Teacher Professor

April 12, 2012

Underneath the Water- Or Why I Don’t Blog Like I Used To

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Home Things,Tourette's Syndrome,Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 11:39 am

Ray’s guidance counselor described it perfectly the other day as we were determining the need for a 504 Plan for him.  “If you’re working this hard to keep everything ok, perhaps we should document it.”

There’s a phrase that goes something like this “Be like the duck- Calm on the surface and paddling like hell underneath“.  Yes.  And oh yes.

Here’s the thing- things ARE “ok”.  Ray is getting Bs in school,he’s got a few really good friends, and life is not a series of dramatic challenges.  And we’re working really, really, really hard to manage the environment so that he’s doing all right.  When I describe how things are, I get a lot of “Oh, that’s him being 9!… Sounds like he’s being a boy!… Ease up on him, Mom!…”

I have come to realize that his anxiety disorder has created one in me.  Every time we leave the house- to go to the movies, to go to eat, to go to the beach, it’s resistance.  He doesn’t want to leave the house.  Ever.  If we force him, however, he goes.  He doesn’t throw a screaming, hysterical fit.  What he does do is get mean and ugly and “irritable”.  But he goes.  He either relaxes and we have a good time or he doesn’t, and manages to ruin it with his “hmphing”s and growlings and nasty comments.  Until the next time we leave the house again and it never gets easier.  Never.  My husband and I have discussions “Is this worth the fight we’re going to have?”  Every single time, it’s a fight.  And the simplest of errands becomes a battle of wills.

We pick our battles carefully, because it’s important to be consistent.  It’s important to win the important ones, “Yes, you have to go to your cousin’s wedding.. yes, you have to eat three pieces of spinach” and give choices in the unimportant ones, “Do you want to go see ‘The Return of the Titans’?… Do you want spaghetti or tacos tonight?”.  And then there are the “Is this worth the scene it’s going to cause?” issues.  Should we force him to do a sport?  Should we ignore the incessant dribbling basketball in the house?  Should we provide incentives for him to sleep in his room when he wants to sleep in the living room or at the door to our room?  Should we …?  Every thing we do, we have to plan out with the forethought of a general- “What choices can we provide?  Is this worth the battle it’s going to be?  What is causing this resistance and how do we work with this?”  We have to steel ourselves to being stronger and more positive than he is going to be.  Every time.  Except when he’s not.  And we’re tired.  We’re so tired.

The thing that gets me is that these issues are not unique to Ray.  I know 9-year boys.  I taught 9 and 10-year old boys for years.  They are contrary, wonderful, on-the-brink-of-teenagers-but still rational and snuggly.  It’s not the types of challenges- it’s the intensity of challenge that he poses.  I often feel like a whiny, paranoid parent, because these are not unusual issues.  I constantly have to judge- “Is this MY problem or Ray’s problem?”

But then there are the “Things are just not right” moments.  Today, as I took him to the doctor for a bronchitis diagnosis, and I watched him with his arms wrapped completely around himself, rocking with anxiety, avoiding eye contact, and growling at me when the doctor or I tried to talk to him, my heart broke a little bit, but I feel validated that “No, it’s not just me”.  There’s a strong-willed child, and then, there’s… this.  When things are not “right”, he retreats into his own area of misery, rocking and growling and losing his language.  And getting things right is constant juggling, balancing, paddling like hell.

I haven’t been blogging about this because I’ve been very carefully constructing his environment and planning the battles.  He’s hanging in there.  He’s getting Bs because he gets 100s when things are well-balanced, or he gets 20s when something is off.  He has a few friends and their families tell me how sweet and nice he is.  He’s polite.  Teachers tell me they don’t see any real behavior problems other than he’s a little active.  He’s not aggressive and has never hurt himself, anyone or anything.  But I haven’t been able to blog because it feels like it would be a continual litany of “This is so hard… this is so hard… this is so hard…” and I can’t go there.  I can’t let myself sink into the morass of sadness and frustration and depression that lurks- under the surface of “Everything’s ok”.

But I’m tired after this year of keeping things as even as possible, as managed as possible and as positive as I can be.

To hear the guidance counselor support the work that we’ve been doing felt good.  I cried when I heard someone recognize that although things look calm on the surface, we’re paddling like hell underneath.


