Adoption = One Step Back, Two Steps Forward
Yesterday was a tough one for our little guy, and most of it was his own doing.
When the kids first came to live with us as fosters, he was an angry, insane-as-a-hyena mess. I’ve referenced this here, here, and oh, here. Reading those posts again, I realize how inadequate the descriptions are in communicating our…situation. The absolute insanity that ruled our home for the first eighteen months. The unbelievable chaos a wild five year old created (our girl, then seven, worked hard to be “perfect,” in keeping with her RAD). The utter defeat Hubby and I experienced, knowing no consequence–positive OR negative–motivated this child.
The last few months, in comparison, have been heavenly. Synonyms for “heavenly,” as described by the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, include:
awesome, bang-up, banner, beautiful, blue-chip, blue-ribbon, boffo, bonny (also bonnie) [chiefly British], boss [slang], brag, brave, bully, bumper,capital, choice, classic, cool [slang], corking,crackerjack, cracking, dandy, divine, dope
We have had several boffo months. (On a side note, I have friends in North Jersey with suspected…”connections.” Pretty sure one of them is nicknamed Boffo, which I find ironic.)
So, back to yesterday. Kiddo was up too late the night before. Not an excuse, we tell him, but lost sleep is never helpful in the attitude department. Or in this case, A$$itude. (For my more sensitive readers, you can read that as “an expensive attitude.”) That began as a joke, but now that I’ve written it, I see this is also accurate. His attitude cost him quite a bit.
Also not helping (but still no excuse): cumulative testing began yesterday, which is always rough; he gets overwhelmed, then shuts down. To complicate matters, his main classroom teacher AND classroom aide were both away. However, he had a familiar substitute and his former Special Ed teacher made herself available, so he had plenty of support.
The substitute placed a 20-question math test on his desk and went to attend to the other 20+ kids in the class. Half an hour later, she made it back to his desk and found he was still on question one. She didn’t notice the book he had in his lap (he was reading for entertainment…which is still not okay, but better than cheating).
She encouraged him to work faster and moved around the room once more. Almost an hour later, all the other children were finished with the test and he was still on question ONE. She called the Special Ed teacher, who knows him well and loves him almost as much as we do. Ms. SpEd noticed the book at once and hauled our boy off to her small group. She asked him to read the question out loud. He refused, again and again. On threat of “calling your Mom,” he finally read the problem out loud and quickly added the two 3-digit numbers in his head.
This is what drives me crazy. He’s brilliant, but hides behind ridiculous behavior and only a few can see his true ability.
Classmates moved on to other testing. He bogged down on the math again, convinced the answers were “too hard” to figure. He began making tree frog noises (at which he is truly talented), distracting others. Ms. SpEd told him to stop and he did it again in her face. She suggested a trip to the principal. He stopped.
By lunchtime, he had completed four questions.
Here, you may wonder why they didn’t just fail him. Sometimes I wonder the same, but his main classroom teacher and SpEd teacher see his potential as clearly as I do, and they know that once he turns the corner to do things right, he shines. They understand that his issues stem from his past, and they work hard to help him overcome.
Often, these two women are more patient with him than am I, and we are truly blessed to have them in our lives. Some future day, when he is President, a CEO or–even more important–a wonderful father, I will ensure he personally delivers flowers with gratitude for their contribution to his incredible success.
At lunchtime, he went to the bathroom and dumped water all over the floor, in a corner far from the sinks. In other words, no accident. Another child was cleaning mud from his shoes and evidently our guy thought “water play” sounded fun. Ms. SpEd noticed he’d been gone too long and checked on him, then involved the school police officer (another amazing support for our guy). Knowing I’d fully support it, the PO stood over as our guy cleaned up the mess, then explained he strongly expected a much better afternoon and shook hands.
At this point, Ms. SpEd decided a call to Mama was warranted. When she called me, he was working on problem 5. We spoke for about ten minutes, and agreed that if he gave her any more trouble I would speak to him myself.
The chat with the PO and knowing about the phone call motivated our boy, and by the time she returned, he’d completed the 15 remaining items on his test.
Here’s the bad news: he had a really bad morning and early afternoon.
When I picked the two kids up, I asked, “How was your day?” as usual. He was silent as she bubbled about finishing her testing quickly and playing a game. Finally, he said, “I had a bad morning and bad behavior, but I fixed it. But I know there is a consequence for bad behavior.” Shocked speechless. I had no words. Nodding, I put the vehicle in gear. He spoke with Daddy on the phone, admitting his error. When we arrived home, I explained the consequences (temporary loss of toys). He nodded and said again, “behavior has consequences.”
Who is this kid?
Ms. SpEd called to update.
Here’s the good news: he turned his day around. For the FIRST TIME EVER, he apologized WITHOUT PROMPTING to both the substitute teacher and Ms. SpEd. He was an excellent student for the rest of the day. She mentioned she’d asked him “Where in the world is my sweet boy?” when he’d defied her, with no answer.
When Hubby arrived home, he talked with our son, explaining that there would be lighter consequences because he had apologized on his own (again, spontaneous apology–this is a very unexpected “first”). Among other things, he’s not allowed to read books at school for a week (sounds counter-intuitive, I know) unless required by his teacher, since he was reading instead of taking his test. For those of you who’ve followed my blog a while, you know– I absolutely never thought “you can’t read” would ever be a consequence.
So, yes. It wasn’t his best day. But it wasn’t his worst, although it was the least…profitable…in a while.
On the other hand, maybe “least profitable” isn’t accurate. He (and we) learned that he’s capable of stopping the downward spiral in less than a day. In the past, the spiral continued for days–sometimes weeks. He exhibited evidence of empathy. He apologized to the people he hurt, without prompting and within a few hours, for the first time. He’s not mean; he’s not a jerk. He just doesn’t generally understand how his actions affect others (yet another reason his teacher questions whether he might be on the Aspie spectrum, but that’s a story for another day). He recognized the cause-and-effect nature of his actions, also somewhat rare. He worked to rectify the situation.
Most days feel like “two steps forward, one step back.” Yesterday, I think we had one step back, but two forward.
Some of the teachers, including Ms. SpEd, stand outside to welcome the children at drop-off. This morning I heard her ask our guy, “Did you find my sweet boy?” He grinned, answering,
“Yep. I found him. He was under my dresser.”