A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Jake’

Thirteen.

I am the parent of a teenager. A legitimate, literal teenager. Jake turned 13 today at 3:21 am. Our path to the teen years has been full of love, new experiences, firsts for me as a parent, and adventures. Some adventures have been exciting and invigorating. Others have caused us both discomfort, but we’ve grown along the way.

As Jake grows and starts having more of his own private experiences, I have to let go. It is bittersweet. I don’t want to see him hurt, or upset, or failing…but I know that it’s my job as a parent to let him experience all of those things…because that ultimately is how we grow and figure out what we want from life.

I want to shield him from the pain of rejection, the angst of failure, the hurt of loss. And yet, when I look at my life, my experiences, it was in those terribly uncomfortable moments that I grew. It wasn’t easy. It caused my anxiety to flare, and yet, with my mom guiding me ever so gently with some advice, perhaps some nagging, and lots of love, she let me work through it. Often, I had a much better idea of what I wanted and needed in life once I was on the other side of the experience.

I know that the teen years are going to be challenging for both of us, and likely, in varying ways. I promise to be his shepherd, his beacon, to help get him through the storm. I hope he understands that. My actions are always inspired by concern, love, and the knowledge that independence is our endgame.

Happy 13th Birthday, my Jakey-P. I love you.

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An unsure first time mom with her bundle of joy. I feel as unsure as I look in this picture, as we embark on teendom.

Middle School is looming…

April 29th. How the heck is it already April 29th?! This year really seems to have moved full speed ahead!!! The boys are done with this school year in 6 weeks. I am ironing out therapy, summer school, and summer activity schedules right now. It seems so far away, and yet, so close.

I also can’t believe that we are nearing the end of the school year. Big changes loom ahead. Jake heads off to middle school in the fall. MIDDLE SCHOOL. I hated middle school…well, back then it was called Junior High. And who am I kidding, I went to a K-8 parochial school…but the 6-8 graders did have their own area of the school. It was the armpit of my educational experience. Yuck. I am trying not to project that too much upon him.

This is another step closer to his independence, to him being a “big” kid. Middle schoolers are required to know their schedules, juggle locker combinations, dress in a PE uniform for gym, and switch classrooms for every period. That’s a lot of moving around and keeping things straight for any child, let alone for a kiddo with executive functioning issues, focus and attention issues, and anxiety. I need to calm my own anxiety so that I will be able to help him with strategies as the struggles occur. And they will occur…but hopefully we can work through them and stop struggles from taking over.

Middle School also means a new IEP team. A new group of teachers, specialists, and the like. We are currently in the process of re-evaluation. It’s time for his 3-year reassessment. I know he’ll still qualify for services, but I’m also nervous about what may come out of this meeting. Unfortunately, we had already had his yearly review meeting in February, in which it was recommended that he take Instructional Math and Instructional Reading/Language Arts, which are smaller classes. We worry that he will lose ground on the curriculum. He is in a co-taught classroom for other subjects.

With the reevaluation, I’m hoping that he will score higher in language arts/reading to justify a co-taught experience. I really do think he can handle it. It’s not like he doesn’t get support at home. We have tutors, he works with me, he works with Hubz. I just think he CAN do it, if that is what we expect of him. The math, well, the math I understand. He is floundering. It would help if he used his tools…and if the teachers reinforced that he should use his tools. I understand that he needs to be independent and needs to figure some things out on his own, but seriously, give the kid a checklist so that he has a reminder of what he CAN use in class to help him.

As much as Jake continues to have academic struggles, it has been a banger year for social/emotional growth. He is doing amazingly well. We had to make some tough decisions, but ultimately, our choices have worked well. He is happier, more well-adjusted, and able to address triggers and cope with them. He is playing with the boys on the playground and eating lunch with them in the cafeteria. He is a part of it…instead of being mothered by the girls, he has friends…and his confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

Middle school also means new friends. Two and a half elementary schools feed into our middle school. The kids that he’s grown up with over the past 6 years know him and his quirks. They know they have to wait and be patient. They know he talks too much when he’s nervous, and that he will defer to talking about animals when he doesn’t know what else to say. They help him a lot, too. But the other 100+ new sixth graders don’t know him like that…and what happens then? I am not even going to let myself think about 7th and 8th graders. I just may faint.

