Friday, January 29, 2016

Shining like a Star

It's been a much better week. In an attempt to break the cycle of negativity and complaining about school, I offered Aquaman a prize for not complaining about it for a week. We talked about Philippians 2:14 "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky."
Our code for when he started complaining was: "shine like a star!"
He was happy and agreeable about this plan on a Sunday but Monday morning was a different story...
Luckily, 2 days in, my friend S recommended giving him a certain number of complaints per day.
He loved that. Since then, every time he complains I listen and validate his complaint and then remind him how many more complaints he has left. I've given him 10 per day so far (which is a far cry from the hundreds I was hearing...), and he rarely gets past 5. He likes to leave himself a lot of wiggle room for an emergency I think. Haha. So mornings are tons better. I also stopped letting him have breakfast until he was dressed, including socks. I'm mean.
Homework was also much better this week. For one thing, he did half of it at school sitting at the same table as his teacher. Not sure why, but I was not complaining.
For another thing, I started telling him he only had to do 20 minutes of consistent working each night, and it didn't matter how much he got done as long as he was consistently working. We broke it up into 2 10 minute sessions, and he asked me to "help him stay on task" the whole 10 minutes. I tried to do 30 minutes the first night, but that crossed the drama barrier and he lost it. So 20 minutes seemed to be the magic number.
And he finished his homework this week. And it actually looks pretty good.
So wow, things are definitely better and I am not feeling quite as desperate to have something done about school.
The only problem that has remained consistently is his freak outs after school (or after I pick him up after work). Usually before we can get out of the school parking lot he has become very aggressive with The Dude, He pretty much ends up screaming and crying and pounding on things in his room for about 15 minutes before finally emerging, worn out and calmed down.
He's just so sensitive, and so intense, and he has so much energy, and that's a lot to contain all day.
I often think that someday when we get to heaven, we will be surprised at the people who are honored for overcoming, because we have no idea the battles that are waged within themselves. Even though Aquaman often looks as if he has no self control whatsoever, he obviously has an uncanny ability to hold it together just long enough in school or at his grandparents to where he doesn't cause any major trouble. I mean, sometimes, watching him explode around the house with his force of emotion I am in awe of this. At school I know he can get a little grabby with other kids, and is often too emotional socially, but he doesn't get into trouble. And even though sometimes I wish he would show some of his stress at school so his teacher could understand, I am also very glad that he is not a behavior problem there.
We met with the psychologist on Wednesday and it was pretty much a waste of time. He offered to counsel Aquaman at a very discounted rate since our employee assistance plan benefits have run out and our insurance has a high deductible, but I am not convinced it will be that helpful for him at this point. Aquaman knows the right answers for how to cope when he is calm...but when he's upset, his logic flies right out the window. I really think that is a big part of his self esteem issues. He knows the right things to do most of the time, but he is so impulsive and full of emotion that he often can't do them.
He again didn't have much hope or help for how to handle the school. He explained that the teachers and administrators who care have no power. Which, working for the government myself I understand to some extent. But I also know from working in the government that on the front lines you do still have a little power, if you care enough. And I can see that Aquaman's teacher and even the principal do care, even if they doesn't fully understand Aquaman, And even if the teacher's personality is such that we are mostly just going to have to get through this year and hope for a more laid back and warm teacher to encourage him next year.
The main gyst of the meeting with the psychologist was for him to push us to try ADHD medications with Aquaman. Which I guess I wasn't really expecting, even though he mentioned it last time. It's not that I am entirely opposed to trying it. I really do want to help Aquaman. I have pretty much always known he had ADHD just like his father, and I pretty much figured it was going to come up at some point in school. But from what I have 1 out of 3 boys are identified as having "ADHD" in the school system and that really really bothers me. Because it seems more like a diagnosis based on what society values these days than an actual mental illness. I mean, 100-200 years ago, JT and Aquaman's energy and drive would have been highly valued in the world. But now, because they are expected to sit in chairs and read and write all day, they are considered to have a disorder.
But at the same time, Aquaman does live in this world, in today. And it almost seems cruel not to give him a chance at fitting in more comfortably in his environment. As much as I think I would really love to home school, to drag him around to co ops and sports and to let him learn the way he learns best, that is not an option for us right now, and so he will have to find a way to adapt to the ways of our education system, even if flawed in its approach to dealing with boys like him.
When I told him there was a pill that could help him sit in his chair, he laughed hysterically.

