I’m not much of a drinker, but tonight is an exception.
Tomorrow is the first day of school. In celebration and terror, I’m relaxing the rules. It’s a no-holds-barred alcohol fest, a night to imbibe with freedom. Which means have I managed to drink all of my bottle of hard cider.
I was doing well.
Every year, we’ve had a far better First Day of School than the FDoS before.
What could possibly go wrong?
Our first year, the kids hadn’t been with us for 24 hours, but social services demanded that we register them for school immediately. They cried and clung to us, strangers though we were. The first day foreshadowed times to come.
That year, the bus driver suspended our boy multiple times and I was in the principal’s office at least three times a week.
He punched a girl in the face for laughing at him. Flat out decked her. Never mind that she was twice his size, the class bully and both the teacher and her father said she deserved it. (And no, we’ve never shared that with him.)
The social worker refused to believe that he needed a behavioral aide, so most of the time I spent at least half a day in his classroom, coercing him to join whatever the kindergarten group was doing. Or to refrain from punching anyone.
Our girl hid under her desk or in a corner of the playground at least once a week, scrubbing her hands through her hair until she looked like the kid from The Grudge. If anyone approached to ask why, she said, “I’m being adopted.”
The school counselor called, asking if maybe I could help the child with her hair instead of allowing her to simply roll out of bed.
I explained that the girl left our house every morning with hair in two braids adorned with cute bows. Somewhere between our house and school, the braids came out. By the time she arrived home, her brown tresses were whipped into a bird’s nest frenzy. That weekend was the end of my patience. We got her a haircut. She still rocks a pixie.
Year two was still pretty rough, with an average of two principal visits per week. Year three, we received permission for the kids to attend a different school (closer to our home). The Special Education team is PHENOMENAL.
I made sure the kids each had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place before the end of their first year with us. Getting help at the old school was difficult. The idiom “it was like pulling teeth” comes to mind. I wanted to pull THEIR teeth. And hair.
At the new school, everyone involved with our kids is committed to their future and to their learning. It’s almost unbelievable after what we went through at the other school. The assistant principal is adopted. Although he never went through the tough things our kids experienced, he used his background to connect with the kids in a way no other school official had.
Year three, we maintained one principal visit per week. Year four, I saw the assistant principal while volunteering. “Hey, I miss talking to you. But I’m glad I never see you,” he grinned. We didn’t have one principal visit all year. ALL YEAR.
So, for the most part, I’ve been looking forward to this year. The kids seem less tense and actually look forward to going back to school.
I even got all the school shopping finished in one day (granted, I had to drag the kids to three different stores to find the supplies on the list the school provided). But…I did it! I joined the throngs of other moms-with-lists, fought through crowds, persevered and won.
Tonight (yes, I should have done it earlier, but I like to procrastinate), I labeled all the items with their initials, packed their book bags and stood back to admire my handiwork. I checked the list twice more, to be sure. Yes, I got every single item on the third grade list. Didn’t forget a thing.
Except. The third grade list.
My kids are going into the FOURTH grade.
I stood, frozen, staring at the list of school supplies. It had to be a mistake. Had to.
The list of supplies needed are different for each grade. I’d purchased the wrong items.
I mouthed “I give up” (the kids were already in bed, so howling would have been a problem) and stalked outside. I also thought some bad words, but didn’t say them. I try to save expletives for true emergencies.
I found Hubby in his garage, sanding the hood of a vehicle.
“Well, at least you figured it out before they went to school. I’m sure the teacher will embarrass them. And hey, we’ll probably be able to track their late-teen drug problem back to this day. We’ll call it, The Day Our Kids Turned to Heroin.”
He was joking, of course. Just a little reminder that the big picture still looks okay.
So, just in case you feel like all the other parents have their lives completely together, know you’re not alone. (Most of them probably just think you are a super-parent and are afraid to be honest about their flaws.)
And tomorrow, I’ll be back-to back-to-school shopping. On the bright side, since school has already started, maybe there will be a sale on wide-rule paper.
(Update: Next year, I should buy all the supplies the day AFTER school starts. Everything was half price!)
High stress situations trigger our little guy’s PTSD.
