Shocking the carpool moms…

scribbleThis morning was rough.

J, my 11-year old with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) has recently started school after being homeschooled for 2 1/2 years, and while it’s probably our best option out there it is not perfect. He’d be the first to tell you that. I’d be a close second.

We are now in week 4. Weeks 1 + 2 were blissful, week 3 was rough, and now, finishing up the first month it looks like rough is here to stay.

He got up at 4 this morning, then 5, then 7. “You are a f*cking bitch!” he yelled me at 4 a.m. when told to get back in bed.

At 5, “You don’t care about me, you asshole!” He pulled a framed picture off the stairway wall and hurled it at my husband, who was explaining he had to wait until 6 to come downstairs.

At 7: “I hate that fucking school. It is so fucking boring! Get me the fucking salt!” He threw the kitchen chair to the floor.

His dad and I kept our cool. Sad to say, we’re kind of used to it (as much as a person can get used to it) and we’ve learned that feeding the anger only grows it, like oxygen to a fire. Despite all of it, by 7:30 he was in the car, dressed, shoes on, fed, lunchbox packed.

Typically, I go for a walk after carpool drop-off. I usually have on workout clothes, have brushed my teeth and hair, and am wide awake. This morning, not so much. “You look like it’s been a hard morning,” one of the carpool moms said. “It was rough in my house, too.”

“Yeah,” I said. “J woke up a lot, screaming.”

“My daughter woke up screaming, too!” Carpool mom #2 said. “Poor thing. She had a bad dream.”

“Oh, no,” I said, “No bad dream here. My son woke up screaming about what a fucking bitch I am.”

“Oh, uh…” ((Crickets…)) The carpool moms didn’t know what to say. I don’t know if they don’t believe me or if it’s too much for them to imagine him acting like this. By the time we get to carpool he’s switched into “public” J – happy, friendly, cooperative with other adults. I know that this “public” J comes with great effort and it’s the aftermath of this effort that we’re seeing at home. Keeping it together all day so that other kids like him is very, very hard for him. Home is his safe place. He can relax. But with relaxation and safety and knowing that his dad and I will always be there for him gives him a place to let the anger and stress out. On us.

It’s really hard. I don’t like it. My sleep is suffering. I’m worried about it getting worse. I’m worried about this school, our very best option in a very imperfect set of options, not being a good enough option after all. I’m worried that in 6 months or a year we’ll have to figure this all out again. I’m worried that the first real respite I’ve had in 2 1/2 years is temporary. That I’m going to have to, once again, carve out solutions where no solutions exist. I’m worried that once again I’ll have to put any professional goals and aspirations on hold because his needs trump mine. His needs always trump mine.

But there’s also pride buried down there among the worry. Because 2 1/2 years ago he couldn’t have kept it together for a whole school day. He couldn’t have worked independently on anything, gotten along with anyone – especially other kids – and he had no confidence in himself. He’s different now. He’s much more able. He has acquired the switch that allows him to get along in public. The cost on his family, especially me, is high, but the confidence he’s acquiring is amazing.

So in the end, I’m glad that the carpool moms can’t imagine him acting that way. I’m glad they’re shocked!  He is learning to play the game. It’s a good skill to have. Because he’s so good at it It’s probably impossible to imagine him raging at me, throwing books and hurling chairs across the room, saying things to me that they could never, in a million years, imagine their children saying.

I just wish it was hard for me to imagine as well.


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12 thoughts on “Shocking the carpool moms…

  1. Way to go, J, on all your progress. Hang in there, Adrienne. The fact that J’s able to pull it together in public is HUGE! Next step will be for him to find better ways to cope at home. It will come, my friend. It will come.

    Big hugs.

  2. your post made me cry. i had that day yesterday (and most days) and while i’m so happy she can keep it together at school, it is so hard to live this home life day to day. thanks for posting.

  3. Adrienne – I’m so impressed with you and your husband. I know that reacting to their tantrums does indeed fuel them but it is a nasty game that gets played in my head that if I do nothing he will never learn but if I do something he will never learn. Either way I feel at a loss. I guess that is where unconditional love comes in. I think them knowing that we can keep it together (mostly) and that no matter what they do, we love them, will help them most. Way to go. Thanks for your honesty and sharing. It’s not easy to do. Brittany

    • I feel the same way. However, I’m ashamed to admit that I am weak and usually do not keep it together. I end up fueling the fire and then feeling like a complete failure and the most horrible mother.

