Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where are the Well-Behaved Children?

This past week, I received an e-mail from the mom of one of Tgirl's classmates asking me for some advice regarding one of her children - a middle-schooler. I don't have a middle-schooler. And I don't have well-behaved children. But she thought I would have some advice or insight into her situation

I did give her some things that we do, what we try to have work for us, books we read, etc. But I also let her know one key fact - that every family has issues. I have been learning that myself lately. Because most of the time I imagine other siblings embracing their special brother or sister (or their typical sibling for that matter) and life is just rosy all the time. It is easy to sit inside your family bubble (and if you have a special needs child, that bubble can be very small and confining at times) and think that everyone else has it so together, isn't struggling, has perfect children while you struggle to make it through the day, get your kids to school without them killing each other or whatever. Guess what - *everyone* has something going on in their family - it's just that nobody talks about it. Even if things are fine this week, there was a time last week when chaos ruled. I've learned that talking to 'typical' families, and I've learned that talking to Holland families. Although in the latter case, the issues do seem more acute. What drives the issues with the other sibling in a family like mine? I believe it is a mix of personality inherent to the child and the stress-filled dynamic that the special one brings. There is no getting around that second point. That dynamic makes it mark on every single member of the family every single day. The baseline level of life stress is just higher. The joy is much sweeter, though, which is evidence of God's grace for us because otherwise we might never make it.

The day I wrote back to the mom, it was generally going well in our bubble. Tgirl hadn't been sleeping well, but she was holding it together. Tboy's attitude had taken a couple of days off and the prior afternoon he had slowly, but confidently, worked his way through his math homework, which is a constant struggle for him. No sooner had I written back to the mom then I had to go pick Tgirl up from school *2.5 hours early* because her behavior was so bad and disruptive her teacher thought it would be better if she left for the day. And what was going on at our house at 5:30pm that same day? Tboy, who had started on his homework at 3:30, was *still* in his room crying and having a tantrum over it. Then he had a tantrum because he didn't get the toy he wanted, which I had been holding back until he did his homework without crying.

I was never going to admit that this type of stuff goes on in our house, but it does and it is a fact of life, and this is supposed to be about the good and the bad of our lives with Tgirl. But I will add this post-script. Tboy had his meltdown on a Thursday, which means the next day was Friday - a day with no homework if you are a second-grader. He came home from school and asked to do extra homework so that he could prove he could do it without crying and earn his toy. I gave him a small writing assignment. Which he did, beautifully, carefully, and coherently. Turtwig - meet Tboy.

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