Today I have a parent teacher conference for my oldest son. For most people, an impromptu conference would be out of the ordinary and would probably make a lot of parents anxious. Not me! Why? This isn’t my first rodeo. I actually am proud that we are this far along in the school year and this is my first P/T Conference! I don’t view today as a bad thing because there was a time that I was meeting with the school staff or having to pick my son up early 2-3 times a week. I dreaded seeing the school’s number pop up because I knew that my son had done something to get himself in trouble. So, my post today is not about Fitness or Nutrition, but about my journey as a mom to my son.
My pregnancy with was all very normal. It was actually better than normal! I had zero complications and my labor lasted about 30 min. I know, I can hear you hating me through the screen, but please read on. This was my first child. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing and did my best to figure it out like all new mommies. After the first couple of days, he seemed to cry… A LOT! He would only stop crying if I held him. So, of course I held him… when I slept, when I ate, when I did anything! I got really good at doing things one handed. I am sure there are those that will say this was not a good thing, but as a mom when your infant is screaming, you are exhausted, and the only thing that will soothe him and make him stop is to hold him… YOU HOLD HIM! Through it all, I just thought that was part of being a mom. I never looked at him and thought, “Boy, you are one difficult baby!” I just never knew the difference until my daughter came along.
As a toddler, my son seemed happy and thriving. He did everything early. He tested limits, but again… what toddler, much less a boy… doesn’t test limits, right? I stayed home with him until he was 1 1/2 yrs old. I would take him to the kids area at the gym and he would bawl when I would come pick him up to leave. He LOVED playing with other kids. So, after much thought and deliberation I decided to send him to daycare and I would go back to work. I figured I could use the time and money to finish my degree. I interviewed multiple places and found just the right one. I was very particular about the environment. I wanted it to be clean, orderly, fun, educational, nurturing… all the things that we mommies look for when sending our littles to a daycare. I started taking him half days and then full days once he seemed to adjust and enjoy it.
Then it happened… a call from the daycare. My son was climbing on tables and throwing legos. Of course, at first I was upset. How could he embarrass me like this?! I had taught him better! He knew not to climb on tables! I apologized to the school and explained to my son that jumping on tables and throwing legos was a poor choice and that we should work on making better choices. Yes, I know I shouldn’t have been embarrassed or cared what anyone thought of me, but as a mommy… you want to be the best you can be. You constantly feel like your children are a reflection of your parenting, right? Or at least that is how I use to feel. So, we began the next day with breakfast and singing songs in the car. He really was a happy toddler and we were the best of friends at that age. I am half way through my day at work when the daycare calls again… he ran out of the fire exit door in the classroom. UGH! This type of behavior continued for weeks. He went to daycare, daycare would call, I would leave work and have to come pick him up. The daycare finally said he could no longer stay there because he was a liability. He could get hurt or one of the other kids could get hurt. At this point, I was annoyed at the daycare… right, wrong, or indifferent… I was. I never said anything bad to them or my son, but I felt like they were over exaggerating AND who puts a handle to an outside door low enough for a 2 yr old to reach?!? Right?!
So, we found a new daycare. This one wasn’t as organized and was a little more hippy dippy which I figured would be better. They would be more understanding and not as regimented. The first few weeks went great… and then the calls began. He isn’t sharing… He pushed another kid… He refused to sit during circle time. Finally, the daycare said they could not longer have him attend because he took up too much of the teacher’s time. This cycle continued for 4 more daycares and with each daycare the behaviors seemed to get worse. I didn’t know what to do. As a mom, I was confused. I didn’t see ANY of these behaviors at home. I’ll never forget driving home from one of the daycares and my son sighed in the backseat and said, “Mommy, I am sorry I am always bad. I guess I just need to get kicked out again and start fresh at the new place.” My heart broke! I assured him he was not bad AT ALL! That sometimes he didn’t make the best choices, but he was one amazing kid and his mommy loved him VERY much. I made an appointment with a Child Psychologist the next day to see if we could get some help. The doctor talked to me for a big and then my son. They did a series of tests through conversation and play. In the end, the doctor concluded that my son was a very bright little boy and didn’t see any issues at all.
