Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sometimes It’s Just Hard


Every time I am mulling over a topic for a post it seems as though Natalie at Mouse Grows Mouse Learns posts about something similar in context to what I have been wondering how to put into words.

The last month with Selena has been a challenging one, not in the light of homeschool, or behavior, nothing like that but more in the sudden awareness from dear friends, and Selena herself, that she is not in the same “class” of her peers. I have heard comments that she is hyperactive, to she is so out of control, and even suggestions that we need to medicate her. There have been times my feelings have been very hurt, to times that I have been right down angry. At times this has made me stop and try to reevaluate Selena, and other times it has made me just simply say, “Until you walk 24/7 365 days in my shoes you do not have the right to attack Selena or the way I parent.”

From the time Selena was a year old, we knew she was bright, smarter then average, and in so many ways not able to relate to those her own age. I still remember observing Selena watching other children her age, with a look on her face of concern wondering why they couldn’t understand her, or do some of the things she could do, as well as to questioning why they were acting like they were. I knew from that point life for Selena would be complicated.

It is easy to see that Selena does not have many friends her age, she gravitates toward the older children. This is not to say that she is on their level socially, or in maturity, but more in the area of academically. She finds it easier to talk with, understand the older children, as well, as she feels challenged being around them. Sure I can see deficits in this type of situation as Selena is not always emotionally or physically developed for the older children, but I suppose that is what drives Selena, that is where she finds her challenge she needs to keep going.

This type of situation does not come with a real smooth reality. There are times that Selena discovers that the older children do get to do more then she is allowed to do, and this presents itself in some attitudes that Papa and I have to deal with. This also lends itself into a society view, that all children aged 4 should only be learning certain things, or should only be with 4 year olds. Do you think everyone thinks it is cool for Selena to be with their 7 and 8 year olds? No, reasonably not. Do you think these 7 and 8 year olds truly want to come for play dates? No, reasonably not. Do you think we want Selena constantly with 7 and 8 year olds? No, reasonably not. So where does that leave Selena?

I watch her in Cubbies, where she is with 3 and 4 year olds. Her own awareness of herself is truly becoming more apparent. She is not as accepting anymore to settle for the “This is where you belong because you are 4” attitude anymore. I watch as we enter the church, Selena knows exactly where her class is, but she will always try to make that discrete right turn to head into the room where the older children are. Upon my stopping her and reminding her that she has to go to her classroom, she sighs a sigh of disappointment as she makes her way to her class.  Upon her table she finds the simple color pages or mazes that her leader has laid out for them to work on that evening. Selena is able to master her way through the mazes quickly, and sometimes with a little push from me will make a rainbow trail through the maze, just to keep her in her seat. The picture the children have to color always has the verse of the night printed on it. Upon seeing it, Selena quickly pushes it to the side, informing me that she already knows her verse. I urge her to decorate the page which she does do, but she is always looking for more complex materials to decorate it with.

As with any large group of 3 and 4 year olds, sometimes transition time between one activity to another activity can be slow and tedious. If I am not on my toes to see that Selena is not so focused on what the other children are doing, she will simply disappear into a corner looking for the puppets to begin her own cubby story, or in search of the leaders Bible so she can just sit and read it herself. She asks several times during this point, “Why can’t I just have my handbook, so I can just sit and read it Grandma.” I quickly remind her that this is the rules of cubbies and she will get her handbook back after she does her verses. Of course she walks off with a look on her face that tells it all. “I know my verses, just let me say them, give me my handbook, and I will just go read it then.”

Selena does enjoy game time, so long as the activities are fast paced. One week one of the games was very slow, have you ever thought of 14 3 and 4 year olds sitting in a circle waiting their turn to feel an object in a cup to try to guess what it is? Selena definitely was not the only child having problems with patience, but she was the one who just said fine I will go play with the babies that are in the room. I knew we had pretty much lost Selena for the rest of the evening in game time. By the time they did begin the more active games, Selena was totally disengaged to the point she was not even listening for the instructions.

Now we move onto handbook time. Selena struggles with sitting there while the other children in our small group either try or refuse to try to work on their verses. The expressions on her face are so clear, “What are your problems? I know my verses, why won’t you at least try?” Of course we have done a lot of work and have trained Selena to keep her thoughts to herself and to not just blurt them out there. That is not to say she is perfect in this area, but she tries.

I am not blind, I can easily see where some might suspect that Selena is hyperactive, or has problems. I see her body language just as well as anyone else can, however, I understand that this is Selena’s way of expressing her feelings of being uncomfortable in the setting, her disappointment, and frustrations. If you ask Selena if she likes Cubbies she will announce “I love Cubbies, I wear my vest, learn my verses, and will earn all my patches, not only that but I get two handbooks and will earn double the patches the other children are earning.” When asked about story time, “Oh yes, I enjoyed the story, but wish I could read it for myself.” When asked about game time, “Oh yes, I love, all the running games, but can we just skip the sit down games?” When asked, “Are you making friends?” She immediately tells you about all the girls who seem more mature, or who have invited her to eat pretend pizza that they made at the end of club when the kitchen area becomes accessible. Yet, she never remembers their names, which is not like Selena she usually remembers everyone’s name, better then I do.

