Sunday, November 20, 2011

Starting School in May... Positive changes in damaged lives

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (2011-05-16, 6:11 AM)

Note:  November 20, 2011, 6:55 PM

Been working on tweaking and changing some of the tools I use to post, and the new method makes it very easy to migrate posts from one blog to another.  Eventually, I would like to move everything over here from the old LJ blog, but that is not a huge priority right now.

However, working on the system for doing that, I did want to move a few over tonight.  I posted a couple on their original publication date and posted a few for tonight.

In the future, I will probably just sneak most of them in behind the current posts on their original date.

I will also be working on a couple years worth of posts that were pulled down off of Rubble when it was repurposed and never put up anywhere else, the new SE2 or the old.

Up early. Little sleep. Big day… The big one returns to school today for the first time since Winter Break and moved in full time with me yesterday for an indefinite period. The little one, who moved in full time a month ago, starts his second week at his new school today. Life has been full of motion the last month, and it has all been good, for the most part. Jason has been doing a lot better since moving out here and Jack has been doing better for a couple months now, though there have been definite ups and downs. Hopefully we can work on getting these ups and downs stabilized.

For the big one, the big news is that he actually seems to be looking forward to school now that he has transferred to the local school here where he actually knows a lot of other kids. Also, the school itself seems to have a lot more resources to help him succeed and more programs and classes that interest him. It, so far, looks like a really good fit for him. He is a smart kid and his recent test scores are high, so he should have little trouble getting back up to speed and not having to repeat the sixth grade, if he applies himself. The school staff is confident that he will not be too far behind, at least.

The real key is the part about applying himself. We sat down last night and had a family meeting on the rules and expectations here now that both boys are living here full time, and one of the big changes for Jack, I could tell, will be the fact that there will be some basic expectations regarding his behavior at school and there will be consequences at home for failing to meet those expectations. The bar here is not high, the expectations are that he does what the teachers tell him to do, that he does the work that they assign him, and that he tries his best. There will be consequences for the behaviors he was showing at his old school, such as telling his teacher that he wasn't going to take home the homework she was assigning, drawing pictures in class instead of doing the work assigned, not showing up to class prepared or bringing his books home so he could actually do his homework. I am talking about the very basics here.

Last week Jason ran into this issue. He told the teacher that it didn't matter what happened in class because it wouldn't matter once he got home. That is no longer the case. He was shocked when he had consequences at home for some fairly serious issues at school. I warned him ahead of time that this would be the case, but he was shocked to learn that these warnings were not just noise and idle words.

Still, with the little one, that day was huge. He lost his video games for the day because of his defiance and disrespect at school, but instead of melting down in a huge fit, attacking me, and trying to break everything in the apartment, we went for a little walk and then he was over it and ended up having a great afternoon. He even made two new friends that day who live here in the complex and played with them until it was time to come in and get ready for bed. Just the fact that he was able to deal with his disappointment in a way that did not ruin the whole day was huge.

I've been seeing this positive change over and over the last few weeks. Yesterday, I saw it a bunch. Instead of throwing a huge fit when something upsets him, he is starting to learn some coping skills to deal with these emotions in a more healthy way. We still have a long way to go before we are back to "normal" for his age, but the progress so far is noteworthy and, considering that it was only a month ago when he was removed from his last school for destroying his classroom in a fit that only ended when the police showed up, when he was almost put on severe anti-psychotic drugs for attacking his mother and for having a huge meltdown at his psychiatrist's office, and when he was found huddled up, shivering at his old school's playground at two in the morning by the police, dressed only in his jammies, after running away from his mom's house, the progress is huge.

So, yes. I have my hands full. But the work is very rewarding. Seeing these boys slowly coming back to life after being stuck in hell for months is wonderful. Seeing them slowly becoming happy is a joy beyond words. Of course, not every minute of every day is puppies and ice cream, but more are than aren't, which is actually kind of surprising to me considering where we were a month ago.

I am sure that the big one and I will face a number of challenges over the next few weeks as he settles in. Because of the damage in the boys' lives over the last year, and longer, they have a very hard time understanding what a healthy family is supposed to look like. The fact that we have a few basic expectations in this house, mostly summed up by our number one rule- treating others, and ourselves, with kindness, tolerance, and respect- along some basic, fundamental concepts that have been neglected in their lives like having bedtimes, maintaining basic hygiene, and having a healthy diet, and that there are consequences for not meeting these expectations, to them often feels like an entirely unfair proposition that will only lead to misery. However, because these expectations are pretty basic, mostly involving acting like a civilized human, and because they know that there will be consequences in this house for not meeting expectations, they rarely have to deal with any consequences at all, and because these basic expectations are being met, the boys are much more relaxed and happy when they are here than they have been in a long time. Hopefully, when the big one has the chance to settle into this environment, he'll really take off.

For both boys, probably the biggest challenge I have right now is that they have no faith that any grown-up is acting in their best interest. This is understandable after the year they have just had. A year ago, they were just starting to build some faith in the adults in their lives, but this has been shattered since then. To make it worse, apparently a lot of things were said to them about me that leaves me digging out of a pretty deep hole with them. Some of this, with the big one, even happened a few weeks ago and undid quite a bit of the progress we had made since my return from California, so we are starting from a point further back than we should have been.

This is very sad, because shit like this has really hurt the boys over the years. But, now that they are here, we can resolve that issue once and for all. Really, time here should cure that, along with limiting exposure to these unstable, damaging forces in their lives. Hopefully, after the boys have had some time to heal, they will be less susceptible to these forces, as well. Some solid work with their teams of therapists on these issues will help, as well, now that their mental health providers can focus on the boys, not on the chaos in the place where the boys were living.

But that is all for now… a long, vague rambling rant about a very complex situation. Just moving ahead one day at a time, doing what needs to be done, through the good times and the bad. The goal right now is to get these boys as stable as possible before their mom lands here in another couple weeks. Yes, she's heading this way. When that happens, I am sure that we'll have another huge set of challenges as we all work towards healing this family, but it is work that needs to be done. We're in a pretty good place right now, and the way I got here, at least, has been by taking these challenges one at a time as they arise and dealing with them in a sane and sensible manner. So there is no use worrying about a future that isn't even here yet when there is so much to be done in the mean time.

Ack, one final bookkeeping note… Some more tests came in and the big one does NOT have Wilson's Disease. These tests are as definitive as possible with the current technology. This is good news. But it is sad that so much damage was done because of the fear of this diagnosis.

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