JT tried medications briefly when he was a child and hated that they made him feel like he was not himself.
But what's funny is, the psychologist also advised us at the first meeting that we should try melatonin to help Aquaman get sleep to help control his anxiety. He has been out by 8:15 which is an hour earlier than he used to fall asleep, and when we read our book at night he lies peacefully in his bed instead of doing handstands. For whatever reason, that makes me feel guilty. But he is the one who asks for it every night, He says he loves not having to lay in bed thinking all night.
For now, we're just going to keep taking things a day at a time. I would love it if they could give him some accomodations for ADHD (like sitting away from other kids or getting extra time or homework modifications) without having to medicate, which the psychologist said was unlikely. He said the schools don't like to work with parents who don't want to medicate their kids. Which, to me, is really really sad.
What I want, most of all, is for him to enjoy learning, so I have been trying to think of ways we can do that at home since it's not happening at school. Science is his favorite subject, but this year his teacher has managed to sap all the fun out of it by focusing on rigorous documentation instead of the actual experiments. Last year, 4th graders came in and helped his class with science and he loved it.
I feel sort of inadequate in this regard though because science is not my best subject. For a month in a row he brought home a book from the school library about technical science projects. He refused to turn it in, saying he wanted me to help him "build a printer". Ummm...I looked at it to see if it was in any way possible for me to help him do this and concluded no it was not.
But he is fascinated with electronics, so I think I am going to buy snap circuits and see if I am smart enough to help him with that. Stinks when your kid is smarter than you are. On a lot of levels. Half of parenting is outsmarting your kid and I am having trouble doing that lately.
But regardless, things are much better around here. Actually, I think I figured out that the reason I was totally freaking out last week is because my twin sister was having an embryo transfer at the same moment as my meeting with the principal. Pretty crazy and exciting and awful. In 4 days we will hear whether it worked. It's so hard to be so far away during this time, and so helpless to help. She seems to be doing great, and I have felt pretty at peace with it logically too, but I think on the inside I have been more anxious than I realized.
I want it to be twins so much. I mean, one would be awesome. But my twin sister having twins. Wow.
I want to see them running across the beach like this in a few years.
In other news, Greystoke is growing up. He spends a lot of time reading books and drawing pictures. A couple weeks ago he said "uhoh, where's the book?" as clear as could be.
Yesterday, he drew a scribbly picture in blue crayon and then brought it to me saying "Daddy, pool." He was drawing a picture!
He makes me smile so much. He is running around the house chasing a little bouncy ball right now. His feet slapping on the floor.
He will probably love school someday.
The Dude is growing up so much too. He'll be 5 in just a little over a month, and he is suddenly blossoming into it. He is getting a lot more self control. I confided to my sister K yesterday...if they say Aquaman has ADHD, I am terrified what they will say about The Dude. She joked: "He puts the H in ADHD!"
But really, he is starting to grow into his emotions. His tantrums are becoming less violent and there is the actual occasion when he can be reasoned with without flying off the deep end.
He is such a lover too. Almost every day, he spontaneously bursts forth with: "I love you more than candy!" or "You are the BEST mommy ever!"
The other day when I lashed out at him for kicking me in the stomach accidentally, and then immediately felt bad and hugged him, he said through his tears: "love your enemies, mommy!"
He is scared of alligators, but only at night.
He lays in bed (or stands on his head) listening to the stories that I am reading to Aquaman that seem to be way over his head, and asks legitimate questions. Sometimes. Other times he starts asking questions about tornadoes. There are no tornadoes in our books.

I love these boys so much.
They're skipping school today. Well, actually The Dude's school is closed due to an electrical fire a couple days ago, and I let Aquaman skip because my car is in the shop and didn't feel like walking.
Plus, I mean, he's in the first grade and he's doing awesome, and he did a great job shining like a star this week.
But right now The Dude is in the sink and he just broke a glass. He is singing "Augustus Gloop" over and over because we just finished reading Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and Aquaman is playing Legos like he always does, and there is cereal on the floor, and JT is swimming in the frozen ocean because whoever is in charge and gets to sit on the jet ski decided that it would be a good idea to do a code X drill today. JT worked last night at the hotel restaurant too so he wasn't in bed long.
So we've got all day without a car, and hopefully we'll get something done today because it finally stopped raining, but hopefully mostly we'll just climb some trees and be a family.
I  have been listening to the Psalms on audio Bible and drinking in the poetry and the Love and the promises there.
It helps me look at the chaos with a little more perspective,
"Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life."
-Psalm 42:7-8

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