I thought I would die if it ever happened to me, but here I am still alive, breathing in and out as usual. My pride may have a nice hunk torn out of it, but I'm mostly intact otherwise. I figured out a very long time ago that any "I'll never do thats" square up like ghosts ready for a haunt. My personal Dicken's apparitions have sauntered around me freely for years now.
I've done a lot of things right over the course of the last year. From the moment my husband came home from the party last summer where a complete stranger asked if our son had Reactive Attachment Disorder to now, we've been on a good path. I shudder to think where we be if we hadn't discovered a way to really address the deep issues of my boy. I've read a zillion books on the subject. We've found good counselors. We stuck Tater in middle school a few months ago after six years of white knuckling through home schooling.
Here's what I know I really got right. Before I put Tater in school, I met with the vice principal to talk to her about RAD and particularly my son. It's no easy thing to explain that, though a person is 13, he is never left unsupervised. I recall stumbling over words to assure her that he's emotionally a toddler, stuck in pain and grief, and that in many ways, life needs to be as simple for him as a toddler. She volleyed back to me that the school had already had a RAD child, and in her kind manner, informed me that the child didn't last at the school. I appreciated her candor. I shoved a stack of phone numbers at the vice principal. I begged her to call my husband, myself, or the counselors anytime.
Next,I asked for a meeting with all his teachers immediately upon enrollment though it took a few weeks to occur. I toyed with ideas of what to say and wrote many notes ahead of time, working through what teachers might need to know. Did they need to hear details of chaos and destruction storming in his soul? I came to a wise decision just to keep it simple. Since I'd already gone deeply into RAD issues with the vice principal who seemed to get "it", I did not feel a need to do much more than give the teachers phone numbers, suggest a single teacher resource on RAD, and query one big question at the meeting, "What can I do to support you as the teachers of my son?" The sweet and capable teachers gave me a flurry of glowing reports on my charming boy. I kept my peace and my mouth tightly closed about the difficulty of living with RAD. I walked out in great confidence and have held that same confidence as we've interacted along the last few months on a regular basis. I'd shown my best and gotten their best in return. Love how that works.
So back to my spooks. One of my arrogant "It will never happen to me, because I'm so great" chickens came home to roost today. The vice principal called to report Tater had gotten three days of in-school-suspension for ganging up with two boys and repeatedly "play" slapping another boy in the face as he protested loudly. Ironic about the bully post I wrote recently isn't it? I remember thinking while writing, "It's whole 'nother post on bullying and RAD." All this is to say how incredibly glad I'd already been to the vice principal months ago instead of pretending "perfect family".
A part of me is horrified that I've raised a child who simply doesn't know how to keep his hands to himself as he gallops up on eighth grade. Another part of me is relieved, because he's shown at school, what we experience daily at home- lack of impulse control and a general disregard for others.
Either way, I handled the phone call with terrific grace. "Thanks for letting me know" to the vice principal and a positive reply to my son's, "I'm really embarrassed about what I did. I'll take whatever punishment you have at home for me." What were my words to him? A gentle, "I think they got it handled at school, sweetie. See ya when you get home." See, round here, it ain't punishment. It ain't rewards neither, no how. Rewards and punishment are external, and we are working on the internal. He punishes himself enough through self sabotage. He doesn't need to be rewarded, because we truly love him as he is. Faults and all. And this child above all others allows me to experience immense humility in parenting.
However, I am sad for Tater's losses. He was headed on a fun field trip to Wonderworks next week with his class, but the suspension will now prohibit his attendance. Also, I wonder if he's snuffed his great big football dreams for next fall- not sure school policy for disciplinary action effects eligibility. Then there's the larger concern that the school will one day ask him to attend his zoned school instead of theirs, but I don't have to play "what ifs" with that just yet.
On a related note: This morning I heard Ira Glass from This American Life is interviewing a family Saturday who almost disrupted the adoption of their son three times. Adoption is no picnic or walk through the blooming roses. And just to be clear, I have no regrets that we answered our call to adopt. I knew it from the time I was a child that it was my destiny to love the unlovely.
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