Susan's Blog

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nature Vs. Mutcher

Oh, Little B! A hard day for B. My sweet little boy. He was having an anxiety attack about school this morning. Crying, scowling, hidden under his hair. He finally was able to articulate it: “I’m nervous.”
I said, “About what, Honey?”
And he said, “It’s mix-it-up day in the cafeteria. We have to sit with new kids who aren’t our friends.” He started making fists and clenching his teeth, with tears in his eyes. I didn’t know what to tell him. But I suddenly thought, it is time to really advocate for Ben. Just as I did for Nat, I have to stop following to a T what the school wants and tell them that some of this just doesn’t work for B.

I was not going to force him to do mix-it-up-day or anything else. I do not believe in forcing kids. I believe in development. Rarely does a person get all of their soft fatty nature squeezed out of them by forcing them into a constricting suit. You can’t mutcher it all too much. Soft fatty nature pretty much stays with us, but can be turned into muscle, used to our advantage. But we have to know what of ourselves is SFN and what is fatty habits. And what will we just grow out of, like baby fat. We also have to let development happen sometimes.

We have a great guidance counselor at B’s school, and she hung out with us for a while talking with him and me about strategies. We decided — with Ben’s agreement — that we are going to evaluate his learning style, which is a big part of the issue. He fades out sometimes, and also gets very frustrated about open-ended assignments. We are going to figure out if he needs some accommodations around homework and certain in-school activities. I think he was very relieved to be able to tell the guidance counselor exactly what he felt about certain assignments, subjects, and teachers. She made him feel very safe and he seemed really together by the end of the hour.

When B got in the car he told me his day, especially mix-it-up-day was not terrible. He had L at his table in lunch, which was good. Although he had some third graders, too! Shudder. The indignity.

B’s teacher gave him a timer to set to thirty minutes so he can time himself on his homework. If he has been working hard at it for thirty minutes, he is allowed to stop. I added a rule: he has to do all timer homework around me. To help prevent fade-out.

[Fade Out]


Hopefully it’s obvious that I’m not referring to Nat in this comment — that’s an entirely different situation and has entirely different parameters.

I thought long and hard about responding to this post, then decided (barely) to submit a comment for four reasons. First, you post things because you want to share them with everybody. Secondly, you’re smarter than the average bear, so you know that it’s expected people will have differing opinions. Third, you can always choose not to post my comment (which incidentally would be totally 100% fine by me … this is YOUR blog afterall). Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this subject really hits a nerve with me.

You’re a very involved mom. I think it’s safe to say you’re more involved (or more “concerned?”) than the vast majorities of moms out there. That being said, take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

Don’t coddle him. I feel it’s a huge mistake. He’s old enough for you to begin letting go a little bit and let him take some lumps.

Life isn’t fair. It’s almost never easy. My kids would the first people to tell you that when they are having difficulty with an issue my response is usually “Well, that sucks for you. Try your best to deal with it. Let me know if you want to talk about it.”

No, I’m not so callous that I don’t care. I can often empathize with the particular difficultly they’re facing. I behave that way because I don’t agree with individual rules and expectations.

Our children will from time to time fail miserably when trying to fit into the mainstream system.

The opposing argument is that every child is different — they learn differently, socialize differently, and develop differently. While that’s all fine and good, the real world doesn’t accommodate these differences.

I hate it when my kids are involved in a particular activity (academic or athletic) for which everybody receives a trophy for participating. Bull crap. Those that excel are deserving of an award. I boycotted one of my sons’ graduation from third grade. Please! Third grade!

Let me bring my comment back to the point. If I were B’s parent (which I’m not, so I’m not criticizing, just expressing a differing opinion), I would have told him “Wow, that sounds like you’re really concerned about mix-it-up day. Good luck with it. Try your best.”

Shortly thereafter I would have added “Do your homework, and have it done before dinner.”

I’m kind of shocked upon re-reading this comment that I sound like such a hard ass jerk. Maybe I am. I dunno. I know my kids will fall on their face from time to time (even when I see them falling I’ll let it happen).

It’s a conscious effort on my part to let my kids learn for themselves that I’m not always going to be around to bend the system to meet their needs and/or potential.

— added by Don on Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 4:45 pm

What you say has merit, of course, but it’s just not how I parent. It is more how Ned parents, though. The problem I see, though, is that if a child is going through much of his day unhappy. I don’t believe that is good for him, if so.

Nat, by the way, is not out of the equation, however different his issues are. We ask ourselves everyday if we are adequately tough on him, trying to prepare him for the world. He is not removed from many of the same concerns, though he is not in the midst of public school angst either.

Damn right I’m involved. I cannot and will not be any other way and I don’t believe my children will suffer for it. If they need more support and time to get someplace, and the school is being a rigid, somewhat corporate bureacracy about everything, then I will do what I have to do to get my boy the time and support he needs.

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 5:04 pm

This is a very interesting post on Anxiety attack! This website has helped me a lot on axiety attacks and it’s very useful. They have many great tips to guide to. Do check it out at

— added by jason on Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 8:43 pm

What I take from this post is a reminder that our “non-special needs” kids still need some advocacy at times. My youngest son is as “typical” as they come. But he expresses worries to me often about being “shy” in preschool. I take it seriously. (No one else seems to.) If a kid can’t expect his mom to buffer him a little, then who will?

Maybe having a special needs child makes us bigger softies, more sensitive to our children’s moods?

— added by gretchen on Friday, January 25, 2008 at 9:56 am

Your blog entry really frustrated me. My fourth grade daughter started a new lunch program at school this week similar to Ben’s school. I was thrilled despite the fact that my daughter was probably going to have a tantrum about it at school. Why was I thrilled? My daughter has autism and currently for lunch they have her sitting at her desk by herself reading magazines. She is mad at me and the school for this change but I fought hard for it and I know she will benefit.

— added by Anonymous on Friday, January 25, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Some how my kids settled into school quicker than their Momma got use to the idea.

Eldest (8) has friends… although, at times they just think he’s strange they don’t realize he has NVLD. Nor does he b/c I’ve never told him.

My 6yr (severe, non-verbal PDD) is the school pet. I sent along a book “making friends with a child with autism” it’s age appropriate for a Gr 1 class. The teacher read it to them and they have discussed it. Whoever’s special helper day it is… is also his best friend for the day. I have no idea what they do when it’s his turn to be special helper. The older children (Gr 7/8’s)take turns playing with him at recess and lunch. Whenever I am there, or in the village, we get stopped all the time by children (including tweens) who want to talk to them.

Part-time daycare I am certain helped with their abilities to socialize. ASD quite often are very sociable, just inept at it.

I am involved in the big stuff (getting proper services, IEP’s etc) and the at home homework. The day to day running in the classroom is up to them to look after. If I did it.. we’d lose the support worker. Besides.. I need time for me to.


— added by farmwifetwo on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 1:29 pm

sometimes i also have anxiety attacks and when it happens, i just breathe slowly and deeply to help me relax.::’

— added by Aaron Stewart on Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 4:19 pm

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