with water as I walked out of my son’s school towards my car. I had made this walk many times before looking this way. I have seen the looks on their faces when they see my emotional response. Some look with sympathy and others judge – pretending to know what I am going through. Knowing that my child’s behavior is a direct response to my parenting style, I take this very personally.

I love my sweet spirited, “aggressive researcher” of a son. I never want him to feel as though people gave up on him because of a few learning curves. But, we are all human. I, as his mother, had a very hard time dealing with his behavior problems. This made me even more confused because coming from a girl who struggled with the same issues growing up, you’d think I would have this all figured out. I didn’t. And I still don’t.

Our learning curve started when my son started Kindergarten. It was a big change for us all since I was mainly a stay at home mom with him and he never attended a real Pre-School. We did a lot of academic stuff at home and we were apart of a local home program for Pre-schoolers, HIPPY. We were on schedule to be academically ready for Kindergarten and we were! Except socially. Yeah, that. We weren’t ready for that apparently. My son was doing great with his work at school, but that soon became a burnt pot on the back burner to his behavior and his immaturity. He started off by getting in a fight with the biggest local boy in his class. My son had kicked the other boy in the nose and made him cry and bleed. When asked why he had gotten in a fight, my son replied, “He was calling me names”.

Thus began our records of red cards, yellow slips, fights, suspensions, being kicked out of different programs, more fights, hollow lungs and tears.

At the end of his first blind learning curve year of Kindergarten, we decided to switch to a public charter school who practices Waldorf style of teaching. Knowing he was academically ready for 1st grade, we chose to re-enroll him into Kindergarten hoping to give him a “re-do”. He started his year off in another new environment, another new experience. And boy, was it a difference! The school is amazing. The teachers are amazing! The difference in the schools is night and day. I had very high hopes that this different style of school would help my son’s behavior.

The first time I was approached by my son’s new teacher about his behavior is a day I won’t forget. She told me that he was having a really hard time with his fellow classmates and that some of them were even scared of him. She explained that he needs more “physical touch” at home and explained a few techniques we could try, like wrapping him up in a blanket like a burrito (similar to swaddling up a new-born baby) and a few other things. I was taken back by the fact that he needed “more” physical touch. My son, for those that do not know him, is the most sweetest boy. He loves snuggles, hugs, kisses, high fives… fist bumps! He thrives on physical touch. He receives his love that way ( The 5 love languages). We are constantly meeting his desire for love from us (isn’t that what parent’s do anyway?). We continued to try different things at home, but nothing seemed to change. He’d become this different boy when he was at school.

My lungs had felt empty and my eyes flooded with water as I walked out of my son’s school towards my car. I had made this walk many times before looking this way.

With each piece of bad news I would receive I would hang my head. I would cry and ask myself “What am I doing wrong?”. Towards the end of my son’s second hard year of Kindergarten, I blamed myself and believed that others thought I was a horrible parent.

One thing I do remember when I was growing up is that people will call you things your whole life. They can call you a failure, a bad person… naughty. And, at first you don’t believe them because you know that you are not those things… but after a while, after all the times being told we are bad, we ultimately begin to believe them. Our spirit gets defeated. We morph into something our peers believe us to be. My son had started to develop this feeling like I had years and years before him. His social behavior was starting to define who he was and make his peers remember him that way.

I got a cruel dose of reality when I picked him up from school one day towards the middle of a challenging 1st grade year. He got into the car and started crying. I had been here many times before when my son has received a yellow slip and realizes that he will be in trouble so he automatically starts to cry when I pick him up, I imagine the anticipation of being in trouble is what causes this. It was a routine I was getting too familiar with. I held my hand out wanting the yellow slip he was about to give me when all I got were more tears.

“Did you get another yellow slip today?” I said in an annoyed upset voice. “Is that why you are crying? You know, I’m really having a hard time with this behavior.”

My son just cried.

“What’s going on? What’s the matter? Why are you crying?”

