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Let Them Eat Cake…?

Back when we moved in to this house, I quickly looked at the hall bathroom and realized it wouldn’t work for my mom.  For you see, she needs an ADA toilet, and the existing one was way too short.

So, we picked out a new toilet, and Troy and my father-in-law set to work at replacing it.

Then we realized that the vanity was too large for my mom’s wheelchair to make it in the bathroom.  So, we decided to replace the vanity.

Then, since we were replacing the vanity, my father-in-law pointed out that the old linoleum might get damaged with ripping things up, and we should just replace that too.

What started out as needing a new toilet, became a bathroom with just sub-flooring and a shower.  I kept walking by saying “how in the world did we end up here from something so simple”.

That’s kind of how I feel today.  I apparently started a weird shit storm on Facebook with what I assumed was a simple question.  And yes, we all know what happens when we assume, right?

Before I go in to what happened, I need to take you back, way back. (cue time machine music).

From the time my kid could use his body independently, he’s been using it to touch other people.  He is a very tactile kid.  Some of those touches were good, and some were of the “ok, you’re not being nice” variety.  He cannot run in a group of people without elbowing someone who is close to him, and he cannot walk by a friend or someone who looks upset without hugging them, giving them a high five, etc.

The idea of a space bubble is something we’ve worked on for years.  YEARS.  He’s been in two preschools, and now kindergarten.  And I’ve shared my past struggles with you all in this space.  I’ve shared how my kid is always the high-energy touchy one.  I’ve never once proclaimed to know how to do this mom thing.

At preschool it was “these are things to work on”, and now that he is in “school” school, it’s becoming a legitimate issue.

We’ve tried everything over the years.  EVERYTHING.  I felt like we’ve read every book, tried every form of sticker charts, reward systems, punishments, positive reinforcement.  EVERYTHING.  It’s exhausting to constantly have the kid in every situation where the parents give the side eye because he can’t keep his mitts to himself. I’ve cried myself to sleep many a time just trying to figure out what the hell to do with this, and how to get him to understand.

Secretly we call him Lenny like from Of Mice and Men.  We say he likes to pet the rabbits, but sometimes he just pets too hard.

Now, let’s flash forward a bit to the start of school.  We talked for weeks and weeks leading up to kindergarten about boundaries, personal space, keeping our hands to yourself, etc, etc.,  And on day three, he got on the “red” portion of the color chart for talking out of turn, tattling, and putting his hands on others.  So, we talked and talked and talked about different ideas on how to fix this.

And then the next week, he did the same thing again.

So, the next week, there was punishment.  He lost dessert, he lost TV, and he lost movie night (it was a Friday). And we talked some more, and more, and more.

And then there was a blissful two weeks where his reports were pretty decent, and Troy and I were high fiving each other, because hey “this time something we tried was WORKING”!!!! And it felt really really good.

Let’s now flash forward to Thursday, the day of Jack’s parent teacher conferences.  It was conference week for the whole school, so this wasn’t a specially called conference.  I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant, but I didn’t realize it was going to be a beat down.  Working in corporate, we’re very specific about using “sandwich” style feedback.  You start off by saying something the person does well at, then talk about areas for improvement, and finish with another positive.

Picture a 20 minute conference.  17 of those minutes were “this is everything you kid basically sucks at” (and now, she didn’t use those words, but it felt like it).

Huge issues are: tattling, putting his hands on other kids (newsflash), distracting other kids, and not being an all around great citizen.  She told us she has sent Jack to the interventionist a few times to work on impulse control, but it doesn’t seem to be helping.  She told us she needed us to also work on this at home.  I wanted to sob, because we have.  We have tried SO HARD.  I asked her for additional resources because we had been working on these things, and the suggestion we got back was “be consistent, and if he doesn’t get a good report at school, there needs to be repercussions at home”.  Ack, again, things we’ve tried.

Then the last three minutes were “oh, and he reads at the fourth grade reading level, we stopped testing him for site words at the third grade level, when we do the 15 minute number writing tests, most of the kids flip their lid after 2 minutes of trying to write to 10, but Jack got to 100 in 6 minutes, and was upset he couldn’t keep going”.  Oh, and here is a chart showing the average of all kids in the class and their reading comprehension.  And this line here that goes off that page, well that is Jack.

Before you comment that “Jack is bored and not being challenged”, the answer is for sure.  But in defense of school and his teacher, even while challenged, Jack exhibits similar behaviors, so it’s not just a matter of making sure he is learning at the appropriate level.

So, we came home, feeling like we had been kicked in the gut, and feeling SO discouraged.  That night, while Jack was in the bath, he and I had a really long conversation.  We talked about specific behaviors that needed to be improved, and we also talked about what in the world we were going to do if this continued at school.  I listed bunch of consequences I was thinking of, and then he got to select what thought was appropriate.  Options: no dessert, no TV, and no Nerf guns.  He chose no dessert, and when I said “and for how long” he said “a month”.  I said “let’s dial it back a bit”, and he chose two weeks.  At this point, I was desperate for RESULTS, so we agreed to it.

