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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Biggest Parenting Challenge

I was always the shy, quiet girl who went out of my way to avoid drawing attention to myself in school.  I was bewildered by the class clown type, even when I secretly found their antics hysterical,  because that personality was so very different from my own. I just could not fathom possessing that kind of carefree gumption.   

And really, I am still that way.  I go out of my way to avoid uncomfortable situations and confrontations.  I recently read an article in which someone referred to herself as "conversationally challenged" and the words leapt off the page at me. Because that?  Is so me.  

Conversationally challenged is exactly what I am.  I stumble over my words, if I can find them at all, and end up walking away or hanging up the phone shaking my head and feeling completely frustrated because I know I did not say what I felt, thought and intended to say.  

And I had one of those moments this afternoon when I got a call from a teacher (the third time I have heard from this teacher this year) informing me, yet again, that my son is still being unruly and  disruptive in her class. That she finds it disrespectful. And that she wants it to stop.

It felt like an attack on me and my parenting skills and I wanted to shout, "You and me both, girlfriend!  You and me, both!"  But of course I didn't.  Instead I asked her what exactly he was doing to which she replied "just constantly giggling, cutting up and talking amongst his friends." I apologized three times and told her we had talked and talked to him about this and thought we had the problem solved and that we will deal with it.  

Then I hung up the phone, threw a few four letter words around and sent Charlie a message pretty much stating that I was at my wit's end and did not know what else to do aside from going to the darn (only this wasn't the exact adjective I used) school and sitting right beside him in that class every day. And we agreed to crack down harder.   Take away ALL the privileges this time!  

I have to say that above all the challenges parenting has brought me thus far (even the constant bickering between them and the endless lobbying to wear shorts in the dead of winter) THIS is the hardest.  

The direct reflection I feel that my children are of myself.

Although they are each their own persons with their own wills and personalities, I feel personally responsible for each and every move they make and action they take even when I am not with them.  Especially when I am not with them.

And although I am a little ashamed to admit this, the bottom line is that when they act bad...I look bad.  Or at least it feels that way. And who likes to look bad?  Not me! 

I did not expect to feel this way before I became a parent.  Nobody wrote that down as advice at my baby shower, not a one of those "what to expect" parenting books devoted a chapter to it and my mother didn't warn me about it.  

I expected the sleepless nights, the messes, the occasional defiance, and even the worry. But the one challenge I never saw coming was this one...The unsuspecting way I could be right in the middle of an otherwise perfectly fine day and have someone jerk a knot in my tail, pee in my corn flakes, or eat my bowl of sunshine all up with one little phone call, note or email informing me that my kid...mine...was being anything less than perfect.   

And the fact that the quietest of quiet girls in the class grew up to be the mother of the class clown is just further proof that God?  Has a wicked sense of humor!  

**This post inspired by Mama Kat's writing prompt, "Your biggest parenting challenge and/or joy" and Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday's Letter C.

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  1. I'm the same way. My kids aren't in school yet, but I dread the day I get the call. I hope I'll remember this post and make myself say, "You and me both, lady!" That does seem like the perfect response!

  2. Before I had kids I saw other parents and watched their kids misbehave and saw what they were doing wrong.

    Sooooo, I had a plan.

    I would be firm and strong and tell teach them that I was going to warn them once and after that I would rain the wrath down so they would not do it again. I am not sure when that got thrown out the window but it wernt too far into the experience.

    They survived and so did I. You will too but we all get our egos bruised a bit in the mix.

  3. All of us who are parents have gotten a phone call like that. It isn't fun, but you will get through it...

    one day at a time!



  4. I recognize the feeling you have when you get these phone calls. It hurts to be told our kids are not as perfect as we would like them to be. I wonder why your son acts that way in class. Has she asked him...or have YOU asked him? There may be a reason. I think you need to let him tell his side of the story before you punish him. I'm not saying NOT to punish him...just to listen first then decide.

  5. When my youngest son was in the first grade, one day I got a call from his teacher. She was new to teaching, and didn't have much patience that all teachers must have with first graders. She demanded that I come to the school immediately, because my son was roller skating in the classroom. She managed to finish out the year, as did my son, but the following year she took a job in a bank.

    I haven't even begun to write my "C" post, so I had better get started!

  6. I am the same as you. I'm conversationally challenged and would rather avoid confrontations and being stuck in uncomfortable positions too.