  1. Honey, you have my (long-distance) hugs and support! We do have some of the same issues with our 9-year-old, though not nearly as intense. He’s a homebody, and would rather be home, doing his own thing, than anything else in the world — from a mundane trip to the store to a trip to Disney. I finally pushed him into lacrosse this year, and it hasn’t been terrible, but he’d be just as happy, I think, not to be doing it. He is coming out of his shell a little bit, and starting to be more excited about things. Last year, he *asked* to go to sleepaway summer camp like his big sister (you could have knocked me over with a feather), and this year, he wants to go back! So maybe as Ray progresses on the safer, placid waters you’re creating for him, he will start to follow that developmental path with just a little delay. I will cross my fingers and hope for the best for you, with special thoughts that you will get some respite to give you strength to keep going. Mwah!

    Comment by Jennifer Morgan — April 12, 2012 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  2. I hope so… we are so far away from a sleep away camp- He can stay over night with one friend and not every time. Most of the time, I get that 11:00 phone call. He WANTS to have sleep overs, but the fears come crawling into his head and he freaks out. Luckily, his friend and his friend’s mom keep trying! He will have sleep overs at our house, but will often leave his friend to come and sleep in our doorway… These safe, placid waters are HARD to maintain!! 🙂 MWAH back to you! 🙂

    Comment by profmother — April 12, 2012 @ 12:08 pm | Reply

  3. You needed some validation and got it with his guidance counselor. Bless her! Hang in there – you and James are doing a great job with him. Seen it with my own eyes!

    Comment by Laura Albright — April 12, 2012 @ 3:48 pm | Reply

  4. This really hit home, because I taught nine and ten year-old boys too. It’s the need to always have a plan B (or C), the intensity of the reactions, and the fact we have to wiegh every decision to do something beforehand. You really are doing an amazing job, and you are not alone. And yes, all of this is incredibly exhausting sometimes!

    Comment by autismmommytherapist — April 12, 2012 @ 6:34 pm | Reply

  5. Wow oh wow – so glad I read your post. I know exactly how you feel. I’m a mom of a 12-year-old boy with HFA and what a struggle it is. I wish he had a friend he wanted to spend the night with. I wish there was something typical that he liked. Everything is a battle with him too. You are lucky your son has friends. Although kids like my son, he just has no interest. Although, now that he is in middle school, kids are more important to him so he “hangs out” with boys at lunch but only because he wants to be like the other boys – which, I guess, is something positive. LOL! And don’t even get me started with the sleeping issues. Yikes! I feel your struggles … I guess sometimes it is nice if someone gets it – which is why I loved your post. Hang in there … we need you! 🙂

    Comment by Becky — April 12, 2012 @ 7:27 pm | Reply

  6. Felt like I was reading about MY life when I read this! I know how you feel, and yes….sometimes when someone (outside of your family and friends) finally tells you that you are “doing it right”, you just break down and cry! I get it….BELIEVE me. And now I know that my 8 1/2 yr old HFA isn’t the only one hrrmph-ing and “growling” and, as we like to call it, “huffing and puffing”. I thought it was just him! Thank goodness!

    Comment by iggybrown — April 12, 2012 @ 11:00 pm | Reply

  7. […] note: This was drafted on March 7- a month ago. But not posted… See “Why I don’t blog like I used to” for explanation… Ray spent the evening at his friend’s house, because Elizabeth […]

    Pingback by Happy Sensory Birthday « Professor Mother Blog — April 16, 2012 @ 7:03 am | Reply

  8. That sounds a little like what I’m dealing with, but with a 5 year old. We have a treatment that we have great faith will help, its and EEG administered by a psychologist. BUT, its $2000 for 5 weeks and we can’t afford it. Our son already gets a PIR treatment for tics, but to be honest, its his anxiety and behavior stuff that seems to have the most impact on all the rest of us. I’m praying for the day we can afford both treatments. Sometimes I think it would just be easier to medicate him and get us all a little peace, give him some quiet and confidence, but I just don’t feel as though it would really solve the problem. I’m glad I found your blog.

    Comment by Megan Judd — April 24, 2012 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

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