One morning a few days ago , like most mornings, my husband got up and made my coffee a few minutes before I decided to roll out of bed. He started getting breakfast ready so I got up and I woke up my youngest, Taylor, who was on the floor in front of the couch. I put him to bed in his bed the night before, but he always winds up out in the living room with his older brother who hates sleeping in his bed. He seemed way more cranky than his usual, but I brushed it aside.
During breakfast I realize that Taylor was sadly staring into oblivion over his cereal with his head in his hands. I asked him what was wrong, expecting a generic “I don’t want to go to school.”. Instead, he explained how tiring it is to be in school all day. How he doesn’t feel like the other kids, he feels different. He says , “I don’t want to go to school ALLL DAY. It’s so exhausting.”
I had attention and anxiety issues back then too, only it was considered a detriment to your kids to admit they weren’t just “being a kid”. I didn’t find out until I was drinking age that I legitimately had an attention issue. My son was fortunate enough to come through me in a more accepting time so I got him tested and diagnosed at the earliest of signs this past year.
About a week prior to this breakfast, I picked him up from school and asked him if he wanted to go get ice cream. He replied ” I just want to go home, Mom. I’m exhausted.”
When I look back on it, those school days seemed ridiculously long to me too.
I wasn’t able to pay attention, and because of that, I would day dream. I would spend hours in my own world, lost somewhere beyond the fence in the back of the school property that I could see from the classroom window.
I would see how long I could go without looking at the clock, which moved so unbelievably slow and it always seemed to be as big as the wall so you couldn’t miss it.
I didn’t learn early how to properly manage my issues with the anxiety that came with my attention problems, so school was hell for me most of the time. I faked sick constantly in attempt to stay home.
I hear and see everything that’s going on around me, which makes is super difficult to concentrate in a classroom setting or anywhere that’s full of other people. Taylor is the same way.
He gets nothing but praise from his teachers for being a good student and for being a great helper. No one can see just how much he struggles to keep it all up every day because he hides it so well. Until he has to do a task that seems daunting to him, then he struggles to finish work in class and needs time out in the hallway away from the distractions to finish.
Taylor is also on the Autism spectrum so he hand flaps or stiffens up when he’s excited about things when he’s home or out with us. At school, he hides it, and all that energy that is not redirected aids in that drained feeling he has at the end of the day. I’ve often wondered if I’m on the spectrum too since I did and still do similar things to hand flapping. It’s all so exhausting when you are made to suppress yourself all day, because once again, I felt I had to in school as well and I know how it feels.
He can’t deal with major changes in routine either, and he go into full blown melt down mode sometimes, even at school.
So when I see him with his head in his hands at the table staring down at his cereal saying he doesn’t want to go to school, I believe him. I know it’s not because he dislikes school, he loves his friends and his teacher, and he genuinely loves learning. It’s not that at all. People who have not been in our shoes have a hard time understanding what it’s like to function like we do in a typical day and generally just label us as lazy, which is not even remotely the case. Taylor is used to being a big brother figure to his older brother who is non-verbal, so I think it’s hard for him to admit that he struggles too.
For me, it’s hard to watch my kid struggle through the same issues that I did. I can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt about it.
I tell him it’ll be OK, and that he can ask for a break if he needs it. I made a note to myself in my phone to call the school and ask for a meeting to discuss further accommodations for him. In the beginning of the school year the teacher and I had discussed waiting to see how he did with being in school all day in first grade before we went ahead with a 504. It was now time to discuss moving ahead. (A 504 is a formal plan made for accommodating a special need or needs.)
His Dad took him to school that day and my heart was left hopeful but sinking for him, all at the same time. He’s got me, his biggest advocate, and I will make sure the changes are made that he needs in order to be successful in school, but he still has to go do it all over again until I can get the changes that will help to take place in few weeks. It sucks ass that as a parent I can’t wave a magic wand and make everything better right this second for him.
All of the energy was sucked out of the room when they left that morning. I sat staring at my coffee, at it’s stillness, and realize that I’m thankful that I’m not a kid in elementary school anymore. That I’m an adult now who understands and can help Taylor through this.
A few quiet moments passed, I made the phone call to the school, scheduling one more appointment for the books, and I ate a little more breakfast. I had things to do but I knew I’d have a hard time focusing on any of it, knowing that Taylor is struggling.
My thoughts went like this;
I wonder what my son is doing in school right this minute? I wonder if he remembers what I told him before he left for school this morning? I hope so. That he can ask for a break out in the hallway if he feels overwhelmed, and not to be afraid to ask. I told him not to suffer in silence, like I did. I hope he’s learned the clock game, because I remember seeing a clock in his classroom. I also hope he remembers that he’s got an ally on the other side of that fence, the one way out in the back of the school property.