Tag Archives: School

Four reasons to be a fully proud Mum


Some days I feel kind of sad.

It hurts me that other children laugh at my children. At their mispronunciation. At her dyslexia. That they mistake their quietness for weakness and use it to knock down their confidence and reduce their self-esteem.

I feel tearful when I think of a whole family that has rejected them and I wonder if, I alone, representing my side am actually enough.

My heart weighs heavy in my chest as I watch him struggle through one overwhelming situation after another and as I watch her drag her exhausted body out of bed and into another difficult day.

Life can be so tough.

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Some days I feel screamingly angry.

Why do we collect illnesses and disorders like others collect fine art, postage stamps or old coins?

Why is so much expected of us, even though it’s clear that we cannot deliver?

Why do we always have to wait so long, in waiting rooms, for diagnoses, and for support?

Why oh why can’t I be: stronger, fitter, less tired, more patient, more flexible, calmer, more at peace, more confident, better at German, tidier, less stubborn, more stubborn, more understanding and less angry?

Why, sometimes, could I just not give a damn?

Life can be a fucking challenge.

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Other days, like today, I feel heart-swellingly proud.

You see, today is the last school day and today each one of my four children brought home their report card and looked at me with eyes filled with anticipation.

The autistic/ADHD/OCD one, (that’s the one that yesterday, had a meltdown at his sister’s school festival – because there was too much noise and too many people – and, the day before, had a meltdown – because I went to town and I only got home as the storm was starting, thus I might have been injured – and on Saturday, took a meltdown in the wine shop – because it could be that he would knock over a glass bottle and break it and also because there was just far too much glass all around) waved at me not only a card but also a certificate. The certificate clearly certifies that this, named young man, the one with all those difficulties, achieved the highest grades in the whole class.

We drove together to pick up his little sister. Him beaming and waving his award under my nose, me congratulating and attempting to look for endangering traffic.

The little one has just completed first grade. It’s not been the easiest year. She can’t understand her brother’s meltdowns. And there are times when having two impulsive ADHD siblings is a somewhat hair-raising adventure.
Being bullied by a couple of girls from her class hasn’t helped matters at all. Plus despite her making me espressos on a regular basis, the sensitive little soul notices that I am still tired.
To top it all she added asthma to her medical records. And like us all, lived through a recent family member’s suicide.

That little one, won’t be graded until next year, but her report rang in songs of praise. Praise in English. Praise in Maths. Praise in Music, in Sport, in politeness, in orderliness (which must be mentioned because it is an absolute first on any report card ever crossing this threshold) and in general behaviour; the only real criticism was her being a little shy.

Hallelujah! Praise the (fast growing) number four!

Now. I’ll be honest and tell you, the other two weren’t the best reports I’ve ever seen. But I expected that.

And I was still proud.

Because my eldest daughter, she’s still at school, but she’s 19. And she’s got one further year to go. It’s a different system, you see. She’s restless and yes, in this coming final year, she needs to buckle down. But she knows that. And I can see just how capable she is. She sings stunningly, in her school choir, at all the concerts, at events, even in old people’s homes and a few weeks ago she stood up and sang at that family funeral to comfort all of us. All alone. Just her and her voice. No music. Nothing. She was nervous, but she did it and I cried a pocketful of proud tears.
She’s in the school drama group and a few weeks ago she performed her socks off for her audience. Which, naturally, included me. And she has two jobs. You read correctly. Two jobs. I know a few high school kids who have one job. But if I’m honest, not many. But my biggest little girl reliably works two.

Actually, she’s not my biggest little girl. She’s my eldest little girl. The biggest is my second eldest… It might be a genetic thing. My second toe is longer than my ‘big’ toe. Perhaps it has something to do with that…

So my tallest child looked somewhat forlorn as she handed me her report card. She’s the one who’s a perfectionist but also has really bad dyslexia, and ADHD, with a hefty dose of depression thrown in.

Her year has been spent trying to find rays of sunshine on mainly overcast and rainy days.

I am incredibly proud of her because I know that she has torn herself out of bed each and every day. That, despite feeling lost and lonely, she entered her classroom and gave all that she could give at that time. I am ferociously proud because she relentlessly climbed on a bus and trudged through therapy every single week.

