Friday, May 06, 2005

My first child

I’m finding it difficult to write about this topic. I’m not worried about strangers or friends reading this. I’m worried about Harrison reading this in the future. I started constructing this on a little note pad at the conference I attended this week. For two days, I sat in a chair listening to speakers. There were times, I admit, when I would get bored and jot a few notes about my feelings and the events going on in my son’s life. Here’s what I came up with.

As an educator for 12 years, I know a lot about schools and students – Kindergarteners to adolescents. Now, as a mother of “students”, I feel helpless and inept. I have felt for some time a new kinship with the parents I work with. It really kicked in when Harrison was struggling at his last school. Whenever I learned that he had been sent to the Director’s office, I would have a new appreciation for many of the parents of “difficult” students I’ve worked with over the years.

Harrison is now in a very loving and accepting learning environment. His main teacher, Mrs. M, has an incredible ability to understand him. She tells me all the time that he’s smart, hard-working and a good boy. Things we’ve both needed to hear. About a week or two ago, Mrs. M approached me with some examples of Harry’s recent shenanigans: putting puzzle pieces behind the bookshelves, throwing sand at people in the sand box and getting silly at lunch. To quote her, “He’s not doing anything terrible or aggressive – he’s just being mischievous.” She believes that he picks things up so quickly that he gets bored when there are down times. Transition times are hard for him. He becomes impulsive.

I appreciated her feedback and was so thankful that she had taken the time to get to know my son so well. I’ve heard positive comments from Harrison’s teachers in the past, but never have I felt such a sincere compassion for him as an individual.

Since that conversation, in which Mrs. M tells me how smart Harry is, etc., I received a rejection letter in the mail from our local school district. A few months ago, I had Harrison screened/tested for the accelerated Kindergarten program. It’s not that we are convinced that he’s gifted, but we do think that he was somewhat ahead academically of some of his classmates even though he was the youngest.

My first thought, when I saw his low score, was that his attitude, or communication skills, got in the way of his ability to show his knowledge. I spoke with the person who handles these assessments and she has recommended he be re-tested by a school psychologist due to the discrepancies between his sub test scores. I hope that will help me feel better about my concerns.

Knowing full well that every parent thinks their child is the best and brightest, I humbly admit that I am falling into that category right now. I will, however, examine the test data after he is re-tested before I reach final conclusions.

Fast forward to last Monday night. I arrive at the kids’ school for pick up and Harrison was being read A Magic School Bus book. These books are very long and detailed so it took his teacher, Ms. D., about ten minutes to finish it. During this time, his main teacher again approached me as Ella ran underfoot trying to get my attention. She filled me in on recent behaviors that concerned her. Harrison will drop his head, drop his shoulders, roll up a bit and look away when told that he has made an academic error or is being corrected because he misbehaved. “He seems to be hurting inside.” Ouch. That was very hard for me to hear. My immediate internal reaction was to become defensive. “Hey lady,” I almost said, “he’s in a good home, with good parents. We treat him as a treasure – he’s not being mistreated at home.” Instead I took a deep breath and nodded. She continued, “I’d like to meet with you and come up with a plan to help Harrison.” Oh God, I thought. He must be really bad. She went on to tell me that she is convinced that he’s smart, but is concerned about maturity. He is socially behind. He’s exhibiting behaviors that would be acceptable if he were three or four, but he’ll be five in late May.

Harry chooses not to verbalize his thoughts and feelings in many settings. This comes across as shy or rude at times. I have even called him “different” and “odd” because of these types of things. I called Beth last night to tell her that Harry was going to be re-tested and that he had had night terrors the night before. “Beth, I’m really getting concerned. What if something is wrong with him?” She lit in to me. (well, only in the nicest way possible.) She told me that Harrison is not odd or different in a bad way.
She has experience with pre-schoolers. Her mom had a daycare when she was young and has been exposed to many kids. (I, on the other hand, have very little experience with little kids. When I did babysitting, as a teen, the kids were all at least six or older. I never remember changing diapers or dealing with toddlers. I am the perfect example of someone who should not have been handed a newborn without an instruction manual. But I was handed one. And that newborn, who I have had to experiment my novice parenting on, is Harrison.) Beth told me that all kids are different and odd. If I were to hang out with other people’s kids for longer periods of time, I would realize this. She told me that I might be showing Harry my stress inadvertently. This might be making things worse.

I cried and thanked her and felt better. I played with him a lot last night and it was great. We both laughed. He slept better – no night terrors last night. I feel better about things, but still worry about his future. I don’t want his behaviors to affect his elementary years in a negative way. I want him to love school like I did. I don’t want him to stick out or to feel badly about himself. How do parents turn off thinking like this? How can I just become more patient and know that things will work out the way they are supposed to?

This week has been extremely hard for me. I can’t get Harrison off of my mind. I guess that makes me a good mom.

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