It starts again…

Children portraitI know. It shouldn’t be a big deal. They go off to school every effing year around this time…

But things change, you know?

Two years ago, we sent Turbo off to third grade at a new school… and we watched him struggle. The funny thing was, he didn’t know he was struggling–or he did, but he pretended not to care, acted like he didn’t notice. His teacher figured out fairly fast that he was ‘active’–that he would be a distraction to other kids. She learned that he wanted to be funny, that he had a hard time controlling his impulses and that he often spoke when he shouldn’t. She found out fast that he liked to get up and move when he was supposed to sit still. She found out he didn’t really sit still. Ever. That wasn’t in his repertoire.

Turbo is social. And energetic. And funny.

But to her, Turbo was noisy. And distracting. And inappropriate.

And you know what? I get her point. He wasn’t the kid that teachers are relieved to see walk through their door. Instead, I know my kiddo was one of the ones the teachers warned each other about. From kindergarten through that hard third-grade year, I was on a first-name basis with the administration. I took a board-level position on the PTA at his first school to try to buy him a second chance in Kindergarten, for crap’s sake…he was going to be suspended. For teachers, and for me…he was a challenge.

He was a bright, shiny, energetic, little boy-shaped challenge. And some teachers don’t want a challenge. Every time I came to his third-grade classroom, Turbo was sitting alone. His desk was against a wall, or next to the teacher’s, even though I’d told her a few times I thought that exclusion was detrimental to his self-esteem. From grades K through 3, I had to listen to Turbo tell me he wasn’t smart, that he was a bad kid, that he couldn’t listen like the other kids did. He knew he was different…and so did we. But we didn’t know what to do.

For Turbo, being different like that made him mad. He spooled up quick if someone challenged him at school, and he always felt on the outside, so he was defensive. He was explosive at home, too. So we took him to a counselor to talk about anger.

And that led to a recommendation to have him “worked up.” I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew something was, and that was why I took that recommendation. It wasn’t easy. It took six months to work through insurance and talk to lots of centers and doctors that didn’t do neuropsychological workups. I was told no such thing existed. I was told I’d been mis-referred. And then we found the right place. We drove two hours to get there, and Turbo spent a day playing games and taking little tests…

And after another three or four months, we’d gotten the results and gotten placed with a center locally that treated ADHD with behavioral therapy and medication. And that was at the beginning of fourth grade. And that year? It was a whole different experience. Maybe it was the diagnosis. Maybe it was the 504 plan. Maybe it was the medication… but Turbo did well. His teachers worked FOR him instead of ignoring him or trying to work around him. And he excelled. We ended last year with good grades and a kid who didn’t call himself bad anymore. We ended last year with a kid who understood that he has unique challenges, but that he also has a family and a support system willing to help him navigate those challenges.

We go into fifth grade prepared. And for the first time since beginning elementary school, Turbo told me that he’s excited to go back to school.

We spent some time with friends tonight–an end-of-summer BBQ. It was nice, and a great end to summer. And I watched my two little boys jumping with their friends on a trampoline, watched them being little and relatively innocent–watched them on the eve of their fifth and second-grade years… and I was profoundly grateful.

We have challenges. I know we’ll have more. But for now, I was grateful that we’d stood behind our little guy, we’d given him tools and help when he needed it. And that made him confident enough to look forward at the new year with hope instead of dread.

I hope that you’re able to sort through the challenges your small people bring home to you. We’ve got other challenges, too… Lunchbox is a whole other can of worms, I assure you. Parenting is hard. We haven’t figured it all out, and I don’t think we ever will. But I’m going to appreciate this small win. Today I have two kids eager to enter a new school year.

Sleep tight, kiddos… who knows what the year will hold?

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Daycare Drama

I’m flummoxed. How do parents who work full time manage it? I work 24 hours a week. It’s not a lot, but it feels like full time – and there is always pressure to stay later, work more. And sometimes I do, because the current school/daycare setup that we’ve been lucky enough to work out allows for some flexibility. But we’re moving. I’ve got the kids enrolled in a school in our new home, BOTH at one place, which will be a nice change. BOTH on one schedule, which will be nice too (although, technically, neither of them has to be dropped off or picked up at any specific time here, which is really nice.)  Out there, they’ll be on a “school day” schedule – 8:30 to 2:30.  And it looks like I will be able to keep my job and work in the office out there. But I will have ZERO flexibility, since the new school has made it clear that there is no option for picking them up later or dropping them off much earlier. (Did I mention that this was the cheapest adequate option I could find and that it’s still gonna cost 50% more than what we pay here?)

I have friends who work full time… and I’m starting to wonder how they manage it (or afford it!!) And what happens when the kids are in “real” school, and they get out at like 2:30?  What do parents of school-aged kids do? And how will we get them to and from soccer/band/ piano/basketweaving classes after school?

And what do full time career parents do when schools, like Turbo’s fabulous Montessori program* decides that ohbytheway, the last week of school will be all half days.  That week will also be my last week at work (on this coast) and now I get to mention that ohbytheway BOSS, I’ll be taking half days my last week here. And burning my paid time off because I have no choice – thanks to Turbo’s school.

(*which I actually do love, but I still don’t get how they justify their scheduling…)

This is one of those things that I’m sure will work itself out (with a hell of a lot of footwork on my part), but it’s STRESSING me out. Because we’re trying to sell a house and move across the country and I don’t have enough to worry about. In fact, if there’s anything YOU are worried about, why don’t you tell me so I can help you by worrying about it too? I’m good at worrying. REALLY good.

I think I need a visit with my friend Riesling. What? it’s 10:30 am? Crap.

Vacation Days

I don’t really understand how Turbo’s school plans their schedule.  It seems like we pay the same amount each month, but each month has a completely random number of school days, based on the whims and vacation plans of the staff.  I imagine their calendar planning sessions might go like this:

Random Administrator #1:  Oh, cool, look.  February 21st is Presidents’ Day.  So we don’t have to have those pesky kids here that day.

Random Administrator #2:  Awesome.  Oh hey, I was thinking of taking a long weekend to go to San Diego and check out some of the new bars. Think we could make Friday a holiday too, then?

RA1:  Sure, I don’t see why not.  It isn’t like we’ll make any less money just for having fewer school days!

RA2:  I almost feel bad for the parents who still have to work on those days… what will they do with their kids?

RA1:  Not our problem!

RA2:  Right you are!

(High five each other and then chest bump.)

Seriously – what am I supposed to do with my kids when their schools are closed but my company is still open?  How do other parents deal with this?

I regained my sanity by going back to work 60%.  That means 24 hours a week, people… it isn’t a lot.  I have no idea how moms with full time jobs can possibly pull it off.  And my kids are tiny – how do you deal with school schedules that run from 8am to 2pm when work is from 7:30 to 4:30??  I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll end up being a “stay at home” mom when my kids start “real school” because I’ll have no other choice.  How do other moms handle this?  I don’t think the Major would be too pleased to hear that I plan to quit when Turbo enters kindergarten – and frankly, I think I’d lose my mind staying home full time!