IEP processed

Little Man’s annual IEP meeting was almost two weeks ago. It’s taken me a bit to process, mostly because I had other things going on…work, a trip to see my parents, Thanksgiving….I had to process it all anyways. I had to go back through the details, not in-the-moment.

Someone asked me about it, what happens, how did LM handle being in the meeting. I explained, “You spend the first five minutes hearing the ways your kid is amazing and how he’s improved. You spend the next hour discussing all his deficiencies, and making plans to help him.” Truth. That’s what goes on. You know what? I almost hate those first five minutes more than the rest of the meeting. Look, I know all the way he’s amazing. I have to make myself focus on those amazing qualities in the moments he’s completely falling apart, or pushing me over the edge, or having the mother of all meltdowns on the sideline of  his soccer game. He is amazing, brilliant, beautiful, witty, funny, empathetic, entertaining, cuddly, loving, and just….amazing. I’m his mom. I know this. I know they know his abilities, his strengths. It just always makes me feel like I’m holding my breath waiting for the “but…..”

So yes, he’s doing better with his collaborative work, although he still needs work. Yes, he’s very creative. Yes, he’s gotten better at communicating his needs. Yes, he has become a mentor to kids in younger grades working with the 3-D printer. His writing has improved. Can we please get to the hard stuff? The stuff we really need to talk about? The things we need to work out?

I knew he’d avoided going to class for some time when he was dealing with some bullying and then his perception of everyone around him – and their actions – went sideways. I didn’t realize he’d hardly been in class for nearly a month. His grades suffered accordingly – but WTH? Nearly a month not going to class? This is a small school with a small campus. There isn’t really anywhere for him to hide. I do know we dealt with the headaches and stomach-aches for over a week. I know he spent a good amount of time in the nurse’s office. But really, nearly a month hardly being in class, because he wouldn’t go. He ended up with two F’s, three C’s, and one A on his report card. My kids have NEVER gotten an F, much less two, on a progress report much less a report card.

The adaptive PE teacher on consult for him told us she’d have to hunt him down most days when it was time for PE. Again, WTH? They shouldn’t have to go look for my kid. He’s 13  years old.  He’s an 8th grader. The school is small, the campus is small, but you had to go look for him? Then he wouldn’t cooperate nor participate much of the time. So our PE goals remain intact. Get to PE, and participate to a percentage level.  He has a new sheet he has to fill out in which he earns points for showing up, participating in the activity, or running.

Most of his goals remain the same…..working cooperatively and successfully in groups, getting his work done, staying in the classroom, self-management, responding appropriately, stating verbally his feelings and needs, and showing up for and participating in PE.

I do feel like it is a team. We all want what’s best for him, and to best prepare him for high school and beyond. Then we had to start talking about the transition to high school. No, we haven’t decided where he’s going. We have narrowed it down to a few schools, one of which is very difficult to get into, one of which is lottery, and one of which is down the street.  The rep from the traditional school down the street was there towards the end. We had to talk about what potential issues he might face at that school.  PE is a big issue. I get massively twitchy when I think about it. I can’t picture him having to dress-out, in a locker room with a bunch of other, neurotypical 13 and 14 year old boys, can’t picture him participating, or possibly even showing up. I worry about him showing up for any class after the way this Fall has gone.  We won’t even discuss homework, or him staying in class, or him even looking like a typical student.  I just can’t.

I wasn’t entirely impressed with the HS rep. Her responses to some of our requests, and some of his particular issues, almost made it sound like she’d never had to manage or process a kid like mine. Didn’t give me much confidence. I know she won’t be directly involved in his day-to-day if he does go to that school.  We asked about preferential period selection for PE. She’d never heard of that before. We asked about supervision or a different changing location, or only changing his shirt rather than his entire outfit (he wears sweatpants most days anyways), and she responded as if no one had ever presented those options before.

Here’s the deal – he WILL get a full high school diploma. He’s capable. We will not settle for a certificate. That’s going to stand no matter where he goes to high school. Maybe that’s a lofty goal that is going to take a ton of work, a lot of meetings, and a billion emails and phone calls. Whatever it takes, it is going to happen.

