Monday, March 24, 2014

Musings on the last few weeks

Wow.  This baby is full-term.  I guess they call 37 - 38 weeks pre-term, but in my book it's full-term.  Anything that isn't premature is amazing to me.  Eric and I were just musing that we really have no idea what it will be like to have a full-term baby.  The idea that they just send the baby home from the hospital with you is so strange to us. 

The last few weeks of pregnancy have been really nice in many ways because this is time we just didn't have with Kailey.  Time to prepare mentally.  Time to get the house ready.  Time to wrap things up at work.  Despite how much I worked to get everything ready by 32 weeks  this time around -- the truth is, we were far from ready for a baby 5 weeks ago.  We still don't feel ready -- but we are so much closer than we were 5 weeks ago.  And, as Eric was saying the other day, now that Alden is so big and moving so much -- it feels like he's already started incorporating himself into the family.  We've snuggled up in bed at night as a family to watch shows or talk about our day, and Alden is right there -- kicking and squirming and making himself known.  Kai talks to him and about him all the time. 

Of course, the last 5 weeks of pregnancy have also been extremely uncomfortable.  Especially because I have contractions all the time.  Seriously, all the time.  I've been to Labor & Delivery at the hospital twice at this point.  Neither time was because I was actually concerned about the frequency of the contractions or because I thought I was in labor (one time it was because of an infection in my neck that I wanted to be sure wasn't something that could harm the baby, the other time was because of a "tetanic contraction" that lasted well over an hour)  - but, at both visits, they noted that my uterus does seem to be in a nearly constant state of contraction.  It contracts every 2 - 3 minutes.  It's just, the contractions aren't doing anything.  Although, in the last week or so, they've gotten increasingly uncomfortable.  Not painful.  Just uncomfortable. So, maybe they'll start doing something soon.

They say one sign that you are about to go into labor is if you get this burst of energy and start cleaning and organizing like crazy.  Well, if that's true, I've been about to go into labor for weeks!    Then, this weekend, I took it to a new level -- I cleaned out all the cabinets in the bathroom and created a new first aid kit (we were sick of having to look in different places for different things), I cleaned out the refrigerator because some of the shelves and trays were really gross, and I cleaned out the filing cabinet in our bedroom because I wanted to find all of the receipts from our various remodeling projects (the real estate agent wants them) and then, while I was at it, the top drawer was a mess so I organized that so that it would be easier to find things.  And I did 5 loads of laundry, grocery shopping complete with meal planning (my meal planning has fallen by the wayside lately with everything else that has been going on -- Kai's new favorite dinner is "fridge night" which means she can just pick whatever she wants out of the fridge... sigh), made a huge lasagna so that we'd have leftovers for the week, and cleaned all the floors in the house because they were driving me mad.  So -- maybe I'm about to go into labor.  Or, maybe I just needed my space to be more organized.

All of which is to say -- we're full term!  And, all signs indicate that I may not have much longer to go.  My guess is that he will be born in the next week or so.  Kai thinks he'll be born on April 5th.  We shall see.

Pregnancy aside, the last few weeks have been extremely stressful as we rush to finalize everything.  Eric's job is quite stressful.  My job has been extremely busy and I've been trying to get everything just so before I am on leave.  We've met with a real estate agent and are scrambling to get the house ready -- not just for Alden's arrival, but to sell. 

But, by far the most stressful thing lately has been the continuing drama at Kai's school.  She's had another run-in with the girl that has been the bane of our existence this last couple of months.  This time they were arguing over a stick (aka a "magic wand") and when Kai grabbed it from the other girl to get it back Kai also poked her in the eye with it.  I have no idea how intentional the poke was.  No one saw it happen.  But, because it was this girl and because Kai fessed up to being upset with Kaelyn when she grabbed the stick, she got sent home from school.  Of course, you can be upset and angry at someone and still not mean to hurt them -- which, if you ask Kailey, is what she said happened.  But, that fact seems lost on the principal and teacher who only see that Kaelyn was injured again and Kai was the source of the injury. 

So, she was sent home and then the next day, they made her play quietly on the benches for both recesses (these are the benches kids have to sit on for a time out).  And then the following day she had to sit out the first recess.  And at home we had her sit in her room and brainstorm all the things she could do to avoid having a run-in with Kaelyn in the future.  She wrote out her list.  We made her give it to her teacher and read it to him. 

