22 March 2010

Will they melt?

I am sitting in my warm, dry house, two of my four children are happily eating lunch at the table 15 feet away, and, I admit, watching Dora.

In about 15 minutes, my two older children will be released from school and into the rain; probably pausing to look out from the school entrance at the downpour over the 1/3 mile walk ahead of them.

Throughout the morning, as the rain has gotten heavier and lighter, I've considered whether or not I should drive to the school to pick up the boys.  I picture them walking home, umbrellas in hand, one pulling his backpack, soaking it as it rolls along...  So, I debate, in my head...  pack up the little ones into the car, find a parking spot, walk to the entrance, find the boys and shuffle everyone back to the car, everyone getting a bit wet in the process.  Or, let the boys trudge home, getting wet, to varying degrees. 

I was feeling guilty as I leaned toward just meeting them at the door, greeting their drippy backpacks and clothes, muddy shoes and glum faces at our door.  Then, I thought back to my own elementary school days.  What would my mother do?

I don't ever remember being picked up from school unless I had an appointment of some kind.  I am sure I got soaked on more than one occasion and I don't even remember it. Did I melt?  No.  Did I catch a cold?  Probably not.  Did I have to change my socks?  Maybe.  Did I dwell on it?  I doubt it.

Do we, as parents, bring more guilt onto ourselves than necessary?  Probably.  I think it is good to have a little guilt wavering around us, to keep us in check, but I also think it is good to know when to push it aside and let the kids walk home in the rain. 

As it turns out, it stopped raining just before dismissal, so all the worry was for naught.

Sinking in...

Failure to thrive?  I understand the name but I really think they (whoever "they" are) should come up with a better name for the ailment that is keeping my 2 year old from growing.  I find it hard to look at my running, happy, chatterbox of a two year old as failing to thrive, but that is the diagnosis he has and has been undergoing testing for since February.

The doctor became concerned at Harold's 2 year well check, which did not happen until he was 26 months old.  Our family definitely does not have great height genes, but our oldest son, Zack, has growth hormone deficiency, so I just assumed that might also be the cause of Harold's issues.  As it turns out, though, his weight is the bigger issue.

This fact really surprised and puzzled me.  In my eyes, Harold was perfectly proportioned.  I love his little limbs and tiny belly but now that the doctors have impressed their concern upon me, I can see that he lacks the normal toddler squeezable chubbiness.  He is still squeezable, but the pudge isn't there.

Now that I see it, it feels horrible, as a mother, to have not noticed it before.  But I realize that this is like many other problems our kids have.  As parents, we don't want to see the problems of our perfect offspring.  We don't want to hear that something is wrong and can't even see it until we are ready.  Often, outsiders can see the problems before we, as parents, can.

My oldest son had speech delay as a two year old.  He had started saying a few words around age 1 but stopped talking and I had him evaluated at 19 months.  The first speech therapist who evaluated him at age 2 suggested he might have pervasive developmental disorder (PDD).

I immediately went to the internet and researched and came to the conclusion that my baby did not have PDD.  He was fine, he just had speech issues, but I went ahead and met with a counselor and went through the process of filling out all the surveys for the evaluation.  This process is severely flawed, though.  A parent can see things much differently than the counselor and interpret them differently.  What I saw as a great attention span for playing with a toy car, actually was an early sign of autism but I couldn't see it.   I filled out the parent questionnaires accordingly and Zack went without a diagnosis for 8 more years.  After all, Zack started reading at age 3, could tell time and multiply and divide at age 5, and memorize pages of text in one reading.  How could he have learning disabilities?

But, Zack continued to struggle.  While he is a charismatic and charming kid with adults, he has trouble identifying with and interacting with his peers.  He would sit with his nose in a book and then spew facts about snakes or dinosaurs and though he had the aptitude for the work, homework would often overwhelm him to the point of near panic.