He also came up with the idea of having something on his desk like a sign that helps him visually remember what to work on.  We talked about what to put on it, and then I said I’d make it over the weekend, and we’d laminate it so it would be strong, and really help him remember.  I took him to school on Friday, and we talked all about impulse control, and what he needed to work on that day.  We talked about making good choices. Just a point of clarification, we always discuss good CHOICES and bad CHOICES, instead of “you were a bad kid today”.  We want to him to realize that the choices he makes now don’t define who he is, i.e., “that was a bad choice, but you’re still a good kid”.  I felt pumped!  He was board, I was on board, and this was going to work.

And then I picked him up from school and was told that he was in trouble twice in for the same thing (putting his hands on other kids) within 50 minutes of the day starting.

I have never wanted to scream so loud and for so long in my life.  The amount of incompetency I felt in that moment as a parent cannot be measured.  Maybe NASA can figure out a scale that would adequately demonstrate my sense of hopelessness in that moment.

We got in the car, and Jack said “I lost dessert, didn’t I” and I said “yep”.  We got home, and he smarted off to me, and I sent him to his room.  For a really long time.  I couldn’t properly speak to him when I was in that frame of mind.  It wouldn’t be fair my extreme anger in that moment to be projected on to him.  It was only what I could describe as an out of body moment.  I was watching myself crumble and deconstruct in the kitchen.

So he stayed in his room for a really long time.  I went in there, and he had fallen asleep on his bed.

I woke him up, and we talked about why he was in his room for so long.  And then, because I was all out of rational words at that moment, I broke down.  I sobbed, I ugly cried.  I whole body shook cried.  Which naturally set Jack off crying.  When we could both calm down long enough to talk, I explained why I was crying and how I was so frustrated that I didn’t have any more words to explain my feelings.  We then started crying again, and he said “I’ll do better mommy, I promise” which just broke my heart and made me sob harder.

We sat on his bedroom floor crying, rocking, and snuggling for probably 45 minutes.  I kept hugging him, and kissing him, and we wiped each others tears.  I ended it with “I will always love you no matter what, but this behavior has to stop”.

And we went out to the computer and made the sign we talked about taping to his desk at school:

  • F: Feet and hands to myself at all times.
  • O: Only talk when called on. No tattling!
  • C: Carefully do my work and not distract others.
  • U: Use my words and not my body. No tattling!
  • S: Space bubble – respect other’s personal space.

FOCUS JACK! Make good choices!

Troy was gone last night, so Jack and I ended up sleeping in my bed, crying a bit more, and snuggling pretty much most of the night.  Please note, Jack does consider a foot in my ribs while in deep sleep “snuggling”.

I woke up this morning, realizing he had a birthday party to go to this morning, and holy crud, what about the whole no dessert thing.  I thought “hey, let’s get some input”, and posted the following on Facebook:

Would love some input. After Jack’s behavior yesterday at school, I took away dessert for 2 weeks.

He has a birthday party today. Do I include the cake as dessert and make him sit this one out? On one hand, that shows I mean business. On the other hand, he’ll be super called out at the party because of it.

Leaning towards allowing him to earn a small slice of cake based on his behavior at the party. And then no dessert at home for 2 weeks still stand.

What say you? Help me find the perfect mix of “Hurricane Hardass” and “help him improve”!

And wow, there were some comments indeed.  I would say most were civil and helpful, but some where so far out of left field that I thought “they don’t know the background here, and I did a piss poor job of explaining the situation”.  There seemed to be a lot of questions about how being punished at home by taking away the dessert  at home helped him realize his behavior at school, and that the type of punishment should reflect what he did wrong.  So, I posted this:

Ok, so it seems like my last post didn’t give enough info. my bad!

1) today’s party is not for Jack. his birthday is in april. I would not take him as a punishment but the host prepaid for each kid. I would just give her cash, but we pulled out of this same party last yr because of a last minute cold.

2) the issue at school is ongoing since school started. we had a conference with jack’s teacher on Thurs. Thurs night jack and I had a long talk about what if things didn’t improve, what would the consequences be. HE chose the dessert as his punishment for future reoccurances of the same behavior. Including the length of time.

3) he got in trouble the very next day for the same thing at school. He knew what was coming if he didn’t improve.

4) he is getting in trouble for being handsy and in people’s faces at school. To make the punishment fit the crime, what would I do…not touch him or hug him for a day or so?

There is more to this behavior thing at school which I will post in my blog tomorrow, but the important facts are he chose his dessert punishment and had many many warnings before the hammer came down.

hope that clears up any questions!

And wouldn’t you believe it, it didn’t clear up any questions.  It seems to have brought out more, including being accused of shaming my kid, him likely having ADHD, and being the kind of mother that wouldn’t hug my child as a punishment.  I really think we need to teach people how to read sarcasm in 10th grade English.

And then Jack and I went to the party, which was like the North Korea of dead zones for cell reception, and I didn’t really have a chance to read many more comments because I couldn’t even access texts on my phone.

And it was a good thing (I’m really starting a lot of sentences with “and” today…),  a really really REALLY good thing.  Because I could think about the situation and be calm, rather than being an ass all over Facebook trying to defend myself.