So, back to the IEP meeting…..I left kind of numb. There was too much to think about, too much to process. There are many good things he’s done, many great ways he’s improved. There are many things he needs to work on. There are things to be concerned about. My stress over the high school selection, and how he does in high school is straight up through the roof.

One day at a time right? Be where we are, deal with where we are. What’s next will happen when it happens. How do I feel about this IEP meeting? Well, I’m good with the goals we set. I’m not sure how much success he will have achieving those goals within the next seven months, but that’s not really the point, right? The point is that they’re goals for him to work on, for us to help him work on, goals to help make him successful in school, in life. Good did come of it in that it led to good discussion, and Spouse was involved. We have had multiple discussions with Little Man.  He is mostly staying in class. We’re working on the rest. He’s a brilliant boy, with a brilliant mind. Someday, the world will be built for him, he will find his people, his corner of success in his way.

We have things to think about, more meetings down the road, particularly once we decide where he’s going to high school. For now, I’m going to take a deep breath, and be happy I don’t have to think about IEP’s for a little bit.

Almost forgot….How did Little Man do, participating in his own IEP for the first time? He didn’t want to go, and he did push back all the way up to the point of walking into the conference room. He didn’t say much, and we did have to tell him a few times to sit up, get his head off the table, but he was there. He didn’t yell, he didn’t complain, he didn’t growl.  He was there until we started talking with the high school rep and released him to go hang out with his friends at the lunch tables. He did it.

The Meanie

There’s a new look on my kids’ faces lately. Well, I guess I’ve seen it before, but it’s been a really long time. You know that look your toddlers give you when you tell them no candy for breakfast? The same look when you take away their favorite toy because they haven’t been sharing, or tell them they have to take a bath, or that it’s nap time? It’s that look of stunned disappointment,  the look that tells you that in that moment, you are the biggest meanie in the world. That’s happening.

I spend my afternoons and evenings hounding Big Man on all the work he needs to do to dig out of the hole he put himself in. It really isn’t fun. I’ll give him credit – he has hunkered (isn’t hunkered a great word?) down and has spent hours actually doing homework. Trust me when I feel horrible for sending back to the grindstone each time he groundhogs. I’m not an evil taskmaster – he does get breaks, and I try to reward what I know is difficult, sometimes tedious work. I get he’s overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed too. When I look at the mountain of work that needs to be done, I hear myself sighing. But this is a life lesson I’d much rather he learn now, rather than later when I’m not around to keep pushing him to finish.  So I’m the meanie taking his phone away when he gets home from school. I’m the meanie who keeps checking his grades and making lists of all he needs to do. I’m the meanie making him pull his planner out every afternoon and show me he’s written his current homework down, and then that he actually does said homework. Yes, I’m THAT meanie.

It doesn’t end with Big Man. Teenagers will push that fine line, trying to find your boundaries and what will happen when they try to cross those lines. I’m sure they’d prefer I were more a friend than a parent, but that’s not my job. My job is to parent them through to responsible, accountable, decent human-being-type adults. So yes, I’m going to call you out when you’re wearing something I don’t find acceptable. I’m going to take your cell phone at night, and check your texts, Insta, Snapchat, and all the little hidden messages in each of those. I’m going to make you go to bed at a decent hour. I’m going to get ticked off when you roll your eyeballs. I’m going to insist you respect your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, and every other adult in your world. I’m going to remind you that no, you don’t know everything, and yes, I do know quite a lot about how life works. I’m that meanie

I’m going to show you every day how much I love you, and care about who you are as well as who you are becoming by being that meanie. Trust me, I don’t love it. It’s hard, and I don’t love seeing that look on your faces. But this is my job, and darn it, I’m going to be as good at it as I can.

