Have you ever smelled something or suddenly felt something that made you remember something, just for a moment? This afternoon as I was walking to my car I walked through some leaves that raised a scent that suddenly took me back to my childhood. Fallen leaves have a certain smell, but this was distinctive, and I had a sense of walking through piles of leaves on the sidewalk down the Main Street where I grew up. I walked those same sidewalks to and from school for 4 years, and to and from the library for many years after that. It was a tree-lined street, and the leaves were abundant, and I loved the fall and kicking through the colorful and fragrant leaves, often with a pile of library books in my arms. (I couldn’t wait to get home so I could dive into those books. Yup, I was a bookworm. I read under by flashlight under my blankets after lights out. I read everywhere and all the time.) Getting into my car, I tried to recapture that moment, tried to remember what kinds of things I may have been thinking about as a young girl, kicking through the leaves. Nothing. I had a vivid memory of the sensations- the scent of the leaves, the colors, the sounds, the chill in the air- perhaps because they were often repeated, but not a bit about what was going through my mind.
One more month to go…of traveling to Brain Balance. (Or at least there was when I started writing this…now we are finished.)We will continue the exercises and diet for awhile, probably a long while. I don’t know what to think of the results so far: it’s not what I was hoping, but then, every kid is different and there are so many pieces of the puzzle. Lately she’s been accusing me of treating her like a five-year old. “I’m in 8th grade and I can make my own decisions!” Am I mistaking this for her usual obstinacy when it is possibly a sign of a growing awareness of herself?
Recently, I went to a teacher’s conference at school. She had a portfolio of work that she had chosen herself as representative of her work. There was also a self-evaluation form for each class where they rated themselves on a list of behaviors, and answered questions like “What is my greatest strength?’ and “What do I need to work on?” It was interesting to see that in some cases she was brutally honest, checking off “Never” or “Sometimes” for “I always get my homework done.” or “I always do my best.” Kate is a natural-born speller- spelling is definitely a strength. But she is always trying to get her Language Arts teacher to give her a modified list. And the test she chose to put in her portfolio had a 50% score on it. A compliment from a teacher’s aide about her hard work one day resulted in detention-worthy behavior the next. It’s like she doesn’t want to succeed. Most significant in her portfolio was a piece of artwork. Most children will draw, at least mine did. My girls all have an artistic bent, some more than others, but you can see in their drawings and artwork a sense of motion, perspective, and depth. Katie only draws when she has to, and then it’s pretty primitive stuff. But I looked at this 8½ x 11 paper, and I had to ask- “Did she do this by herself?” Her art teacher walked by and I asked her, and she said yes, she had done the drawings by herself. There were 4 pencil drawings cut out and glued on the page, surrounded by traced and colored hearts of varying sizes. One of the drawings was a human figure like you would see in an drawing book; the circles and ovals making the shape of the body, head and limbs. They were proportionate, appropriately placed, and shaded. It was the shading that I noticed immediately. It was well-done; the figure had depth. She said she had some help with coloring the hearts in SOS (the after school tutoring program), but the placement was obviously thought out, rather than thoroughly random. I am still amazed, astonished, astounded, and thoroughly awash with delight. Kate doesn’t want anyone to see it. She says it’s stupid. I’ve tried to explain to her that it’s really okay to have someone think that what you do is good. It’s okay for someone to compliment you, and that you should be gracious in accepting the compliment. Yesterday she was working on the dishes and Anna was explaining some of the finer points of cleaning the kitchen to her. She was being uncharacteristically cooperative. I thought of going out and complimenting her on her agreeable behavior, but was afraid that would be counterproductive. I can’t take any of what I’ve learned from parenting my other children and use it on her- nothing is the same; conventional wisdom has no place here. I am at a point of wondering what to do, and feeling at a loss. And, as I relax for a few moments to write this, I am reminded that God has those answers. (I never thought that writing this blog would be so hard, not that it’s difficult to do, but that finding the time is a struggle.) How is it that I can get so sidetracked with busyness that I neglect to make time for God? It is surely neglect, because I know what to do- I just can’t seem to make my way to doing it. It seems that every minute of every day is taken up with must-dos, and I end up going to bed late, and dragging myself out in time to get Sophie to the bus or work, 7 days a week, after about 6½ hours of sleep, and then I’m full-on into the day. My relationships with people are kind of the same deal, necessary communication without a whole lot of eye contact and real listening. I’m too weary to give my full attention, and my brain is functioning in survival mode. So if you are a praying person, pray for God to show me the answers to this dilemma, and that I will make the time to listen.
As our time at Brain Balance draws to a close, I am looking forward to gaining that 18 hours a week back again! I don’t think that I have ever had a time in my life, at least this married with children life, when I have had to be out of my home for more than 50 hours a week. I am hoping that there will be time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons to take some time with Kate to evaluate what her gains have been, to relax a bit and get a routine going that she can handle. Since September 1st, her routine (and mine) has been to leave the house at 8 and get home somewhere between 5:30 (Tu and Th) and 7 (M, W, and F). That’s a long day for a kid who gets up about 4 am, and who has to work hard just to get through the normal stuff we all take for granted. I’m planning to do some of the Brain Balance exercises that she simply couldn’t do at the end of the day, to work on her homework after school, to encourage her to do it well. Now that there have been developmental improvements, I’m hoping that we can continue to improve her brain function, and that she will become motivated to do well, and take pride in her accomplishments. Just this afternoon I had a call from one of the teachers at school. In guidance, Kate had to write something about herself, and initially it was good, but then she added that she wanted to shoot herself. They weren’t taking it too seriously, but of course, had to let me know.
So— it’s been weeks since I originally wrote this…and never got to posting it. It seems so simple, yet I just fly pell-mell through my days, leaving so much undone and neglected.
Last Friday, Dec. 3rd, I had a progress report at Brain Balance. Something that keeps coming up is her lack of respect for authority, and not really making the effort to work at the exercises. I have been pondering the whole idea of motivation for a long time: what motivates us to do what we do? How do you motivate a kid to succeed, for whom there have been few successes? Why does she choose to not succeed, even when she has the ability? How do you make someone care, when they don’t (or choose not to let on that they may care about something). I was listening to a PBS show about ADD the other night. It was primarily about adult ADD, but they also spoke about the effect that being a child with ADD had on them as adults. One point they made was that being able to succeed at something was key- because ADD kids are constantly barraged with negatives about their behavior. Anyone out there with any ideas? I welcome any input. I’m going to post this now, before any more time elapses!