Monday, December 12, 2011

Pressure Cooker

I never feared report card day when I was a kid.  I was one of those crazy smart kids who breathed on a test paper and got an A.  When they did those stupid tests in junior high about where you were as far as your reading and comprehension skills, I tested above college level.  Literally off the charts.  So quite honestly, report card day was a piece of cake for me.  My mom refused to reward me for A's because she would have been broke.

When I had Little Miss, it never occurred to me that she would have academic difficulties, either.  She hit all her milestones early and practically shattered them.  This is a girl who can hold a conversation with a group of adults and quite possibly be the smartest one in the group.  Her vocabulary is astounding.  She's smart as a whip.  It's amazing.  Yet she struggles in school.  She's a math genius.  Once she got the idea of memorizing her times tables, she has been rocking it.  She's got division down cold.  But then there's spelling.  Her spelling sucks.  She works so hard on it.  She does extra spelling work every night with only minimal complaining.  And it's been paying off.

I never thought I'd celebrate a 75% grade, but I do.  Compared to the spelling grades she got last year, a 75 is HUGE!  Two weeks ago, she would have gotten an 85% except for the fact that she can't seem to remember which way a "b" goes and which way a "d" goes.  But she works so hard and chastises herself over every mistake.

We got her report card last week.  I wasn't thrilled simply because I hate the way their report cards are set up.  They link progress with effort.  And while there may be little visual progress with her spelling, she puts in tremendous effort.  And she has made SO much progress compared to where she was last year.  Even compared to where she was at the beginning of the year.  And for her to be graded poorly for that.....UGH!!!  I'm so frustrated.

But what killed me was this morning when she realized that she didn't get all A's on her report card.  She threw herself down on the couch and proclaimed that she was not ever going back to school because she was so awful.  I tried to explain to her that her father and I don't care about what grades she gets so long as she's working hard and doing her best.  But she doesn't care.  The pressure comes from within her, not from outside.  If the pressure was coming from me, or from the school, I'd know how to deal with it.  But it comes from her.  She drives herself so hard.  It's like she's on edge all the time.  Ugh. 

Perfectionism sucks.  And it's worse having to watch your child go through it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Letter.....

Dear Judgmental Mommy,

I want to thank you for making my life just a little more difficult today than it really had to be.  Not that it was a walk in the park by any means before you crossed my path.  But you wouldn't know that, would you?  Because you don't really care one way or the other.  You just like to jump in and make faces or make comments or whisper behind my back because you just can't help yourself.  I get it.  I do.  It's easy to stand there and judge because I don't deal with my child the same way you deal with yours.  But let me tell you, you don't deal with what I deal with.

You don't deal with a child whose self-esteem lands in the toilet when she makes a very simple and correctable mistake.  You don't know what it's like to watch your child work SO HARD to get something right and then fall to pieces when it doesn't go that way.  You don't have a child who struggles with the anxiety my child deals with day after day and hour after hour.  You don't know what it's like to already feel like a failure as a parent because you can't save your child from her biggest obstacle: herself. 

So thank you for just standing there today while my child had a meltdown that a child of 5 might have instead of a child of 8.  Thank you for giving her dirty looks that, thankfully, only I saw.  Thank you for looking at your own "perfect" child and saying "you know how she is" as if she was a criminal rather than a child having a difficult time. 

Thank you.  Truly.  Because of course it's really a very simple thing to explain to an 8-year-old why an adult hates her.  Now, maybe you don't hate her.  But that's the impression she gets.  Of course, that's one of her difficulties.  She sees things in black and white.  There's nothing else for her.  And every once in a while I get the idea that she's got it correctly.  Forget the shades of gray.  You're either a help or a hindrance.  Guess which camp I think you fall into.

Now, if there were ever a time you'd like to offer something constructive or helpful, rather than snide comments and judgmental looks, feel free.  Until then, don't do it where I have to witness it.  It just makes my day worse.  And you don't know the kind of day I've already had.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wipeout Wisdom

In my house, Wipeout is one of those shows that we watch together as a family.  I hate the innuendo from the hosts, but it's still crying until my sides hurt funny.  The other night we were watching "Blind Date Wipeout" and the guy kept going without waiting for his partner.  This is the conversation that ensued:

Me: Look at him, not caring about his partner.
Little Miss: He only cares about himself, Mom.
Me: I know! How awful! Never date a man who only cares about himself, LM.
Little Miss: Mom, they're ALL like that!

