Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Adventures in Parenting #1377

Enthusio is having a rough week. Monday he came home from school, and when I asked him how his day had gone, he said it was fine, just like he always does. When he came closer to tell me about something else (probably about a video game -- I hear a lot about video games lately), I noticed his little face was looking tear-stained, so I asked him if he'd been crying. He said he'd had a tough day, so I hugged him and told him I knew he probably didn't want to talk about it, but that I was there if he did. He said he didn't, and within a few minutes he was playing the Gameboy and enjoying himself. He was kind of obnoxious throughout the afternoon and evening, which isn't unusual when he's stressed out.

Yesterday, I collected him and Mermaid outside his afterschool Spanish class, and he was tearstained again. When I asked him what was wrong, he dissolved into tears and said he just hates it when he gets out in Musical Chairs, which they'd evidently been playing in Spanish class. Later on, he fell completely apart when he discovered the show he'd been saving on the TV hadn't gotten saved, and generally the emotions were hanging out pretty close to the surface the whole afternoon and evening.

I feel like dealing with everything that's going on with him is like a great big knot that I'm slowly unravelling. I have a basic scenario in my head of the way things work at school. Something about being there makes him very anxious. Sometimes he copes and is himself -- other times, for whatever reason, work is put in front of him or some kind of minor frustration with another kids comes up and he just loses it. These outbursts happen often enough so as to alienate the other kids in the class, and I think they also inspire some of the more mean-spirited kids to push his buttons when they get the chance, in order to provoke another outburst, which I guess is fun for them to watch.

Of course I want to think that if all the other kids would just be nicer and more accepting, some of his anxiety would dissipate, and he would make friends and just have an easier time at school. But there are other issues too. This is going to sound pretty harsh, coming from his own mom, but he's annoying. Seriously. He asks questions constantly, and if you answer one, he will keep asking them until you tell him to stop. He's also impulsive, and it seems like once he follows an impulse to do something, it's hard for him to stop even if someone is yelling at him to do so. One of his teachers told me that a week or two ago, a boy in the class was telling everyone that he'd gotten hurt the day before and had stitches in his head. Enthusio's response was to start rifling through the poor kid's hair, looking for the stitches, and even with the boy crying out in pain, it still took the teacher telling Enthusio to stop several times before he did. It was pretty eye-opening to hear that story, to say the least. I mean, if he has a reputation for doing things like that, no wonder kids don't like him.

Again, I think the pressure of school aggravates his tendency to be impulsive and highly emotional. Still, there are obviously things going on within Enthusio himself that need to be addressed and dealt with. School is going to be there, and he needs to learn to cope. That's going to make life better for everyone. Today I will be working in his classroom for the first time, so I'll get a chance to see how things are going firsthand. We will continue with his psychotherapy, and we will probably pursue getting him some occupational therapy. We will be pretty aggressive about having a hand in his classroom placement for next year as well.

In the last few weeks I've spent some time exploring the issue of whether he's being bullied. The conclusion I've come to is that yeah, sometimes he is. When kids zero in on the fact that it's easy to get a strong reaction out of someone and say mean things to elicit that reaction, that's bullying, and when Enthusio tells me about these incidents, you better believe I report them to his teachers immediately. Last week I had a long talk with the school psychologist about my concerns, and we may go to the principal as well. Sadly, I suspect parents of the victims spend a lot more energy dealing with the issue of bullying than the parents of the bullies themselves. It makes sense -- your kid is being pushed around? You're pissed off and getting in people's faces to get it stopped. Your kid is the one being mean? Well, he has lots of friends, and he told me he didn't mean it to be mean. Right? Who wants to deal with the idea that their kid is the problem? I've sat and watched more than one good friend of mine see her child treat another child badly with a look of helpless exasperation on her face, as though she is somehow not empowered to jump in and use that moment as an opportunity to teach her kid how to be a better human being. I'd love to do a poll of parents to find out the correllation between the opinion that kids should be allowed to "work things out themselves" and how likely one's kid is to be a bully or a victim.

That said -- Enthusio has issues, it's our job to deal with them, and I am back to my original opinion that we can't change other kids -- we can only help Enthusio learn to react to them differently. I won't deny there is a certain bitterness to my acceptance of the fact that Reasonable Man and I carry most of the burden for making school a happier place for Enthusio to learn and grow. Still, I'd rather have him for my son and have his issues to deal with than have some mean little asshole with dozens of friends as my child. If that sounds like a harsh thing to say about a second grader -- well, I can make a list for you of some of the things that have been said to my son this year and last, and you can think about whether you'd want to hear that your kid had said them. I'm doing everything I can to work on my child's issues -- shouldn't everyone else be doing the same?

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