I know it’s a right of passage. I know that we all have had to figure these things out..and that we have all had our share of failure and success. I just hope beyond hope that he is okay…and that we’ve given him enough tools to be successful.

Finding the Funny

Jake has a social studies test tomorrow. Social studies is NOT his “thing”. I don’t understand it. We butt heads a lot while he studies because he fights it every.step.of.the.way. Converseley, when I was in school, I OWNED social studies, history, government.  I loved them. I’m a bit of a history nerd…and I am fascinated with government and the way it should work. 

Jake’s chapter test starts with Christopher Columbus (the watered-down, 4th-grade-friendly version), moves to the different types and branches of our government, and then talks about citizenship, immigrants, and responsibilities and culture. It’s kind of all over the place…and I’m sure the book’s authors had a plan in mind when organizing it the way they did.

Anywho….I have been quizzing Jake since Saturday. It’s been painful and slow. He fights me when I ask him to re-read, and he doesn’t memorize the information easily. I do have to say, though, that with our current events and reading the text through an adult’s perspective, I have really had to watch my snark and watch inserting my opinions.

For instance, when I asked Jake what Columbus’s reason was for his first voyage, Jake responded, “He wanted to take over the world.” You know, technically, the kid is right. It’s obviously more complex than that….but the Europeans DID want to gain as much land as possible and gain riches and such…and hence, take over the world. But, the answer in the book is that Columbus wanted to find a shorter route, by sea, to Asia, because traveling over land took a long time and was very dangerous. I wanted to make a snarky comment about taking what doesn’t belong to us..but I refrained. I just gave him the answer from the book.

Or the time when I asked Jake who is the head of our Executive branch of the government (for federal government). He thought long and hard, and threw out his elementary school principal’s name. (Remember, he struggles with language…so in his mind he was thinking “starts with a “p””.) I said, not your principal. The guy we elect every 4 years is the…..and he mumbled out “President?”. I gave him a high five. I asked what the President’s responsibilities were as the head of our executive branch. Jake’s answer, “Ummm, they talk a lot?” (I would give that kid extra credit points, wouldn’t you???)

Finally, we were discussing citizenship and our responsibilities as citizens. I asked how someone could become a U.S. citizen. Jake’s answer, “They can be born.” True. I asked what the other way of becoming a citizen is. Jake’s answer, “They can take a stupid social studies test and learn about the government.” (Obviously a little of that tween-ish angst is starting to creep in….yay…he’s “typical”. ) I prompted for more…and he said, “They can take a test with a process.” Close. I explained the answer and we moved on to our rights. I asked what types of rights we were guaranteed as U.S. citizens via the Constitution. Jake’s answer, “To pay taxes.” Ba-da-bum. He’ll be here all week, folks.

I explained that paying taxes was a responsibility. I told him that our rights were freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. He perked up when I said, “freedom of speech”. “Mom, freedom of speech. That’s like we go to therapy, right?” Ahh, kid….love ya to pieces..and so grateful for the moments of levity that I could find while dealing with a non-interested kiddo.

Reflections on starting school

So, we are in our last week of summer break. All of the school supplies are purchased and awaiting labels. A few new clothing items have been purchased. We started our evening school routine last night. Haircuts and sneaker shopping are on my “to-do” list. Tomorrow we visit the school and view class lists, see the principal, and chat with friends. (Cue the sound of a record player being stopped mid-song.)

Chat with friends. There’s something, now, isn’t there? I will chat with my mom friends. Hubz will be chatting with parents of current scouts and hopefully a few future scouts. Cole will chat with just about anyone, as he seems to think (and often is right) that everyone is his friend. But then there’s Jake and Tate. Tomorrow will be so difficult for them. Chatting and small talk do not come easy to my older two children. At all.

