Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Learning Lessons

Sorry, this isn't my regularly scheduled blog post. I thought I was going to post bracelets today, but I am putting it off until tomorrow. Something happened yesterday that I need to talk out. I know there is a wealth of motherly support available to me through you blog readers and I want to take advantage of it today.

Today is about Andrew (my 9year old). He is home today, and not because he is sick. He is home because he was given out of school suspension yesterday. My guess is you had no idea fourth graders could get suspended, let alone an out of school suspension.

I was torching yesterday afternoon when I got a phone call from the school. They asked if I could come in to talk about something that happened with Andrew during lunch. I asked if they could clue me in and they said they would talk more when I got there. I knew that couldn't be good. School is just a few miles from my house and my thoughts raced the whole way there. What could have happened? What could have set him off? Andrew is bi-polar and at home can have extremely violent tantrums but they have never seen the behaviors in school.

I love the vice principal at our school. She is so kind and understanding, warm and loving to the kids, and more helpful then every teacher I was ever exposed to at our old district combined. This is what she told me happened... in the lunch room yesterday, a boy named Jacob, who sits near Andrew, started talking about Santa Claus. The boy said he didn't believe and that he would never believe. He continued to push and tease Andrew about it and Andrew said "I am going to kill you." Their was a third boy, Anthony (a good friend of Andrew's), that heard all of this. Andrew's comment upset Anthony and he told an adult. Andrew was pulled out of lunch and sent to the office. The administrative intern (a former special ed teacher) interviewed the boys and no one denied anything. Andrew was very honest and said that was in fact what he said. He told them he knew it was wrong.

The school has a zero tolerance policy on threatening language and that is why Andrew has out of school suspension. I totally agree with the punishment and completely understand that children need to feel safe in their classrooms.

There are a lot of things going on with Andrew right now. We recently went through some IQ testing that reveled a very high level of depression. We have spent the past week weaning him off one medication and are getting ready to introduce a new one. He has little emotional control right now. He is swinging between manic behaviors and irate/agitated ones from moment to moment. This boy was attacking something that is a core belief to Andrew and with no filters or control over himself, he lashed out in this very hurtful way.

You might remember my post last year about whether or not we would have the "Santa Talk" with Andrew. When I discovered what had upset Andrew at lunch yesterday, I knew I had to have the talk with him. I was holding back tears the whole time. It is near impossible to talk with the lump I had in my throat while telling him the news. I started by talking to him about how it is okay that some people believe different things then we do. We talked about the Spirit of Christmas and what it means to give to others. I told him that Santa was a real person but that he died a very long time ago, but that he was such a special person that we keep his spirit alive in our hearts. I told him that this was a special secret and that it is his job now to help keep Santa's spirit alive for others, like Lauren. I told him that if anyone ever says "Santa isn't real" you tell them "he was once, and he is alive in your heart if you want him to be".

I can't tell you the shock that he was in. He thought it more unlikely that Mom and Dad went out, bought all the gifts, wrapped them, hid them, then snuck out on Christmas Eve and put them under the tree. I really don't think he understands. I think with time he'll start to understand, but it broke my heart yesterday having to take that magic away for him.

Today we have an appointment with his psychologist and we'll talk all about this then. I am having Andrew write an apology letter to the two other boys at lunch. I am not really sure what else to do. So... come on... give me some of that wonderful mom-to-mom support that I count on you gals for. I think there needs to be some cyber hugs all around.

16 comments:

Jennifer Dicello said...

So sorry your family is having this problem right now. Sending you thoughts, prayers and really big hugs from Georgia! Can you feel them?

livnletlrn said...

As the mom of a son who also faces some challenges, I really have no words of wisdom, but I know that lump in the throat, trying to talk calmly and not allowing the tears to spill, dealing with unexpected and sometimes mortifying situations and, above all, loving a boy who is trying to find his way in the world. No words, but definitely a nod and a cyber hug.

LLYYNN said...

I think you are very brave and exceptionally wise.

To tell the truth and also to enlist your son's help in keeping the magic and spirit alive for the ones who aren't in on the secret must have been very hard. I'm thinking about all of you, sending lots of best regards your way.

Laura Blanck said...

I send you a big hug.
Sometimes we use words as an expression of anger, but we don't mean EXACTLY LITERALLY what the word could be translated at. I think that the school punished what the word means, without considering that he was expressing anger. And many boys express those feelings all day long without being punished. I do agree that we have to talk to Andrew and calm him down, but he is a boy, he is supposed to LEARN, he is not an adult who KNOWS. Schools and Homes are places to protect and teach and guide, punishments sometimes are part of that routine, but the school should have talked to Andrew maybe through their counselor. We have to concentrate more in teaching to avoid punishing. Punishment could also teach, but sometimes it only does the opposite, we have to be very careful with that. The best thing here is to consult a professional psychologist, as you are doing.
Another big hug for you, Laura from Openstudio.

