When she was born a year later, I knew she was happy to be here. I felt that sense that she belonged with us. Every mom thinks their child is beautiful, but her brown eyes and (surprising) BROWN, CURLY hair, and sweet, rosy lips...(sigh). Her slightly imperfect nose was the only thing that was unusual, and even that was PERFECT in its IMPERFECTNESS.
We didn't notice the red flags with her speech until she was two. She's made a ton of progress in speech therapy, and has learned a lot at school this past year. Starting after Christmas, she started fighting me about going to school. "School is closed, Mom. I don't like my teacher. I don't like school. I don't want to go to school a-morrow!" It started as just a battle to get her out the door, and then became a battle to get her physically inside the classroom. By the end of the year, we had abandoned the district-provided school bus, and I would drive her there myself, and stay with her for the first 30-minutes.
At the little preschool party at the end of the year, her teacher Stacey said, "This girl challenges me daily, but she also lets know know when it's time to go every day." Everyone laughed.
We all heaved a silent sigh of relief on the last day of school.
I've noticed several other struggles cropping up:
-Poor sleep schedule. Takes her forever to fall asleep (9:30pm at the earliest), and then she wakes in the night, often coming into our room to sleep. Still waking up at 7am on the dot.
-Imaginary world - she's done this for a while, but since the Spring, she's been "living" in an imaginary world instead of just "visiting". You have to literally clap your hands for her to snap out of it sometimes.
Forgive the messy house, and her lack of pants, but this is a pretty accurate depiction of a typical play date with her "Fwends".
Then our Sundays started getting difficult. Same deal: "I don't want to go to Primary. I don't like my teacher! I want to go home! I want to come to YOUR class." Her team-teachers (a married couple) are wonderful, and try so hard to help her. We've even had meetings about her challenging behavior and what they could do to help. The only problem is...I don't know what to tell them! She doesn't sit still for long periods. Her attention-span is super-short. Even family prayer is a bit too long to be still. She has a small comfort zone. Doesn't like sitting next to some kids. She will often hang-back in groups and won't talk or participate until she feels comfortable. She'll shut-down around kids who have stronger personalities or more confidence (about half the class). She'll loudly voice that she doesn't want to be there, which earns her looks from both parents and peers alike, which eventually causes us to leave (after she hisses at her neighbor, and gives a grumpy face to her teacher). It's also a LARGE class (10+ kids), and Diddles isn't the only one who is a challenge. Oh, and did I mention they have THE hottest room in the building?
Then the dreaded day came when she was excused from class. I don't know what she did specifically. My child was THAT child, that every teacher dreads. The one who had to be brought to their parents because they were so disruptive. I was teaching a YW lesson, and was so surprised to see her there with her teacher! I could tell Diddles was on the verge of ANGRY tears, and I could tell she was embarrassed. She wouldn't look at her teacher or answer my questions. That's another thing: She's making great strides in her speech, but she struggles to express HOW she feels and WHY. Most kids could say, "This happened in Primary. It made me feel (angry, hurt, embarrassed). I don't like THIS about it, and that's why I don't want to go." She's not there yet, so much of her world is blocked up with a barrier between her and the rest of us. I just had her sit with me while I taught the class. The Beehives loved it. I was mortified.
We try going with her to class. We tried skipping sharing time and just going to class. We tried having an activity bag. Her school teacher came and sat in on the class and tried to help with some strategies. We tried reward stickers and then breaks as a reward. I can be with her some weeks, but not others, due to my teaching schedule. We're still trying these things, but there are so many variables, it's hard to pin-point what works and what doesn't. All I know is she hates church, and it breaks my heart. You want your child to love Primary! To love their teachers and the music and feel The Spirit in a safe, loving place. I never imagined I'd get this resistance this soon!
I got a concerned e-mail from our Primary President, saddened that Diddles hasn't been able to participate in class. She asked if there was anything they could do, but again, I don't know what to do, so I can't offer any suggestions! I know whatever happened with her teachers, she does NOT consider them friends. I know the teachers aren't professionals in child behavior or even teaching, and I don't expect them to be! It's amazing what they do. I barely have the patience to not ring necks when I'm visiting! Some days I wish I could teleport Cousin Sarah here to work her mighty teaching magic and see if she could help. I have a degree in teaching, and yet I am at a loss to know what to do.
Part of my struggle is to know how much to push, and how much to support. How much of this behavior CAN'T she help, and how much of it is there because I've enabled her, and she knows she can manipulate the situation in her favor. Of course, I want her to attend Primary and learn and have friends, but HOW MUCH fight do I put up? Is the fight and the force doing more damage than good?
Her school teachers had recommended we enroll her in a something with Parks and Rec over the summer for her to socialize. We picked this little preschool class called Pet Pals, where they learn about pets and do crafts and activities and have special guests and animals come in. Sounded like a blast! I was even willing to go with her, if necessary. I just wanted to have her experience something fun.
|This is NOT a photo of her at Pet Pals...sadly.|
We arrived on Monday morning, and there were at least 10 kids there already, playing and coloring and talking, and Diddles' just SHUT down. "Okay, I go home now." She looked lost and overwhelmed. We did a few puzzles and met the teacher, who knew about her circumstances, but as I got a read on the number of kids, and the number of teachers, I knew there wouldn't be the support she'd need. I tried everything I knew how to do, but when she started attracting the negative attention from her neighbors, "I...WANT...TO...GO!" it was time to leave. This wasn't the right fit for her, and I knew it, but it still surprised me when we got in the car and I burst into tears, texting Josh, "We dropped out of Pet Pals. We made it 45 minutes."
I just feel so badly she's not a "normal" kid. I don't know if she has autism, or a disorder, or if this is just part of her speech delay. All I know is, she can't do "normal" thing that kids her age can do. It's never so apparent to me as when I see her side-by-side with kids her age how very different she is. I know we shouldn't compare, but I can't help but worry about her future. What it's going to look like, and how her little piece will fit into the world's puzzle. She's so special, and beautiful and funny and bright, but she only shines in a certain light, and it's my job to figure it out, and I feel like I'm failing miserably.
But I'm not giving up. I know she is imperfect, but even that IMPERFECTNESS is PERFECT to me.
We'll figure it out together. I know she's here with us for a reason, and I know we wanted her, and she wanted us. I also know that Heavenly Father wouldn't send her here INCAPABLE of developing a relationship with Him and with the Holy Ghost, so that leaves me some hope. With His help, we'll figure it out.
P.S. I wouldn't throw out any advice you lovely friends have either, should any ideas or thoughts come to your mind. Thanks for listening. :)