Tate still refers to everyone who he goes to school with as a “friend”. He has a couple real friends, but talking to them in the chaotic situation that is “Meet the Principal Day” is not going to happen. He doesn’t cry or try to climb up my back like he did when he was 3 or 4, but he does all he can to make it through the school “stations” without a meltdown. Talking to peers, which is difficult enough, is near impossible for him in this setting. I don’t expect him to be able to converse with friends tomorrow…that may be too much.  While we are at the school, his teacher and I want to attempt to have him tour his classroom, if he can tolerate it. Otherwise, I’ll take him back on Wednesday morning to scope out his rearranged classroom.

Jake has a few friends. However, in the busy-ness that is “Meet the Principal Day”, the chaos will consume him. He will struggle to focus and have a conversation. His back-to-school anxiety will cause him to perseverate on topics that many of his friends won’t care much about. He’ll shut down if he gets too dysregulated. It will be a challenge to keep him focused and get through the stops we need to do.

Also, as we do our final countdown to the school year, the anxiety beast here is ferocious. It is gnawing at all of us. It is wreaking havoc with sleep and routine. My children are not themselves. I am not myself. We are trying to do whatever works to get through the days. And the nights. Patience is thin. We have a lot of bickering. A lot of short tempers. A lot of frustration.

In all of the frustration, however, I am grateful for one improvement. This year, Jake has been able to advocate and verbalize the fact that he is nervous about school. Because he’s anxious about school and a new teacher and new demands (he has heard that 4th grade is harder), he has very little tolerance for anything that goes against his desired plans. He is quick to shout at his brothers. He screamed at his friend the other day. He yelled at me to stop talking about our back-to-school schedule. However, in so doing that, we opened a conversation about what is going on in his brain, and he was able to put it into words. Knowing how he’s feeling, instead of guessing, has really helped me try to work through this rough patch. It isn’t easy, and I am tired and losing patience, but I respect his need for trying to figure it out on his own and needing some space to do so.

School is near, and we will make it. It’s just these few days prior to the actual event and the thinking about it that are worse than the actual act of going back. Maybe tomorrow we need to do some yoga before and after the “Meet the Principal Day” in order to get in a good place. *Cue deep breaths.*

What a chore…

I will admit that we have been spotty when it comes to having our boys do chores around the house. First, I am very particular about how some things are done, and my control-freak tendencies are hard to part with when it comes to giving my children more independence. Second, they whine so much about doing the littlest thing sometimes, that I prefer to save my sanity and just do it myself.

Jake has been begging for another BeyBlade. He has 20-something of these things already, but of course he doesn’t have this particular one. We have heard nothing but facts about this particular BeyBlade since last week when he happened upon it while online. So, to sweeten the chore chart I wanted to implement, Hubz and I told him that he had to complete the 10 chores on the chart. Once completed, we would get him this BeyBlade–this time. Going forward, though, he has to do chores and will not get a BeyBlade each time. We’ll figure out an allowance that is appropriate, but other than that, he won’t get a new toy each and every week. (Remember, my house already looks like an episode of “The Hoarders”…we don’t need more stuff.)

On Saturday we wrote out Jake’s chore chart. He was required to do the following:

1. Put laundry away

2. Fold towels and put them away

3. Learn how to do a load of laundry–wash & dry clothes

4. Put dishes in dishwasher away and load dirty ones

5. Help weed the front yard

6. Help clean the floor in the kitchen

7. Clean bedroom

8. Help clean bathroom (the one the boys share)

9. Work on learning to tie shoes

10. Set table for dinner

We finished the chore chart at 9:00 a.m. At 9:05, he was busily playing with his new shoes to learn how to tie them. He worked with Hubz for about 15 minutes. He did another 10 by himself. I joined him at the 25 minute mark, and talked him through it. He still isn’t quite there, but it’s *this* close. Tying shoes is really difficult for kiddos with fine motor delays and executive functioning struggles. Holy moly!!! Our goal is to have him tying his own shoes by his 10th birthday.

