If you know me, you know that I consider myself somewhat of a Guilt Expert. Look, not to brag, but I pride myself on my ability to feel guilt on most any aspect of my life. I’m a Guilt Connoisseur. (I currently have French Major’s guilt because I had to double-check the spelling of Connoisseur). I am a Specialist, Master, Guru, Virtuoso, Diva and general Professional on all things Guilt. (Do you need a list? Runner’s Guilt, Recycler’s Guilt, Vegan-ish Guilt, Catholic Guilt, Friend Guilt, Writer’s/Blogger’s Guilt, Gardener’s Guilt, House-cleaner’s Guilt, Floutist/Musician’s Guilt, Wifley Guilt…oh, I could go on and on and on….Verbose Speaker’s Guilt – aka MotorMouth Guilt…). But perhaps most prevalent in my life for the last 6 ¾ years is Mom Guilt. The Guilt of all Guilts. Mom Guilt laughs and points and jeers in the face of the other weeny Guilts. (Mom Guilt huddles in the corner and totally mocks the crap out of other so-called Guilts. “Oh, what? You think YOU can cause feelings of guilt? You call that guilt? Oh, I’ll show you guilt!”) I feel guilty over how many times I’ve typed the word guilt in the last three minutes.
So, the other moms know what I’m talking about, but let me attempt (while suffering Lame-Writer’s Guilt) to justly paint the picture for you…word-style. Word.
No matter what we do, it’s not enough. We’ll never spend enough time with our children. We’ll never know exactly what to do on every single occasion. We can wake up every morning wondering how many years of therapy our children will have to endure [mind you – I am a major proponent of therapy] to undo all the damage that we will inflict upon them that day. OK, well, maybe not ALL moms go through this every day, but I pretty much do. Nearly every day the thought crosses my mind: “Just how badly am I screwing up these children? God help me.” Look, it’s not a BAD thing to be humble about one’s skill. And yes, many would argue that this Mom Guilt thing (especially the way the Guilt and I roll) is a bit unhealthy and I need to have some confidence in my Mom Mo-Jo. But, when it comes down to it, I know my children are thriving and surviving and they are healthy and they are so loved but holy majoly I’m pretty much the best improv actor there is ‘cuz I’m wingin’ it every day and I know I could be doing better.
Except for this week. This week I rock. I’m kind of the best mom on the planet…this week. OK, well, from like Tuesday-Saturday, I rock. Except for yesterday afternoon when I put on an educational cartoon and tried my darndest to ignore the kids. Aside from that, I’ve been Mom of the Year 2010. I’ll start working on my acceptance speech.
See, I know my boys. But this is specifically about one boy. My mushpot, my softy. My tender-hearted, little big boy. My eldest. My Matthew. I could go on and on and on about how much I love each of my boys but you already know that, so I shan’t bore you with the details. I know how great our kids are. I know how blessed we are. I know that millions of people have WAY more challenges than we do. With that said let ME now say, that this has been a VERY difficult year with Matthew. It’s obviously a year of major transition – starting full-day kindergarten, having twice the number of kids in his class than what he’s used to, riding the bus, being gone and on his own all day – yes, lots of change right there. And he did not seem to handle these changes real well.
Nearly every day, Matthew has come home from kindergarten and just completely fallen apart. He’s angry; he’s overwhelmed; he throws tantrums. And here I was looking forward to the boys being apart all day! I’d been told, “Oh, it’ll be SO good for them, they’ll be SO excited to see each other after school.” Well, if Zach even looks at Matthew wrong – look out! After spending most of the year trying to figure out how to best help Matthew and looking for resources, I’d finally found a book that perfectly summarized him: The Highly Sensitive Child. Taking the little quiz at the beginning of the book was startling and yet comforting – yes, this totally IS Matthew. He’s overwhelmed by the chaos in the classroom, he takes the general noise level of 22 six-year-olds in his class and internalizes it feeling like they’re all angry at him, he gets upset when things are hard and don’t go his way. He has the lowest self-esteem of any kindergartner I’ve ever met. He is so compassionate and so empathetic to those around him that the emotions bog him down and he just doesn’t know how to cope. So, he holds it together all day at school – too shy or scared to ask his teacher for help – and then he unloads the second he enters the safe walls of home.
Gradually through the year, Matthew has begun to dislike school more and more. For a while he would cry nearly every morning, begging me not to make him go. And with my heart breaking I would gently push him out the door. We found out that another boy in his class was bullying him. We found out that Matthew finds learning “too hard.” I feel like this has been the year of trying to slowly piece together the puzzle that is my son. How do I figure out what pieces are needed to help him feel whole? Why is he so very frustrated so very often? What can I do to help him? It’s literally been gnawing at me every day.
After researching and talking to friends (including one who is a psychologist), we’ve decided to have Matthew’s vision and hearing tested. We’re also going to have him tested for Dyslexia or another possible learning disability. IF he does have something that’s made learning extra difficult, I would imagine that it’s fairly mild. He has been learning to read and write and he’s doing ok. He definitely struggles though with some of the “benchmarks” for kindergarten. He’s in the lowest reading group in his class, he has a hard time counting to 100 (and counting by 5’s or 10’s hasn’t even been attempted) – which is fine, BUT I just feel like maybe there’s a way that we can better help him learn, maybe there’s something that’s making this whole school thing all the more difficult for him. Maybe there’s a way to help him enjoy school – maybe even love it. Maybe. And maybe not. I’m scared about finding something out or finding nothing out. Knowledge is power and I’m just trying to figure this kiddo out.
So why am I a good mom (specifically this week)? Because I’ve had to defend my choice – even to myself – on why it’s worth getting Matthew tested. I know my kid. I know that early intervention is a HUGE help when there are learning disabilities. I – like all moms – want what’s best for my child and I’m doing everything I can to figure out what that is. I rule.