Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to School Tears

Not for the kids - for Mom.  No, not tears of joy or relief, tears of genuine sadness and maybe a little dread.  Are you surprised?  You are probably not if you are a mom of a child on the FASD spectrum.   For those that aren't though, I'll explain.

Last night was back to school night for my Little Man.  He's going to be six in September.  He's going to be doing kindergarten for the second time.  I'm happy about that - it was a hard fought battle to get the school to agree to retain him but he's in no way ready for first grade.  He’s not potty trained yet, although we may be getting close.  He will tell adults now when he needs to go.  Usually there is not quite enough time to get him there.  And he still withholds his stool while on the potty and waits till he gets up to go in his pull up.  He still sings and talks to his stuffed animals and imaginary friends more than any real people.  So it was not his retention while his little class mates moved on that upset me.

What made me cry, then?  It was seeing all the hard won progress he had made over the summer wiped away by walking though those doors. 

We spent countless hours this summer working on speaking up – having the confidence to speak loudly enough to be heard.  We, through slow and painful effort, had eliminated all the baby talk and nonsense words and built an understandable vocabulary he used to really interact with us.  We worked on connecting skills like:  role playing how to make eye contact with people when talking to them, how greet people, how to ask their name and give his, how to invite someone to play with you or ask to join them. 

Little man was demonstrating these skills too.  Everywhere we went this summer we would see a little more of them come out.  He was greeting people at the grocery store or doctor’s office.  I did a happy dance the first time he asked children their names and if they would like to play at the park. 

Last night though, he plastered himself to my leg as we passed through the school doors.  When teachers he knew last year approached he hid his face.  If I prompted him to speak to them he mumbled so low you could not hear – not even when they crouched to his level with their ear near his face.  He would not interact with any of the children and began to babble nonsense words to “Beedee” his imaginary friend nonstop.  And of course we had the obligatory accident in his pants in the middle of events plus a melt down over needing to be changed.

So – Why did I cry?  I cried because I don’t know how to make school better for him.  I don’t know how to make him feel safe enough there to bloom the way he does at home.   I don’t know what will become of him if he is never able to be the lovely little person he is in private in public as well.   I can’t seal him in a bubble no matter how I want to.  I can’t make people like or love him.  I can’t force them to be kind and understanding.  And I’m an older mom – the cold fact is I won’t be around forever to care for him.  What will happen to him when I’m gone?     
After we got home I had to go out for a 20 minute drive – so I could cry. I don’t like to cry in front of him.  I don’t think he would understand why and I don’t want to make him feel bad about himself – like he makes mommy sad.    It isn’t him that makes me cry – it’s how the world affects him. 

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