If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about my kid is that he can be a bit of a manipulator it’s important to stop and really talk to him. This means when he is complaining about school, or crying about some kids on the yard, I can’t just take it at face value. It’s time to really pay attention and dig deeply. One friend in particular encouraged me to really hear my son out — to tell him that we were on his team and would support and protect him no matter what.
And so, that’s exactly what I have been doing. I have been going out of my way, as has Rex, to sit and talk with him about the dynamics of class and the playground. Of course I would take him out of school in a second if I thought major damage was being done. But sometimes kids are awful. This does not mean we need to vacate. It means Stink needs to use his voice to change the situation the best he can, and what he can’t change, we deal with then.
In navigating the past month’s ups and downs, it has meant really talking to Stink, but staying detached and focusing objectively on the situation. Given this kid was literally attached to me for nine months, then spent the better part of the last decade tethered to me like emotional velcro, the task of staying centered is not an easy one.
But, having been at this parenting thing for a while, it’s exactly what I put into practice. Turns out, the play yard situation has indeed improved — something that wouldn’t have happened had I yanked him out of public school at the first sign of trouble. Together, with my husband, we spoke to his teacher about his lack of joy for school. She set us at ease that part of this is fifth grade hormones and academic pressures. But a big part of it, we found out, was that Stink feels there’s no fun.
Read on for the entire riveting conversation!
Me: “What specifically isn’t fun?”
Stink: “All the test prep. That’s why I want to be home schooled.”
(Side note: Wanting to be home schooled to get out of school work is far different than wanting to be home schooled because kids are being mean to him, hence talking a bit more deeply and really pushing him on the subject.)
Rex: “What do you think being home is going to achieve?”
Stink: “I don’t know, but it’s more fun. There’s also the computer.”
Me: “It’s always the blipping computer I am going to bomb that sucker!!!!!!!!!! I know you want to play more video games, but it’s not good for your focus, especially now that you’re off your focus pills.”
Him: “Even on the pills, I find myself always thinking about playing video games. It’s what I really love.”
(Side note: I have often thought about taking away the computer all together, but here’s the deal: If a kid loved ballet and only focused on that, is taking away ballet going to make her study more at school? What if Bill Gates’ mom took away his interest. Instead, why not use the interest to motivate him to do the boring stuff?)
Me: “How about we let you play 30 minutes/day during the week IF you get your homework done. And IF you take up a sport to get your energy out, especially since you don’t have a pill to calm down your spinning but fabulous brain.
Stink: I would love that!
Teacher: I will say his focus has dropped, but it’s not affecting his school work at all. He’s really learning all the material.
Stink: See, Mom?
Me: OK, but are you sure the kids at school aren’t —
Stink: NO ONE IS BEING MEAN TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I believe him. This is a child who is not depressed. This is a kid who cannot hide pain or sadness. He’s a con-artist, but not a great bluffer.
So that’s where we are at. My kid is not being bullied. My kid is thriving academically as far as tests go. My kid is just lazy and wants to sit on his butt and play computers all day.
Please tell me your thoughts on using an obsession/passion as bait to accomplish the school work?
And as always, I would like to encourage you that parenting and tics and everything in between is best run as a marathon, not a race. We’re gonna have good days and bad ones, and it’s best to pace yourself!