Being a parent is hard. At least, it is if you actually care about your children. It involves making tough decisions. It strains your patience. It cripples your style. Being a parent is also rewarding. Feeling the unconditional love of a child is absolutely amazing. Watching them grow into a human being you can be proud of is profoundly gratifying.
Unfortunately, at this moment, I’m stuck in a ditch on the parental road.
A little under a year ago, I moved towns so I could enroll Baby C in the same elementary school that the twins had attended. They had a great experience there. They had great teachers. They brought home amazing report cards and left the 5th grade with some sort of Presidential recognition reward for their academic achievements. I wanted C to have that same experience. I wanted him to enjoy that same success.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Before he even began kindergarten this year I knew my parental journey with C would be different from that with the twins. C has more energy than a chihuahua with Mountain Dew in his water bowl. He’s like a possessed electronic device that stays on even after pulling the plug from the wall. His attention span is shorter than that of our sitting president.
In short, I knew there would be some challenges.
On meet the teacher night I tried to explain to his teacher that C would likely have trouble staying in his seat and focusing. I’d noticed these things at home. I was not prepared, though, for just how challenging this would be.
Not long after the school year began I started receiving notes from C’s teacher about his behavior. Not only was C exhibiting the behavior I knew he would, but he was defiant and aggressive, too. C doesn’t handle it well when things don’t go his way. He stomps. He yells. He cries. When it was time to do his work he flatly refused. It was an ordeal to get him to follow any sort of direction. I was on a first-name basis with his teacher.
His mother and I decided to take action. We took him to the doctor and had him evaluated for ADHD. We had a meeting with his teacher and a “behavior specialist.” We decided on a plan. We got him medication. We waited for results.
Initially, C had a positive reaction to the medication. Incidents at school were less frequent. About a couple of weeks later, though, the shit hit the fan.
C became extremely aggressive after a couple of weeks on the meds. He was hitting and pushing other kids at school. He was having epic meltdowns in the classroom. He even yelled at me one day after school. That was what got me on the phone with his doctor. Sure, a young boy yelling at his father sounds normal, but it wasn’t for C. He’d never yelled at me before. He’d never even shown anger toward me before.
We took him off the meds and continued with the rest of our plan. Rewards for good behavior. A behavior chart. Constant talk about making good decisions. Yada yada.
Shortly after Christmas Break I received an email from C’s teacher stating that C had escaped the school that morning and they had to organize a team to find him because no one knew where he was. They found him shortly after, but she wanted me to have a talk with him about the dangers of leaving the school.
I replied to her email after composing myself. It would do no good for me to rant and rave angrily. Besides, having worked at a school corporation for over two years now I realize just how difficult a job teachers have. When I responded, I suggested that we needed more help from the school. I told her the things going on weren’t fair to C or his classmates. C wasn’t getting the help he needed and his classmates were having their learning disrupted. I also inquired (politely) how the fuck a 6-year-old boy can walk out of the school without a single adult noticing.
At that point I’m guessing the teacher felt a little in over her head because the response I received was from the “behavior specialist.” She informed me that C did not actually get out of the building, but tried to. She stopped him. Allegedly. She also told me that a staff member was visiting C twice a day to help him with his struggles.
I told her she needed to get her story straight with the teacher and asked her to provide feedback from this staff member who is supposedly seeing my son twice a day.
In her response she admitted to “miscommunicating” the events of the morning in question and offered me no feedback from the staff member. In fact, she offered no response at all to that question.
The next day I decided to drive C to school myself. While waiting for drop-off to commence, I gestured to the doors that C may or may not have escaped through. I asked him if he got out of those doors the other morning. Yes. How far did you get? He pointed to a spot about 20 yards from the doors. Did (the “behavior specialist”) stop you? No.
I was livid. Then it occurred to me that the “behavior specialist” was probably lying about the help C is allegedly receiving. I asked him if there was another teacher who came and visited him throughout the day. No.
Game over. I’m done. Fuck this.
I was upset that C had gotten out of the building under their supervision, but was prepared to let it go. Shit happens when a handful of adults are trying to reign in hundreds of miniature humans. I get it. Hell, C ended up in the ER a few months ago after busting his head open and I was no more than 20ft away. BUT…don’t lie to me about your fuck up. Had she said something like, “It was an oversight,” or, “the person watching the door was distracted by another student,” I would have understood. It can happen. Easily. But don’t play CYA with me because you’re afraid of ending up on Channel 12. That’s not me. I’m not looking to embarrass anybody. I’m just trying to do what’s best for my son. And when I lost trust in the school, I no longer felt comfortable sending him there. What else were they prepared to lie about?
The next day I approached the Superintendent of the school corporation I work for. I told him that I was planning on moving in-state so that C could enroll there, but also asked if I could enroll him that day and let him attend while I searched for a place to live.
Thankfully, he said yes.
C has still had some struggles since moving to his new school, but the frequency is far less than it was before. Furthermore, I am friends with the principal and the staff there (since I have been working with them for 2 years now) and I have complete faith that they will put C in the best position to succeed. I feel confident that I have made the best decision possible for C, even if it has come at a cost to me.
Tomorrow I will officially reside in my 5th state (not counting Confusion, Denial, and Fear, obviously). I will be moving back to the northern side of the Ohio River, but this time it will be in Indiana. It still hasn’t really sunk in that I’ll be *gulp* a Hoosier. I’ve lived in a lot of different places, but I’ve been living in Northern Kentucky for the last 20 years. I had no designs of ever leaving the area.
The downside to all of this isn’t the move to a different state, though. It will mean a significant loss of time with the twins.
While my new place is really only a 30 minute drive away, seeing them will prove difficult simply because they’re 17. They have one year of school left and they do NOT want to change schools. As someone who attended 2 different elementary schools, 3 different middle schools, and 4 different high schools, I get that. Man, do I ever get that. And I want them to finish at their current school. However, they also have lives of their own now. They have jobs. They have girlfriends. They have extra-curricular activities. It’s just not feasible to spend an hour of the evening driving just to pick them up, especially when they have different schedules. So, unless their mother concedes some of her weekend time to me, I will only be seeing my twins every other weekend.
Now, I have rationalized this to myself by telling myself that they’re nearly adults now and they don’t really need me for much anymore. And that’s true. They both have pretty good heads on their shoulders and, quite honestly, have been a walk-in-the-park to raise. I have told myself that it’s about time for me to start letting go. And that also is true. They will be 18 in 9 months. I have explained to them that I’m moving and why, and they understand, because, hey, they’re great kids.
But despite all that I feel like I’m abandoning them. Of course, I’m not, but that’s how it feels.
I’ve had about a month and a half (and a whole lot of drinks) to deal with this and I still don’t know how to feel about it. I know that this is a critical time for C which will lay the foundation for the rest of his education. In that respect, in my mind, I do not regret what I’ve done. I also know that the twins need me more for guidance now than supervision, and that the only way this should affect them is emotionally in the form of missing C or, maybe, me. In my heart, however, I feel something completely different. I feel like I’ve cast them aside, though that couldn’t be further from the truth.
So, yes, the struggle is indeed real. And it fucking blows.