    My daughter is still pretty young and hasn't started school yet so I don't know if she will be a class clown or not. However, she loves to draw attention to herself when we go out and half the battle is trying to discipline her outside the comfort of home while at the same time have the appearance that we have everything under control.

  7. Before you have kids, you have a set way of thinking. What you will do and what you will NEVER do. Then the kids come and the motto becomes "Whatever works".

    All I can tell you is that when I had issues last year in Youngest's class, I voulenteered in his classrrom. It was the easiest way for me to see what was really going on in the classroom. Turned out, it was more a deficiency in the class rather than his misbehavior.

  8. When people pick at our kids, it's like they're picking at our souls, and it's awful! I sure hope you get this one figured out. I'm so sorry!

    And when you talked about stumbling over your words in person, I knew you were my soul sister.

  9. I totally wrote a comment but it disappeared, so if my response ends up on here twice later bear with me! I could not have said it better myself. Your words are SO me! You know I have been struggling with T since he started Kindergarten. Even had him in counseling for K and 1st. Not sure if it helped but it certainly didn't hurt. I don't have the answers but we keep trying. Some years are better than others but we have struggles every year so can't blame it on the classroom, school or teacher. Anyway, I have said many times I don't know how to relate because I wasn't anything like him. I was so quiet and well behaved, wouldn't dream of acting up. So I am at a loss myself. This year has been better, I credit his teacher. While we struggle she has been fantastic through it all so far. But I have gotten the phone calls that make me sick to my stomach and send me to the car crying. I'm right there with ya...

  10. Oh this post takes me back to our son's early school years...and I am much like you - not wanting to create a scene or draw attention too much.

    If it helps at all (and I totally understand the feeling of how this reflects on you) that same son of ours grew up to be very social, easily makes friends and communicates very well!

    Hang in there - sounds like your little guy is a typical fun loving young man.

  11. hmmm...I don't know you, your child or the teacher, but maybe his being a cut-up in class has more to do with his desire to fit in or to overcome boredom in the class or something else. Maybe you can talk to him about WHY he's cutting up in class instead of punishing him...just saying. Anyway, I hope you work it out. hang in there.

  12. You are so right about school! When they act out you look back at every parenting moment and question yourself. Should I not have let him watch Spider-Man? Take karate? Play Leapster Explorer? Have I been a bad parent? I am so with you, girlfriend!

  13. Beautifully written. And know that you're not alone. I've had a few notes home this year on my 5 year old, and it hurts and disappoints. Furthermore, you can talk to them and you can take away privileges, but bottom line is that you're not there in the classroom with them, so it's hard to really be effective, you know?

  14. I am exactly like that also. I have always been shy. I hate drawing attention to myself. My husband on the other hand has no trouble of saying exactly how he feels. I am so jealous of that. Sorry you are having trouble.

  15. I hate those emails/phone calls. And I hate that it upsets me when I think about how I look like a loser of a parent when my child decides to misbehave. Unfortunately, that stems from our society be WAY too quick to judge the parent when the kid is just being an ahole. Sometimes you can be the best parent and your kid will just have a wild hair up their bum to pull that girls hair today.

  16. Isn't it ironic?

    My sister, who has always been one who likes to stay out of the limelight, married a man who is pretty out there personality-wise (in a good way, but very different from her...opposites attract, right?). Anyway, they have three kids, and every one of them is a pistol. Colorful as can be!

    When they were young, they were constantly embarrassing her. Over time, I think she has learned to just chalk it all up to them being who they are, and I don't think she takes it on herself like she used to. In fact, I think she rather enjoys their style!

    Of course, that's easier to do once they're adults, right?


  17. I never know what my 2 girls are going to do and say. One is totally respectful and quiet but she is stubborn and speaks her mind:) I got a call from her first year at overnight camp. I was like..."um, what do you expect me to do about it?"

    My youngest is a free spirit. She does and says what she pleases. Thankfully she is super sweet and sensitive. But, she keeps me on my toes!

    I'll probably be getting calls about them, both! I found a company called "chicklingo" on line. I'm going to buy one of their signs that says, "it is what it is".

    Just know that God gave him his personality. Your job is to try to teach him how to manage it. And, if that fails...pull the "sympathy card".

  18. Sigh...
    School is tough on some kids. I hear your frustration and it would be so nice to be able to find a solution that doesn't try to change your son's personality. Control without stifling. By the way I'm conversation challenged a lot. I do better expressing myself when I write my thoughts down. You are very articulate in communicating through the written word...
    Hang in there!

