Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cutting back his schedule?

When Gary left his appointment today his counselor said that Gary's "homework" was to talk to us about how he could cut back his schedule some, cause he was too busy and it was stressing him.

I agree that he is stressed. He is not eating or sleeping well. He is nauseous in the morning.

However it just isn't the case that he is too busy. He goes to school, and then pretty much does what he wants. He sees his counselor once a week, which is something he wants to do. He spends time talking to and text messaging his girlfriend, periodically going out to see her. He denies that he has homework. (We will see if his mid-term grades confirm that). For months he insisted that he was going to get a job after his sixteenth birthday, but he has not put out any effort towards that.

His not looking for a job may have something to do with being signed up to work with this job-coach. I'm not sure that he would be out there filling out applications, but the job-coach has him filling out sample applications, talking about how to present himself, how to interview, etc. The job coaching is the one non-school activity that does demand quite a bit of time: five hours a week. That is in addition to the time he spends on assignments they give him (like writing in a journal daily). It may be stressful, but it is less time consuming than the job he wants to get.

In short, I don't think he is stressed because he is too busy. I think he feels like he is too busy because he is stressed.

School of course is an issue. I really wish the charter school would have just told him that he wasn't going to get in. I think that hoping he will transfer has got in his way of making friends at Our Small Town High. He claims that people there don't like him, which just doesn't make sense. He has great social skills. He is adorable. Girls put on huge smiles and introduce themselves and he converses with them well. I've watched it happening. It is a big school, but not bigger than the one he went to last year. It is a more racially diverse school, i.e. 50% Mexican American instead of 10%. Gary is part American Indian and could certainly pass for part Mexican American. I don't know if that is part of the issue for him. In a mostly-white school he is a white boy with dark hair who tans easily. In a white and brown school he may find that people are expecting him to have stories about his non-existent Mexican American grandmother. We haven't talked about whether this is an issue for him. My guess is that he wouldn't see it in those terms. I would expect him to say what he is currently saying: people there don't like him. Or he might agree and add it to the list of reasons why he really needs to get out of this school.

One more part of the puzzle is that he is taking two PE classes. One of those is weight lifting. His joints are hurting, probably from either lifting too much weight or not lifting it correctly. He told us about one pain he got when he was bench pressing without a spotter. (I know.) He is burning a lot of calories, and only sometimes packing lunch. He says school lunch is gross (an assessment with which I am inclined to agree) and won't eat it.

So we talked about what we can do. I've already bought lunch items that are easier to pack, granola bars and such. I told him we would see if we could get him out of weight lifting. He really doesn't need two PE classes. He is going to talk to the agency worker about getting out of the job coaching program. This is a bit round-about. He really should just call the coach or his state worker, but he is stressed and feels safest with the agency worker.

He has also decided that he would like to go to Brian's charter school if he can't get into his girlfriend's. Before he insisted that an arty school was not for him -- he was an athlete. Now though he doesn't want to go out for any sports and insists that he likes music and would be very happy at the art school. I'm not at all convinced that he would be, but I will see about getting him on the list.

The poor kid is just pulled in multiple directions. He can't seem to settle into whatever is in front of him. He has spent the past three years in facilities or with his aunt -- all places where he survived in part by looking forward to the time when he could be somewhere else. I suspect he survived a good deal of his childhood doing the same. Now he is in a place where he can settle, wants to settle, but just doesn't know how.

I am going to see if we can get him out of weight training, and, as I said, will put him on the list for Brian's charter school. I am supporting him if he decides to get himself out of the job coaching. I will make an appointment with the physician so he can talk about his joint pain and be told that he needs to back off the weight-training (which he already knows). I think he needs to know that we care enough about him to do these things. However, I don't think that any of these things are the real problem. I don't think he is over-committed. I don't think that it is impossible for him find friends at Our Small Town High.

Though I don't want to deny that he faces real challenges, I think underneath all this is another problem. I think he has spent most of his life "on alert." Group homes, detention centers, life with an aunt whose only qualification for parenting was a willingness to take him are not places where one enjoys the moment. I strongly suspect that life before the centers and groups homes was also a place where he needed to be watchful. I don't think he knows how to turn off that feeling of being on guard. He's anxious and that anxiety comes from within. That doesn't make a lot of sense to him, so he looks outside to find the cause.

I wish there was a way I could fix this. I wish I could get him out of weight training and that he would feel better. I wish I could get him into one of the charter schools and he would suddenly feel safe and relaxed. I don't think that is going to happen though.

At least not right away.


  1. It sounds like you are dead on with your assessment of Gary. If he is constantly looking towards the next thing, then calm safety may very well be stressing him. I hope he is able to learn how to relax. I'm sure it's VERY hard on him to not have felt this before.

  2. Xanax! That would cure the problem. LOL

  3. It sounds like an expansion of the same behaviors he has been doing since he arrived. Flitting around like a butterfly and never settling, always wondering if the grass is greener somewhere else. Hopefully he can find a way to feel more settled, it is life skill that would benefit him.


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