Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Payoff!

Aidan's attitude and patience have slowly been improving all week, now that he's out from under Cody's influence.  Again I must say, I didn't expect the difference to be so swift OR so drastic.  But I could not possibly be happier.

His teacher has been filling out a grid-type chart each day this week.  It tells us how he was acting and feeling at each time of the day (early morning, snack time, late morning, lunch time, nap, afternoon, etc.).  It hahs been tremendously helpful for identifying what triggers his frustration.  And since the frustration itself has been melting away a bit, I'm hoping she won't need to do them for long.

Today I got this text from her:

Talk about making my heart sing!!  I knew this whole thing was stressing me out, but I really didn't realize how bad until it started to improve.  It's like 300 pounds has been lifted off each shoulder.  I have fallen in love with my son all over again.  (Not that I ever fell OUT of love with him, just that he was very difficult to be around, a lot, over the past few months.  And to think all this time I thought it was just the early terrible two's.)

Yup.  That's the face of hope.  And I'm soooooo glad to see it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Daycare Trouble Update!

It's a little uncanny the timing of this story - how it played out, anyway.

My last post was from Friday afternoon after the meeting with the director of the daycare center.  We had an action plan.  I was feeling a lot better.

And then we went to pick Aidan up on Friday night.

When we walked in the entrance, there stood the director in the main lobby, waiting for us.  I could tell from the expression on her face that she needed to talk to us sooner than later.  She asked if she could walk us to his classroom and talk on the way.

Turns out she did have that meeting with Cody's mom.  And she - for lack of a better way to say it - kinda freaked out and blamed ALL of this on the lead teacher in the classroom.  I laughed out loud when the director told me this.  Of all the people in the world to blame this on, I can't believe she chose that teacher.  The one who's gone so far above and beyond for this kid, it's absurd.  She's spent her own time researching and trying to find new things to try to make things better, despite the kid's own mother insisting he's a normal toddler and being rude toward her.

Anyway, once Cody's mom started bashing the teacher, the director had had enough (mind you this was not the first meeting they'd ever had, there were tons and tons before, always with similar results)... and so the director told Cody's mom that she stands by her teachers and all they've done for Cody.  She went on to tell his mom that if she was that unhappy with the care he was getting, maybe she should find care elsewhere.  Apparently, Cody's mom replied that he would be gone within two weeks.

WOW!  What a start to my weekend!

On our way to daycare on Monday morning, I thought to myself, "ahh, two more weeks, and then we're on to something better."  Imagine my surprise, then, when we arrived in the classroom to find Cody's mom packing up his cubby.  Cody wasn't there.  She had always been so friendly toward all the other parents; this time she wouldn't even acknowledge me.  I don't think we even made eye contact.  Talk about awkward.

So, Aidan started his week in a whole new - yet very familiar - environment.  I was left hoping that within a couple of weeks we'd start to see changes in him.

Last night, we picked up a happy kid.  We had a lovely evening, the three of us.  No tantrums, no freaking out, no hitting, no attitude, no time-outs, nary a tear was shed.  (Not by him and not by me either!!)  WOW! I chalked this up to coincidence.  Certainly this change couldn't have made this much of a difference in just ONE day, right??

Wrong.  This morning, on the second day Cody-free, Aidan's teacher sent me a text.  Said there'd only been one 'incident' so far today and they were able to work through it without a big problem.  She said she's already noticing he is less frustrated.  And he is talking more!!  I fought tears when I read her text.  Maybe my sweet little boy isn't gone after all!  He was just on an extended vacation for a while.

After all he went through for all those months, I'm glad I finally did something.  I am SO happy that I took a stand when I did.

And with that said, this is a really mixed feeling.  I feel really terrible for Cody and the fact that he probably isn't going to get the help he desperately needs in order to become a successful and happy person.  I don't even know that it would require any sort of intensive help, but either way, he won't get it, because his mother is in denial.  And that is so very sad.

On the other hand, I feel so relieved.  I advocated for my child after putting up with this stuff for WAY too long.  The director and the teachers even told me that the parents in our classroom put up with 'much more than they should have to' throughout all of this.  That felt good.  I didn't run crying to the director at the first sign of trouble (which was well over a year ago).  I waited, and waited, and tried hard to work with the teachers and be a support where I could while also looking out for Aidan's best interest.

For the first time in weeks, I am nearly beside myself with anticipation for picking him up tonight.  (I'm always happy to see him, but for a while, pickup also signaled the start of 2-3 hours of difficulty.  I like this much better!)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pick up my little hero!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Toddler Troubles

I know I should probably start this post with an explanation of my more-than-three-month absence (!!)... but I'm not going to.  By the time I got done explaining and apologizing, I'd have already bored you to death.

