Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When Is Enough, Enough Already?

"I'm sorry your parents never told you this....you're a brat!"

So, my son has a lot of problems making and keeping friends. He really is a sweet boy, but he has a lot of barriers down the path of social interaction. First of all, his ADHD makes him extremely hyper and inattentive. He's like a whirling Tasmanian Devil of energy. It's great for races around the neighborhood on bikes, but when the other kids want to do something more structured, like, say, play a game of catch at the end of the cul de sac or throw the football, my kid's ability to participate falls apart. His other neurological challenges, including PDD-NOS (which is on the Autisim Spectrum) make him just, well, awkward. He perseverates on topics that no one else finds interesting (trains, tornadoes, recycling trucks, something funny someone said last week that he is still cracking up about). He has a very hard time remembering things (like people's names) and he usually forgets to ask in the first place. His social awkwardness may come off as "odd" or "rude" or "self-centered". He also has dyspraxia which makes him sort of clumsy, (another reason he shies away from that game of catch) and it also impacts his speech. He is very tall for his age and looks more like a 10-year-old than the almost-8-year-old that he is, but he sounds and acts a bit like a 5-year-old. His frustration tolerance is low and so, just like a 5-year-old (or even younger kid) he has been known to melt down when he doesn't get his way.

We have a lot of kids of various ages in the neighborhood. Mostly the kids are pretty nice to Handsome Man and the older boys in the neighborhood typically indulge him at least for a little while riding bikes. I've never said anything to any of them, but I'm guessing they've got some sense that Handsome Man has some "issues" and I think they are basically wonderful in that they let him play and even sometimes come knock on the door to ask him to ride bikes. But after a little while I notice they all sort of disappear and Handsome Man is left wondering why no one wants to ride bikes anymore and where everyone went? There are also several kids that are about Handsome Man's age or a little younger and they tend to follow him around like The Pied Piper. I am always a bit nervous when this happens because while Handsome Man would never think of getting into a physical altercation if he got mad at one of the older kids, he has had some history of getting physical with other kids.

Now Handsome Man's short fuse has gotten him (and therefore the family) into hot water on many different occasions. Things got so bad 2 years ago when he was in Kindergarten that the school "firmly suggested" he be moved to another school which had a "special program" for kids with "behavioral issues". Not to make a long story too long here, but the change of venues was an absolute disaster; he was put in a classroom full of kids (mostly older) who had some severe emotional/behavioral problems, who targeted Handsome Man, and, basically, demonstrated how to behave even worse than he had been behaving in Kinder. (And don't even get me started on the LANGUAGE he came home with--**cringe**). Let's just say, my son is very impressionable, and he will mimic what he sees or hears. (Yes, I know that is true for all kids on some level but especially ASD kids). After many months of struggling with the school, and then the district, to change his placement (they refused to move him to the Autism Classroom or the Learning Disabled Classroom instead) the Husband and I eventually decided our only option was to put him into a private school. So midway through the school year last year, I actually pulled him out of school and homeschooled him (sort of) for the rest of the year (mostly we worked on his behavior and, basically, undoing everything he had learned from the other students in that ill-fated classroom) until, at last, we were able to get him into the one and only school in our area that specializes in teaching kids like Handsome Man.

Flash forward to this school year, and, on the whole, things are going pretty well. We are blessed to have found this school and they are amazing. Also, during the day he is surrounded by a bunch of other kids who also have issues like Learning Disabilities, Asperger's, ADHD and those who just don't "fit" into a traditional school setting. So, for the most part, his odd behaviors are....normal... when he's at school.

But then he comes home.

Now, to the point of my post. There is one girl in particular who lives across the street from us. Let's call her Veruca. She is just a little younger than Handsome Man. She also has a brother who is the same age as Handsome  Man. They used to play over here quite a bit and both Handsome Man and Grace played over there. We had a nice, friendly, neighborly relationship with the kids' parents and we were thrilled that Handsome Man actually had friends. Now there were several times when I had to break up arguments between the kids over who had what toy first, who's turn it was, etc., etc.. But, basically things were going well. I found these two kids to be a bit annoying (lack of manners, very demanding, bossy, inconsiderate) but who was I to complain, I mean, my kid was the one with "issues" right? I felt I should keep my opinions to myself.

Then, things took a turn.

Flash back to fall, a year ago, when Handsome Man was in the "behavioral" class, and our behavioral struggles at home were at their zenith. After school one day, one of the kids across the street was having a birthday party and my kids were invited. As usual at any group event where my kids are involved, I hovered on pins and needles, hyper vigilant to watch for any early sign of distress in my kid so that I could divert or intervene before anything embarrassing happened. But, the kids were all playing along nicely, or so I thought. I started to relax. And then, the next thing I knew, Handsome Man was throwing punches. At Veruca. Oh. My. God. Of course we made a quick exit and I went back to apologize profusely. The grown ups acted understanding (they'd been made aware of his situation). I felt horrible. Handsome Man was angry at Veruca for some perceived injustice, and he didn't want to apologize (though I did make him). But, Veruca didn't stop coming around to play with my daughter. Handsome Man grew jealous of their friendship and Veruca took every opportunity to throw it in his face...goading my daughter to come play with her, but to leave her brother behind. My son's emotional pain was palpable. But what was I to do? Yes, Veruca was being mean, but I also wanted Handsome to learn the hard way that you can't punch people and then expect them to be nice to you. Also, Grace seemed to like playing with Veruca and I didn't want to keep her from a friendship because of something her brother had done. It didn't seem fair.

Then, one day, a few months ago....

