Sunday, February 9, 2014

A New Begining

That moment, sitting in my corner of the couch, sobbing, because I have finally found a place to start.

It is hard to see things clearly when you're in the middle of them, in the day to day exhaustion of family life. 

Sometimes it's easy to ignore the warning flags of mother-instinct. It's easy to say I'm being too dramatic or overly protective or too anxious or too sensitive. 

It's easy to say it's not that bad it could be so much worse, it is so much worse for other families. It's easy to say this is just a phase, it's probably "normal". It's nothing to worry about. Let's wait and see.

Sometimes it's easier to blame myself. I can look at the landscape of our family life and say I'm just not doing enough not consistent enough, not stern enough, not gentle enough. Not good enough.

Occasionally I blame my husband. If he were more of this, less of that - we wouldn't be experiencing these struggles. 

But then, I woke up.

Last week was a perfect storm - a heavy homework load, a commitment to make sure it all got done, a sheaf of graded papers with a lot of incomplete work. My husband came home to one hot mess and I'm like "I don't know what to do! I can't make dinner and help her with homework and she can't do this by herself." 

A day or two later Daniel and I had a pivotal conversation. The something is not right conversation. It was an important conversation because up to this point the conversation has been one-sided. "Does she need to be held back?" conversations with teachers that end in "she's not that bad" and "we had a hard morning" conversations with the Hubs that end in "I hope tomorrow goes better." 

This time the conversation went differently.

Now I'm standing there saying that she can not even write a complete sentence without help. At least, not anything more than three or four words long and she is in third grade. She can not complete a simple reading comprehension worksheet without a lot of help. When she sits down to do her homework she needs a lot of help actually starting her work. This child does not lack intelligence whatsoever, so why is this so hard?
This time he says maybe we need to start asking better questions, maybe we need to start talking to different people. Maybe she doesn't just need better study habits or more supervision. Maybe it's not the fault of teachers or our parenting. Maybe there is some type of an underlying cause, something we're not seeing - the forest for the trees and whatnot - and this deeply resonates with me. It echoes what I have been feeling for quite awhile. 

I brought home an armful of books from the Library on every behavioral disorder, neurological issue and chemical imbalance I could find. We looked at autism (and quickly ruled it out) I'm still looking at bipolar, and haven't ruled out dyslexia but then I came to this:

I was stunned. This is my daughter to a T. 

This is a description of ADHD. 

She is usually well behaved, she contains herself in the classroom enough to not get into trouble. She is sweet, she is friendly. She is funny. But she is also everything in this checklist.  

Then I read this:
Creating more interesting classroom environments with music, cooperative learning, technology and aesthetic spaces...
and I start sobbing. This is what I have known my Katie-Abigail has needed for a really long time. This is what I wanted to provide for her every time I've said "do we need to homeschool her?" I have known she was not succeeding in a traditional learning environment for awhile now, but it has never been so significant that it raised red flags with her teachers. It's been side-lined with "she's just young for her grade" and "it's really not that bad"

As I have been reading more about ADHD I have begun to realize that this also describes Josiah. While he does a lot better at the attention part he shows a lot of the signs of the hyperactive side. 

I've been saying "watching him is a full time job" since he could crawl but he's my first boy and my brother was a lot like that so I thought he was just an active boy. But lately I have realized that when we stop enjoying being with him because we feel like we are constantly disciplining him, and when he starts to say "I'm bad" and "I'm just a freak" because he's constantly getting into trouble at home and at school maybe there's more here than just an active boy. Maybe there are strategies that will work better. Maybe there are foods that are triggering his behavior issues. Maybe there is more to this than I thought. He is the most sweet, loving boy you'll ever meet and he gives the best hugs but he also drives us crazy. 

It's not like an all day every day thing, we have good days and bad days and it's something you kind of get used to but when your insides are screaming what am I doing wrong here?!!! Well, maybe there really is something wrong. 

I was raised in an environment that viewed ADHD as the result of poor parenting. Too much sugar, too much TV, not enough discipline. I was raised to believe that all I needed was the Bible and a good strong spanking spoon to raise good kids. 

But it's not working.

I look at my oldest two and now my youngest and while we struggle at moments with them it's not the same. It's not so constant and it's not so intense as it is with my middle two. I'm raising them all more or less the same so why are these two so difficult? Maybe it's something that can be helped. 

So that's where I'm at.  

It's not a particularly wonderful place. I never imagined myself needing to have the types of conversations that I will need to have over the course of the next few weeks with teachers, doctors and school, but it is a place to start. In this place I'm scared to death but it is the start of something that I hope will change our family life for the better. 

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