Things have been good here, with a few rough areas lately.  Nothing major, all little stuff, but it adds up, y'know?

People warn you before you have kids that you will have a whole new world of things to worry about.  They're right.  But of all the things I expected to worry about, there's been one that's sneaked up on me.  It's not a constant worry, but it's more than an occasional one.

I'm terrified of my kid turning out screwed up.  Heh, that sounds absurd even as I type it.  But it's true.

I think this all started because of some problems we've been having at daycare.  First, let me say that I ADORE our daycare.  It's believed by most - myself included - to be the best one in town.  It's really expensive, to the point that it's caused us to make some serious lifestyle changes in order to afford it.  And I wouldn't want to send my kid anywhere else.  Period.

That said, there's a kid in his class, who was also in his infant class, who has been... a problem.  When this other child, who I'll call Cody, started to crawl, he started cruising around the baby room and biting other children on hands, feet, etc.  Anything he could get a hold of.  The teachers would do their best to prevent this, but without the ability to designate one teacher to care for ONLY Cody all day, they can't catch everything before it happens.  They tried to tell his mother what was happening in an effort to get her support with stopping this behavior, but all she does is laugh and say how cute it is.  No matter what he does, it's just cute.  Now, if anyone can understand wanting to believe your child is perfect, it's me, but c'mon.  Let's be realistic here.

Cody has always had very high energy.  I used to playfully (okay, seriously, disguised as playfully) call him spastic.  When we go to drop Aidan off in the morning, Cody is frequently running around in a small circle, head down, as fast as possible, squealing and shrieking for no apparent reason.  He's not a dumb kid, not at all.  He's just... I don't know what he is.  But he's very aggressive, quick to anger, and not very nice a lot of the time.

The teachers have admitted to me that they have to spend more time with Cody than with anyone else.  The lead teacher told me, while fighting tears, that she feels other children in her class, including ours, have suffered because of Cody's issues and Cody's parents' refusal to admit there are any issues.

I originally found out the extent of how bad things have been going when Aidan's teacher started expressing concerns a month or two ago that he isn't talking at school.  The other kids are using two- and three-word phrases, but Aidan is not.  He will label certain things now and then, but mostly he'll just repeat what he's told to repeat.  Which is odd, because at home, he is a total chatterbox.  I've started paying more attention to this both at home and at pickup/dropoff at daycare, and she's right!  I wouldn't say he's withdrawn, but he's quiet and does seem to wander off and do his own thing during free play periods.

Furthermore, he's started mimicking some of Cody's undesirable behaviors like hitting, pinching, etc.  That's when I started really stressing.  When I go pick him up in the evening and his daily sheet says that he was pushing and hitting others on the playground, I have to fight tears.  The last thing I want is for my kid to be a jerk.  I don't care if he's brilliant or not, whether he becomes a doctor or a video store clerk, whether he's gay or straight, whether he has a family or goes it alone his whole life, whether he has tattoos or wears a pocket protector.  But by God, if I have anything to say about it, he's going to be a nice, decent person who treats others with respect and kindness.  On the worst days, I end up leaving daycare afraid I'm raising one of "those" kids.  You know the ones.  Entitled, bratty, full of attitude, rude, inconsiderate.  And the thought kills me.

Just to make absolutely sure that nothing was going on with Aidan developmentally, I contacted a local agency that specializes in this sort of thing.  They told me, based on what I was telling them, that not only did he not need their services, but he wasn't even eligible because they only provide services to children who are at least 50% delayed.  She said that he is either at or above his age level for talking.

So, what to do next?  This whole thing stresses me out.  It's becoming obvious that he doesn't feel comfortable expressing himself verbally at school and is choosing to follow Cody's aggressive lead instead to get his point across.  This is NOT okay with us.  I know that all toddlers do this to an extent, but this is different.  You'll just have to take my word for it.  It's breaking my heart that he knows how to communicate, but either can't or won't in that environment.  The teachers agree with me that Cody's behavior is at least significantly to blame for this problem, but their hands are tied in all sorts of ways.

With Aidan's teacher's permission (encouragement!), I decided to go to observe Aidan's class for my lunch hour yesterday to see if I could identify anything that they weren't seeing, or weren't doing right, or whatever.  What I saw was five toddlers enjoying a free play period, playing nicely for the most part, with baby dolls, bubbles, scarves, trucks, and books.  And then there was Cody.  In my 30-ish minutes peeking through the barely-open door so Aidan wouldn't spot me, I saw Cody throw three different tantrums and demand attention from one or both of the teachers on a nearly consistent basis.  I saw him throw things, hit, pinch, try to bite, cry, scream, throw himself on the floor... and all for what appeared to be no real reason.