We also got an email from the principal wanting to meet with us again so he could learn more about Kai's schedule, when she goes to bed, how much time we spend with her, how we're ensuring that she's learning from this.  It was essentially an indictment on our parenting.  And, it made it clear that they really think Kailey has deep-seated issues (and that we, as her parents, are likely the source of these issues, of course). 

The whole thing is so depressing and so stressful.  I don't think the adults at her school are seeing the situation for what it is.  Kai has only had a run-in with this one child.  She isn't an aggressive child in general.  She isn't a bad kid.  She is struggling with this one girl -- who has threatened her very best friendship at school. 

And, Kai isn't the kind of kid who is failing to take responsibility for her actions (which her teacher seems to think... as indicated by her report card).  Kai reflects on everything that is going on at school.  She talks about it all the time.  Walking to school the other day she said, "I feel terrible.  Everyone should just stay away from me."  And then this weekend we were listening to a song that has the lyrics, "he was throwing rocks, wrapped in dirty socks, and shouting bad words everywhere.  He acted rough and tough, plenty tough enough, but inside he was scared."  And Kai said to me, "he shouldn't throw rocks or shout bad words, he should talk to his parents.  That's what I do, I tell you and Daddy the truth about everything at school so you can help me learn to be better and to control my anger." 

She also told me, "for my birthday, I only want to celebrate with family.  I don't want to celebrate with any friends."  She is so excited that Nonnie, Papa, and Grammy will all be here around her birthday and that we can celebrate with them.   I'm glad she is looking forward to seeing her grandparents, but still, not wanting to be with her school friends is unusual for Kai who usually begs for friends to come over.  So, I asked her why she didn't want any friends at her birthday and she said, "I just want to be with my family."  I asked her if she wanted Penny, Sarah, Doug and Max to come over and she said, "YES! They are my family, too.... and Chris Matson.  Chris Matson is also our family." 

I love her definition of our family -- but, it breaks my heart that she is feeling so isolated at school and feeling like she is a bad kid.  The first thing she said when she woke up this morning was, "I like the weekend days a lot more than the school days."  I asked her why and she said, "on the weekend, we get to be together and just play and play." 

In other words, she's feeling really down about school right now.  And she's only 5.  She's in kindergarten. She's made some mistakes at school with regard to this one kid -- but, it shouldn't result in her feeling as miserable as she's feeling. 

I know this is part of growing up.  And she needs to learn to keep her hands to herself.  But, I wish she could learn these things from people that care about her. Instead, she is dealing with these very tough issues alongside a teacher who doesn't seem to like her very much.  He's never said anything very kind about Kailey.  He has no empathy for her and doesn't seem to see all the positive qualities that Kailey has -- how self-reflective she is, how eager to please she is, how joyful she is most of the time.  He isn't helping her to tap into these things to improve her behavior.  Instead, it's all punishment and discipline... which, with Kailey especially, tends to be very counter-productive.  I just wish he'd spend a little time getting to know her and figuring out what makes her tick. 

I feel like we are sending her off to the firing squad every morning.  And like she's a time bomb being watched and judged.... with her teacher anticipating and waiting for her next misstep.  It's a terrible feeling.

Every other place she's been -- Lauren's house, Spanish School -- she has been loved.  And, her transgressions have been dealt with in ways that value her as a person while also teaching her to control her body and her temper.  It's that love and patience and understanding that is missing now. 

Instead, she's being singled out despite the fact that the class is full of kids that are high-energy like Kailey.  The same girl that Kai has had issues with was slapped across the face by another girl (of course, that other girl did not get sent home).  And two other kids in the class got into it the other day with one of them hitting the other one in the face with her lunchbox.  On the day that Kai got sent home for the stick, Mr. Thompson told me that 4 other kids had lost their entire recesses.  All of which is to say -- there is lots of drama in this classroom, and it isn't all about Kai.  But, she's the only kid that has been sent home from school.  And, she's been sent home twice.  It's very stigmatizing for her.  She's the one that is really being singled out.  And, on some level, she clearly knows that she is being focused on in this negative way, which I think is what prompted so many of the conversations we had over the weekend.  She can't quite put her finger on what's going on, but she knows she isn't feeling good about things. 

