Thursday, February 25, 2010

Heavy heart

I'm having a bit of a difficult week and for more reasons than just the illness that befell our home. Instead I'm grappling with (and have been for a couple weeks now) my fulfillment of motherhood. Yes, I know this is a common theme on this blog, other blogs, and throughout life for any parent. That is because it is important

The thing is, kids aren't perfect. They come out all sweet and cuddly, full of potential - anything can happen. They could grow up to be the president of the United States, or they could be a janitor, but more often than not, we picture our children as bright rays of brilliant sunshine, ready to conquer the world as doctors, attorneys, or financiers. Unfortunately, we can't all be those things, and that is what has become apparent in our lives these past weeks.

Luke is almost six and Evie is four and a half right now. I've had parent teacher conferences for both of them in the last two weeks, and well, the truth is that they aren't doing that well. Luke is smart, but apparently . . . and I hate to use this word . . . lazy. I've made jokes in the past that in the high school yearbook he would be voted "Most Likely to Join a Labor Union" - admittedly denigrating the members of a labor union and drawing on the negative stereotype (well, forgive me). But the truth is, the kid will not finish his work. And I'm not sure what to do to fix his laziness. I'm not sure I can. It's gotten so bad that the teacher actually sent home a long note attached to a thick stack of paperwork that said, in short, "This is all of Luke's incomplete work from last week and this week. Please have him complete it and send it back." I sat in shock, staring at the really thick stack of papers. "What is he doing?" I was appalled. I don't EVER remember just not doing my work at school. I was always too afraid of the consequences. Yes, I was a goody-goody, so I can understand if everyone isn't that way, but still, "What the hell is he doing while he's at school? Is he just sitting there?!"

I was pissed. I was confused. I was disappointed. I was worried. And then, I was just sad. I was sad, because what if this is my fault? What if he isn't doing his work because I haven't been at home to stay on top of his education? What if I sent him to the wrong schools? What if I failed to make sure he had access to the very best? Would things have been better if I stayed at home with him? Will things continue to go downhill if I continue to work? But if I ever considered quitting my job, would I be sending him the right message? Would I be doing him and myself justice? Would I even make a difference in the situation or make it worse by coddling him and being there to force him to do the things that he needs to take responsibility for himself? I don't know the answers, but I know it is eating me up inside.

To make matters worse, I had Evie's parent-teacher conference this week and the results were worse. She just isn't getting it. At all. She can't say her alphabet on her own. She's four and a half. Most two and three year-old kids can do it. My little girl can't. She's been exposed to it. We've had her in school her entire life except the first six weeks. She has had the alphabet sung to her at least five days out of each week, if not more. We count, we read books, we play games and do puzzles. And yet, she just can't retain it. We don't know if there is a "learning difference" as they now call it instead of a "learning disability". (They obviously know a parent's heart is tender.) The thing is, and I'm not even trying to kid myself here, she really does have some smarts. I swear it. She has the Moron Test on my iPhone freakin' memorized - and that is not easy considering that she can't read. (if you don't know what this is, click here and see below).

But I still tormented myself with all the same questions I had about Luke. Did I somehow cause this? Would it have helped if I wasn't a working mom? Did I put her in the wrong schools? How do I "fix" this? I'm not sure.

So, the thing is she is young. She still has 18 months until she starts kindergarten since her birthday is in late September. And, we're going to have her tested at the Child Studies Center as soon as possible. If she does in fact have a "learning difference" we can hopefully address it and get her moving in the right direction. But for now, I'm just a little sad for her (not me) that she doesn't get to learn the easy way, that she can't just pick things up the way Luke can, and that she's frustrated when she tries to learn things.

I love these two, wonderful, caring children with my entire heart and I just hope I can do the right things for them now and for the rest of their lives. (Yes, I know those aren't the best pictures of them.)

Sorry for my sappy post, but it is what is on my mind and in my heart right now. Hopefully, this naked baby picture will make you smile.


Mom said...

Cheer up. Luke is just not interested in doing his work. Tom's kindergarden teacher never told me that he wasn't doing his classwork until the end of the school year. I asked her what she had been doing about it, such as keeping him during recess, and she said there were no consequenses. I found out that Joan had not been doing her work in 4th grade at a conference and so I took the work home (she was sick with the chickenpox) and made her finish her project. I think you need to see what type of consquences are being put on Luke during school hours.
As for Evie, yes you should get her tested, but it may be that the alphabet is not interesting to her. Perhaps some type of game would spark her interest.
Hang in there, it is not because you are a working mother. The kids are just happy, busy children and you and Chuck are great parents.