And I’m impressed because on top of all that she continued as a school first aider and voluntary fire-girl (along with her brother, though obviously, he’s a fire-boy) and she learned lines and acted her socks off with her sister in the aforementioned school play.

I’m in awe that she not only managed to pass every single subject, but in some she even managed to get good grades.

To each and every one of my children:

I can see you
I can hear you
I love you
And you make me so proud!
Thank you!

Life can be bloody emotional!

 

 

 

 

 

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Being 16


My 16 year old daughter came home from school today and handed me an envelope and told me to read it.

Being a mother of four I felt my stomach drop right out of my bottom as I thought: what now?

But actually, what I read delighted me so much I decided to share it with you.

Joni’s teacher asked her class to write themselves a motivational letter at the beginning of the year and today it was returned to them. This is what she had written:

Joni!

Hey, how are ya doing? Still going strong? You would have got your first grades by now. Hope you’re doing well! 🙂 I suppose it’ll be funny to read this later… Remember, you’ve got to try hard to do well. If you got some bad grades in Maths/Physics, just try again. You’ll do fine. 🙂 Think of the book prize at the end! You want to get it this year, don’t you? And don’t forget that abi’s (German qualification) not far off, if you do well now, it’ll be easier then!

Don’t get nervous about things which aren’t anywhere near happening yet. 🙂

Doing Drama class? Is it good? Remember last year’s show… It was amazing! Loads of fun. Don’t be scared.

How about M.? In proper contact again? Smile at him at school, don’t ignore him! If he’s nice, he’ll make an effort too. But if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay ‘cos there’s plenty of fish in the sea. 🙂 You’ll find the right one, wait if you have to. 🙂

Give support to Aden (brother), but don’t forget Loz (sister) and Kashi (sister).

And if things are still funny with N., you’ve always, always got your family. 🙂

Sending, well… love I suppose … xD

Joni x

I asked about her feelings about the letter. She said, “I’m such a nice person.”

Why I don’t like Mondays


Even more than Sunday night, it signals the real and true, proper end to the weekend. It’s the most days away in the countdown to the weekend. And really, I’m a weekend kind of gal.

But actually, it’s more than that.

Let’s take for instance, the upcoming Monday.

Which also happens to be the Back To School Monday. My schedule at the moment looks something like this:

  • Alarm will ring at 6am.
  • I will slap around, knocking various items off the bedside table until I hit ‘snooze’ on the obnoxious, beeping instrument.
  • The obnoxious beeping instrument will invade my dreams again.
  • And again.
  • I will give in to my bladder and arise from my bed to realise I have only 20 minutes before I need to leave the house and face the traffic.
  • Swearing will be heard.
  • I will run into my sons room and yell that he should, “Get up!” while trying not to let pee run down my leg.
  • I will go to the loo, check my son is dressing, see he is not, yank the covers off him, yell, run out of the room and throw clothes in a haphazard manner on myself.
  • I will re-enter his room and tell him to take off yesterdays dirty clothes while flinging something clean at him.
  • I will watch him dress and simultaneously hear the clock ticking.
  • I will stick my head around the girls bedroom door and hiss, “Good morning, are you up?”
  • We will tear down the stairs, hurl breakfast in our face-holes and I will forget to take my tablets.
  • I will run back into the kitchen, take my pills, convincing myself an empty stomach is of no importance, then notice the clock saying we should have left five minutes ago.
  • I will send my son to brush his teeth and he will wander into his bedroom and look at a book.
  • I will dart up the stairs, drag him into the bathroom, stand over him while he cleans his teeth, and squirt water at him, in an attempt to wash his face.
  • We will put our shoes on then discover that I have, naturally, lost my keys.
  • We will jump in the car, hair unbrushed.
  • We will leave our street and promptly find ourselves behind a tractor.

Now you may be fooled into thinking that my exhausting day is drawing to a close. You’d be wrong. It’s now around 7am.

