My three kids — I. (8 years old), D. (11 years old), and C. (13 years old) — have been back at school in-person now (with masks) since September, and it’s been an interesting journey settling back into a semblance of pre-pandemic life.
A lot has changed since March of 2020, of course: I. is now in third grade rather than first; D. is in middle school, adjusting to having six teachers rather than one; and C. is a teenager starting high school (high school!) next year. I’m happy to report that, for the most part, they are doing well and staying reasonably on track. They all agree, without hesitation, that in-person schooling – as exhausting as it is – is infinitely better than what we lived through at home last year.
It’s been easier on me and my husband as well. While it’s taken a few months, I think we’re finally used to the lack of noise and hubbub around us as we proceed with our own work during the day. Since we’re both still primarily (or, in his case, entirely) working from home, The Parenting Juggle remains easier — though this is balanced out by how tired and weary everyone still is. By the end of the schoolday, my kids are done: they need whatever spare energy they can grab for ongoing recuperation.
I’ll focus the rest of this entry on how my oldest, C., is doing. (I’ll return in later posts to talk about D. and I.)
C. (knock-on-wood) seems to have come to an acceptance of her executive functioning challenges – i.e., planning, staying organized, and procrastinating – and is working hard to find strategies to help herself stay successful. I named this post on her behalf because I was so tickled to hear her come and say to me a couple of months ago:
“Mom – I made a deal with my procrastination! I woke up earlier than usual this morning and thought to myself, ‘I have an extra half-an-hour of time that I don’t normally have. Why don’t I get my math homework done now so that it doesn’t interfere with my after-school relaxation time later?’ And, it worked! I got it done!”
C. was so pleased that this worked, and rightfully so. Helping my kids – and my husband – manage their executive functioning challenges has really highlighted for me how much behind-the-scenes work and negotiation goes on in terms of “getting things done.” While many of us may not think much about it, we are all constantly making tiny choices about how we handle the details of our life: when we choose to do something (or not), and why; how much effort to put into something (and why); whether (and who) to ask for help; etc. It’s complex.
Last spring, I started taking C. to see an Executive Functioning (EF) Coach for an hour a week, in the hopes that this would help her build her own toolbox of strategies and meta-cognition around schoolwork. C. liked the coach, and things were going fine – but the coach seemed a little puzzled about how to best help her, since C. pretty quickly came to the following realizations about herself (I’m paraphrasing on her behalf):
- “Sometimes I like the schoolwork I’m assigned, but mostly I don’t. Regardless, I have to get my schoolwork done or else I don’t get decent grades in school and I feel bad about myself, in addition to making my parents frustrated and sad, and having my personal electronics taken away until I catch up.”
- “I really, really like the socialization aspect of schooling, and would rather put up with work assigned by teachers than homeschooling and doing my own projects (which would be way too lonely and unmotivating).”
- “I prefer to get my work done during schooltime if at all possible, so that it’s out of the way by the time I get home – but if that can’t happen, I need to find ways to not procrastinate on finishing, which usually includes telling my parents.”
Based on these self-realizations, C.’s EF coach told me that she felt confident C. would be able to manage on her own (with our support) this year – but she told me I should feel free to reach out if any new challenges arose, since she’d developed rapport and a relationship with C. and could easily step in to help. Fair enough! I was happy to save the time and money on sessions, and willing to start fresh and see how C. did.
Sure enough, as I mentioned earlier, being back in person has made a world of difference for C. and her schooling motivation. Remote learning was, in her words, “not real school” – and while I would beg to differ, she’s entitled to her own feelings and opinions, and this remains her truth.
C. still struggles with anxiety (she had a panic attack at school a few weeks ago), but has learned over the years that the best thing to do is reach out for help – which she did that day, right away. She contacted the school counselor, who got her in touch with a school therapist specially hired for the year to support kids as they transition back after quarantine – and just knowing he’s there has helped C. to relax. Meanwhile, she asked me to please find her a new therapist of her own to talk so, and she’s now on the waitlist for two recommended people (it’s even more challenging than ever to find someone with space on their caseload these days).
As a young and gifted teenager, C. continues to care a lot about social justice issues, talking with passion about the need for inclusivity across multiple spheres. She’s interested in dying her hair, and we are looking into what this will cost and require to maintain. She wants a pair of chunky heel combat boots for Christmas, to start developing “her look”. Her favorite hobby is working on creative, unusual drawings she designs using an app called ibisPaint; she seems especially interested in crafting hybrid creatures that merge humans with mythical or real animals (the girl below is part wolf):
She is insistent that she doesn’t need to explain her aesthetic choices to anyone, and I fully agree.
C. joined Drama Club this year – behind the scenes only, since she’s still too anxious to be on stage, but loves helping out. We went to see a high school production of “Clue” last week and had a blast; I can totally see her being a “drama kid” and finding her peeps there. We’ll see.
For now, I’m just grateful that C. has found methods for getting through school, for relaxing, for being creative, and for reaching out whenever she needs support – these are all major successes as far as I’m concerned.
Copyright © 2021 by HalfoftheTruth.org. Please feel free to share with attribution.