Friday, January 18, 2008

Tangled Decisions

Several decisions are coming up:

return to the job sector

keep Scott in school or home school

stay in this marriage, or leave

It may be necessary to return to the job sector if I'm to continue counseling, because we are living paycheck to paycheck. And Gary just took on some more overhead: drum lessons for Connor.

It will certainly be necessary for me to return to the job sector if I leave this marriage; I will need a full-time income and the boys will need after-school care. I would no longer have this time I cherish for writing and reflecting. (I think it's more than 'cherish'. It's possible it goes beyond that to 'need'.) It's possible that leaving this marriage will mean leaving this house, though I harbor an optimistic vision of the boys staying put, and Gary and I doing the rotating from house to house. It would mean certainly a period of upheaval, both foreseeable and unforeseeable. It would mean fielding input from the larger circle of family: mainly parents. There's a good chance it will mean very unsettled children and behaviors that go with it; there's a good chance there will be a deleterious effect on their psychologies.

And I'm worried about Scott. I've been volunteering in his classroom one day a week, a couple hours. And I don't think he has a foundation in place yet to be able to meet the expectations of this classroom. To be able to learn in this classroom would require from him: a linear style of learning, for one thing.

To learn from his teacher's style requires a level of self-control and emotional maturity that he doesn't have. And putting him in this classroom without those skills is like expecting him to run on a fractured leg that is not far enough along in its 'maturation'(that is the healing process) to be able to bear the stress. To be in this classroom which is full of restless children presents a challenge to his ability to screen out distraction that he's not equal to.

He's too young to be able to succeed in this class. It just seems very clear. And I can think of no other option than pulling him out of school, homeschooling, and waiting for the very basic skills to mature. He needs to be able to sustain himself when a situation is tense, so he doesn't react with misbehavior. He needs to be able to screen the sound of a teacher's voice from background noise and be able to attend to it. For sustained periods. Otherwise he can't even begin to take in information, let alone be engaged by it. He really doesn't understand what is expected of him; he doesn't have the link between a teacher's instructions and what they have to do with him.

If he's not up to those challenges in that classroom, then those are conditions for developing major behavior problems. He's prone to some already--such as knowing how to get attention through being aggravating. As a younger brother I think he's also prone to some misbehaviors by virtue of his relationship with Connor: Connor has not been nearly as careful with Scott's self-image as we were with his. I think this potential makes Ray's classroom gasoline to a flame.

If I homeschool I lose my precious solitary time and I lose my time that's free of children (they really do drain me--and I've been so glad for school). I lose this time to write that I crave so much.

This is something that will require a choice soon. It won't serve to leave Scott in that atmosphere longer than necessary--and it looks like just having him tough it out until the end of the year is asking for real trouble.

My need for large chunks of solitary time seems non-negotiable. But so does Scott's need to be out of an environment he's sure to fail in. I have a need that a marriage not be caustic, and it seems clear that any shift is not going to come from Gary's side. It seems more and more likely that the condition of an emotionally corrosive atmosphere is not going to be stopped from his side, but left behind by my side. (Or put up with by my side, which doesn't seem like an option. To put up with it I would have to be anesthetized, and that's probably like running on a broken leg with a localized pain medication that keeps pain from delivering its message to stop.) (Or, maybe it is to be 'put up with' by me. It seems that Scott's need must trump mine, because I'm not willing for him to continue to suffer.)

So these are choices that each have an unpleasant cost to some area of my life: the well-being of my son, the ability to continue counseling, the strain on our income, the need for this solitary time, the need for a peaceful atmosphere.


Lori said...

Is your name Sophie? I haven't seen more difficult choices since that Meryl Streep movie.

Are there any more suitable school options in your area? Charters? Magnets?

My hope is that once you decide WHAT to do that the pieces fall into place. That's what I've observed before when people take brave steps.

excavator said...

Big grin on the association. I'd been reminded of 'Sophie's Choice' too.

Scott went to a charter school for preschool when we first moved back from St. Louis. It's about a 30 minute hike from here.

I agonized over enrolling him there vs our neighborhood school that Scott attends. That charter is much friendlier to children that aren't temperamentally suited to a more traditional school paradigm. To hedge bets I'd filled out an application, and he'd been accepted.

In the end I chose the neighborhood school for the bus that picks them both up at our driveway, for a warm-and-fuzzy vision of the two boys in the same school, and the hope that 'good-enough' would be good enough.

I hesitate to look for another school setting, such as that charter: I'm not certain that transferring in as a new kid at this late date would benefit him.

I have this peculiar feeling that somehow all needs are going to get met: his for a space that has more flexibility for his learning style, mine for privacy and writing time, our family's for a little more economic breathing room as well as a happier living environment. Looking at all these pieces though I sure don't see how they can be reconciled except through the lens of magical thinking. And, as our current national situation is testimony to, adults engaging in magical thinking is a dangerous, delusional prospect.

What you described about taking 'brave steps' is NOT 'magical thinking', and it's very encouraging.

Thanks, lori