Handsome Man and Grace were playing in front of our house. The family across the street pulled up in their driveway. The parents went in the house, and Veruca remained outside... asking Grace to come over to her side of the street to play (common). Now, I wasn't there that day (I was working) but apparently here's what happened next: Grace went across the street to greet Veruca. I'm not sure if Handsome Man said anything, but my guess is he was feeling hurt about being left out yet again. Then, for some reason I still don't fully understand, Veruca shouted at Handsome Man, waving her arms tauntingly, "Hey, STUPID! Why don't you come over here and HIT ME?"

Well, what do you think Handsome Man did?

{Covering eyes, shaking head}

Veruca cried and wailed and when my husband ran out of the house to see what was going on, Veruca's father was shaking my son in the middle of the street and screaming "What the hell is wrong with you????"

Well obviously, Veruca's parents do not allow her to come over and play anymore. She's not allowed to play with Handsome Man. And I wouldn't want Handsome Man to play with her anymore any way. (And I never see her older brother anymore at all, my guess is he is inside playing video games 24/7).

But this does not keep Veruca from coming over to play with Grace. I don't let Grace go over to her house, but, there are a few other slightly younger girls in the neighborhood that like to play together and Veruca likes to be the ring leader. So they all play outside together, and Handsome Man rides his bike. He keeps asking me when Veruca will be his friend again, and, he keeps bringing her little treats when she is out playing: cookies, yogurt pops, crackers, juice boxes, you name it. Daily, Handsome Man gives me an update: I think Veruca isn't mad at me anymore. I think Veruca might start liking me again soon. I think Vercua does not hate me.... Not only does she gladly accept the many gifts, but she has started coming to my door demanding them. However, she announces that she is not allowed to come in our house, so can I/Grace bring her XYZ? No please, no thank you, and then, to add insult to injury, she usually leaves her empty juice box, yogurt wrapper, or whatever trash on the from porch or in my driveway. She uses my daughter's bike or scooter and leaves it in the street. And she continues to treat my son like crap. And my son keeps trying to win her friendship back. And she continues to exclude him and say rude things to him. Today, she called him stupid again. Stupid. My beautiful boy who struggles daily with school due to not only his ADHD but also a hefty case of Dyslexia. My beautiful boy, who, despite my telling him to the contrary, really believes he is stupid, and has told me so on numerous occasions. Handsome Man, who looks more and more like a man and less like a kid each day, comes to me in tears after being called stupid.

I told him, if that's how she treats him, then, well, does he really need her friendship?

He went on riding his bike.

Then Veruca came around at snack time. Grace came in and got yogurt pops for Veruca and the two other little girls from the block. Handsome Man ran out to offer her some mango we had just brought home from the store and some water. The girls played with my kids' toys in the front driveway and ate their snacks. I popped my head out and asked if she could please pick up her trash when she was done, please, and thank you.

Two minutes later,  I overheard her say, to my daughter, "This is your house so you have to pick up my trash." As I stepped out the front door, I saw her throw her yogurt pop wrapper on the sidewalk.

Something clicked inside......ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I stepped out and told Veruca, "You need to stop bossing my children around like that. Also, I know what you have been saying to Handsome Man and you know that it is not only wrong, but it is just plain mean-spirited and rude!! Now please pick up your trash, it's time for my kids to come in for dinner."

She walked away looking very sad, and saying nothing, I'm sure she was on the verge of tears, but.... I DONT CARE!! I CANT STAND THAT KID!

I know my son was in the wrong to put his hands on her...twice. But we have all been walking around on eggshells around her ever since and I feel like I've been the emotional hostage of a petulant little child for the past few months.

"Stupid" is a bad word in my house, right up there with the other "S" word and the "F" word. Handsome Man has made stunning progress and is very good with his language, so these are words I don't usually hear unless I'm watching an uncensored episode of Kitchen Nightmares...Furthermore, despite the problems we may have had... one thing Handsome Man has never gotten in trouble for is for calling another child names. Where does Veruca get the idea to call him stupid? Though he may be smart as a whip, the truth is he is a Special Needs Child and this is something of which I'm sure she is aware of (as much as one can be at her age). Where did she hear this from? Her parents, I'm sure. Now, I know if I were in their shoes I would not be happy if someone had laid a hand on my child. I do not blame them for telling her she is not allowed to play over here. But, I never addressed the fact that the Father grabbed my child and screamed at him. I feel like I'm in a case of the Hatfields and the McCoys over here, but my feud isn't even with the other adults, it's with their child.

Am I totally insane, or was I right to speak up? I feel like I need to set an example, at least for Grace who is the youngest of the neighborhood kids, that she should't let others boss her around, and I certainly don't want her acting that way at someone else's house. As for Veruca's taunting Handsome Man, should I go speak to the girls' parents or just let it lie? As a parent of a child with special needs, am I being oversensitive? When do I step in, and when do I leave my kid to work things out and take the lumps he's given. They will always be able to pull the card, "Well, your kid hit my kid..." so, I don't really feel like I have a leg to stand on, but I still want to say it, out loud, at least here on my blog.....


What do you think?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Did I Just Say That?

10 Things I hear myself say the most often on any given day

1. Eat OVER your PLATE!
2. Did you wipe your hands?
3. Close the door!!
4. Did you wipe your butt?
5. Did you wash your hands? (Usually accompanied by, 'Did you flush the toilet?')
6. Don't lie to me...
7. I'll be there IN. A. MINUTE!
8. Can I please have some privacy!?!?!?!?!? (Usually said while trying to get in the shower/get dressed/go to the bathroom).
9. Gross. (Can also be substituted with, 'What *IS* that?')
10. INDOOR VOICE!!! (Ironically, I am usually not using my Indoor Voice when I make this command).

I'm sure there are more... but these are the ones I know I've said like eleven hundred times recently. What are your most repeated phrases? Leave them for me in the comments!