  4. Thank you! Goodness… for just a brief moment while reading this I felt “Normal”. As normal as life can be right? Thank you for your raw honestly! Thank you for being real! For being transparent. I continue to pray each day that my daughter will continue to grow these “public” skills. She does okay most days, in public. But yes, I get not even trying to explain to someone else how very different it is. And as we know, we wouldn’t trade it for the world, my love for her is forever strong… Even if I feel weak and defeated at times.

  5. Thank you for sharing! I too had a morning from hell. One that caused me to come home cry and question God – Why Me? What did I do in life to deserve this? I’m not quite sure why he feels I can handle it, because in 8 years I have yet to prove that I can. In fact, I’m confident that I make it worse. In a world that I feel so alone at times, I find some kind of comfort in knowing that somewhere out there another family is experiencing something similar to what I am.

  6. We just made the opposite switch from public school to homeschool. Three weeks into the school year, she had turned in zero assignments. They don’t seem to have any idea what to do with children who on the outside look somewhat normal, but who function socially/mentally at about half their bio age. Seriously….chemistry, geometry, world history? Worse, though, I can’t imagine what it’s like to never understand why you don’t fit in. She texted me on her last day there, “Mom Im so tired of messing up.”

  7. Thanks for sharing that. I sometimes feel like I am the only one dealing with a difficult child. So glad that I found this blog.

  8. I have just found your wonderful website(s) and wanted to say how much it means to me to ‘hear’ your stories. In my current life, I am the ONLY person who is having this experience. No one I know has ever even heard of a child exhibiting these sorts of behaviors. My 10 year old daughter is in the middle of a long-anticipated assessment to confirm that she is indeed dealing with FASD. Your words, and the support of the assessment team, illustrate to me that this is the ‘thing’ she has been affected by for her whole life. It is terribly hard to hear that she is brain damaged, but it is such a relief to know she’s not completely ‘off the rails’. To hear that these behaviors are completely expected in a child with this disorder is actually GOOD news. And to realize that NONE of this is due to my parenting. Well meaning, yet unhelpful professionals have suggested everything from parenting classes (I have 3 children, same environment. Only the ONE has the behavior problem.), spending more quality time with her (hello, she doesn’t go to school very often – we have 24/7 together. May not be ALL quality, but there is NO more time available), using more discipline, charts, stickers, rewards, consequences, punishments, time-outs, etc etc etc. and my ALL-TIME favorite advice…… ‘tell her she must do xyz b/c you SAID she must’….. oh yeah, that one- silly me. How could I forget to use that one?
    What a rant. 🙂 As others before me have said, it is just SO fab that you have made the effort to share your ups and downs ‘out loud’. I am ever so grateful. Thank you most sincerely.

  9. You are an amazing and selfless person and your love for your son is inspiring. My only concern is that confiding in the carpool moms about his violent outbursts in the early morning was probably not the best way to vent. They don’t get it and you can’t really expect them to. They, being typical parents of typical kids, will most likely pass judgement now on your son who is trying very hard to be happy j at school and to make friends. These parents are now more likely to be more reserved and hesitant in allowing their kids to interact with yours. It sucks but such is life. I’ve been there one too many times and it’s almost always the same – parents don’t want “bad influences” around their children. So, while I 100 percent have your back and he’s ya (I, too, am sweared at and disrespected regularly by my 8-year-old), my only advice is to try to keep it together in front of the carpool moms. It sounds like your son is trying his best to hold it together ’round these folks and so you should, too.

    • Thankfully, that didn’t happen. They were all great and understanding about it, but maybe it’s because before we started carpool I was really clear about who my kid is, what he’s like, and why. I find that being open with people as much as possible about my son’s disability leads to understanding, actually.

  10. You are one very strong lady Adrienne ! The patience you have makes you one very super Mum! A lot of parents at car pool are oblivious to the real world. I love the fact you’re sharing your life with us which allows other mums out there , that they are not alone. Stay strong.

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