Monday, April 22, 2013

The Trouble with Mondays.

Monday's in general are tough for the boy, but a Monday after a week of vacation is tougher. Today was no different. I hate that it has to be that way, but I understand why it is. Change. Adjustment. Switching Gears. The effort needed will always result in increased anxiety. Everything, even the things you know, once again become the unknown.

Since his anxiety about going to school escalated, I've had several people tell me he must be getting bullied. A few, in fact, insisted that was the reason he didn't want to go, because what other reason would there be? They also said  he was purposely not telling me. But, this child tells me everything. More than I need to know at times.

I'll admit that the possibility crossed my mind. I have asked him and I'm getting no kind of answer that even hints to that being the problem. I've emailed his teacher and he also does not see that as a problem. Is it possible that it could be happening and he's not even aware that's what it is? Sure. He could be feeling the discomfort of it and not be able to link it.  But, even then, I would think that something he says (and he says a lot) would click, but it's just not. Even his teacher has said, "Everyone seems to like Jack." My own time spent in his classroom reflects the same belief. It's a continuous broken record of, "Jack, Jack!  Hi Jack. Hey Jack!" He's certainly not being ignored, anyway. In fact, he surprised me during a recent visit I made to his classroom. He was student of the week and had to give a presentation. I was certain he would be filled with anxiety, but he wasn't. Instead it was the exact opposite. He was excited. It wasn't until after it was over that I realized why. The presentation was all about his interests.

In the afternoon when he gets off the bus it's more of the same broken record, "Bye Jack. Bye Jack!  Bye Jack!!!" On occasion I've asked him, "Who was that?" and he'll say, "I don't know. Some kid."  I recently read Twirling Naked in The Streets and No One Noticed by Jeannie Davide-Rivera. In the book she writes..."Everyone knows Jeannie, she just doesn't know them."  That one line struck a cord.

So, if it's not bullying, what is it? Although at times, he claims the work is too hard, his grades are excellent. His teacher's comments on his report card indicate he has mastered his math lessons. He takes his writing very seriously and puts forth his best effort. He is detail oriented and has a unique voice. He is organized and thorough and his handwriting and spelling exceed expectation. His teacher's comments also indicate he reads with fluency and comprehension, but could work on reading with more expression. When working with a teacher or a partner, Jack is able to express his ideas effectively, but in a group or with the whole class, Jack tends to lose focus and is reluctant to participate.

I understand this. Details. Uniqueness. Self Structure. Perfectionism. Expressionless. Monotone. One on one interaction. Being overwhelmed in a group. It seems his teacher, this year at least, recognizes the positives, but in a last comment he noted : I would like to see Jack engage more in whole group activities and work on his expression. Perhaps with some extreme force or behavior therapy, this could happen, but it is highly unlikely, considering this is one of the main things Jack hates about school.

A recent conversation...

Jack: "I would just like to be independent."

me: "What do you mean?"

Jack: "I just want to do my work on my own and eat my lunch on my own."

Me: "You don't like the cafeteria?"

Jack: "It's soooo loud and stinky in there. Everyone goes crazy. I just want to eat my lunch in quiet and not have to look at chewed food."

Me: "And you don't like doing your work with other people?"

Jack: "No because they're always talking and I'm trying to concentrate. I would love it if I could just be independent. Yeah. I would love that!"

I get it, buddy. I really do. I want to tell him to just do his best. That if he tries really hard and just lives in their world now, that someday he'll be able to live in his own. But I know that isn't true. I know there will always be people wanting him to engage in the group. There will always be noise, and smells and too many people. So many, in fact, that you won't be able to know them all. The unknown will always be lurking around every corner. Each time you visit a place, any place, no matter how many times you've visited before, it will once again become strange. Unfamiliar.

I can't change any of that, and I wish I could. All I can do is try to help him manage, although he's already smarter than me in many respects. And I can also give him what I never had. Understanding and Acceptance. I can tell him, "I know how that feels." instead of asking "What is wrong with you?" I can focus on his strengths, rather than pointing out his weakness. I can ask him questions about his interests and let him talk, and talk and talk, rather than insisting he is obsessed and needs to do something else. I can marvel at his attention to detail and realize that sometimes seeing the big picture isn't all that great anyway. I can let him spin, and while he's spinning I can let him lead the way.

Hope, who happens to love Mondays, but only because I get to live in my world. 

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