It was a roller skating party, and my boy can’t skate to save his life.  We held hands, and went very slowly around the rink.  VERY slowly, and I pipped in with some tips, and tricks, and MY thoughts on how HE should learn to skate.

And it didn’t work.  He ended up falling a ton, which I knew was going to happen, but he was having none of it.  He got so frustrated at one point, that he “skated” away from me saying “I don’t want your help”.  He ended up falling in the middle of the rink.  Lots of kids skated by him and said “you should get up”, and a few skated over to me saying “Jack fell”.

I really didn’t want to run out there and just pick him up.  I needed him to learn that even when you feel awful because you can’t do something, or can’t do something well, you can always get back up and try again.

After watching him struggle for a bit, a little girl who was great at skating, skated over.  She didn’t say anything, she didn’t tell him he wasn’t doing it correctly, she silently held out her hand, and helped him up, and they skated off together.  Jack later told me “skating was fun with a friend”.

And isn’t that what we all need some times?  To be allowed to make mistakes without being humiliated, told we’re wrong, and that clearly we’re terrible at this task?  It seems like a hand up, a smile, and some grace speaks so much more than anything.

So, to people on Facebook who suggested books, and other things, I’ve written them down and will be checking them out at the library.  I’ve probably read it already, but it doesn’t hurt to try again, right?  If we fall down, we get back up.

To anyone who had less than helpful comments, and felt better about themselves by trying to make me feel bad about my parenting, I offer you my hand, a smile, and hoping that this tough ass job we call motherhood would be better experienced with a friend.

God bless.



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78 comments on “Let Them Eat Cake…?”

  1. Hang in there, parenting is not for the faint of heart!! I can speak from experience, as my kids are now 30, 27 & 24, it’s all a roller coaster, no one is perfect you do the best you can (some days are easier than others)!!
    You’re an awesome mom!!

  2. the view from the outside in, is shadowed and brings with it a touch of blindness. No one can really know of another’s marriage and the same goes with raising children. Unfortunately folks have no problem with speaking up and telling someone what they are doing wrong in the child rearing arena, and unfortunately it is an arena, because we raise children everywhere we take them and spend time with them.

    Each day you do the best you are able to do, is a good day. And the love you share for your son, means you are working hard to help him make improvements, aka choices. thank you.

  3. I didn’t read all the comments, so if I am repeating something, sorry. Does Jack have something he likes to touch in his pocket? Like a squishy ball, a rabbit’s foot, anything he can touch and play with? This might help with his need for tactile stimulation. Also, (talking as a mom, teacher and principal for 30 years), can you tell your teacher that you need her to focus on the good in your boy? He is an amazing reader, what is she doing to channel that? It might not change his behavior, but she might need to change her focus on him. If his teacher is focusing on his bad behavior, it could be giving her more of that, instead focus on his good behavior and document that. I know it is hard having a very busy boy, I have 4 boys and everyone of them was a different kind of challenge…they all turned out fine, in spite of me and their teachers!
    God Bless

    • Ever since I read everyone’s comments, I’ve been researching the concepts of “fidgets”. I’m taking him to school on Friday, and will talk to his teacher then. She strikes me as the kind of person who doesn’t want a “fidget”, but I hope she is willing to try it. If it helps, it’s worth it, right? And yes, I agree with you that she is not also focusing on the positive.

      My sister (a teacher) brought up the idea of a large rubberband around his chair legs so that he can kick at it. Her friend’s kiddo is in a kindergarten class, and the teacher strapped bungee cords to EVERY kid’s chair legs.

  4. I really enjoy your blog from afar, although I do proudly sport my “what doesn’t kale you makes you stronger” gear whenever I can. You have no shortage of advice, but that’s not going to stop me from sending more! This is from my late father in law –kids usually turn out fine by the time they’re 35. My husband likes to add that he originally said 25, but as everyone got older he modified it 🙂 He also said don’t use names that start with a “J” because they turn out to be brats but I think it’s too late for that (his fourth child is a J name and is a fine upstanding citizen, but did cause his fair share of grey hairs). I personally would say trust those good instincts of yours and maybe spend an hour in the classroom if you can to get a feel for the environment.

    • Aww, so glad you like the Kale stuff!!

      I like your FIL’s concept about “J” names. When/if we have another one, you’ll be happy to know that my preferred boy and girl name do NOT start with J!

      My MIL was an elementary educator for 30+ years, and she is planning on volunteering in his classroom so she can evaluate and monitor his behavior, the management style, etc.

  5. Wow. I can offer no advice on your child-rearing or on how to deal with awful comments on facebook. I have no children, but it sounds like one of the hardest parts of having a child is dealing with everyone else’s opinion on how you should raise children. I just want to say, I am so inspired and encouraged by your reaction and response to the situations you’ve been in lately. I think you’ve handled it all with poise and strength, and you sound like an incredibly fair and communicative parent. It’s abundantly clear that you love your child and are doing your best to do right by him, and honestly, since you’re taking the high road, I’ll flip your haters the bird for you. You rock.