Finally it was time for Kindergarten. My son had turned 5 and we had been with his new preschool about 6 months. We had a few issues here and there, but knew the owner very well and she was AMAZING! We bought a new backpack, school clothes, and prepared for the big day. Within a couple of weeks, I started getting calls from the school because my son would not follow instructions, participate with the class, etc. After a few weeks of this behavior, the school wanted to meet for a conference. The school notified me that they felt my son was struggling with ADHD and needed to start taking medication for it. I actually still have a note from the school stating that he could not return to school unless he was on medication (by the way, this is wrong… like legally wrong). At the time, his father and I had separated and I was working 3 jobs. I was stressed trying to take care of my babies both emotionally, physically, and financially. Desperate, I made an appointment and demanded my son be put on medicine to “fix” him. I couldn’t keep missing work! I was going to get fired and then what would I do?!?
This started the cycle of going from school to school, doctor to doctor, diagnosis to diagnosis, and prescription to prescription. He went to 4 different elementary schools from Kindergarten – 5th grade. Each school saying they didn’t have the resources or manpower. I met with doctor after doctor and every time we would explain the history only to have a different doctor the next time because the last doctor quit or moved away. My son has been diagnosed with ADHD, Aspergers, Depression, BiPolar, the list goes on and on and so did the meds. The last straw was meeting with the “new” psychiatrist and having him ask, “So what medications do you want me to put your son on?” I realized right then and there that I was my son’s advocate. That I needed to start researching and becoming more educated about what was going on.
It has been quite the journey and I wish I could say that I figured it out and everything has been perfect ever since. It wasn’t. There were times when I had to restrain my son because he would want to hurt himself. There were times I had to hide all the knives because I was terrified that he would take his life. There were times that he ran away. There were times the police were involved. There were times his step-dad and I had to carry him out of the store while he screamed, “I don’t know these people. Help me! They are trying to kidnap me!” All because I wouldn’t let him climb the shelves at the store. There were side glances from strangers. There were times people would walk up and ask him if he was “ok” and then give me a dirty look because I was ignoring the temper tantrum he was throwing. I have seen the looks of judgment. The looks that say it all… YOU ARE A BAD MOM. The looks that say… You should spank him, you should have raised him better, you should be more compassionate to him… trust me, I have experienced every look in the book.
So, here were are present day. I am proud to say that my son is no longer on the 5 meds that he was on 2 years ago. He takes 2 medications and they are actually starting to slowly take him off of one of them. He is in high school and in regular classes with the exception of a Math Lab. I haven’t had to pick him up from school for behavior in quite some time. At home, we do experience typical teenage stuff, but nothing as severe as it once was. I could not be more proud of the progress that has been made. He is bright, funny, compassionate, polite, considerate, and an amazing young man. He actually has all A’s & B’s right now! There have been times that I have questioned whether I could have kept all this from happening. Was it because I held him too much? Was it because I sent him to daycare? Was it because his dad and I struggled and ended up divorcing? Was it all the meds? Could I have done something different? The truth of the matter is… I don’t know. I really don’t and to be honest, it is a waste of time to rehash and question every move. Maybe… maybe things could have been different, but they weren’t. I made the decisions I did because I was doing the best I could. And that is all that a mommy can do.
Why share all this? Because it is a piece of my story. It is part of what makes me who I am and I hope that by sharing my story and experiences I can help someone else.
- Please don’t think that you will have a similar situation if you currently have an infant who cries or wants to be held a lot or a toddler that tests limits. All children are different.
- When you see a mom in the store struggling with her child, give her a reassuring smile. Don’t judge… don’t glare… don’t think you know the situation. Just reassure her that she is going to be ok and is a good mom. We moms have to stick together and support one another.
- Be your child’s advocate. Above all… believe in your child and don’t worry about what other people will think of you as a parent. Question everything, use discernment, do your research. Don’t blindly trust that others know better than you when it comes to your kiddos.
- If your child is struggling with behavior issues or another diagnosis… Get educated on it and try to avoid meds as much as possible. I have seen the effect of some of those meds and they can change a person. I am not saying you should avoid all meds… just educate yourself on the diagnosis and pros/cons of each medication.