Jaren has always been a unique and entertaining child. There was never a dull moment in our household.
As a youngster, he had an inquisitive and peculiar mind which spawned him to say things that many times left me literally questioning his thought process. When I brought an avocado home, he wanted to save the large round seed in the middle so he could plant it and grow avocados. When we went to a craw-fish broil, he asked the host if he could take one home for a pet, which we did. We named her Lulu. Jaren also enjoyed singing, being on stage, and never minded being the center of attention. He had a spiritual knowledge and insight far beyond his young years. But all that creative energy sometimes left him restless and he went looking everywhere to exercise his mental interest. On top of that, Jaren had asthma and allergies. The medications he took to manage these conditions also contributed to his hyperactivity.
Kindergarten was a challenge for Jaren. He suffered from some behavior issues that were mostly related to him not being able to sit still, focus, and follow directions. And he was a talker. At the beginning of the school year the students had a weekly chart that was marked daily with colored mood faces expressing each child’s behavior, that ranged from green(good), yellow(fair), orange(warning) and red(bad). The charts were sent home daily so parents could acknowledge and initial the behavior noted for that day. After the first couple weeks, Jaren rarely brought home a happy green face. His charts mostly consisted of yellow and orange (with green and red being more rare). It was somewhat discouraging. Then I got the dreaded notice. I needed to go to the school for a special parent/teacher conference.
Honestly, I was on defense at first. I wondered if they were singling out my child for some social, political reason or if there was a real concern for my young son.
I drove to the school to meet with Jaren’s teacher, the counselor, and the vice principal. I felt outnumbered. I walked in sheepishly, trying to preserve my self-confidence and was ready to fight on behalf of my child. Jaren’s teacher had all the examples that she recorded on paper of Jaren’s bad behavior moments. The vice principal asked how Jaren was doing academically? His teacher said he was a good student when he was capable of getting his work done. Then, we were re-directed back to the issue of his class behavior. They suggested I take Jaren to one of the local offices to have him tested for ADD/ADHD but maintained that it was my choice and that Jaren was still young and could very easily grow out of his challenging behavior.
Although I know ADD/ADHD is a real medical issue, I felt like the school was looking for an easy way out to help make their job easier. Jaren was so young. I thought it was too early to assess or label him as having ADD/ADHD.
I was hurt and mad and tried very hard to hold back my emotions. As I was leaving, I walked with Jaren’s teacher down the hall. I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer and told her that I was sorry. I further explained that I had tried everything at home; talking to Jaren, punishment, taking privileges away, but nothing seemed to be making a noticeable or permanent impact. I said, “I feel like a terrible mom.”
As single parents and working mothers, it feels like we do so much and no matter how much we do, we still can’t do enough, and our best isn’t good enough. We have stretched ourselves to the max with little or no reserves for unexpected disruptions. We are trying to uphold a family balance and sometimes the slightest breeze can throw us off course.
My child’s teacher’s response surprised me. “You shouldn’t feel that way.” she said. “You are a good mom. You’re here trying to help your son. Think about all the parents who don’t show up.” She put her arm around my shoulder and assured me that she and the school would work together to help Jaren. I immediately felt comforted.
The counselor and Jaren’s teacher formed a new plan for my son. From that day on, instead of Jaren getting daily charts and weekly rewards, they began giving him progress updates throughout the day. He could look at his chart that was taped to his desk and see his behavior progress. It gave him a goal to work towards.
One day, Jaren asked his teacher if he could perform a magic show for his class. Jaren’s teacher thought it was a great motivational opportunity and told him that he needed to get a certain amount of good behavior reports. If he did, he could perform his magic show for his classmates.
Jaren worked hard on his class behavior at school and practiced his magic skills regularly for me at home and all that hard work paid off.
To prepare my son for his magic show debut I bought him a cape and a top hat. As I beheld Jaren standing in front of his animated audience, I watched a problematic kid be transformed into a charismatic star pupil that day. He was focused and poised. His classmates were truly entertained by his magic.
Thank goodness for teachers like this, the ones who allow all their students to shine in unique ways.