Mary said...

I agree with Mom - you are a good parent. Alexa also had a problem with finishing work in Kindergarten and in First grade. She liked to watch all of the other kids and was just not interested in the work. When she had an incentive to finish her work (stickers and treasure box), she did. I had to really work with the teacher on this to find something that would work.
Don't worry - we all go through times like this - whether we are stay at home moms or working moms.

Joan said...

Okay, Ditto what Mom and Mary said.
And - you are not a bad parent. Each child is different and each moves and learns in their own way. I still struggle with getting things done. Here it is Friday and I have been trying to get my ONS stuff done since Monday and still haven't started. Essentially, I am still a lazy person.
I love having kids to help with household chores. I digress.
Colt did not complete his homework in kindergarten or first grade because he couldn't see the point. "mom, I know what the answer is why do I have to write it down?" We explained that he needed to show the teachers how he did it. and that maybe if he showed them he could help teach the other kids. He is still not a great writer. And motivation is an issues. If it doesn't interest him he doesn't want to do it. Consequences is a big part of my life when dealing with Colt. This summer he is going to A&M, for 3 week on a Duke TIP program for $3400. We are having talks everyday about responsibility and maturity. His birthday is Sunday and I have had to tell him to get his shit together or he won't get a present. How's that for terrible parenting? He put an M rated game on his computer knowing he was forbidden to use that game. "Why did you do it?" "I wanted to." "how about if I just not cook meals or wash your clothes or take you to school?" "Not cool." "You got it - shape up son!"
Whether you are home or not you are a great parent and you make the most of all learning opportunities for your kids. You and Chuck are great at getting your kids to think through issues - critical thinking. Maybe that critical thinking will motivate Luke to more. And I am sure that Evie just learns different. Ease up, it will get better.

Lawgirl said...

Ditto what the others said. Every child develops on his or her own schedule. They are not adults who conform to the world's pressures - they move to the beat of their own drummer.

This has NOTHING to do with you. Promise!

Anonymous said...

Cathy says...
Ditto everyone else. At least you're getting early warning on Evie. Travis was smart enough that he managed to get A's and B's with the occassional C through 3rd grade while being able to read at only a kindergarden level. His worst problem was phonetics. For supplemental information, look into the Spaulding Method of reading to read and reading to write. They do phonics is a way that is VERY different from the way I learned to read, but their method relates to the way we speak much more effectively. For example, the sound for "R" is "ruh" as in "run" or "ran", not "errr" as in "her". If you can find a Spaulding certified teacher/tutor the one on one training is invaluable and they focus on positive reinforcement and small periods of work at home. Over the summer, our tutor requested that we invest in one to two possibly three 10 to 15 minute review sessions a day. You can sent a 10 minute timer and talk most kids into doing that.

Good luck and keep your chin up. The key is to find what motivates them. Love ya!

Theresa said...

Thanks everyone! I can't believe you all actually read my diatribe, but I appreciate the fact that you did and that you responded. We'll see how things progress.

Anonymous said...

Issues such as this are a major reason that I do not have children yet. I look at so many people that I know and people I grew up with. How/Why did some turn out one way and others a completely different way? My mom keeps telling me that it is kind of like a football game and you are the coach. You teach your children the plays and get them to see the big picture, when it is time for the big game (of life) you just have to sit back and let them do it on their own. You will be there on the sidelines to cheer them on or to remind them of the plays, but ultimately, they are the ones that make the decision on the field.

Having said all of that, I am sure that you are a great parent and I think that working moms can teach their children so much about life...balance, time management, how to handle stress, being motivated, it takes money to have the nice things in life, the list goes on. You are obliviously a great parent or you wouldn't be worrying about these issues. (If you weren’t worried about them, I would worry.) It might take some time and incentives to get Luke to see the big picture and you can't worry about the what ifs...just keep trying new things until you find something that works. It has nothing to do with you being a working mom. It means that the time he does get to spend with you is that much more valuable.

Theresa said...

Thanks Anonymous. Very sweet words from you and everyone else.

Theresa said...

P.S. I also like the coaching analogy.

Stephanie said...

I am really disappointed that my llloonngg but supportive comment didn't make it earlier this morning. My internet went down when I pressed publish. So - I'll write a brief version of it. I can relate to your grief over the fact of you are being the mother you strive to be. Believe me. Just have Chuck call Tim. I ask Tim all the time if the girls are acting out or reacting this way or that because of me working and he reminds me that it has nothing to do with that because our children don't know any different than the routine we have them on.

