In a way that only parents of children who have dealt with trauma can understand, BD spiraled out of control after he made that one mistake. It led to shame and anger and attempt after attempt to get us angry. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
When we didn't take his bait, he moved to hurtful statements:
"You care about money more than you love me." (After I poured him a second glass of milk.)
"I never want to be like Dad." (As Jude tried to encourage him to turn his attitude back around through some physical activity.)
"I'm a bad child." (We hear that one a lot around here.)
Of course it was then time to pack up the car and head for school. We took him straight to his behavior interventionist, and the rest of his day self-imploded from there. Jude and I drove to therapy (over an hour one way) and back, and by 12:00 we were asked to pick him up from school.
I thought about titling this post "Our Biggest Mistake," but a good friend lately told me I need to quit apologizing for myself at every turn. Also, the hyperbole wasn't necessary. Yes, this was a mistake, but we're fixing it. And that's all that matters, right? So here it goes.
We sent the boys to school way too soon.
We had been home four months, and it felt natural to send them back in the fall. I could return to work at the start of the new school year, and they could join their classes on the fresh first day of school.
School was initially very rough on LD. The end of each day promised tantrums and rages and behaviors that we hadn't seen in him since the first weeks home. LD has since recovered beautifully, and socially and academically he has made great gains. BD, on the other hand, seemed to thrive at first. Everyone raved about his great intelligence, and he came home thrilled with his new learning experiences. He was also the same boy who loaded his backpack on the second day in our family and asked, "Tomorrow student?"
For a lot of reasons, the school situation has worsened for BD. He has some definite sensory processing issues, and his emotional age is much younger than his academic age. I've had some pretty major concerns about how school has been impacting his feelings of self-worth and confidence. And then this week another good friend suggested that I listen to this conversation with Bryan Post. Please, if you're an adoptive parent making decisions about the educational prospects of your children, please take 32 minutes the listen to what he has to say.
This winter I read The Whole Brain Child, and Bryan Post's thoughts here resonate with that same research. Because of BD's background, I fully believe his left brain (logical/rational) has compensated for his right brain (emotional) from a very young age. He hasn't learn to trust, to understand his self-worth, to self-regulate. He's incredibly intelligent, and his memory (perhaps photographic?) astounds me every day. His emotional intelligence, though? Let's just say he has a ways to go. From misreading social cues to misinterpreting facial expressions, the noisy, rambunctious environment of a typical elementary school has provided many challenges for him.
Today when I went to pick him up early, I watched the teachers and students that we encountered in the halls. They didn't look at him the way I see him. They looked at him with fear, distrust, maybe anger. Many of them looked at him the way he sees himself, as a "bad boy." They don't know the BD that I know. The boy who tells delightful jokes and giggles uncontrollably when the bottom of his right foot is tickled. The boy who placed paper jets into four categories this afternoon: flies far, fancy, floats, and flips. (His English teacher mother loved the alliteration.) The boy who has suffered and survived. The boy they will never get to know if something doesn't change.
I'm a public educator, and right now I'm thinking about pulling BD from his second grade classroom for the remainder of the school year. Yes, I'm off from work to take care of myself, too, but I made a commitment to be a mother to my boys. That means I am sometimes a mother who yells, a mother who makes mistakes, a mother who occasionally cries in the shower. I am also a mother who fights for her children.
Right now BD needs someone in his corner. He needs to learn how beautiful and smart and capable he is. I don't think he's learning that at school, but I think I could try to teach it to him here at home. Because I see it. When no one else does, I see it.