Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making progress.

Yesterday I wrote about our son being disciplined at school. You can read that post here. This is the continuation ...

So, because he forgot the signed note that would allow him back into class, Sam had to sit all day in the school's "student responsibility center." I couldn't take the note to school because I was tied up with something else.

Not that I would have taken it to him anyway.

We are long past that point where we quit smoothing out the rough patches in the road for our kids and we start letting them experience some of the stumbling blocks and pain that are a part of life. Screw up? Well you better figure out a way you're going to make it right. Make a bad choice? You'll reap the consequences.

Steve and I aren't drill sergeants, but we make it clear to our children what we expect of them, and we do our best to model positive behavior. We don't expect them to be perfect either, but we do want them to be good citizens. We also want them to know they are loved unconditionally and when the world has turned its back on them we will be here.

Sometimes that just isn't enough.

A few years ago when we had finally reached our wits' end with Sam and it was obvious he wasn't happy with himself, we called a counselor. Months of therapy and all kinds of testing revealed what we kinda' already knew: Sam would have a rougher time of things than your average kid, and we as his parents would have to develop some pretty thick skin and work our fannies off to keep him on the straight and narrow.

It felt good to have some answers. I won't share all the details of Sam's diagnosis, but I will say (and I've mentioned here before) that it includes Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder along with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. You can Google either one of these disorders and find a crazy amount of information to sift through - some good information, some so-so. Some helpful, some not so much. And everyone has an opinion about whether ADHD and/or ODD are over-diagnosed or even legitimate diagnoses. I'm not going to argue those points here. What I will say is that from the time Sam was about 18 months old I always felt there was something a little special about him and I would lament to family members that he was high maintenance. I wasn't kidding, people!

A person can't help feeling compassion for the kid. He's genetically predisposed to emotional and psychological disorders. It wasn't until recently that he started to understand what it means to have chemical imbalances and how it can affect people. It's frustrating to know this about yourself and wonder why you were blessed with this particular cross to bear. From the parents' perspective, it's frustrating to know that most likely your wonky DNA caused some of the kid's issues.

On the flip side, it's pretty cool to know your DNA created all the great things about him, too. He's funny. He's a talented sketch artist. He is fiercely loyal to friends and family (though the family thing is a recent development, for which I am thankful). He is creative and a great problem-solver. He is amazing with children and animals, to the point that I sometimes call him the pied piper because children who know him - like, toddlers and preschoolers - seek him out. This speaks volumes to me, because it tells me that beneath that hardened exterior which Sam uses just to deal with life every day, he is a sweet boy. He values others and the relationships he has with them.

It's taken us a while to chip away at that wall and get Sam to realize it's OK to have and experience feelings. Showing love and happiness does not make you weak, and raging when you are angry or hurt does not make you stronger. We have worked with him a lot to help him find that middle ground. There are some days when it seems like we're not moving forward much, but we have made a lot of progress.

I recently pulled out a binder where I kept my own notes and some papers from his counselors and I was blown away at how different our days are now compared to just three short years ago. It's just that when you are in the thick of parenting a child like Sam, every tiny step forward feels like major progress. Just like every small great moment - a heartfelt hug, a game of cards with no arguing, hearing him belly laugh - causes so much happiness.

Hmm. It looks like I might have a series going here. I have so much more to share on the topic. More tomorrow ...

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