I saw two very loving and experienced teachers who have tried everything they can think of to tame this child, integrate him into the class, and who consistently treat him with all the love and respect that they should, even on days when he makes it hard to do so.  I see them becoming tired and frustrated over time and I don't know how much longer they can do it.  They shouldn't have to do it.  It's not fair.

After I observed for a little while, I got to chat with the lead teacher, whom I adore, and while I cried to her (yes, literally, how embarrassing, but I'm just so frustrated)... she validated everything I feel and, once again, made it clear to me that she is committed to continuing to try to make this better.  I asked her if she would mind if I talked to the director of the center.  She lit up like a Christmas tree and told me that would probably be a really good idea.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the director was in a meeting, so we made an appointment to meet with her after work.  (I say maybe fortunately because this way, hubby would be there, and I really wanted that anyway.)

I was a nervous wreck going into that meeting, mostly because I don't like to rock the boat, but dangit, this is my kid, and I am his mother, and my job is to be his advocate no matter what.  So if I have to rock the boat - heck, if I have to SINK the boat - that's what I'll do for my boy.

Thankfully, the director is an awesome person.  She's friendly and kind, yet fair and firm when needed.  She knows Aidan from when she was a teacher in the class next to his and she loves him.  She has been in constant communication with the lead teacher about how things are going with Cody and the ripple effect he's been having.  She's had multiple meetings with Cody's mother about the issues.  She continues to deny anything is wrong.  To try to prove it to her, the center even brought in a local agency to observe for a day.  Of course, Cody was a total angel that day, so the observer's report says there's nothing wrong.  And, of course, Cody's mother is hanging her entire mindset on this report and insisting to the daycare that they are just being cruel to her baby.  Uggghhhhh.

The director has been diligently documenting everything in preparation to ask Cody's mother to take him out of the center.  She fully expects fireworks - and not the good kind - when it happens.  She has her head completely in the sand and won't even listen anymore when they try to discuss things that have happened that day at school when she comes to pick him up.  She laughs about it, and sometimes she reminds them that he's basically allowed to do anything he wants.  They have stopped trying to tell her.  And that's how things have been going the last couple of weeks.

We received a lot of compliments that I didn't expect during this meeting.  I hate being that parent who's a pain in the butt and thinks their kid can do no wrong.  I was quick to tell her that I know my son has his own issues and isn't perfect.  But at least we listen to his teachers when they tell us about anything that's going on and we do our best to respond in a quick, responsible and fair manner.  I've never doubted that they look out for him and his best interests, and would have no reason to fib to me.  The director told me, kind of with a giggle, that she and the lead teacher were just talking the other day about what "phenomenal parents" we are.  She thanked us for being so understanding and for communicating with them and having reasonable expectations.  She told us that Aidan is a wonderful child and that he is lucky to have us.  It made me feel so good.  And hopeful.  And like things aren't as bad as they sometimes seem.

By the time the meeting with the director was over, we had a plan for the next few months including Aidan's transition to the next classroom, and a guarantee that he will NOT be going to the same room as Cody, if Cody's even still there by then.  She was planning to call Cody's mother in for yet another discussion, and this time to let her know that other parents are complaining, and try to get her attention to let them bring some outside resources in to figure out what's going on with him.  I really do fear that if she doesn't remove her head from the cavern where she's currently keeping it, that he is going to do very bad things later on.

WHEW.  I needed to unload that.  I hate coming here and whining, but it's nice to get it out.  If you're still reading this, mail me a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I will send you a homemade cookie or twelve!

Aside from all that drama, things are well on the kid front.  He is still adorable as ever, sweet as ever (most of the time) and growing like crazy.  At 22 months, he is wearing 2T pants and 3T shirts; 4T in some of the Old Navy ones!  The other day I noticed him watching out the screen door while Daddy mowed the lawn, and as soon as I snapped a picture, I realized I had taken an almost-identical one last year.  I put them together and....

WOW!!  Hard to believe the difference a year can make.  For one thing, I'm thrilled to report that my child now has a neck!  Ha!  I know I made all that daycare stuff seem catastrophic, but it really is such a small part of our lives with this little boy.  Still, almost two years later, almost every day I am caught off guard again by how blessed we are and how much I love this little creature.  I know I'm not a perfect mom, but I do my best, and when I do make mistakes, I tell him that I'm sorry and I try not to do it again.  That's the best thing I can model for him, after all.

There's so much else going on - like my epic battle with the IRS and my mother cracking her head open - but I'm all typed out for now.  Til next time!