MsBaubles (AliBaubles) said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes, especially since being a mum to a 5 year old little boy. Sending you and your family lots of positive thoughts and hugs.....

Lori said...

I think you handled the whole situation very well. I know it is hard. {{{{{Kerry}}}}

Ellen said...

I think you used your good judgment and your heart and handled the situation correctly.

Leslie said...

Kerry,
BIG (((((HUG)))) !!!!

I have a threee year old and I am so new to this parenting gig that I have no great wisdom to offer. So a huge hug to you and your family is all I can give at this distance! Just love him the way you already do Kerry. Ugh....parenting is so hard...or should I say parenting the right way is hard. Good luck!

Warmly,
Leslie

Kerry said...

Thank you so much Jennifer, livnletlrn, Llynn, Laura, MsBaubles, Lori, Ellen and Leslie. Your support really does mean the world to me. Thanks for sending so much love our way.

Jennifer Cameron said...

Kerry, I wish I had words of wisdom, but I do not. You handled the situation very well and I had tears welling up at the picture you painted of having to have the "santa" talk. I do hope things have calmed down for him and for you.

We have been trying to decide whether to have that talk with our 10 and 7 yo because they keep asking. We have kicked around several ideas of how to handle it, but it comes down to my fear of destroying the "magical" part of Christmas. It's not about the presents or anything else. It's the magic.

Anonymous said...

I work in a mental health office and we get referrals from schools all the time regarding kids who mistakeningly (sp?) say something that is wrong and then are suspended from school until they have a letter from a therapist saying they are not a danger to others. Most of the times the kids weren't thinking before they speak. Plus the threat isn't a real threat to them but to others it may appear so. Most of the time we never see those kids again, there is really nothing wrong with them. Bipolar or not I think your son didn't mean what he said. It's a shame that it had to happen. About Santa, I am also a mother who was forced into the Santa discussion with my son because his other friends didn't believe anymore. I did not want to take the magic away from him, so I said, it doesn't matter what THEY believe, what matters is what YOU believe. And unfortunately, if you don't believe in Santa anymore, then he will not be able to come bring you presents anymore, he knows who believes and who don't. My son is now 16 years old, and I NEVER had to tell him that I was the one stowing the presents under the tree. He doesn't say it but I know he now knows there is no Santa, but just the same he humors me. And I am glad that he never had to feel like he was deceived. We as parents try to do what's best for our children, and the Santa thing seems so innocent and fun when they are young but unfortunately it's others who always tend to take away that magic, and I just won't allow it. We create the magic, it's not for anyone to take away. So please enjoy the holidays, and I hope this issue gets quickly smoothed over for your son.

Kellie

Kim said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes as well. I can't help but feel bad for your little guy for defending something he believes in so completely. Give him a big hug from me as well; you handled the situation very well I think. :)

Ann said...

Kerry,
I cannot describe the value of an "I'm sorry " letter from one child to another. My daughter was involved in a situation on the playground where a friend ended up having hurt feelings. Although she was not the instigator, she was still responsible. I had her write an "I'm sorry" letter and was told later but the hurt girl's mom how much the letter meant to the both of them. They remain friends and my daughter needed that letter as much as the recipient. As far as the Santa situation, Emma enjoys keeeping Santa real for her little brother ALMOST as much as she enjoyed believing herself. I'm sorry you are going through this at such a crazy time of the year.

Kathy said...

{{{{{HUGS KERRY}}}}}}

I agree with Lori you handled the situation very well. You are a strong person.

Anonymous said...

kerry, first of all, my heart goes out to you. i'm not a mom but i have weaned myself off of a few drugs and it was not fun. i'm sad that andrew had to go to school during the med. transition. it was tough for me at age 52 to get off my meds. but at 9, i feel for him; with little understanding of what his body and mind were going through. i think you did a wonderful job of handling the whole thing. hugs to all of you, lisa d., portland, oregon

nan16 said...

Kerry, I feel so bad for all of you. Growing up is so hard and watching it happen is sometimes harder. My grandson's school has out-of-school suspension also and it seems that other kids are the ones teasing and bullying and the kid who tries to stop it is the one who gets punished because they don't know exactly what to say to get it to stop. My grandson would tell someone to stop talking in class because he knew that was the rule and he was the one who got punished for trying to get someone else to stop breaking the rules. It hardly sounds fair to me. I think you did exactly the right thing and you can only hope that the other parents learn about it and say something to their kids about not teasing and bullying others. It probably is not going to happen that way so under the circumstances you did exactly the right thing for your child. It still breaks your heart though, doesn't it?