Dug Himself a Hole

The theme of “Parenting Teenagers is REALLY Hard” has been done here at the Herd pretty consistently lately. That’s because parenting teenagers is REALLY hard, and, well, this place here helps me process everything. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

I’ve had this layer of sadness hanging over me today, sadness and anxiety.  We had a meeting at the high school yesterday with Big Man, all his teachers, and his guidance counselor. Yes, it’s reached that point. We want to help him. We need to help him. He needed to hear it from more than his parents. It was an hour of  hearing what a good, well-liked student he is, but a student who doesn’t do homework. He’s an intelligent but dumb teenage  boy. Does that make sense?

We were given stacks of missing assignments in every class but one. Deadlines were extended, concessions made. Every teacher wants to help him reach his potential. But  he has a huge hole to dig himself out of. HUGE! (Did you just hear Trump in your head? I did). I looked at that stack this morning, and was overwhelmed for him. He spent three hours doing homework last night, because goodness knows he has to keep up with his current work, tests, and quizzes, as well as hammer down the long list of missing assignments.

We had to look at everything, all the work needing to be completed, what the deadlines are, when tests are coming up, and develop a plan of attack. This kid will essentially have no life outside of academia for the next couple of months. Do I feel bad for him? Yes, but at the same time, he put himself here.

I think he’s learned a valuable lesson he will carry with him the rest of his life.  The lesson is this: even when you think it isn’t necessary, you still have to do the work. That applies to school, to work, to life in general. Do. The. Work. You can’t slide by on being a good test-taker, the fact you easily retain information you hear in the classroom, nor the fact you’re charming and people like you. Do the work.

He heard a lot of good things yesterday too. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. He knows we and his teachers aren’t out to get him, that we’re all here to support him and help him be successful. It’s been a really rough couple of months, but again, I’m kind of glad we’ve gone through this now, when he’s home under our roof and radar, when we can take action on his behalf, reach out to his teachers and support staff, rather than years from now when he’s in college and we have no hope of knowing until it’s entirely too late he needs help.

That sadness – I think it comes from being overwhelmed, from having to teach your precious sixteen year old a very tough lesson, from knowing he’s capable of entirely more than he’s been showing. Add to that, he has an appointment with a specialist this afternoon for yet another medical issue, and me just being tired, makes for an emotional momma. We’ll get there. We’ll get through. Life lessons are tough on everyone.

So that’s why

I had a thought last night as Spouse and I had yet another conversation about and with Big Man on homework, grades, accountability, and attitude…..I now get why people who’ve been married, and happily so, for a very long time, can completely derail when their kids are teenagers. This. Is. Really. Hard.

I realize I sound like I’m on replay right now, but I’m still shocked, almost daily, how difficult this parenting of teens is. I know Spouse and I keep looking at each other with kind of the same look we had when we brought our precious oldest child home from the hospital – the look of, “well, now what do we do?” I am shaking my head and gritting my teeth quite a bit. I thought I’d outgrown the yelling mom I used to be. Yeah, she’s back. I’m at an utter loss much of the time, and those  frantic “When are you going to be home?” texts to Spouse have resurfaced.

We know we’re supposed to be on the same page. We’ve had a lot of conversations lately talking about what page that is, what our plan is. But then I’ll reach the end of my rope, and hand it off to him, but then I think what he does isn’t what I would have done, and we’re back to not being on the same page. Or he will get frustrated and hand it off to me, but then he won’t like how I handle it. I get where marriages can suffer stress. I think we’ve talked more in the past three months about BIG STUFF than we have in the last three years.

I’m pretty sure I wear that dazed new parent look a lot these days, and my kids are sixteen, fifteen, and twelve. Who are the aliens who’ve taken over my children? What in the heck am I doing?  What in the heck are they thinking? Are we all going to survive?

We keep talking. I suppose that’s the key. We still try to make us a priority, even if it’s just in twenty-minute, sit-on-the-couch-after-they’ve-gone-to-bed increments. We talk to friends who have survived this season and come safely out the other side, with kids who have become really decent adults. We drink wine. We laugh at ourselves. We lay down expectations, and draw solid boundaries. We shake our heads, a lot. We yell some. There’s probably a lot of deep sighing. And we just hope we all emerge from this season, once again exiting a parenting fog.

