Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hoping for a better day

Last night divided into three main portions:

Stage One:
Frankie crying and protesting that he hated the school because he did not have behavioral issues and wasn't learning while we exercise some listening skills and tried to gently explain that though he had made great progress, his day demonstrated that he did have behavioral issues and that we thought he was learning. Frankie crying and saying that he was going to leave the permanency program, and go back to where he used to live. "I guess I'll miss you guys, but right now my education is more important than family." He even left a message for his social worker telling her that.

Stage Two:
After crying in his room and being left alone to calm down, Frankie watches a movie and returns to a better mood. Meanwhile Hubby and I agree that we (by which I meant mostly him and partly me), have given Frankie the impression that he is correct, what with all our uncritical sympathy and Hubby's writing of notes explaining Frankie's concerns to the school. Like I said, Hubby said he agreed and changed tactics.

Stage Three:
Frankie in a more cheerful mood periodically brings up his complaints and we respond in a light tone expressing confidence in the school. So when Frankie would say, again, "I don't have any behavioral problems any more!" One or the other of us would listen and then say, "It seems to me that crying in frustration/running from the room/refusing to do your work/etc is a behavoral issue you need to deal with before you can go to regular school." And when he would say, "I'm not learning anything there! I need to learn X." One of us would say something like, "I think they are trying to teach you that there/give you the ground work so you can learn it" or "Maybe you should talk to the teachers about your educational goals. I know they want to help you reach them."

Sometimes we just said, "Well, I still think this is the best school for you right now."

We tried not to over-do all this campaigning in favor of the school. More than half of the time we just listened and tried to say other sorts of things. I would say something like "I can see how frustrated you are." Hubby would say, "I am really impressed that you are this dedicated to getting a good education!"

When he said, "Well, I am going to leave the program and go back to [last town he lived in] and go to a real school," we would say something like, "Well, I hope you can find a plan that will work for here, because we would miss you a lot."

The good thing about a perseverating child is that you get to say everything you had on your list. It is also permissible, and perhaps better, to just keep giving the same response. I mean, if they can perseverate, why can't you?

I have mentioned that Alanon has been some of the best training that I have had for being a foster parent. In some ways, I think what I learned was not all that different from really good Love and Logic classes, but I worked closely with a sponsor and called him every time I was upset. With every challenge I talked to someone who had my permission to "give it to me straight." Unlike you all (who sometime give me information and insight or suggestions that are very valuable to me), he would listen to me for an hour if necessary, ask me questions, and sometimes say things like, "Whoa, is that your problem or his problem?" or "What are your motivations? Are you trying to protect yourself or change him?" It helped of course that we were both dedicated to trying following the same principles.

Anyway, I felt on top of my game last night because first I felt very calm. In years past I might have stayed calm, but last night I felt it. Even when I imagined him really packing up and leaving. I knew I would be sad, but I felt no desperate need to make that not happen. If he decides that is what is best for him, then, well, he has to walk his own path. All I can do is be here and offer what I can offer. He has to make the decisions. Secondly, I realized that I never once thought that it was my problem to solve. I believe that Frankie can meet his educational goals at the school, if he wants to. He can talk with the teachers, he can ask his social worker for additional tutoring in the areas he feels he is behind in (like "pronounce-iation. I need help with that!"). Arranging that though is something that he can do, so it is not my job to do it. (Another Alanon principle: don't do for others things that are able to do for themselves.)

Oh...and just in case some of you are wondering, they make it clear when you enter this program that it is voluntary and binding. The student and the parents don't have to sign. Once they sign, they forfeit their right to transfer the child back to any school in the district, and probably any public school in nearby districts. The program is demanding and a lot of kids protest and want to quit. This is why Frankie perceives that his only way out of the program is to move across the state.

On the other hand, the school has a great reputation for catching kids up (well, going a long way towards that) and turning their behaviors around.


  1. I am beyond impressed that you handled it so well. I don't think I could. You are just what he needs.

  2. I second Jo's opinion. You handled things well, and I think you are doing everything right.

    Good job.

  3. Exactly what they said. You are my hero.

  4. hooray for you! you have come a long way. i am mightally impressed!


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.