Of course, Hubby (having heard the previous conversation) came into the room and said, "Sweetie, you heard your mother, never date a man who only cares about himself.  And you just said that they were all like that.  So what does that tell you?

Little Miss: That I should never date anyone?

Hmm.  Really?  Of course, this transitioned into a conversation about the fact that not all men are like that.  She agreed, especially when I pointed out that her father was not like that at all.  So she amended it to "only SOME" are like that.  Ugh!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Life Lessons from The Frizz

When Little Miss was younger, she loved to watch Magic School Bus.  The Husband and I were happy because if was one of the few children's programs that we enjoyed just as much as Little Miss did.  If you haven't seen Magic School Bus, google it.  You won't regret it.  Anyway, the teacher in MSB, Miss Frizzle, always gives her class these instructions before going on one of their scientific adventures: Take chances.  Make mistakes.  Get Messy.  I always loved those instructions.  But they are wonderful life lessons as well as animated tv lessons.

Take chances - I want my daughter to take chances in life.  I want her not to take the easy way out.  Sometimes life is hard.  Safe doesn't always mean right.  Take a chance.  You might be surprised about what happens.  It's ok to not know the end before you get there.

Make mistakes - It's ok to make mistakes.  No one is perfect.  And if you do make mistakes, at least you'll know you tried something different.  That way, you won't be left with regrets about the road not traveled.

Get messy - Life isn't simple.  There aren't too many easy choices.  Sometimes your heart will get broken.  Sometimes you'll break someone else's heart.  It happens.  When your heart breaks, more often than not, it heals stronger than it started.  The times you get messy, the times you make mistakes, those can be your best learning experiences. 

Thanks, Miss Frizzle!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Too Young to Smoke

Like so many houses with school-age kids, my house is a little crazy in the morning.  Between breakfast (your only cereal choice today is Apple Jacks. Deal with it.), brushing teeth (yes, you must use toothpaste), taming pig tails (I’m sorry it hurts but perhaps if you brushed your hair more than once a day there wouldn’t be enough knots for the entire US Navy in your hair), packing lunch (no, you may not bring half of your Easter candy to school today), and all those other little things (like learning how to tie shoelaces – finally!), it’s enough to make a Mom want to pull out her recently-dyed hair.  Clothing choices tends to be an issue in the morning.  I admit to being a bit of a control freak when it comes to my daughter’s clothes, though not nearly as controlling as some moms I’ve run into.  But I spent perfectly good money on clothes and I want her to look presentable. Yes, I realize that I need to let her become her own person, develop her own style, etc.  But there are limits. 

1. I want you to match. 

Sorry, it’s true.  You need to understand right from the beginning that polka dotted pants do not go with a striped shirt. You want to look like Punky Brewster? Fine with me.  But you need to commit to it so that it looks like a definitive choice instead of looking like you got dressed in the dark.

2. There will be no words across your caboose.

There’s no need for an 8-year-old to have “flirty”, “pretty”, or “sassy” on her pants.  If I wanted words across your backside, I’d have them tattoed there.

3. You have to be fully dressed. 

In other words, you do not get to wear a pair of tights with a long top.  If those tights are meant to have a skirt or shorts over them, put something over them!

4. If it looks like it belongs on someone who’s fifteen, it does not belong on you.

I get the last vote.  That’s all there is to it.  I will never make my child wear something she hates (come on, we all have that picture of ourselves in the outfit our mom forced us to wear.) but I get veto power on any outfit or individual article of clothing.  And the simple fact is, if a teenager could wear it, my 8-year-old will not.

5. You will not smoke.

And by that, I mean that the words “smokin’ hot” should never, EVER, EVER come out of your 8-year-old mouth.

The other morning, when I asked her what she wanted to wear to school she said, “I don’t know.  Something smokin’ hot.”  Um, what?!  “Yeah, you know, when the boys say you look smokin’ hot.”  Again, what?!  So I ask her what she actually means by those words and she couldn’t tell me anything more than ‘looking pretty’.  But I admit, I was not expecting this, especially not before my first cup of coffee.  My Little Miss is a girlie girl who loves nail polish, jewelry, lip gloss, dresses and shoes.  But the idea of her wanting to look a certain way so someone would think she was “smokin’ hot”, isn’t that supposed to come with the teen years?  I wasn’t ready for it at 8.  I think it’s time for another conversation about being happy with the assets nature gave her and the idea that she doesn’t have to look a certain way for anyone….except me.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When it rains, it pours.

