trying to decode the small things.

In my math teacher role, I often remind my students that they get lost in the details, they aren’t trying to see the bigger picture.  This is one of the things that makes mathematics hard for so many people, they just can’t see the whole picture.  Similar to a puzzle that they don’t have the box for.  They put together pieces and chunks but never know what the final picture looks like. To them it is a series of smaller puzzles instead of one whole and I keep trying to redirect them to try and fit those pieces together.

I was reflecting on the goodbye ritual that M2 and I share while I drove to work this morning.  It made me smile warmly as I remember the care she puts into giving me a “kissing hand” and a “kissing back.”  The “kissing back” started at one point this past summer when I hurt my back so badly, I was incapacitated for a couple weeks. Even though my back is better, we continue the ritual.  The “kissing hand” comes from a book titled “The Kissing Hand” where a little raccoon is having trouble going to school for the first time and his mother puts a special kiss in his hand for him to take with him to school to think of her and how he is loved during the day. We bought the book when daycare drop off was becoming increasingly difficult a transition for M2. She took a kissing hand a few times and it was comforting to her, but then the tradition became her refusing a kissing hand and making sure I had one from her. Today, however, I was putting together the puzzle about this interaction and realized what M2 was communicating to me.  Her refusal of the kissing hand while simultaneously needing to give me one is basically saying, “I won’t forget you but don’t forget about me.” I could have told you before today that M2 has a insecure attachment to me, this is not the news. Children communicate through their actions, not their words. Now that these actions are speaking to me loud and clear, I can help her work through some of these feelings.

To say that M2 is clingy with me is an understatement.  And this is not normal preschooler clinginess, either.  When she was an infant that she was never satisfied by a normal cuddle or snuggle. It seemed as though she was never close enough to my body, she would writhe and re-position until she was pressed so hard against my chest.  I used to tell people that if she could unzip my skin and crawl inside by body, she would.  Still today, when she sits on my lap she does a similar thing.  In fact it actually is painful for me because her little butt bones just dig and prod into my thighs.

She is the sibling of a child with a relatively severe disability.  I often wonder how that feels, especially because she is too young to really understand that he needs extra help.  Instead she sees me prioritizing his needs over hers.  I have long been conscious of this and try to spend extra time with her as I can. But it isn’t enough to heal some of the early trauma that has made our attachment a bit tenuous.  She feels forgotten, as she must have mourning the loss of her first mom in her first foster home, mourning the loss of her first foster mom when she moved to our home and through all those social services mandated parent visits where I had to drop her off and shut the door, leaving her distressed and begging for my return. In the early days, I had to hand her over to strangers who transported her to visits, they would report back to me that she screamed the whole 2 hour drive unable to be soothed.  Attachment is a delicate thing. How can she be sure that I will come back?  She has been “left” before. She’s had far too many broken attachments in her short life. I think that figuring some of this puzzle out helps me guide my interactions with M2.  For now, I want to think about a way that helps her remember during the day that I am thinking about her too. Every day. All the time.



trying to problem solve preschool

We had our first Parent-Teacher conference at our kids new preschool a few days ago. They have been attending this new school for 6 whole weeks. M has been coming home all smiles, excited to tell me about his day’s lessons and adventures. M2’s conference went well, she struggled a bit in the beginning but is making progress. I thought things were going well for M, too.  A little sit down with his teachers revealed just the opposite.   According to his teacher, M is spending 90% of the day totally dysregulated. They are seeing constant sensory issues and behavioral issues including defiance and aggression. The school is “requesting” that M have a one-on-one behavioral therapist follow him for 3 – 4 hours a day, everyday.  They said maybe he’d only need 3 or 4 months until they learned how to help him.  Mind you, we have to pay for this support person out of pocket on top of the $2550 a month we already spend on preschool tuition. No one ever said raising kids was cheap, but I didn’t realize that preschool is going to cost as much as college tuition. My sanity takes a toll because I live in fear each day that today is going to be the last straw, that we are going to have to find a new school at a moment’s notice. And the worst of all of this is that my poor baby is not thriving at school like he once was. School used to be his happy place.

I have some theories about why this is happening.

  1.  M has been very anxious about changes in my work schedule.  He is getting less sleep because he is having meltdowns every night from the anxiety that I leave for work before he gets up in the morning. Less sleep = less ability to control his emotions.
  2. I’ve written about this before about M’s clash with Type A personalities. Stressy/controlly types trigger his anxiety.   I know, I am one.  I have to be extra cautious not to exhibit my anxiety in his presence. It appears to me that his main teacher and the preschool director are both Type A. I’ve been worried about this relationship since day one.
  3. The mixed age group classroom. M doesn’t do well among younger kids.  They are too unpredictable.  He needs peers his age or older because they tend to have better impulse control.
  4. The school is not structured enough.  Transition is definitely M’s weak point.

I definitely felt blindsided in terms of the conference.  I was expecting a good report.  His developmental levels are all on track.  He has told me how much he likes school. I thought that finding a school connected to a therapy center would be a good idea.  However, I think that they look at Sensory Processing Disorder through an Autism lens.  In our case, M’s sensory issues, I believe, have a anxiety basis.  Thus he is actually very anxious (per usual) and what they are seeing is sensory issues and aggression.  I believe that anxiety is the underlying cause because, we see that first.  And unchecked it turns into sensory seeking/avoidance behaviors or aggression.  I think he knows that the sensory manifestations are more appropriate for school than aggression and that is why they are seeing so many sensory seeking/avoidance manifestations.

I have already put calls into M’s therapist, the school district Special Ed program, LA DCFS post adoption services, several area preschools (hoping for some openings in their classrooms in case of an immediate need for additional childcare), and the FASD specialist.

I am conjuring up my best Mama-Problem Solver while simultaneously trying to hold back the tears.  Here is my current brainstormed list of solutions.

  1.  Quit my job.  My kid really needs my full time care.  I am the primary wage earner in our family so this is not a very good option.  Unless of course we sell our house and move out of state to a place where it’s cheap to live AND G can find a job that can support us all.
  2. Hire a Nanny.   Two preschool tuitions + cost of one-on-one aide = more expensive than a Nanny.  Now if only I can find one that promises not to quit when he/she gets kicked in the face.
  3. Ride it out.  I will let the school be the one to kick us out. The are merely suggesting that we get this behavioral aide.  Of course, the underlying assumption is that if we don’t, they are going to expel him at the next hint of trouble.  At least this option buys us some time to consider option 1 and option 2.
  4. A new school.  Is this really an option?  probably not. I called around all morning this morning and didn’t find a single school with space. I will keep looking.
  5. Run away.  Sell all our belonging and move to the middle of nowhere where we can live quietly, “homeschool”,  and M can act any way he wants.
  6. Hire the aide.  I will just suck it up and hope for the best.

As usual, there really is no cut-and-dry solution  Although running away is looking better and better everyday.