By 12:30 p.m., when I returned from getting my hair cut, he had accomplished four of the ten chores. I have never seen him that eager to do work around the house. I know that I will not seem him that eager ever again…unless we make him work for a toy again..then, maybe he’ll bust his butt like he did this weekend! By the end of Saturday, he had six chores done.

When we woke up yesterday, Jake was already asking when he could finish his chores. After breakfast, we tackled the dishwasher. He struggled a bit with the directions, but after taking a deep breath, I reminded myself that he does have some receptive speech issues, and that his executive functioning skills are weak when it comes to task planning and completion. We got through it, though, and he did a great job once it was explained a few times.

We had our good friend over for lunch. He’s Tate’s godfather, and we haven’t seen him in about 6 months. He had a belated birthday gift for Tate, and we spent a few hours catching up. It was great to see him, and see Tate respond to him. During our 3-hour visit, though, Jake asked no less than 10 times when he could do laundry. That was the second to last chore to complete. I was not about to do laundry in the middle of our visit. I patiently told him to relax and that we’d tackle the laundry once his “uncle” had gone home. He had to wait another hour after that last request, but then my friend had to go home, and we were able to get to the laundry.

I had Jake pour the detergent into the measuring cup. We have one of those huge Tide dispensers that has to be pushed. He barely had enough finger strength to do it. I made a mental note to have him work with some more fidgets to increase his finger dexterity. I showed him how to select the water temperature and agitator speed. I showed him what cycle to choose for that particular load of laundry.  He got it all in there on his own, and I showed him how to close the lid of the washer without slamming it. He did great.

Hubz shooed me out of the house at that point to enjoy an hour to myself. (I really needed that hour..and I am so appreciative that he knows better than I do, that I need a break.) While I was out, Hubz showed Jake how to put the laundry in the dryer. He did his load of laundry. He was very proud. The only chore left on his list was to set the table for dinner…so he did. At 3:50 in the afternoon. But, it was set. And he was able to check-off all of the tasks. At 5:15, Jake and Hubz went on Amazon and ordered the Flash Saggitario Beyblade for Jake’s collection. Hubz showed him how we can track the shipping of the BeyBlade online. I think we found a new way to keep Jake occupied when he gets home from day camp today! He loves seeing where his BeyBlade is at the moment. He’s slightly disappointed that he won’t get it until late this week or early next week, but it allows for a little more excitement in his 9-year-old-life.

I was slightly exhausted after dealing with the chore perseveration the past two days, but I know that we both gained from the experience. He is learning how to be more independent. And I’m learning that it is ok to let go…and to let him do things on his own…because he’s going to need to know how to do this when he’s older. I also learned that even if the chores aren’t done my way, they are done….and I have about an hour of time to myself that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s a win-win!

Moments

This weekend we had some good times. We had a few rough times, too…but there were definitely some moments that I want to hold onto for just *a little* while longer.

-Like when Tate caught my eye on Saturday morning when I came downstairs to get the coffee going. His arms were outstretched, his smile wide, and his eyes glistening. “MOM-EEE!” Oh, I want to hold onto that.

-Or when Cole crawled into my lap when he came downstairs that day. He snuggled into my chest and twisted my hair between his fingers. He let me breathe him in…I inhaled every bit of his little boy sweetness that I could. I know our time like this is fleeting. Sooner than I would like, my baby is going to be too big, too heavy, too cool, to sit on my lap like that.

