Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Back to the subject at hand...

Wow, check out this post by Mrs. Ris @ Mentor Matters... I think I need to share this with The Teacher.

I SO promise not to do this often

Not much is happening w/ the kid (he's as charming as ever). So, instead, Katrina. And beyond Katrina, the socio-economic and racial issues that it brings up. If you have a strong stomach when seeing the N-word, click here. It's a somewhat interesting blog entry with a really shocking title out of the Daily Kos site that talks about the "zebra city" of New Orleans that got me really thinking about what's going on down there. All I have to say is that if I were too poor to drive, bus, carpool or otherwise get the hell out of a place that was destined to sure destruction, I might steal myself a couple pairs of Jimmy Choo's too. And some bottled water, and some Ritz crackers (heh). And if you're a true liberal, check this article out (you'll have to watch an ad to do it, but it effectively blames Bush for flooding N'awlins, if that makes it worth it to you). I heard someone say today that the money withheld from the New Orleans levee project was the equivalent of 8 hours in Iraq. There's money well spent.

I seriously promise to keep this non-subject posting to a minimum, except for the occasional rant and natural disaster.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

First Meeting with The Teacher

I had a meeting with The Teacher today. It went really well, I have confidence that we'll have a good relationship this year.

The Kid's shouting in class, and he is hitting. These are her main issues with him right now. We decided to enact the smiley face thing, splitting it up between AM and PM and these two issues. I agree that a smaller number of clear goals will be more obtainable. I will give him stickers for each happy face, on a chart that when complete will result in a "we-do-something-fun-together" reward. The Kid is especially partial to musuems (when he was younger, he called them you-see-'em's. he he)

Of course we talked more universally about The Kid and his personality. How he's not been diagnosed as learning disabled, but how he's so behaviour-exceptional that it should be coming eventually. I asked, if we all agree that it's coming eventually, can we not just get started on an IEP now? [IEP=Individualized Educational Plan] She's going to look into it. SCORE ONE for now.

I may be naive, but I think an IEP would be great. We should all have IEP's, in an ideal educational setting, right? We're all individuals, we all learn differently, right? But for The Kid, it's documentation, it's a road map, it's support. I believe enough in our educational system that they are not a stigma... I hope, anyway!

Now on to Dr. Lloyd of the University of Virginia... I really appreciate his comments, if I understand them correctly. I link to his site below. He says, "...many are reluctant to provide services to children because doing so requires that we identify an individual—label him or her as in need of services—and there is a risk of false positive labeling. In my tour through some of the blogosphere (ahem; sorry), I came across a post by a parent of a young child who doesn’t appear to be afraid of false positives, but who clearly has her son’s interests at heart." He then goes on to quote the part of yesterday's post that exposes that I CRIED to the teacher on the FIRST DAY (further exposing the one thing I was squeemish about writing about because, well, who wants to be a crybaby).

I think it's really interesting what he wrote, just in that first sentence:
1. Schools are fearful of the individual
2. Schools would rather categorize students into labels by their needs (essentially changing the individual into a member of a group)
3. Schools are fearful of mis-categorizing said students (read: individuals)

So, the end result is what I'm experiencing. Stay the course, even though we don't know what that course is nor do we have any viable roadmap to get us to where we want to go. (huh, sounds kind of like pres's plans for the war).

I'll leave it at that, and thank Dr. Lloyd--he's got some interesting stuff on his many websites. ooh, especially this great article written by an aussie mom of a dyslexic child...

Whoa, people are actually reading this thing...

I mean, other than my best friends and sisters.

Opening up my spanking new blog today, I saw a comment from a John Willis Lloyd, PhD, who has also commented on the "Meet the Kid Part 2" blog entry on his blog, (in an entry called, "Please risk that fasle positive--" It's not the first one on the page today). He writes a couple others (here and here) as well and appears to be a specialist in early childhood education, and might be a professor at UVA.

Wow. I need to read around a bit and I'll be back. Check out his sites with me, let me know what you think.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Oh, and one more thing...

Today is my sister's birthday. If the people in our lives are our back bone, then my sister is my cerebral cortex or something. Maybe my entire lumbar region. Basically, she holds me up. Love you, Fegs.

Meet The Kid, Part Two

So, The Kid started kindergarten last week. The school works it so that in the first three days, only a third of the class comes in on one day, therefore allowing parents to come along, get to know how it will work. This, I'm sure, makes the first day without parents run a little more smoothly.

