Why it’s OK to get to get your kids’ backs when the going gets tough.
I’m a mom of a boy, and any moms of boys out there know that there’s something special between moms and sons. But it wasn’t until I had a son of my own that I truly understood that bond.
When he was a baby he was my everything. He still is, but it’s taken on a new meaning. While I still have to meet his needs as a mom, I realized a couple of years ago that as he gets older I need to meet his emotional needs…times a thousand. It’s not just about hugging and kissing when they have a bad dream. Hold on to your hats, parents. It gets harder.
I haven’t shied away from talking about Cooper’s struggles in grade one. He didn’t adjust well to the transition of play-based learning to the structure of the primary grades. I watched as he grew more and more angry and frustrated, full of anxiety about doing school work. It escalated to him throwing things around the classroom, wiping things off the principal’s desk and getting sent home on a regular basis. Emotions ran high as we were all trying to figure out what was going on in his tiny head to make him so angry. We followed the teacher’s plan to consequence him at home if he had a troubling day at school. AFTER he was consequenced all day by the teacher. He was sometimes afraid to see me after school.
I watched him become sad and confused. He called himself a “bad boy.” If he wasn’t in tears, he was angry. If we were confused as parents, I can only imagine how confused he was. No one was listening to him and he was in trouble all the time. He felt he had nowhere to turn to.
While I wanted to get to the root of the problem, the teachers were after something else. One teacher told me he was the “most aggressive child we’ve seen without a diagnosis.” He was six. At six years-old they were looking for a diagnosis, and we knew what that meant. Test him for ADHD. We refused.
It wasn’t until April of that year, that the struggles came to a head, and I truly became the mama bear. Things weren’t getting better with Cooper, so we were called to a meeting at the school. I remember sitting at that table with the school principal, vice principal, teacher and special education teacher, telling me and my husband that our kid didn’t fit in a box. Eluding and to the fact that he needed to be tested. I remember saying, he’s only six! In my mind, jumping to the ADHD theory before examining all other angles wasn’t the answer. I know many parents have tested their kids and had great success. I just wanted to make sure it was the right choice, with my doctor too. Plus, as a mom, you kind of just know there’s more to your kid!
We left the meeting with a safety plan and IEP, and a lump in my throat. How could they say my son was something at school that he wasn’t at home? Why wouldn’t they work with me to find other solutions? Most of all, why was everyone else against this kid, except me? I was livid, hurt and so confused.
That day ignited something in me that I hadn’t felt before. I knew right then and there that no one would be his advocate more than me. No one would be his biggest fan more than me. Two years later, that is still true. I now take a huge role in his academics. I work with his teachers (all who have been absolutely wonderful) to ensure we are on the same page and agree on how to handle my son. I am fierce in my way of parenting which is positive and firm but offer a lot of love. I don’t consequence at home if he is in trouble for something at school that is handled by the teachers. We talk about it but he won’t get second consequences at home. I want him to feel safe at home, emotionally and physically.
Over the years he has taken great strides and has eliminated the IEP and the safety plan and hasn’t been sent home. His behaviour problems have gone away and he thrives with some great friendships with peers and teachers. Is that because he felt like there are people on his side now? We have no clue, but whatever happened, it worked.
I’m still a mama bear. That will never go away. I’ll always be his biggest advocate and I won’t apologize for it. And if he is a mama’s boy when he’s older, that’s ok. I’m married to one, and he’s a pretty good guy!