Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Bout of Mom Guilt

I don't know how we are going to survive Middle School.  Yesterday was tough.  Poor A is struggling at school, and we found out just how much yesterday.

It started with a phone call from his reading teacher.  Funny, just yesterday I had started writing about how tough it is to parent and adjust your parenting styles to the changing ages and stages of your kids.  The reading teacher called yesterday shortly after A got home from school.  She wanted to let me know that he was almost failing the class due to several missing assignments, and that the end of the term is quickly approaching, so we have limited time to address the problem.

Instant gut rot.

I mean, not only was I dreading the imminent conversation with my 12-year old, but I was feeling like a failure as a mom.  Not that it takes much to make me feel that, as I am a master of MOM GUILT.  Like many of you, I'm sure.  We're never good enough, are we?

Not to make excuses about all this, but (there's the "but" that says I'm about to make excuses anyway) they have this system at the middle school that is super confusing to me.  Every student in the school district gets an iPad.  I know, crazy, right?!?  But in elementary school the iPads are kind of a bonus.  They use them to fill out their daily planner, occasionally as a study aid, and sometimes for some reading.

In middle school they're very heavily used.  They are where grades are maintained, where the assignments are listed, calendars, notices, all communication.  And most of their schoolwork is actually done on them as well.  I do all right with technology--I'm certainly no IT specialist, but I can find my way around a computer, and I have--and love--an iPad of my own.  But for the life of me, I can't figure out the whole school system.  I'm certain it would be a great tool to help A stay on track and follow along with his education if I used it correctly.  Clearly I am not.

I had a meeting with most of his teachers early in the year, to introduce myself and to hopefully make them understand a few things about my kid, knowing that they would only get him for about 40 very busy minutes per day, and would not be able to build the relationship with him that the teachers in his elementary school did.  I get it.  But I'm so afraid of him falling through the cracks.

In case you're new to my blog, you should know that my first born is an amazing, quirky little spirit who has been challenging teachers his entire school career with his unique learning struggles.  It's been a very tough road, but I continue to be impressed with his positive attitude and self confidence through the whole thing.

Anyway, I figured I was due to do a thorough search through the school programs and see if there was anything I needed to be concerned with, as every day he comes home, we see if he has homework, he does his homework, sometimes with help and sometimes he does it on his own.  He reads every night, he has an extra hour at school of one-on-one time with his case manager to try to help him stay on track, and I hadn't heard anything from the school in quite some time.  I was feeling pretty (falsely) secure.  But then the call came.

So after talking to the teacher and finding out the couple things A needs to do to get his grade back up, I went on and checked everything out and was horrified to find that he was doing REALLY bad in several classes.  I called for him to come up and talk to me, and he instantly started freaking out crying. I swear, you'd think I chain my kids to a wall and beat them regularly with how terrified they act when they think we're unhappy with them.  Sheesh.  I got him calmed down, sort of, and told him about my phone call and that it looks like he needs more help with several classes.  Thank God for band and Phy Ed, by the way.

The talk was very difficult.  He has trouble communicating anyway, and add in some anxiety and it's near impossible.  But I was able to figure out that he had no idea that he was falling behind.  He thought he's completely caught up with everything.  Turns out he had done several things that were missing, but it hadn't occurred to him that you actually have to turn everything in.  And he does not understand that you need to communicate with your teachers.

I ended up calling about four of his teachers and leaving messages that I'd like to set up another meeting for hubby and I to come in and figure out a way to help him out.  Whatever they're doing right now just is not working.  It's not all their fault, they can't be expected to figure out my kid in 40 minutes a day, for four months, when it took his elementary school teachers about six months of all day.

Oh, do I feel close to just yanking him out of school and homeschooling him sometimes.

Again, not the fault of the school.  I am not angry at them, I just need to get more involved.  I was thinking I need to back off a little bit, since it's middle school and he needs to start figuring out how to do much of this on his own, but I think I backed up a little too far, a little too soon.

The reading teacher did call me back this morning.  She's very sweet, and she's going to work things out with him today, and speak with his case manager about making a better plan for him.  I'm assuming they're all chatting about me and him today, after my emotional phone calls.  I was very nice, I just feel like my voice was shaking since I felt like I was about to cry...

But I will say this--I say it all the time--he's going to be fine.  School is tough for him.  It's tough for lots of kids, and we all grow up and survive it and find ways to make our way in the world.  He has a very supportive family, solid home life, and several friends.  He has interests outside of school.  He has talents.  He's sweet, funny, open and honest.  So I know he will survive school.  I just don't want it to suck the joy out of him.

Rough night.  J was in tears after he got home too, broken hearted that the district band concert had been canceled due to weather and was not going to be rescheduled.  He loves his tuba, he's great at it, and was so looking forward to it.  So sometimes it's tough even for the kids who glide through school.

I am endlessly impressed with the resilience of kids.  After all the miserable conversations last night, a pretty quiet dinner and an ugly homework session, A was instantly cured by an episode of Malcom in the Middle, and J was instantly comforted by a practice session with his tuba and his dad, and a cuddle with Happy.

I went to bed with gut rot, completely convinced that I am failing my kid.  Grr.

I feel a bit better today.  Amazing what sunshine and a cup of coffee, along with an hour at the computer, can do.

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