T goes back to school next week, bringing to an end our second run of virtual schooling hell.
The last six weeks were so incredibly hard, further amplified by other challenges like Ma’s unexpected health issue.
Meltdowns, daily battles, frustration with getting T to sit and focus, embarrassing moments of T throwing a fit while I’m leading a work meeting.
Nothing says team building like a 5 year old having a full on rage moment in the background and screaming “Shut up, I’m going to kill you!”
But we survived!
As with everything in our journey with T, it is important to look at the big picture.
I choose to focus on the gains T has made. I will celebrate the positive moments, because these are what I look back upon one day with rested eyes.
Our Bright Little Boy
Currently, T is doing well academically. It’s true the hubby and I spent most of the last six weeks playing catch up with him on a one-on-one basis, because it was a fucking nightmare to get him to sit still through a lesson.
But when we got his focused attention – often shortlived – he demonstrated he understood the concepts and completed the work quickly: beginning and ending sounds, counting, simple addition, patterns, graphing, symmetry.
His Amazing Teachers
We are so fortunate to be with a school that gets T and supports him. His teacher and dedicated Child and Youth Worker are so organized and structured each day with the same schedule, because routine is so important for kids.
Using tools such as Google Classroom, they made it easy for the hubby and I to follow along and if needed, to catch up with T afterwards if he was unable to sit through a lesson.
Starting in Week 4, the Child and Youth Worker scheduled 20 minute one-on-one daily check ins with T.
While our check ins were not always successful, we’ve had more wins than not.
She did simple activities with him – virtual scavenger hunts were always a hit – and it allowed T to continue that important relationship with her, because she is such a key person in his academic life this year.
Trying Not to Sweat It
The hubby and I really tried our best to not sweat the small stuff, because our family’s mental health was equally important.
As annoying as it was for T to walk away from the lesson or to storm off in a rage and slam his bedroom door because he didn’t want to do the lesson, we tried to take a calm approach and to try again later.
Mind you, this was not always the case. I’ve lost count of how many fights we had with T and how demoralized we felt – especially when we saw every child in his class sitting down, participating and doing the work.
Building His Confidence
It was very obvious to us from the last six weeks that T did not like to participate in class. He got very testy when we asked him to share and his Child and Youth Worker and I theorize that it’s related to confidence.
So we are working as a team to build his confidence.
The hubby and I often tried to get him to share his work – because he did such great work when he was focused – and the times that we did get him to share, even if it was just a few words on camera, we could tell he felt proud.
I’ve repeatedly told his teacher and Child and Youth Worker that I wished his class – and the other parents – could see what we saw when T was on mute and off camera when he had clear but shortlived focus.
He often shouted out the answer quicker than his classmates and he zipped through the language and math worksheets quickly and correctly.
More importantly, we wish T could see in himself what we see in him. But life is a work in progress and we will get him there!
Finding the Humour and Joy
Drawing is not T’s forte but we’re working on it.
I tried to build his confidence by sharing his work with his class like it was the second coming of Picasso. But T was not having any of it when I asked him to share his wonky looking owl above.
“I’m not sharing it because it looks ridiculous!” He said with a bemused frown on his face. I admit that I burst out laughing.
I don’t want to give the impression that every single minute of the day was painful, because it wasn’t.
Nor do I want to give the impression we’re raising a psychopath. His bursts of rage are very real and are uncomfortable to experience but we are working with him on it and we know at his core and his best, he is gentle, sweet and caring.
It’s just that the 25% of the challenging moments often overshadowed the 75% of the good stuff, because they just consumed so much mental, physical and emotional energy.
But we had a lot of fun along the way too.
I loved our Friday morning art classes – don’t you love the Valentine’s bear I drew this morning?
And really, you gotta laugh at the shit we had to deal with. Like when I stepped aside for 5 minutes to respond to a work email and I looked up at T and he had a banana peel on his head, making funny faces at his class.
You have to laugh, because the alternative is to commit yourself to an asylum.
And I looked forward to the end of each work day when I logged off and T and I went for a long walk in the fresh air!
The Challenges and Potential Are So Clear
The one nice thing about virtual schooling is that it provides parents a rare and up close look at how their children are doing in school and learning, because that world is often separate from us.
For us, it allowed to see upfront T’s behavioural challenges, how easily frustrated he gets when he doesn’t understand something or when he refuses to do an activity, his challenges with regulating his emotions, his inability to sit still and focus on a task for too long. The list goes on.
I worry about how these challenges are going to affect him when he moves on to Grade 1 next year, when it is a less play-based environment and more of a you-have-to-sit-down-and-listen-and-do-your-work.
But the hubby and I are going to take it a day at a time. That is all we can do and there are still 4 months of school left and for a kid T’s age, that is a lot of time for growth still.
Let’s just hope there’s no more disruption, please!
As our final days of virtual learning came to an end this week, I caught T walking around our living room with a marker.
I asked him what he was doing and he told me that he was putting a check mark on all his worksheets that I had put up on our walls.
I stood there for a moment and realized that we had filled up the two long walls with his completed work and were starting a third wall.
Some times, you get so caught up in the daily grind that you forget to take a step back and see that despite the frustrations, T got a lot done these last six weeks!
And I told him that we were proud of him.
On our last day of virtual school today, I sent his teacher an appreciative note to thank her, T’s Child and Youth Worker and the rest of the school team for how awesome they’ve been.
And she sent back a wonderful note to the hubby and I. I’ve shared an excerpt below:
“… Thank you to both you and (the hubby) for joining us and persevering. I know it was hard during the best of times. (T’s Child and Youth Worker) kept me posted. You are amazing. How easy it would have been to walk away and say T didn’t want to or feel like it. I am truly amazed at all you accomplish with him…”
I teared up when I read it – not because I was looking for praise or an award for doing my job as a parent.
But it felt nice for someone to understand just how hard and exhausting it has been the last few weeks.
I wrote back to express my gratitude and I’ve shared an excerpt of my response below:
“Thank you… your kind words mean a lot to us. The last six weeks have been so so hard… (The hubby) and I really try to remind ourselves to look past the frustration, the meltdowns and his behaviour (which is a result of his brain disorder), because there is such a great kid underneath there with a lot of potential. It’s not always easy, because there are moments when he really pushes everyone’s buttons! … So thank you to you all at (T’s school) for seeing that potential in him – because that is half the battle in helping him achieve it.”