Our first day went pretty good. The Kid immediately required everyone's full attention, playing the comedian whenever he could. Everyone knew The Kid by the end of the day. The Teacher knew there was more comedy (heh) in store for the rest of the year, and asked me at the end of the day if we could talk. Of course, I started crying. I don't know if it was the pressure of school starting, knowing how important our relationship was going to be, the embarrassment of being the mom-of-the-kid-in-the-center-of-attention thing, I can't explain it, but I exploded and couldn't get an intelligent word out of my mouth. So, I promised we'd talk another day, and that I'd e-mail her what I would say had I the presence of mind.

The e-mail that resulted follows (or at least most of it, abridged and revised slightly because I'm obsessive, and because I don't refer to him as "The Kid" to his teacher, duh):

The Kid has been a special case since birth. He was a voracious nurser. He didn't sleep much as an infant, and was extremely alert and wakable until he began walking (early but normal, about 9-10 mos), when he started to sleep in a more "normal" schedule (like a whole 5 hours at a time). Doctors have always said that he is a completely healthy child, albeit with some very strong impulses. No medical diagnoses. Last year, realizing that kindergarten was not too far away, I enrolled him at a county school-district run preschool, where I knew they had county resources (like psychologists, therapists, social workers) that no other preschool could possibly provide. We ran him through the child find program [this is a Colorado program designed to evaluate children w/ learning disabilities in primary education], when his teachers suspected some possible sensory integration issues. He was tested but they found no substantial sensory integration issues (on the spectrum, he was low, although he has a few traits like sensitivity to clothing, but none of the truly serious ones--fear of touch, chewing, mouthing, etc) and no further reason to classify him as special education at that time. We continued on at The Preschool throughout the year. I think he came a long way there, although he still has some major obstacles in front of him.

His principal issue is impulse control. He wants attention, he wants it now. He wants to be first, not second. He wants to touch object X, nothing can stop him. He and I use the vocabulary of "keeping control" or "getting under control" and talk about his "control panel." If you've seen the JamieLee Curtis book "It's Hard to Be Five," you'll understand the visual that he and I talk about with the control panel. He understands that Control is his job, but he still really struggles with it. It's hard to watch him because he is often so upset after he loses control. He talks about how he tries but then he forgets... Which I suppose is the ultimate issue with impulse control, isn't it?

Working with The Preschool during the school year was wonderful. We set up a system where I got a daily progress report page that gave him happy faces or sad faces for the different sections of the day. We were able to see the trend of difficult times (transitions, nap--he is so happy to be done with institutionalized naptime, afternoon centers), and we saw the phases of issues that he had. He and his teacher would go through the page together in the late afternoon, and they would talk about the choices he had made,what had been good and what had not been so good. The idea was to reward him for jobs well done, but to help make me aware of the issues going on day-to-day so that I could enforce at home the behaviour at school. I kept a sticker chart--one sticker for each happy face--at home that when full resulted in a kind of reward (some were big, some were little). Additionally, the days with more sad than happy faces would result in some kind of "hits home" punishment at home, like no television, computer time, no play with our neighbor friend, etc. I saw a lot of improvement, and most of all, self awareness of how controlling himself is his job, cannot be blamed on the situation or other kids.

I also have talked to a child psychologist about The Kid. He has not yet met The Kid, and probably won't for a couple more months. Like the pediatricians, he has told me to stay the course with him, provide him stability (which I certainly try to do) and consistency, and when he's more mature, we can start working on psychological analyses and tests. He has also met with The Preschool's psychologist and a County School District social worker. They all say about the same thing. Good job, Mom, keep up the good work. I kind of think the good work has got to really start in earnest now, though, as he is now in school with the kids and in the system I hope he will be with for the next 13 years.

I think the key to helping The Kid is keeping a steady flow of information coming and going between us. I need to know what's going on, because if I ask him, he'll tell me everything's great. He's such an incredible kid, he's so smart, he is so bright, compassionate and has a love for life that has taught me so much as a parent and, well, human being. I just want him to be a success at school, and as we both know, being bright and passionate doesn't mean that he will fit in at school. It's the culture of school that is our problem, not the academics. Just have a three minute conversation with him and you will know he's smart, willing and ready for the academic stuff.

So, I wrote her all of this. She finally wrote me back today and thanked me for my LONG email. That cracked me up because, yes, it was long, but why not cut the crap and just put it all out on the table? This is what you're up against, Teach, but you also have the mother who is so involved, she just might start to haunt your dreams.

She also agreed to the daily progress report thing. And Dammit if The Kid isn't kicking and hitting on the playground. WHAT TO DO? I certainly don't hit and kick him, where does he get that kind of aggression? It's that impulse thing. If I didn't have a good impulse control, I might hit or kick at least 5 people per day.

