“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.” ~Author Unknown
And then the homework drama started. But not with who you would expect.
Monkey came home one day with a blank assignment pad. I asked her if she had any homework, and she said, “Yes. But I forgot to write it down.” Its happened to all of us, so I let it slide. But the next night she forgot to bring home the list of her new spelling words. The night after we had a bout of tears before we would even attempt to do our spelling homework, and the math homework induced a temper tantrum.
I was thinking it was just her being tired. We tried to keep the kids close to their normal schedule over the summer, but seriously, it was still daylight out at 8pm. There was no way those kids were going to lay down and go to sleep with sunshine coming through the window. And the first two weeks back to school are always a harsh adjustment. But the problems persisted. Every night was a different issue. She left the paper in her desk, forgot her assignment pad, didn’t hear her teacher say they had any homework. The excuses were piling up as fast as the laundry, and I was getting annoyed. Plus, she got her first note sent home from the teacher stapled to a stack of assignments. “Homework incomplete. Please have her finish and hand in.” So we sat down to try and have a chat, and that didn’t end well either. It turned into Monkey yelling and crying and fleeing to her room to calm down. (And ultimately, escape into a book.)
But what startled me was a couple days later. I was (as usual) trying to supervise her doing her homework while I was starting dinner when she just laid her head down on the table and started to cry. And when I asked her what was wrong she told me “I’m just too stupid to do math.”
That floored me.
My kids are not stupid. We don’t call them that, we never have, and no one I have ever met has ever used that adjective to describe my children. My first reaction was my gender-equality-feminist-temper bristling at the thought of someone telling my daughter that she was the “s-word.” So when I immediately asked her who told her that, I felt sick when she told me, “No one. I just know I’m too dumb.”
I don’t think there are words for the feeling you get as a parent when your kids stop believing in themselves. Its a special kind of frustration and pain that splits you apart because they don’t see themselves as the beautiful, well-rounded, human being that they are. But furthermore, this was not my child. This sullen, bad tempered, obstinate little girl who was so shrunk into herself, was not the same laughing, imaginative, Monkey I sent to school on the bus four weeks ago. And after spending the entire summer getting Scootch evaluated, reading literature for Attention Deficit Disorder, and answering the same questionnaires and Vanderbuilt assessments in triplicate, of course my first thought was, “Does she need to be evaluated for ADHD, too? Maybe we’ve missed something.”
And I don’t know what to do. My instinct, which was so absolutely right with Scootch, is telling me this is not just growing pains, or the need to give her more time to adjust to third grade. Its telling me something is wrong. But at the same time, I don’t know if maybe this is just backlash from giving her brother so much special attention over the summer. Or stemming from the fact that she was in an inclusion class last year, and this year is her first experience with changing classes for subjects. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions with her needing to go through an evaluation because it is literally just fresh on my brain and I am seeing it everywhere. And at this point, since her grades aren’t slipping yet, I don’t know if she would even qualify for one. We’ve written to her teachers to ask if there is anything else they are noticing that we are missing, and have somewhat agreed to just let it ride as a ‘wait and see’ period. Meanwhile, we had a temper tantrum, missing homework assignments AND Monkey staying up past 9pm to finish her homework last night. So what is the tipping point? Where is the line in the sand that tells us we have spent enough time waiting? As I stand here watching my brightest flower wither and languish while her self esteem drains away, I don’t know how much longer I can endure seeing her suffer. Not when I know how much change you can create by simply standing up and saying “enough.” Scootch is evidence of that. I just need to know whether its the right direction to go with Monkey as well.