My grandfather will be 88 old next month.  He's been in and out of the hospital for the last five years.  Quite honestly, there have been a number of times when we thought we were going to lose him. Grampa and I have a special relationship. He raised me after my mom died.  And as a matter of fact, it was frequently just Grampa and me at the dinner table when I was growing up. 

Now, he's back in the hospital.  Yesterday when I went to see him, he couldn't remember my name.  He remembered Little Miss' name.  He remembered my husband's name (Grampa adores my husband). But he couldn't remember mine. He knew me but he couldn't come up with my name.  It made me feel for the families of Alsheimer's patients.  Grampa's on a new med to help his memory.  The day he can't remember me will be one of the saddest days of my life.

Friday, May 27, 2011

And There's More

So The Husband and I agreed to talk to LM’s pediatrician and have her evaluated to see if there’s really something wrong or if she just needs a good dose of Supernanny.  So now we have to wait three weeks for the evaluation appointment.  But she did say that if I could get the patient forms in right away that they could call me if there was a cancellation.  So, let’s see how we fare through the next three weeks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What a Way to Say Hello

Which is worse: having a child in physical pain and not being able to help? Or having a child in emotional pain and not being able to help?  Honestly, I don't know the answer.  At least if a child is in physical pain, it's more obvious.  It's easier for a child to describe, and easier for a parent to understand.  But having my child look at me and say, "Maybe I just don't fit into this world."... My heart is breaking for her. 

Two weeks ago my 8 year old Little Miss had a meltdown of monumental proportion.  Then last week she had another one.  But these weren't "I'm not getting my way so I'm going to scream bloody murder until you give me what I want" meltdowns.  She was howling in emotional pain like she just needed to get it all out or she'd explode.  I've never heard such a sound come out of an eight year old.  At the time I told her I'd talk to her doctor about it.  She begged me to take her to a therapist.  But then I changed my mind and thought, no this is just a behavioral issue that we have to deal with.  We're being too easy on her.  We're letting her walk all over us. 

Today, it's so strange because so many things just dropped like puzzle pieces into place.  I was having a conversation directly after school with my friend A who mentioned, somewhat offhand, ADD.  I said, yeah, I've looked at that before and she doesn't meet all the criteria.  Fast-forward to at home after school and I tell my SIL, L, about the conversation I had with A.  Now, L has had her own dealings with children and both medical issues and psychological issues.  She and I have talked about LM's behavior and the problems she's been having at school with spelling.  And because she is one of my very best friends, and because I know she loves my kid almost as much as I do, I was not at all offended when she said, "There's no harm in getting her a neuropsych exam.  Even if you don't come out with a diagnosis, you might get some insight into how her mind works and that will give you more information and you may be able to help her better."

Fast forward again to homework time.  Homework is never easy in this house.  We're always telling LM to quit fidgeting.  We're always remarking about how she's distracted by lint.  She's got this "I need to be perfect" complex going and it's absolutely killing her.  So, during homework, she starts giving me attitude.  I send her into the next room to calm herself.  She comes back a few minutes later, still sporting the 'tude.  So I asked her, "Do you enjoy being angry all the time?"  At which point, she just starts bawling. 

She tell me that she doesn't want to be angry all the time but that she has this pain.  I say, what pain?  She said she can't describe it but how it makes her heart hurt all the time.  (And no, she's not having chest pains.  She's talking emotional pain.)  So I ask her to tell me about the pain.  She tells me that she doesn't want to be angry all the time.  She doesn't want to yell at her friends.  And she doesn't want to hurt all time.  And then she says, "Maybe I just don't fit into this world."  At this point, of course, I'm trying desperately not to bawl.  Then, to make it worse, she asks, "Do you think it will ever get better, Mama?"

These are not questions an 8 year old should have to ask.  I have always said she reminds me of a teenager.  But really, this was too much!  It was like she was 15, hormonal, pms'd out and asking me that.  But the emotional pain was killing me.  So, I put in a call to her doc.  Hopefully she'll get back to me tomorrow.  This time, I'm not changing my mind.  My kid can't keep going through this.  She needs help.  And I need help to help her.