When he did not answer I knew that something else was the cause of his tears. He began to tell me that he was feeling left out at school. He told me that when he arrived at school that day that all the kids had a birthday invitation in their cubby. Everyone, except him. The other kids that had gotten invited were teasing him for not getting one and made him embarrassed and ashamed. I am guessing he was not invited to the classmates party due to the fact that he had a reputation, I assume ( <—- actions that reek of High School drama. Grow up!).

After I took a minute to think about my response, I realized that I must first apologize for being forthcoming with my anger with him, thinking he had gotten a yellow slip when in fact he was crying because he was truly hurt and sad. I had automatically assumed he was in trouble. It had become the norm and I didn’t think anything else of it. I had, in a way, given up on my son in that very moment by reacting the way I did and by assuming he was bad. “Ahh haaa! A clue” (said in my best The Count voice). Parenting lesson learned…

Now, I don’t know how us mom’s do it, but we somehow transform into this mode that dad’s just don’t understand. I went into Momma Bear mode and I got instantly very hurt and protective for my son.

I was hurt, because he was hurt.

I was offended.

I was sad.

I was MAD!

I began to explain to my son some of the possibilities why he did not receive an invitation. With every explanation I thought of, the madder I became. It broke my heart to see his tender heart suffering. He truly did not understand the reasoning why. I explained that every action we make causes a re-action from our peers. I had to get real with him and it hurt me to see him so sad and left out. “What you did was bad, YOU are NOT bad.”

Let’s be honest, I wanted to straight up strangle the parent who thought it was okay to leave ONE kid out. To single him out and basically say “No, you are NOT invited”. I got very upset. I approached the issue (reputation aside) in the terms of these are all just kids, and why would you leave even one out like that. It’s hurtful. It’s mean. It’s so… childish! It took every ounce in me to not go APE SHIT and cuss out that parent.  No joke. I was feeling some Mc Andrews’ temper coming on and I had to take hold of it and set a good example for my son who was having a hard time. Even though cussing her out would have definitely made me feel better, it wouldn’t change the fact that my son’s peer’s not only thought of him as a threat, but their parents did as well.

Well THAT explains the awkward sighs and looks…

As my son’s 1st grade year was starting to come to a close, we had to deal with another fight incident. I was mentally weak going into the summer. I didn’t know what else to do. My husband and I had tried everything we thought would work and we were very consistent with our actions. I had read a lot of books about “strong-willed children” and tried to receive advice from those who would give it. I was lost. I was completely frustrated and It just wasn’t working. I cried out in desperation for help. I didn’t want my son to have to overcome the issues I had to. I wanted it to be easy for him. I wanted him to thrive!

Today (6 months later) I drove up to my son’s school, I took a deep breath and went into my son’s classroom. Being here before made me uncomfortable and eerie. There’s reason for me to be on-edge at Parent-Teacher conferences. After four years of attending them, they never start or end with good news… or so I thought.

My lungs had felt empty and my eyes flooded with water as I walked out of my son’s school towards my car. I had made this walk many times before looking this way.

But this time… my lungs felt empty because my breath had been taken away, and my eyes cried tears of happiness.

When I had asked my son’s teacher what else we should work on this year with him, she replied “Any goals that I had set for him in the beginning of the year he has surpassed already this year. He is truly refreshing this year.” As she said that I sat there in the seat with overwhelming emotions.

My son had been praised at school, for the first time. He had been praised at school! He got nothing but great re-marks. He has come such a long way since the beginning and he really IS finally starting to get it. We’ve worked so hard together to understand and adjust to new things, to control our anger and give people space. It’s safe to say that my sanity is slowing regenerating and my voice isn’t so strained – for now.

A pat on my own back for not giving up. For leaning in with the learning curves instead of fighting them. For continuing to look for options to help him. Talking to him and keeping our communication open. Letting him feel free to express himself in different ways. Trying to stay positive even in times where I just wanted to give up. I know we have a lot more growing to do together, and we are not perfect. I will be tested again, and he will push even harder, but, now I know to hold my head high.

Love your children and fight for them no matter how they may behave now. Encourage them to be who they are, outgoing, “aggressive researchers”, and to question everything while showing respect… thus I know there will be more times like these, that I can guarantee. He is, obviously, my child. Lord help us all! hehehe


Lesson’s in Parenting

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