  • After peeping, swearing, dodgy overtaking manoeuvres, I will finally drop my son off at his 7.20 appointment in town. At 7 .30.
  • I will grimace, turn the radio up and head back into even more horrendous traffic.
  • Stuck in a traffic jam, I will resort to ‘car-dancing’.
  • Finally home, I will kiss my husband fondly, as I find he has given the littlest one the first of her three breakfasts and sorted out her clothes.
  • I will say goodbye to the elder two and wish them a nice day.
  • I will re-sort-out the little ones clothes.
  • I will encourage the little one to eat her subsequent breakfasts somewhat faster, down a much needed coffee, brush my hair and my teeth.
  • Exasperated, I will start a race between my four-year-old and myself, “Who will be first, the dresser or the snack-maker?”
  • I will avoid winning and acknowledge my husband leaving with half a kiss.
  • Teeth brushed, we will leave the house in a deep discussion as to why a jacket is necessary for Kindergarten.
  • I will abandon my daughter at the Kindi, run back to the car and drive to my sons new school for a 9am meeting with the head teacher and his new class teacher to discuss his ADHD problems.
  • Luckily, I won’t have had time to get nervous.
  • I will appear, red-faced and only one second before my appointment’s due.

I have no idea how the appointment will go. I feel a little sick just thinking about it.

  • Having left the meeting, I will drive home and have a coffee.
  • I will check my emails and feel some despair as I look at my bulging inbox.
  • I will throw some washing in the machine, answer the phone, run through the house showing it the hoover, load the dishwasher and try to convince myself that I have completed the housework.
  • I will avoid eye-contact with the fridge, the mop and the dust.
  • I will appear at the Kindergarten in the last minutes of pick-up time and be chastised by a child who wanted to be picked up ‘early’.
  • I will return home as will the elder two, accompanied by lists of what needs to be purchased for the next day.
  • I will eat a chocolate bar as I attempt to find enough energy to make lunch.
  • I will fail, so I’ll ask one of those chatty girls to make me a coffee, before they start their homework.
  • I will make lunch, eat lunch, (want an afternoon nap), get caught up in a conversation with the girls and forget the time…
  • Once I notice the time, I’ll jump six feet in the air, disregard the sticky table, nip to the loo, hunt for my keys then abandon the house for a doctors appointment in a neighbouring town at 3pm.
  • That bloody tractor will be doing it’s rounds again.
  • I’ll sit in the waiting room, all jittery, as I’m fully aware that I have to be in a completely different town in one hour, to pick up my son.
  • My daughter will nervously put out her arm to be injected and I’ll try not to look at the clock as everyone else prattles on.
  • We’ll race back to the car, then attempt our way back through the traffic again.
  • At 4pm, I’ll be parking the car far away, as I can’t seem to negotiate the tiny spaces in the nearby car park.
  • Then we’ll all run to my son.
  • Already five minutes late, I’ll head to the next meeting, due to start at 4.30pm.
  • I’ll sit through the meeting for an hour and a half.
  • Pick up the children.
  • Drive to the shopping centre.
  • Drive around and around the car park looking for the right parking space.
  • Park the car.
  • Accompany every other mother in Southern Germany through the stationers in an attempt to purchase each child’s listed items for the next day.
  • After queuing for half an hour, I will pay for my incomplete goods.
  • I will be assured they will have more X, Y and Z in stock tomorrow.
  • I will try to find my car in the car park.
  • I will pick up my husband on the way home and beg him to make the dinner.
  • At home I will realise: the homework still isn’t finished, the new school stuff still has to be labelled, the washing is still in the machine and I’ve been wearing my pullover inside out all day.

But the thing I really don’t like about Mondays, is that it sets the example for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Did I already tell you, that I’m a weekend type of gal?

Just ADHD? Update


I wrote a post, a few short weeks ago Just ADHD? and I have to say, I am truly amazed at the response it received.

Since I wrote that article, things have moved forward in that I finally found myself with the details of a hospital where my son, Aden, should be able to be correctly diagnosed. The only snag being, a long waiting time. Again.

My issue with that is, in recent weeks more and more problems have begun to arise. And although I understand more and more about why my son behaves differently (mostly from the help I received after writing the above article), I am finding myself with new issues to deal with now, on an almost daily basis.

The school is struggling to cope with Aden and that all became very clear on Friday.