In the beginning, high stress was pretty much anything other than staying home with Mama. I spent hours at the elementary school, trying to convince the administration not to cut his day in half. Many days, I sat directly behind him in class, ready for intervention, until social services finally gave approval for a behavioral aide. In a constant state of alert, I watched for any possible cause for concern at home, at school, at church and in public.
Three and a half years later, he is a fully functional member of third grade. Last semester, the Special Education (SPED) staff felt he might be ready for full classroom inclusion. *Side note: the SPED staff have been an incredible addition to the team of people working to support his success. We are so thankful for them.* They allowed him to choose whether he’d rather head to the small group room for part of the school day or remain in the mainstream class the entire time. He decided he was ready for full-time inclusion. Putting it in his hands was the most empowering thing they could have done–and it worked wonders.
He’s asking and answering questions, interacting with others and starting to care what others think.
Of course, now “peer pressure” conversations have come into play, which I didn’t expect. He’s done his own thing, off by himself, for so long—the necessity of this talk didn’t immediately strike me. A few weeks ago, I realized my mistake.
Climbing into the truck, he announced, “Mama, I ate a worm today. J dared me to do it, so I had to. But don’t worry. I made sure it was alive, so it’s okay.”
Right. Because it was alive.
After questioning, I found out he was under the impression that bacteria only lives in dead things, so it’s okay to eat live critters. We nixed that idea super quick. One of my favorite childhood books was How to Eat Fried Worms. Never thought I’d be living it.
End-of-year testing began a couple weeks ago, and I noticed he’s been a little…off…for the last week. We also spent almost 10 hours playing hard at a friend’s house this weekend, so I thought he was just over-tired. Tonight, as I leaned in to pull covers around him and get my goodnight kiss, he squirmed away. I had a momentary flashback to the days when we couldn’t touch him, when he refused to look us in the eye. “You okay?” I tugged on the blanket, now pulled over his head.
From the depths of his fluffy cave, he said, “Come back after you tuck Sis into bed. Please.” When he requests space, he’s usually about to drop some kind of emotional bomb. Prodding him doesn’t help. A few minutes later, we both sat on his bed. He leaned back and put his head on my knee, a good sign. If he’s really upset, he doesn’t want to be touched.
I tried to be nonchalant. “So, what’s going on? Want to tell me?”
“I want to go hoooooooooome!” he sobbed against me. I was stunned. He hasn’t mentioned his biological family in months. Discussing them is always a difficult conversation. On one hand, although they were pretty horrible, we don’t want to demonize the bio family to the children. On the other, we can’t create a fantasy that everything is hunky-dory and they will have a beautiful reunion when he turns 18.
I mean, it could happen. People change. I’m not incredibly optimistic, though.
We talked through what going back to “that place” would mean. Leaving me, leaving Daddy. Leaving the dogs, the cats. Leaving the cool bedroom, the backyard playground and the trails through the woods. And unless the bios had a recent meeting with Jesus, it might mean getting locked in a room all over again.
He admitted to feeling sad and mad and wishing he could see his birth family. “It’s why I don’t smile, not even for pictures.” This is the hardest part of adoption for me. Family is always family, especially for an older adopted child. Seeing them deal with the conflicting emotions of love and hate, as well as the loss, is so difficult. In our case, safety comes first and there’s absolutely no possibility of contact.
Hubby walked in and our guy scooted over to make room on the bed. We sat, the three of us, all tangled. My legs draped over Hubby’s, our guy snuggled between us. We talked about going through hard times, and how God sometimes takes us through difficulty so we can be strong or help someone else in a similar situation.
Finally, the conversation drifted to helicopters, a signal that he felt better and was done talking about deep, dark feelings.
Before we tucked him into bed for the night, we took turns praying; Hubby and I included his birth family in our prayers. To my surprise, our guy did not. However, he prayed for all the children who do not have clean water, and the ones who do not get to go to school because they have to work, and the ones who live in war zones. For all the children who—in his view—got an even worse deal than he did.
He’s going to be okay.
PTSD is awful; I would not wish it on my worst enemy (well…maybe my worst…). However, I’m so thankful for the opportunity to see healing take place. If you’re dealing with PTSD, please know you’re not alone. If you’d like some information about coping, start here.
Have experience with PTSD (yourself or someone you know)? Share here. You never know who you might help.