Why we need to hold our kids accountable

I have two words for you…Johnny Manziel. Yeah, he might technically be an adult, but he’s a kid. Worse, he’s a kid who doesn’t seem to have been held accountable a single day of his life, until now. I applaud the Cleveland Browns for trying to  help him. I applaud them even more for recognizing a lost cause and letting him go. Kudos to his agent as well who will reportedly be dropping him. He shouldn’t continue to be rewarded for being a selfish ass.

I’m thankful my kids aren’t super stars at anything to have this really tested, but even so, they need to be told no. No, you don’t always get what you want. No, you don’t always win. No, even when you do win, you don’t get things handed to you on a silver platter. Yes, you will work hard. Yes, you will still have to go to class and do the work. No, no one is going to let you sit on your laurels while someone else does the work for you. No, you can’t party, break the rules, let your temper flare whenever you want and still get away with it because you’re good at something. TELL YOUR KIDS NO!

I’m not a perfect mom by any means. I don’t know how I would react if my kids were rock stars and people wanted to elevate them, give them things, do things for them. I’d love to think I’d say no thanks. Kids need to be grounded, centered, made responsible. My kids are held accountable. Oh, you forgot your homework at home for the third time this year, and the teacher won’t let you hand it in late? Sorry….you need to suffer the natural consequences of your forgetfulness. I’m not going to rescue you. You broke something that belonged to someone else? Guess what, you get to apologize, and work to earn the money to buy them a new one. There’s a video game coming out you really want? You’d better be doing your chores and then some to earn it, or use the birthday money you still have stashed away to get it. You don’t know where your PE clothes are? Guess  you’d better find them before you leave for school, and no, I’m not responsible for knowing where all your stuff is. Clean your room – it works wonders as far as helping you track things down, go figure.

I hope Manziel learns a lesson, but he’s been given plenty of opportunities to learn the past few years, and nothing seems to have really brought the point home to him. Yes sir, the rules still apply to you. This is real life, buddy. You don’t keep getting free passes, no matter how much money or fame, no matter how many trophies or wins. Truthfully, his parents, and all the people in his life who never held him accountable led him to where he is today. It’s on them, but now it’s on him to check himself.

Tell your kids no. Hold them accountable. Don’t let them become that jerk who busts in at the head of the line because he thinks he is entitled for some reason and that rules don’t apply to him.

And now I apologize and get off my soap box. This is one particular subject for which I get a bit feisty. It’s a personal pet peeve. We do our kids a huge disservice in this country when they happen to excel at a sport. Not all parents let this Manziel thing happen to their kids, but there have been more and more stories in recent years of bad behavior, law-breaking, and entitlement behavior,  and yet those kids go on big contracts and more fortune and fame, rather than being held accountable for their actions.

Heels, friends, and oh-my-god-really?

It’s rare you get a three-in-one post from me. I can’t remember the last time I had something to say about all three at the same time. They’re usually good about taking turns at being fodder.  Not so this week.

I took the Princess to the mall yesterday afternoon. This is the second year she’s gone shopping with her own money to buy gifts for her siblings, and me and Spouse too. She’s learned just how fun it is to watch someone open a gift you’ve chosen just for them.  She’s creating her own Christmas magic.  I had also promised her a few weeks back I would get her a certain pair of boots she’d been wanting. That was part of our excursion yesterday. I’d put it off as long as I could.  Wanna know why? The boots are wedges with a 2.5 inch heel. She’s already a smidge taller than I. With these boots on, she seriously looks down on me.  She put the boots on, and  looked instantly three years older. I’m so not ready for this.  She has these long legs, long arms, dancer’s body.  In short, it’s freaking me out. I’m not ready for her to be all grown up. But grow up she will.  She lit up when I told her we were buying them, and she wore them not only out of the store, but out to dinner.  I had to put my 3-inch heels on just to keep up, and be able to look her in the eye.  She has her first heels. Yikes.

