Brendan has been complaining about going to school lately which is very unusual for him. We had a hard time pinning down what it might be. First we thought it might be that he wasn’t getting enough sleep. His bedtime is 8:00, but with our busy schedules he wasn’t getting to bed until almost 9:00. So when the complaining started a couple weeks we put some things in place to allow us to be more rigid in our bedtime routine and get him into bed on time. That definately helped his grumpy level, but the complaining didn’t stop.
Next we thought it might be his long term substitute. She is the same lady that filled in for his teacher in first grade, and he seemed to like her then. In talking to him this year though he doesn’t seem as fond of her. He said she’s much more strict than he remembered her. I don’t believe she’s changed, I think he just grew up quite a bit in the last two years. This was one problem that we couldn’t really fix for him. She’s only there for a couple more weeks anyway, so we decided to deal with the complaints until his teacher came back, and to continue to look for possible catalysts.
Yesterday, the complaints hit their peak. Matt’s out of town again this week, so I was on my own yesterday morning. As I was loading all of the kids into the car to drop off Brendan at school he started complaining about how unfiar it was that he was the only one who had school. This isn’t the first time he’s tried to use this argument, and no matter how often I explain to him that he’s older than the other kids and that they’ll have to do the same thing when they are 8 he just doesn’t see it. Well, what had before been just some minor complaining turned into a full screaming, crying, meltdown. He didn’t want to go to school, it wasn’t fair he had to go school, I needed to just let him stay home, why oh why could he not stay home. Then the topic broadened to him wanting his daddy, and when would daddy be home, and it wasn’t fair that daddy was going to be gone. It just kept going and going and going, all the way to school.
I picked him up after school hoping that the morning had been a fluke and that his attitude would be much improved. At first it seemed I might be correct. He jumped into the car excited and happy, and told me all about the classes mock election as we drove toward home. At home I fixed snack for the kids and laid out our plans for the rest of the afternoon. That did it. The bubble containing Brendan’s happy attitude popped. He started picking fights and throwing fits about anything and everything. At one point, in a burst of frustration I just looked at him and asked if he was TRYING to find things to complain about. Needless to say it was a rough afternoon.
Daddy called home around dinner time. I filled him in on the day, and he had a chat with Brendan. A lot of times that will help, but not this time. After getting off the phone with daddy, Brendan went right back to screaming, whining, crying, and complaining about everything. It wasn’t until I started the bedtime routine that he finally calmed down. As I went to put Kaylee into bed I heard him downstairs playing with his trains. So I turned a cartoon on for Cameron and called Brendan upstairs so we could read together. He loves to have Harry Potter read to him, so I read for a full half hour, something that’s pretty rare. We are usually lucky to get in 10 minutes. I didn’t broach the subject of his behavior, I figured there would be plenty of other opportunities to discuss it. I just let him enjoy the book. Afterward I went to put Cameron to bed and Brendan requested a cartoon. I got the cartoon set up, and Cam into bed, then went into my room for a few minutes of relaxation of my own.
Brendan’s cartoon ended, and he wandered into my bedroom to let me know. I was also watching TV, and the show I had on caught his attention. I was in the middle of a game on my phone, so I didn’t see any harm in letting him sit there while I finished up my game. As I was taking my last turn, my show ended as well, so I told Brendan it was time for bed. He turned from the TV and looked at me very sadly. He said he didn’t want to go to bed. I’m usually not one to put up with the bedtime argument, but he looked so sad that I just calmly told him again it was time. That’s when he burst into tears and said, “It’s so hard being stupid!!!”
I felt as though I’d been punched. For a moment I just sat speechless staring at him. Then came the obvious question, “Who said you’re stupid?” It took about 5 minutes of him sobbing on my bed to get a full understanding of what was going on, but it finally all came out, and everything that’s been happening over the past few weeks suddenly made sense. It turns out that no one had called him stupid, he came to that conclusion on his own. He even said that everyone always told him how smart he was, but that he knew better.
The reason he thinks he’s stupid is because he’s having trouble keeping up with his daily work at school. This was an issue that I was already aware of, but was not aware how much it was bothering him. We’d already discussed the issue with his long term sub, and what she’d told us was that Brendan was not the only child having trouble keeping up and that his workload wasn’t more than he could handle, and she’d send the work home over the weekend if she felt we needed to help him get caught up. The first week, she worked with him at school and he was able to get caught up. Then last week, he wasn’t able to get caught up and brought his work home. We worked with him all week, and by Friday were able to send the last of the work back to school. Well after doing all that he’s got another clipboard full of work that needs completed at school. From the sound of it, the sight of all that work that needs to be done stresses him out, and he doesn’t know where to begin.
So, I told him to not let the work pile up like that, and to bring home any unfinished daily work every day and I would be happy to help him work through it. That seemed to help him a lot, and he was finally calm enough to go to bed. The plan I laid out for Brendan is just the tip of the iceberg though. That will get us through the next week and a half until his regular teacher returns. I’m waiting for her to return for a couple of reasons. First, with the limited time the sub has left I don’t think she could get arranged what I’m looking for before his teacher returns anyway and I’d still end up working with both of them. Second, while I do think his long term sub would work with us I know for certain his regular teacher will understand more readily and be willing and eager to help me.
I want to sit down with his teacher and go over his IEP (individualized education plan). An IEP is what is written for kids who qualify for special education services. Brendan’s is reviewed every year in February. Last year when we went through it, Brendan had met the bulk of the goals on his IEP and was therefore removed from a lot of the services he had been receiving. I expressed concern at the time that he wouldn’t be receiving enough support going forward, but was assured that we could review again at any time and add more services back in if necessary. So that is my plan. I don’t intend on waiting until the IEP expires. To me, the timing has always been unfotunate anyway. It’s done in February because that’s when we sought out services back when he was just a year old, and it’s been every February since. But unfortunately, his teacher for the grade he is about to be finished with is the one who attends the IEP meeting, not the teacher that will have him while that IEP is in effect. Which in this case I think is why we are in the position we are in. At the meeting last year I only had vague concerns not knowing what to expect in 3rd grade and his 2nd grade teacher was sure he was on par with his peers so he would be able to handle it. What we’ve discovered is that in 3rd grade the amount of work, and the amount of work to be completed independantly increased significantly, and poor Brendan just isn’t able to keep up with it without assistance.
That’s the easy part of the plan. The hard part will be teaching my son the difference between needing assistance and being stupid.