Anyway, better sign off before you say, thanks for the LONG post, yo.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Meet The Kid

The Kid is a classic "spirited child." Mary Sheedy Kurcinka started writing about the spirited child in the seventies, and describes them as a child who is MORE. I love her description because the more common way of referring to this type of kid is to call them "difficult" or "clearly insane" or simply to say, "that kid has issues, yo." Calling The Kid spirited embraces his personality for all that it is but doesn't cast it in a negative light.

So, the main characteristics of the "Spirited Child" are :

  • INTENSITY (loud and dramatic-focused outward, quiet and intently observant - focused inward)
  • PERSISTENCE ("lock in" to important ideas, love to debate, goal oriented)
  • SENSITIVITY (easily overstimulated by their environment, low sensory thresholds to any of the five senses)
  • PERCEPTIVENESS (easily distracted, notice everything going on all the time)
  • ADAPTIBILITY (don't transition/shift from one activity to another easily)

In other words, spirited children are "more" of each characteristic. A spirited child is not necessarily ADD or ADHD, although they can be diagnosed as such. The Kid has not been diagnosed with any disability or disorder, although he is admittedly too young for the full psychiatric evaluation (or at any rate we're waiting until he gets older). Spirited children are often gifted, although that's not a given. Mine clearly is a genius and will be the leader of the free world someday (if he can make it through kindergarten).

To be the parent of a spirited child alternatively inspires me and drives me to drink (not literally, well, kind of). The Kid is so intense, is so persistent, is so perceptive. It truly amazes me.

So, that said, The Kid is a handful. He is also a force of nature that must be enjoyed.

We went bowling yesterday. He was DYING to go bowling. We played with the bumpers up, played two games and both games, I only beat him by about 15 points. Never broke 100, shoot, barely broke 80. All this, with bumpers.

So we were leaving the bowling alley and The Kid asks if he could have his birthday party at the bowling alley. His birthday is not for another 6 months, but we've been planning this 6th birthday party since, well, 15 minutes after his 5th birthday party. He was trying to sell me on the idea and said, "We could have a sweet party here, Mom." Sweet. He's been in kindergarten for three days and he's talking like Napoleon Dynamite. I bet he's got some great skillz.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Helmet Head: Welcome to Soapy Water!

So, I've decided to start a blog about raising my wonderful, excitable, energetic, talkative child. 'Why is it called Soapy Water?' you might ask. Well, I've named the blog after a mid-80's SNL skit with a character named Helmet Head. Helmet Head was just a normal guy, except that he (quite obviously) had a helmet on his head. Poor Helmet Head couldn't get that helmet off, no matter what he did, it was stuck, forever. He decided instead to live his life with his conspicuous affliction. At cocktail parties, people couldn't help but ask Helmet Head, "Well, have you tried soapy water?" To which Helmet Head would say, "SOAPY WATER WAS THE FIRST THING I TRIED, THEN IT WAS THE SECOND THING I TRIED, THEN IT WAS THE THIRD..." before he'd flop, sobbing, into the nearest couch attempting once again to pathetically remove the helmet, of course to no avail.

This has been a major theme in parenting the kid. When he was not sleeping as an infant, "have you tried giving him cereal before bedtime?" When he was not sleeping as a toddler, "have you tried playing soothing music?" When he misbehaves at a playdate or in public, "have you considered giving him time out?" To all of these, I say, attempting to hold in the preface that these suggestions are all so obvious as to suggest that the offering of this advice clearly shows that these fellow parents hold my intelligence and ability in very low esteem, that yes, I have tried this or that gem of advice in the past.

So, while I'm still open to new and exciting parenting strategies, I've also decided to wear the helmet, so to speak. My kid is who he is, and while he is not a cookie cutter, speaks-only-when-spoken-to kid (and truly, who among us was THAT child or have THAT child anyway?), my job is not to mold him into a "perfect" human being but to facilitate his growth so that he can be a success in life.

NOT SO EASY A TASK! Indeed. But it is the one that I am apparently evolutionarily, biologically and currently charged. What can I say? I love the kid.

So, why the blog? Why not? It's a good outlet, for one, as parenting is the hardest and most frustrating thing I have ever done. It's a good place to brag as well, as parenting is also one of the most rewarding and honestly hilarious things I have and will ever experience. I expect my future posts will take one of the following themes:
1. The continual search for ways to help the kid make the most of his life. He needs some help channelling this energy so that he can be a future productive member of society. In short, how to use his powers for good, not evil.
2. Trials and tribulations Kindergarten. Did I mention he just started that last week? Related entries will include discussions with teachers, administrators, other educational staff and probably some pscyhological professionals (god help us).
3. HILARITY! Did I mention that the kid is funny? Did I mention that he's the funniest kid ever? Well, now I have.

So, thanks for reading and come back! There's more to follow! We're off for another exciting Saturday... We've got our helmets on, and no amount of soapy water can hold us back!!!