It is not easy raising a child who is very bright, and ahead of the majority in her age group, there are behaviors that do rear themselves, as well as times where a lot of affirmation, consoling, and just simply having the realization and understanding that while we as parents find these times confusing and awkward, so does our child. It really brings it all into perspective though that as long as society still thinks that children of a certain age should only know so much, or are only able to learn so much, our bright children will always have a more difficult time fitting in. This is not a new problem, as I remember even when I was in school, and had classmate who was truly a genius, in the 6th grade he was doing the work of a high schooler. I remember teachers not wanting to accept his work, accusing him of copying his older brother, or having his older brother do the work for him. I remember how hard it was for him to relate with us his peers, though there were a few of us that were willing to accept him just where he was drawing him in for at least a small group of friends.

We often hear the jokes, and puns that are made about the children who have learning difficulties, We see the pain that these jokes and puns make in those children’s lives. Yet, we tend to not realize how much our actions and words can hurt and tear down the bright intelligent child. Back to my main point, “Until a person walks in my shoes 24/7 365 days a year, and truly gets to know all the qualities, good and bad, the characteristics, and the pure sweetness of Selena, please do not judge.”

Just to clear one thing up, NO BODY, here in my circle of blog friends have ever made any of these comments, ALL of you have been so encouraging, and helpful and I appreciate all of you for that. I truly wanted to bring about an awareness of a situation I face in my everyday life or real life as some might call it.

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  1. I am sure it took a lot of strength to bare your feelings so clearly and to be so open in your descriptions and examples. I am often in a similar place...but sometimes on the opposite side. My kids learning disabilities make all of their reading and writing below their grade levels...but their thinking is not. Other kids see how they write or struggle with reading and they brand them as dumb. They are very is just harder for them to show it. I have even had adults not understand this and make uncomfortable situations for them.
    Socially they are often behind simply because of our life style. We don't watch television or go to the movies, so we are so behind on the latest fads or topics of discussion. Most of the time I am GLAD they are not involved in the current fad/topic of discussion, but I do hurt when I see them having a hard time socially.
    Solutions to such problems are not so easy to solve. Hugs.

  2. This is a very interesting post. From what I read, a lot of parents of gifted kids struggle with the same problem - finding the right social circle for their children, advocating for them, explaining and defending their differences. It's probably especially hard in smaller places like yours where expectations are different. (((Hugs))) and I hope that you will make a decision on whether Cubbies make sense for Selena or not at this point.

  3. You might want to check with your AWANA secretary about ordering in the extra credit workbook for Selena. We had it for the older children, and it really helped them enjoy AWANA more - with extra verses and activities.

  4. I'm sorry to hear about your struggles in this situation. I hope you can come to a resolution for the problems soon.

    I think our Lauren could easily be branded as hyperactive in the wrong environment...she cannot stand to be bored.

  5. Debbie, I can relate to your six year old son is very bright and I watch as he tries to interact with children his own age...and he is above them mentally but not in other ways.

    Thank goodness we Homeschool because this allows our children to be who they are and not who the world tells them to be according to their age!

    Your post was so heartfelt. I just felt like giving you a big hug because I can tell this weighs on you. I am glad Selena has you. :-)

  6. I understand what you are going through as it's been a challenge figuring out why and how to best meet K's needs. At first, I thought it was immaturity that K acts out in certain classes (not all). It turns out she acts out when she's bored or is asked to do something that is repetitive. She has yet to learn the art of faking not being bored. Ut's tough even with older children if they feel threatened by the fact that she knows and understands more or is reading a more challenging book. So far, other himeschool children have been wonderful to be around as they seem less threatened. K has learned to downplay her cleverness but not to the point of not reading to her friends or younger children if they want to hear a story. She used to prefer older children because she can communicate with them but surprisingly she is showing a great deal of maturity and sensitivity with younger children. Perhaps because she desires a sibling, she acts the part of an older sibling to younger kids. This shows me that when she acts out in certain class situations, it's not maturity that's causing it.

    Selena will continue to grow and change just as perceptions of her will change. While it's challenging even in the homeschool environment to meet her needs, I imagine it being even more challenging in schools where peers are judged by age. Hang in there. You are doing a fantastic job with her! It doesn't matter what others think because like you said, they have not walked in your shoes. You do what's best by your family!

  7. Sorry for the typos, it's hard to scroll back on my phone which has a tiny keypad.

  8. I can just imagine how hard all of this has been for you. Selena is such a sweet girl and it must be hard to watch the others kids not understand her and the leaders not know what to do.

    We have a similar problem in that several of the kids we hang out with on a regular basis are older than my kids and they never invite them over for playdates because what 10 year old wants to invite over a 6 year old?

  9. I can relate to what Phyllis oldest son does better with kids slightly younger than he is. Have you talked to the Awanas leaders; is it possible for her to be in a slightly older room, even 5 year olds? My son didn't end up going to A with his siblings, but if he had, we would have put him with 3rd or 4th graders. He is 11, and in our homeschool co-op, he takes the 3rd/4th classes, and he fits in very well. They're 9 and 10, but it helps give him just a little more confidence.

    And you are absolutely right - NO ONE knows what our experiences are like. Even our relatives who know our lives pretty well aren't with him every single moment like I am, so even though they really do know him awfully well, there is no way they can entirely relate.