Today I got a phone call that I never expected to receive. The basic suggestion behind the call is maybe our program is not the right fit for your child. He is disruptive, and we don’t know how to handle him. He’s been in this program for years. His behavior has not changed, but perhaps it should have, as he has gotten older. They had other teachers who dealt with his behavior wonderfully and he was thriving. Why is this year so different? What happened? Could it be that I spent most of last year in the hospital with a life threatening and life altering condition? Could it be that he is a scared little boy trying to cope with things that he doesn’t understand? Does my child have ADHD, or even worse, does he have Asperger’s syndrome?
Sadly the questions that run through my mind are mostly is this my fault? Did I not teach him like I would have or should have if I had been well? Did I miss a vital time period when we could have intervened and gotten him help and services so he wouldn’t have to struggle now? Did I allow his behavior to become extreme and hard to handle because I feel guilty that I cannot give him the childhood or the mother that I hoped to? Stupid questions, but all valid.
Is this his problem, or did I create this? Either way, what do I do now. How do we help him? Where do we go from here? I know I am not the only parent of a struggling child, and I am not the only struggling parent. I have a degree in psychology. I work with difficult children. His father has a Master’s Degree in education. We struggle with him at home, but not like others do when he isn’t with us. Maybe it’s not me, but a broken system that isn’t prepared to handle my active, smart, and caring child. The thing is, he is active and smart. He can tell jokes, and remembers almost everything he reads or hears. He reads at a high level, is at the top of his class in math, and loves everything about learning. He is also a great kid. He loves people, he wants to and is kind to everyone he meets. He’s one of those people who makes friends instantly, and will include everyone in his play, most of the time. He wants so much to be good. He gets really upset when he gets in trouble. I have read thousands of books and articles. I have worked with thousands of kids, and my own child has me stumped. What am I missing that others seem to have such a hard time with? How do I teach him and prepare him for the world that is so hard and so mean. Perhaps I have sheltered him too much. Maybe if he had a sibling, or we had him in more activities it would be different. I don’t know.
I do know that phone call brought out all my worst fears as a parent. I look at my baby, who has grown so much and wonder how we came to this place. I have been so sick, and he has been such a trooper. Our family has endured so much. Don’t they know that? Can’t they see his sweet soul and his hopes and dreams and struggles? Why don’t they want for him what I want? Where is the patience for his struggles and the joy in his triumphs, or is that a forum where only his mother dwells?
The fit is fine. We will deal with the behavior, whatever the source. He is a good kid and deserves, and has the right to be where he wants to be, and he wants to be there. I think the next time I am asked that question, I will defend, instead of acquiesce. I will fight for all children who don’t “fit” just right into a mold, and find room for them somewhere, because as a psychology major, as a teacher, as a tutor and now as a mother, I know what harm those words can bring. I refuse to believe that we cannot make accommodations for the needs and growth of all children. To refuse someone the opportunity to make friends and do what they love because we, as grown-ups, can’t figure out how to help a child is shameful. They are just kids, and we are their world, their teachers, and their guides. Who else will help them. So, to you who do not fit with my child. Figure it out. You are an adult. Say what you want to me, but deal with the reality of my child and his needs. You are paid, and you are trained. You work with kids. Figure it out. It isn’t his problem, it is yours, and mine. We are responsible for making it a good environment for him.
My one allowance to this bold statement would be this. If my child was a bully, if he was hurting other children, if he was out of control and violent, and his behavior seriously affected the safety and ability of other children to learn, then yes, I would question the fit. However, my son is sweet, silly, and kind. He does not react violently. He is just easily bored and distracted, so engage him. If his behavior broke laws or rules, then fine, I understand such censure, but it doesn’t, so he fits.