Over time, I came to the realization that it was very likely he had PDD or ASD but didn't want to take him for an evaluation because I did not want him labeled.  I finally took Zack for an educational psychology evaluation when he was 10 years old so that I could have a name for what was causing his daily struggles.  I knew in my heart that he had some form of autism but having a name from a professional would help us get help for him.  After three sessions of several hours of testing, Zack was diagnosed with mild autism/PDD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and anxiety disorder.

When I told certain people about Zack's diagnosis, such as his speech therapist from ages 3 to 5, and a former neighbor who is a special education teacher, they said they suspected it years ago.  I realize that an outsider can't make a parent see more clearly by pointing out their suspicions outright, but I think that friends and educators can gently help guide the parent toward seeing what is there.  If nothing else, it can ease the transition once the diagnosis is made.

In second grade, a speech therapist at Zack's school suggested that Zack had characteristics of aspergers syndrome.  Again, I went straight to the internet and did not see that Zack had aspergers.  Yes, I could see similarities in Zack and the symptoms but did not think he really had it.  Yet, as time went on, I could see signs pointing toward aspergers or some other type of autism and eventually took the step of getting Zack tested.

Once we got names for things causing him problems, we could get him better help, both at home and at school.  I had to get over MY problem of not wanting to see, then not wanting a label, for him to be able to get help.

Now I find myself in the midst of a challenge again.  I did not want to put Harold through invasive medical tests when, in my mind, his issue was similar to Zack's growth hormone deficiency, which could be detected by less invasive blood tests.  It took an email from the chief of pediatric endocrinology at a major children's hospital, saying Harold's problem was less in his height and that he is "quite underweight" for me to see how very skinny Harold is.  What I saw, before, as adorably tiny limbs, I can now see as sadly skinny toddler limbs and am eager to do whatever tests are necessary to find the cause of his "failure to thrive" and make him better.  Harold is scheduled for endoscopy and sigmoidoscopy tests and a biopsy on May 14.  I hate the thought of him being under anesthesia but I am now eager to find what is causing his problem and get him well.

Overlooking our children's flaws is good but overlooking struggles that we can help them overcome is not.  It is a challenge, but as parents we have to see our kids more clearly to help them grow, no matter how we get there or how long it takes.

04 March 2010

what to expect?

Do we expect too little of our kids? 

I was just reading a parenting magazine article about manners.  The thing that most got my attention was that the article said that it is too much to expect a 5 year old to smile and say thank you for a gift he does not like.
Specifically, the article told of a child who got an elmo toy and said, "I wanted a transformer."  The writer of the article said it is appropriate for the child to do that at age 5.  She said it is a teachable moment, which, of course it is, but we need to take responsibility for raising our kids right.  Sure, making sure they are well mannered adults is the ultimate goal, but not expecting it sooner is a cop out. 

You can start teaching a child manners as soon as they are upright and engaging with you.  You give the child a toy to play with, you say, "here you go."  The child gives it back and you say, "Thank you!"  You can even ask for the child to give you the toy, "please may I have it?"   It is as simple as that.  It really should come naturally to you and will come naturally to your child if you are consistent. 

When it is the child's birthday and family and friends are bringing gifts, prepare your child with the proper way to behave.  Model the behavior before the party.

"When Aunt Agnes gives you a gift, you say, 'thank you so much for the gift.  I am so glad you came to my party."

Remind the child, several times, that even if it is socks, he should say something nice like what you told him to say. 

For a young child, tell him or her that her behavior will be appreciated and that if they don't like the gift, most likely you can exchange it but that if she acts happy to have the gift, the giver will be very happy and if she shows the gift giver that she does not like it, the gift giver will be very sad.

It may take some practice and takes good prep work on your part, but will be successful.

The bottom line is it is irresponsible for a parenting magazine to excuse inexcusable, preventable behavior.

If you have high expectations for the behavior of your children, they will meet your expectations, but the opposite is also true.