I received a call from the secretary to inform me that he had run away.

A fight had broken out between him and another boy, and Aden had thrown stones. A search of his school bag revealed more stones and this led to my little boy locking himself in the toilet. His class teacher, who, it must be said, is very nice, got him out of the cubicle and the headmaster sent him to the sick room with some work, on his own, to deflate the situation.

Experience tells me, that this is a very bad idea. At this point my child needs to be calmed down (see I am learning, I just need to learn a lot faster, because I’m having trouble keeping up).

Aden, alone and frustrated in the sick room, opened and climbed out of the window and left the building.

Then made his 2km way home. In the rain.

I answered the phone, and literally two minutes later found him standing on the door step.

I calmed him down and explained patiently, that we needed to go back to school and why.

We faced down an angry, sarcastic sports teacher and the headmaster, together.

The headmaster raged about how disappointed he is in my son, how after everything he’s done for him, giving him less work than the other children, etc. Aden has let him down.

I watched Aden’s pained face and I hurt with him.

I understood the headmasters anger, but I realised at the same time that his ranting would absolutely not improve the situation with my child. I also didn’t feel that Aden’s ability to keep up with school work and the current situation, actually had anything to do with each other.

And someone else’s disappointment will not stop him leaving a building or climbing out of a window or even throwing a stone.

I don’t know exactly what will stop my son doing these things. I do know, that in his frustrated, angry, upset state that he wanted to come home. And though I agree that he should not have left, although I’m upset that half the school had to search for my ten-year-old and that everyone knows and the whole school has been disrupted, I’m also aware, that I must be doing something right and that led my child directly back to me.

To reiterate, I do not want Aden to leave school and come home and cause such disruption. What I want is for him to have a normal school experience, with friends and to love learning, like I did when I was young. I want him to achieve and have goals and feel success. To laugh, to interact, to be able to concentrate on the task in hand.

But I also want him to know that he can tell me anything, no matter how awful it is. That he can trust me and that he has my unconditional love. That whatever he does, we can try together to work it out and to do the right thing.

Once the headmaster had calmed a little and after detention had been set, I tried to explain that I believe Aden not only to have ADHD, but also to be autistic. I informed him that we are awaiting an appointment at the hospital, and that our paediatrician has now told me that he suspects my son has not only ADHD, but also autism. I quietly told him that all of this information has been thoroughly discussed with his class teacher.

He sent us off to the class teacher and on the way I explained to Aden that it could be that she is also angry.

Outside the classroom a boy shouted, “Evil Aden!”

I actually couldn’t speak.

The teacher saw us and treated us both with respect and concern. She informed me that Aden is being bullied. That the other children will not leave him alone. They annoy him constantly. They stick things on his back. And that she’s at a loss on how to handle it.

I felt physically sick as she spoke to me and I had to really force myself to blink back the tears.  He had not told me this. Nor had the headmaster. I knew that the week before, a boy had pulled his trousers down after swimming class. Aden had come home extremely angry, but he had also revealed that the child had been properly dealt with.

My son is an obvious target. He behaves differently to other children of his age. Stands out for his different taste in shoes. Makes odd noises and faces. Runs to the teachers and helps them with everything. Tells if he thinks someone’s doing something wrong. Has no sense of personal space.

We had problems with bullying before, last year, and what I do know is, that he will only take so much and then he will react, explosively.

Worried I called the hospital again, to try to hurry the appointment through. And incredibly we were given an immediate emergency appointment. I asked how immediate and they told me to “leave the house right now!”

I picked up my husband and we drove straight to the hospital.

We saw a psychiatrist and explained the current problems and some back history. She told us almost immediately on seeing our son that she thought ‘autistic’, but that we would have to go through a proper diagnosis.

We came home and although it had been a long, horrible day, and we’d spent half of the afternoon filling in forms we’d already filled in ten times before, I had the overall feeling that we’d made a big step forward. Because now we have an emergency telephone number that we can use, be it day or night, should our son require urgent assistance and the hospital will now push us along on the waiting list and give us an appointment, I hope, quite soon.