  19. I dread what JDaniel might do behaviorwise with relatives during Thanksgiving. He can throw a mighty tantrum if he feels so moved. I have already be praying that he will make good choices.

  20. I dread what JDaniel might do behaviorwise with relatives during Thanksgiving. He can throw a mighty tantrum if he feels so moved. I have already be praying that he will make good choices.

  21. I am so like you. I am the quietest person I even know. I'm not very good at stricking up a conversation but get me behind a keyboard and I'll have at it.
    My son is the total opposite. He's not in school yet, but everyone keeps joking that he's going to be a handful.
    I'm not sure what to say to you about dealing with it but I do think that taking away privledges is a good step.

  22. Everyday it's like one day at a time, and what will tomorrow bring...and all these years later my kids and I laugh about some of these things way back all works out in such a glorious and mysterious way!

  23. Everyday it's like one day at a time, and what will tomorrow bring...and all these years later my kids and I laugh about some of these things way back all works out in such a glorious and mysterious way!

  24. How true is that?! My son isn't school age yet, but (as he grows), I become more and more aware that he has a peculiar spunk that I never had. He will not be a wallflower like I was and I love it! It's tough to balance our own perceptions of the way things should be with the way they really are sometimes. The fact he's a clown really means he's a leader that knows how to get people's attention and keep it (if only that power could be used for good rather than evil, hahaha...).

  25. The shy girl, conversationally challenged....yes, that is so me too! I completely understand. My son, on the other hand, is growing up to be the complete opposite of me. He's only 5, but he is so outgoing, always wants to make people laugh, loves to dance, sing and just be the center of attention. I'm happy he's this way, but I'm really hoping I never get those emails or phone calls.

  26. I too was the mother of the class clown (he graduated last june thankfully) so I know where you are coming from. I also have a almost 2 year old and my husband constantly makes me feel like a failure everytime little man has a fit Hope your son's behavior improves

  27. I'm so with you (the quiet type). You are so eloquent on the page, it's hard to imagine that you have difficulty communicating. I guess the difficulty for me is whenever my emotions are involved, and when it comes to the boys, my emotions are always involved. My lionness protecting her cub is stirred as well as my sense of identity as connected to the way they behave. I really regret the latter and want to be more of a mother who doesn't take it personally and can objectively take on the teachable and redemptive moments. Another great post.

  28. Anitamombanita left some great advice in her comment too.

  29. As the mother of 3 boys, I have been getting these kind of phone calls for 12 years. I'm to the point now where I giggle when the teacher calls, because really, I have no idea what to do! My deepest sympathies. Do not take it personally. I suspect boys were put on this earth to make mommies feel inadequate. The payback is that one day that boy will get married, and his wife will make him feel the same way he's made you feel. See, it's giggle-worthy.

  30. Yes, yes He does. I'm dealing with something sort of similar. I have a boy in my class who is testing the waters and getting in trouble when he never has before and his parents are MORTIFIED, taking it personally and getting irritated with me. It's hard to convey that I'm letting them know because I know it DOES matter to them and the WILL take care of it and that I still think their child is a great kid, I just can't have him behaving the way he his and we (they AND I) need to make sure we teach him to make GOOD choices!

  31. Oh, girl. I feel ya. My son is in the 1st grade, and we get calls from his teacher regularly. My son has complete meltdowns when things don't go his way. Disruptive meltdowns. And I, too, feel so guilty and embarrassed each time as though I am an inadequate parent.

    On the other hand, I am a teacher and can tell you firsthand that school is really no place for little boys. I know it sounds awful, but it's true. If I were to give you a list of my "disruptive" students, you will not find a single girl among them. Boys are just more active with shorter attention spans! In general, of course.

    Yes, he should have consequences for his actions. Being supportive of his teacher is extremely important. However, I wouldn't go apeshit Commando on him. You don't want him to change who he is. You just want him to learn a little self-control. That, my friend, is very hard to teach and comes with time.

  32. Oh Diane. I remember these days from when my kids were small.

    It was almost always my son...the teachers called him 'strong-willed' and told me to get him under control.

    Oh, I tried. I cried. I tried some more, but he was intent to continue to march, jump, stomp and shout to his own drummer.

    I found I really had to pick my battles with him and get as much of his energy out before and after school as possible.

    We survived.

    But it wasn't always easy.

    Thanks for this thoughtful and thought provoking post! I wish I had a magic answer for you.

    All I can offer though is...

    A giant hug...

    and an A+