At this point, we just want to get through the year and support her as much as possible.  We are trying to give her the tools she needs to get through her days.  And, with Alden coming, she is going to get to be home a lot more.  No more Adventure Time after school.  No more Spanish School on Wednesdays.  So, maybe that will help. 

I just want her to end the school year with the optimism and joy that have been the hallmarks of her personality. Hopefully we can get there.  It's been really hard. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

And So It Begins...

I'm referring to school tribulations.  Navigating social relationships at school, and all the angst and anxiety that come with establishing and maintaining friendships, is a badge of growing up.  We all bear those scars.  It's just, I don't remember it starting at 5.  I'm sure it probably did.  But, when I think of the complicated social relationships that I had to navigate in school, I think of middle school and high school.

Kai is in the thick of it already.  In kindergarten.  And, it's really hard.  Especially because Kai is  very emotional -- she feels things very deeply and strongly -- but, she can also be really defiant -- especially when she feels threatened or cornered.  Plus, she has a temper and is a very physical child -- she responds with actions more than she responds with words.  Especially in a moment of angst.  The combination of these things has proven quite challenging in this new environment of complicated social relationships.

While Kai can be incredibly self-reflective, that reflection comes after the fact.  In a moment of emotional turmoil, Kai responds with her body, not her words.  Which, quite frankly, isn't allowed at school (or anywhere -- we've been working on these issues with Kai since she was a toddler.  She has always gotten immediate and consistent consequences when she has lashed out in anger.)  But, despite the fact that she knows that it isn't right to lash out at another person, she has not learned to control the impulse when rage strikes.  And so, right now, she's struggling at school because the emotional turmoil she is experiencing with her friendships is causing her to act out in ways that are simply not acceptable at school.  In the last week, this has resulted in more and more discipline at school, meetings with her teacher and the principal (and another parent), and - today - she got sent home from school early.

I'm really struggling with all of this.  On the one hand, Kai's behavior is alarming.  She should not be hitting or kicking or spitting or threatening to harm other kids.  On the other hand, Kai is experiencing very deep relationships for the first time, and she's having trouble learning how to share her friends and express her feelings.  Last week, when she lashed out, she said she did it because "her heart was broken."  Those were her words.  And, I remember that feeling so well.  My heart breaking over my friends treating me badly.  And she told me that, when it happened, her brain was saying, "hit her, hit her, hit her... over and over... and I couldn't stop it."  And I remember that, too.  I remember those intense feelings of rage and sadness.  So, I emphasize with what she is going through.  But, I also know that she cannot act on those feelings.  She needs to learn to walk away.  To take a deep breath.  To move on.  And she didn't -- so here we are.  Today, she didn't actually go through with the deed.  She just threatened harm (to the same girl as before).  But, given what happened last week (hitting and spitting) -- it was enough to get her in hot water fast.  She got sent home. 

Kai was really upset about missing school and African dance.  She told me she felt "like the worst kid in the world."  She said her tummy hurt and she was really sad about it all.  I was really sad for her -- and also upset that she had gotten in trouble again so quickly after the last incident despite all the consequences and conversations we've had over the last week. 

Tonight at dinner, we were talking about her school.  She had brought a little bird home from school that a classmate, Amy, had given her.  I commented that she and Amy were getting to be closer friends and asked if they played together.  Kai agreed that they were friends but said, "we don't play together.  We are not in the same club."  I asked her what she meant, and she said, "I'm in Talia's club and Amy is in Daliha's club.  We are not in the same club so we can't play together at recess."  I was floored.  Clubs? Cliques? Kindergarten?!  And to hear her using terms like that to describe what was going on -- my 5 year old is going on 13. I'm not ready for middle school. And, if this is what kindergarten is like -- what is real middle school going to be like?!

We talked about how she could be friends with lots of different people -- even people that are not friends with each other.  We role played some scenarios of kids excluding other kids and how to handle the anger and sadness that comes with being excluded.  She liked the role playing.  I'm not sure that it is really going to help, though. 

We practiced taking deep breaths.  We practiced telling an adult and what to do when the adult doesn't respond the way you want him/her to respond. We talked about things she could do to handle being angry or upset.  We told her stories about when we had been angry or upset and what we did. 

We did all those things -- and we'll do them again.   

After talking for awhile, we played with a puzzle, ate popsicles and reminded her how much we loved her.

I have no idea if any of it will work.  All I know is that this is hard. Really hard.