I think Luke just isn't be challeneged enough and he is bored. I don't know if his teacher has a motivation system or not (and shame on her if she didn't offer any suggestions). Maybe you and the teacher can work out a gold star/red star system. If completes his work then he gets a gold star & gets to watch and extra 15 minutes of cartoons/tv, or gets ice cream before he goes to bed. If he gets a red star then he doesn't get to watch tv, no treats, etc.... If he gets three gold stars then take him to do something special over the weekend. Work it up to he has to get 5 stars in a week. Ask him what his interests are to attempt to keep him motivated.

As for Evie, she is just perfect the way she is. Yes, I think it is great to be proactive and get her tested and do whatever she needs. Just like we did for Mary Clare. It has been a challenge for me and I can have had to learn the hard way to keep from comparing MC's development to Kate's. My pediatrician and MC's therapists have reassured me time and time again that each child marches to the beat of their own drum, and they will "get it" when they are ready to "get it".

When I start to doubt myself I remember Proverbs 22:6,"Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it." AS long as we stay strong in our faith, and continue to set great examples for our children then God will take care of everything else. Just offer it up to Him!

So - I hope this helped. Just know that I think YOU are an amazing mother, you and chuck together are TERRIFIC parents, and I love your children almost as much as I love my own.

Keep me posted. xoxo

Theresa said...

Thanks Steph. I know it seems silly, perhaps my hormones are out of whack, but each kind word brings a few tears to my eyes. I LOVE these kids and I think the WORLD of them, but I also pride myself on being a realistic mother (i.e. my kid is not the best at anything). But, it is harder to accept that reality than to simply deny the possibility that my kid isn't good at something. So, anyway, if that didn't make sense, then forgive me. It is a post for long comments. I appreciate your words and encouragement. We do have a merit system in place with Luke. He has the opportunity to earn a sticker at school every day and when he earns 10 stickers he gets to go to the treasure box and pick out a toy. His teacher also gave us suggestions and we've been in email contact since his conference last week. Oddly, this behavior has developed only after Christmas - at a point when the class started doing more independent work rather than group work.

Thanks again to everyone for all the words of encouragement. Love you all - even those of you I haven't met.

ashley1996 said...

Okay, I think it if funny that you feel this way. I just questioned Jack last night if I made the right choice in having Maggie go to my sisters house. When I listen to my friends whose kids are in "daycare" and say so much, know things like Spanish, and love to read it breaks my heart and makes me think I made the wrong choice. I know I did a great thing by sending her to family, but you still have those doubts in the back of your mind. I often question myself, so I know what you feel. I too wish I knew the answers, but I guess we never will.

As far as your kids are concerned. Luke might just be bored or even gifted. Gifted kids seem to think in their own minds, and really don't care and can't keep up. I can go on and on about things, and not seeing him in action I can't say a whole lot, but that is just a thought.

Evie is going to be fine. I agree with others in the fact that she may just not be interested. She seems very involved and very knowledgeable in other things. Hell, my kid won't sit still for a book. It is a battle everynight. I think she is ADD like her father.

You are doing all the right things. You do care and love your children. I see so many times parents who just don't care and those kids suffer so much. So, you are on the right track.

Call me if you just need to chat. I am here to listen.

Clarissa said...

I question myself all the time too about staying at home the last 2 years -- is my older one too undisciplined because we have no semblance of a routine? Does she watch too much TV? Is my younger's vocab limited b/c she's just with me all day and is not exposed to a classroom environment?

Stay-at-home or working, we are going to question ourselves regardless, and it's just because we love them, and we worry, and we so want to do what's best for them. Your kids are happy, and they have good examples of hardworking and dedicated and dependable parents, and they know they are loved. That's the foundation - they will figure out the rest as they grow and, yes, face challenges and learn from them!

lisawitt said...

I read this post this morning at work and gotta a little teary eyed myself reading it because it sounds like something I could have written myself! Z was a little late with talking so we ended up getting tested through Early Childhood Intervention. I thought the same things....if I was home and around more would thing be different? Well 6 months later, his vocab is beyond normal and now he is my little parrot! I do second what a lot of others said, Kids Just do things in their own time sometimes. BUT, on the same token, testing is great because you know one way or the other and you can put your mind at ease and get a plan in place!

Hang in there momma, you are doing a great job and after reading the follow up, sounds like yall are moving ahead already!!

Love ya!!

The Potters said...

Oh, I'm late in the game here. I think that you are a fantastic mama and that everything will work out just fine. There. Short and sweet. :)

Theresa said...

Thanks girls. I needed all that! You guys rock. I'm so lucky to have you all as friends.