Parenting is hard…

I hate starting off the day by crying in front of people I don’t really know.

But that was the beginning of my Wednesday. I had a meeting with Ethan’s home room and reading teachers this morning. It’s been a rocky start to the second grade for E.

I’m blessed to know that Ethan goes to school at a place with very understanding teachers. Teachers who want to help him (and us). Teachers who “get” what he’s going through. (E’s second grade teacher was widowed herself 10 years ago.) Teachers who want to find a solution and help him grow in a positive direction.

I love hearing that he’s a smart kid. A funny kid. A kid who tells great stories. A kid who loves and respects his mom so much. Those were the highlights of the morning conference.

But…

Ethan is being extremely disruptive in class. He’s talking out of turn, humming and singing, chewing on whatever he can find (fingers, pencils, paper, shirt sleeves), getting out of his seat, arguing with the teachers… He’s being difficult.

He’s also starting to struggle with reading.

I’ve noticed within the last few weeks that he’s stumbling quite a bit when we do our reading homework. He’s tripping over words that were part of the previous sentence. He struggles with words that were part of his spelling test the previous week. His reading is really jerky, not fluid. It’s also negatively impacting his ability to write sentences (he can’t “sound out” the words in the same way as other kids).

The teachers think he may need some speech therapy. (He was in speech from 3 years old through kindergarten, then tested out of help in first grade, but they assessed he may need help in grade two and beyond. Apparently some sounds – like r – aren’t “helped” until certain grade levels.)

I’m on board for speech. But it still doesn’t answer why… Why is he now struggling so much, having trouble in class, being so disruptive?

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with Ethan, but there’s obviously something troubling him. (Like the kid hasn’t had major life-changing things happening for the last few years… pick any number of things that could be causing the trouble. Seriously.)

I’m trying a few new things:

  • I enrolled Ethan in tae kwon do. I think the discipline and structure will be good for him. I know similar programs have helped other kids focus and gain self-confidence. I hope it works for Ethan. And E is SUPER stoked about it. (Plus, the physical activity won’t hurt a kid with a lot of energy.)
  • I found a local peer-focused program that helps kids deal with their grief. I’m meeting with the director tomorrow to discuss our situation and see if the program may be right for Ethan. I know he feels like he’s the “only kid without a dad,” so I hope seeing and interacting with other kids his age will help him sort through his anger and confusion and other emotions.
  • I’ll increase his visits to his therapist. We meet with him on Monday. I think E needs to see him more often. While I’m a little concerned that the therapist isn’t addressing the core issue (grief), he is providing the tools E needs to deal with anger issues. And Ethan really likes the guy. I’m also going to sign permission for the therapist to talk directly to Ethan’s teachers – since E’s behavior is different at home. (We still have some issues at home, but overall, he’s a super loving, attentive kid.)
  • We’ve stepped back on reading a bit. He still has his mandated 15 minutes during homework time, but I’ve also added another 10-15 minutes each night. Ethan is responsible for selecting a couple of books and reading them to Lauren each night. This helps him practice a bit more – and it gives him a reason to read “baby” books for now to practice the basics of reading (as opposed to reading the chapter books that he so desperately wants to read.)

This parenting-thing is hard sometimes…

Burial

There’s a cemetery on the grounds of Ethan’s school. It’s right next to the playground, just off the school’s parking lot. It’s creeped him out since he started there earlier this year (just weeks before his dad died).

Late last week, Ethan got in trouble during gym class and had to miss recess as a punishment. It was halfway through recess when a school aide came into Ethan’s class to let his teacher know that the kids would be coming in early. “There’s a burial going on and we want to respect the family,” said the aide in explanation.

Ethan’s eyes grew wide, tears filled them, and he freaked out. He got up from his desk and ran to the other side of the room. He started sobbing, wailing. He was uncontrollable.

His teacher, who was widowed about five years ago, hugged him close. She ended up sending him to the principal to calm down before his classmates saw him all red-faced and blotchy from crying.

This caused chaos to the rest of his week. He couldn’t get over the burial that had taken place days before (even though he didn’t see it). He was acting out in class, being disruptive and argumentative.

When his teacher told me about this, Ethan and I were on our way out-of-town. Ethan and I had a deal that if he was good all week, he could spend the night with me (without Lauren or my mom) and help me get set up for homecoming the next day – which I would be working as part of my obligation to my alma mater. Obviously, he had a tough week, and usually I’m a hard ass about this kind of thing, but I couldn’t punish him for being sad. When there was a funeral right there.

We left the school and walked to the car on Friday afternoon. Ethan was crying – probably because he thought he wouldn’t be allowed to go with me. He climbed into his seat and I sat on the floor of the backseat, just below his feet. We talked about how sad we were about the deaths of my dad and Mike. We hugged. I told him how much he meant to me. Then we went to homecoming. Ethan, too.

Since then, he’s mentioned the cemetery every time we pulled up to the school.Things like this are hard. It sucks that there’s a cemetery right next to the school. But there’s nothing we can do about that – the grave yard existed YEARS before the church or the school. There aren’t many burials, and I don’t remember there being any since Ethan started school there.

I doubt any of his classmates were fazed by the burial last week, but Ethan was. Most kids probably don’t give the cemetery a second thought. It’s just part of the school grounds. But it’s a constant reminder to a little boy who lost his dad and grandpa within years of each other.

It’s tough.