-Jake turned off the television–unprompted–so he could come talk to me. I almost fell over. While we talked, Jake sketched some creations into his drawing pad. He created creatures that were breathtaking and amusing. They were majestic and minute. They were so him. The best part was how he’d excitedly explain what each one was–and what parts of real animals he used to create them. (Note to self: let’s work on fractions with the tutor…one creation was, in Jake’s words, “1/2 rhino, 1/2 bearded lizard, 1/2 monkey, and 1/2 giraffe”. I told him they were 1/4’s…he looked at me like *I* was the one with 4 heads…)

-Tate initiated pretend play. It took until age 6, but my kiddo is finally grasping the concept of pretend play. Saturday morning we were playing drive-thru window (I don’t know WHERE he got that concept from….*whistles*). I asked for a sandwich. He was only willing to sell me a stinky foot sandwich. When I pretended to be completely grossed out, he squealed with laughter, and then offered me a butt sandwich. When I said no to that, he said he could give me a knee sandwich, but that was all they had. I obliged, and gobbled down that knee sandwich…as soon as I gave him my money–which is all a part of the play. (Oh, and by money, I mean I have to give him my credit card, and he asks if I want a receipt…again, no idea where he comes up with these things!! wink, wink)

-Jake was trying to convince me to get him a pet otter. I had to decline. He then asked if he could get a pet manatee or dugong (a critter similar to a manatee, but with a slightly different tail…). I said no..and he retorted with, “right, we don’t have a pool”. I nodded and I said I didn’t want to clean up their poop, either. (They are called “the elephant of the seas”, people, so, heck no! Oh, and the whole fact that our climate is definitely NOT their natural habitat.) This evolved into a bickerment about whether animals poop. At 5:30 in the morning. I wasn’t convincing him….so we looked it up online. I won that one. He even admitted I was right. (Hence, I have to document this because we are *this close* to the time in our mother-son relationship where I will know ABSO-FREAKIN-LUTELY NOTHING. That’s gonna be…not awesome.)

-The 3 boys helped Hubz with yard work yesterday while I was at the store. Like actually pulled weeds and picked up trimmings, and the like. I love that they are able to spend time with Hubz…and that he can teach them some very practical home-keeping tips in the process.

-I took the boys for a walk around the block last night. Well, they rode bikes while I was forced to run pathetically after them. Tate shrieked with delight as he felt the wind blast him in the face, rush through his hair, and felt the vibration of the ground beneath him. That joy. That unbridled joy. I love that something so simple makes him so very happy.

-Jake used the word, “wiener” to refer to his, um, yeah….. I was amused, but had to pretend to be appalled. (I always worry about him being immature and unable to relate to peers. That right there shows me he “gets” a lot of the convo that is going on…much to my delight and chagrin. I asked him to try to not use that one in front of his brothers…I really don’t need Tate scripting that. It will happen in its own time, and I don’t need him to expedite that.

-The three boys sat in the family room and watched SpongeBob together last night. As they watched it, they actually TALKED ABOUT THE SHOW together. Even Tate. And then they simultaneously burst into laughter because there was a potty joke. They shared their gummy bears, gummy worms, and sour patch watermelon candy together…and it was nice to see something just so….typical.

So, lots of little moments. Moments that, together, add up to some great memories…and help me get past the not-so-awesome moments like bickering, social difficulties, frustrations, attention issues, and so forth.

End of the School Year

Those of you who come around here often know my boys struggle with transition. It does not come easily for them, and it takes a lot of work and preparation in order to get them through some of the bigger ones. We have been prepping for the end of the school year for a while now..and we’re still not quite “there” yet. But we have to be…soon…because on Tuesday my boys will be done with 3rd and 1st grade.

I must admit, every year since my boys have been in school, I cry on the last day. I can’t quite explain it, but it’s an emotional response to my boys moving up and onward. Maybe the transition preparation is as much for me, as it is for them. 

I know that I am going to have tears streaming down my cheeks on Tuesday as I send them off for their last days. Both Tate and Jake have made progress and gains this year. Jake is doing math, people. Math.Something clicked this year, and he is finally able to do simple math without breaking down or turning into a puddle. He is reading chapter books. CHAPTERS!

Tate has made social connections to the peers in his class. He talks about his friends. He has even had a crush! He has spontaneously mentioned activities that have gone on in the classroom. He has told us about his day. And it is not a script. Six months ago, that wasn’t happening!!

So, you’ll have to excuse me on Tuesday as I wipe the tears from my eyes…tears that release the relief that we’ve made it–successfully–through another school year. 

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