Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I couldn't bring myself to write "daze" in the title, but that's exactly where I am: in a daze. Dazed and Confused.

Sick child this morning. Scott has a low grade temperature. So I expect to be interrupted at any time.

A dance analogy comes to mind--that the partners in dance need a certain amount of tension, or resistance between them. The resistance gives them something to work off of, enables responsiveness.

In a way, influencing another's behavior with words is a sort of dance. Influencing children with words requires more skill than I have some days. ( I should probably say my children.) Part of it is the material I have to work with.

Connor's elasticity, responsiveness, alertness yesterday had the consistency of wet clay. Working with him with his homework was like trying to turn a screw with a screwdriver made of putty. It was like trying to drive a nail made of clay with a hammer. He merely compressed and flattened, and wailed, "I can't do it! I'm stupid!"

This is his first year of middle school. All three of his teachers assign regular nightly homework, but there are a number of science projects he is required to do between now and the end of school's first trimester November 21. What he was working on last night was the development of a plan for accomplishing these projects. The basic structure of organization was laid out for him on a piece of paper: "By ________date, I will have read the first third of my book and written a paragraph summary." It's a metric to keep track of his progress: when he proposes to start the project, the date he projects to finish, how many points he will get for each project (he needs a total of 50). Basically he is developing the skill for how to plan long-range, organize and pace himself to keep the demands on him manageable. He's learning to think strategically. And he's not going willingly. To plot out how many weeks he has til the end of the trimester and figure out how to spread the demands evenly out over that period of time flummoxed him. Even transferring the dates we'd painfully worked out from the organizer to his planner book was beyond him. It was agonizing.

Scott's elasticity, responsiveness, alertness fluctuates. Rather than becoming a blob of clay that is too soft to respond to direction, he becomes so porous that you pass right through him. Maybe 'scattered' is the more apt word. It's like trying to grasp a lever to move an object, but you can't because your hand passes right through it. It's like trying to corral and contain one of those little twisters you sometimes see when the days are hot, a swirl of air carrying bits of debris.

Yesterday his teacher Billy told me we needed to talk. He said that he's "out of options"; if Scott doesn't have direct supervision he is up out of his chair, or he's in conflict with another child; he cannot stay on task. Generally he permits free movement in his classroom, but Scott's movement tends to agitate the atmosphere. He said he's never had a child who is so distractible, who is so unable to govern himself. He said he doesn't think it's willful defiance; he can't seem to help it. He feels that special education needs to be involved to a far greater degree, and clearly felt that I should strongly consider medication. I trust Billy, and I know that it would take a lot before he'd lean toward the recommendation. This time I managed to not cry there; I was able to keep it for the ride home.

So I'm back to considering whether or not a classroom is the appropriate environment for him. He just doesn't seem to have the basic skills that are needed to be able to learn in that setting. He really doesn't seem to 'get' what's going on around him and is out of step in the dance of school.

The implications of this impact my plans for leaving this marriage. If I need to bring him home for schooling it seems incompatible with moving forward on those plans.


Mrs. Spit said...

I'm sorry. I can see why you are in a daze. This is the proverbial rock and hard place, and there aren't good choices in this place.

And I'm sorry. You have struggled so hard to give C. dignity and care and to respect his personhood and move at his pace. And you have worked so hard at it. This must be bewildering and frightening and frustrating.

And I don't have any solutions, or even good advice. I will say that I believe that you can make good decisions, I have seen you do it, time and again.

Lori said...

I feel as if I've been punched in the gut, reading this. I can't even imagine how you feel.

I share Mrs Spit's confidence in your ability to navigate tricky situations.

excavator said...

Mrs. Spit, Lori, thank you. Your kindness brought tears to my eyes.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I feel much the same, reading this: tight chested and overwhelmed. What a difficult situation. You are in my thoughts.

Also, I wanted to say thanks for following my blog. It's wonderful to get the opportunity to (virtually) meet you.