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Still worried about the potentially explosive situation at school. Last night Aden and I studied the calendar together, which revealed that he has only just over six weeks left at this school, after holidays in between are deducted. I’ve told him to try to stay calm. When he comes home he can bounce on the trampoline and hit the punch bag to attempt to keep his frustration down.

I’ve also told his teacher that, should things be too difficult at school, she should call me and I’ll come by and pick him up.

Invitation for discussion: ADHD


Hello. I am interested in your experiences with ADHD. I am a mum of four, three girls, and one boy aged ten, who is ADHD positive. I am myself British, as are the elder three of my children including my son. But I live in Germany and truth be told, I feel often quite lost in the whole German system. I am a foreigner living in a foreign land. Which is all fine and dandy when everything is running without a hitch, but when faced with a disorder like ADHD, I am forced to realise my inadequacies.

For instance: the diagnosis of ADHD only finally came aged nine, would this have happened more quickly had I had a better understanding of the school system/the health system/the language?

It strikes me that I have never stopped doing/fighting/crying/worrying/questioning/researching/making appointments on behalf of my son since the start of school.

And I am continually astounded by the amount I have been criticised/accused/yelled at/insulted by people who my son and I are supposed to hold respect for.

Both before and after the diagnosis.

Is Germany particularly poor in dealing with ADHD children (and their parents, for that matter)? Is it because I don’t know the system? Are other countries better?

Apparently, a primary school class here should expect to contain three or four ADHD children. If that’s the case, where is the support for those children? The teachers? The parents?

My overall impression at the moment is one of a ‘pass the buck’ phenomenon. The teacher blames the parents for their child’s poor behaviour in class and their inability to concentrate. We go to the GP the GP blames the school/teacher/system and does nothing. Many visits later you are finally referred to a psychiatrist who blames a missing chemical, makes sympathetic faces and then after another few months (mostly of doing nothing) hands out some medication.

Meanwhile the child becomes more and more disturbed and the parents more and more disillusioned.

Surely, experienced, well-trained teachers should be able to spot those three or four children, have a quiet word with the parents (note: not shriek at them in the corridor in front of other parents and pupils, “Your child needs a psychologist!” – this just makes the teacher look irrational, the parent annoyed and the teacher is no longer taken seriously).

Parents could then go to a GP or pediatrician, explain the situation at school (probably the one at home too). Who could then refer onto the relevant professional without much fuss. Instead of informing the stressed out parent that under no circumstances would they feed their own children Ritalin. Although, it becomes apparent that their children are actually not attempting to climb out of upper floor windows to see the moon better, or dismantling the antennae from toy aeroplanes to test the actual power of the electricity in the socket, rather than do the homework that the school demanded must be done in the bedroom. Not under the watchful eye of the mother. (The teacher had already taken the time to inform me that my son’s lack of concentration was indeed caused by me sitting with him to do his homework).

It occurs to me again and again that had my son been diagnosed, and thus medicated age six or even seven, he would probably not have encountered the problems that he then met in the following three years: the aggression, the bullying, the lack of social development, the frustration, the loss of friends, the tics.

And I am 100% positive that we would have spent much less time at the hospital.

The reason being, he would have been on medication, Ritalin. And Ritalin actually works.

It doesn’t fix everything and we are still having some teething problems.

But on it he can read and importantly, enjoy a book (not just a picture book).

I can read his handwriting.

His tics have stopped. Completely.

His sleep has improved.

He can sit at the table for lunch without jumping out of his seat. Though not necessarily for dinner.

But for me, the most magical thing of all, is, for a few hours a day he stops being impulsive. He really can: Stop. Think. Decide. Like we taught him. Instead of just do.

Now, really, I could go on and on about experiences, like when his school tried to ‘sell us’ the all day school in town with small classes. We went with open minds (despite the bad reputation) and found a school for children and/or parents out of control. The focus that of discipline. No support. No counselling. No therapy.

I could tell you about all the busybodies who criticised and advised. Stop the sugar and the e-numbers, the computer games and TV. To start with supplements and discipline. To be honest we tried it all. And more. With no change whatsoever. If you are the parent of an ADHD child, I’m sure you’ve met them too.

I would like to know your experiences. Your opinions. Hear your voice.

Thank you.