Yesterday morning, Little Man asked to go to school early. This is new. Seriously. Usually he doesn’t want to be there any earlier than necessary. I’m pushing it getting him there fifteen minutes before class starts. So I was surprised when he asked to leave early. “Why?” I asked him, an obvious question.  “Because I want more time to play with my friends.” Hear that? Throughout most of elementary school, he had few friends, max of maybe three any given year.  That started to change last year.  Everyone was pleasantly surprised. Along with everything else he regressed on the beginning of this year, he started out with just a couple of kids he was comfortable with, would hang out with.  This seems to be changing. So, when he asked yesterday, I grabbed my keys, and took him to school twenty minutes early. I didn’t think the process would be repeated, but again this morning, he grabbed his stuff twenty minutes early and said, “Let’s go mom!” Away we went. He hopped out of the car with a smile on his face, walked up to his friends, and into the building, grinning all the way. My momma heart was so light.

As for the Oh-my-God-really thing…….Big Man is driving me insane.  I checked his grades day before yesterday. They have 6 school days left in the semester.  Finals are next week.  He’s so not even close to where we expect him to be. It’s so frustrating because we know what he’s capable of.  He blames it on daily cross country practice the first 2.5 months of school.  It wasn’t like he was getting home at midnight every night. He was done at 5pm, four  hours before his bedtime…..plenty of time to get homework done effectively and efficiently (they block classes so he only has all six classes one day, then three each day the rest of the week).  And we had that medication argument until just a couple of weeks ago too. He takes two ADHD meds…..the typical daily med, and then a non-narcotic at night to balance out mornings, evenings, anxiety, and sleep.  He has been fighting the non-narcotic for six months. Wait, have I said all this before? Suffice it to say, his focus was seriously lacking during the morning rush, and his daily med had worn off by the time he got to homework.  Hot. Mess. I’m feeling like this semester is just a loss.  So frustrating. He’s so capable. And forget trying to get through to him that it really matters now. He has to take school seriously if he expects to go to any kind of four-year university.

So there. That’s been my week so far. I’m going insane with them, and with trying to recover from Nutcracker as well as prepare for Christmas. There’s going to be lots of online shopping and wine between now and the end of the year.

I’ve lost hold

I used to feel like I kinda knew what I was doing with my kids, like I had a small grasp of this mom thing. Lately, you could apply every cliche to having no clue what I’m going…up a creek without a paddle, swimming upstream, few bricks shy of a load, and on and on. I have no navigational beacon.

Little Man has me completely lost, frustrated, worn out. Big Man isn’t helping the situation. He seems to have forgotten he has to put in the work, and then actually hand assignments in. He’s trying to coast, and it isn’t working. That just makes me mad. Then there’s the Princess….dealing with teenage girls may be the end of me. She’s great with the whole school and homework thing. We’re just at the studio late a couple nights a week which has us both tired, and goodness knows the hormones of a teenage daughter will push even the saintliest mother over the edge.

You know those dreams you have about arriving at a class you haven’t been to all semester only to find you have a test? Or the one where you’re trying to find a certain place, but can’t seem to get there no matter what you do? Every day feels like that lately. I pulled into the gas station this morning and, even though I’ve had the same type of car for the last four years, had to stop and think about which side the fuel tank was on. I forget things at the grocery store, even if they’re on my list. I’m clumsier than normal. Routine is not routine.

I told the Princess the other day I don’t know what  I’m doing here, flying by the seat of my pants.  She said, ever so calmly, “No one knows what they’re doing.” Oh, the wisdom of that girl.   Thankfully, she’s pretty forgiving most of the time. They’re just reaching a stage that’s so unfamiliar. Half the time, I sit there looking at them, wondering, “What now?” I don’t know how to do this on a daily basis, anymore than I knew how to do it when they were brand new babies. I’m terrified of messing this up.

Everything just feels new and different, but we’re six weeks into this school year. I shouldn’t feel this lost and scattered. Please, parents of children who have come through the other side of middle and high school, tell me we’re all going to make it. I’m floundering over here.