Thursday, January 12, 2012

Holding it together, sometimes

I went up to Big Guy's school today for parent-teacher conferences. Oh, how I didn't want to go! It meant going to a bus terminal that I never use, finding a bus line I've never ridden, going on a route I'd never traveled, and getting off at a stop I didn't know. I had no idea how much it was going to cost. And once I arrived I was going to have to walk some undetermined distance to get to the school. In the rain. Ugh.

It was one of those things that falls in the category of brushing your teeth: you do it because you have to, not because you want to. I knew that once I'd done it, it would not be a big deal -- it was only the first-timeness that was making me uncomfy. So I chalked it up to experiencing, on a small scale, the kind of anxiety that some of my kids (including Big Guy) experience whenever we do something new.

It really wasn't a big deal. It's easier to get to this school than Big Guy's old school (which required two trains and a taxi). And the teachers were all pleasant, and had good things to say, and they like my son. They think he's a great kid.

Which is good. I mean, it would be nice if some of that light would shine here at home, too. But in a way it's okay if he turns it on for others and leaves us in the dark. At least that means he can hold it together sometimes.

*        *         *         *         *

Being able to do things only sometimes is confusing. I've known people to point to sometimes as evidence that if a child only tried harder, he or she would be capable of doing something all the time. That's one possible explanation. There are others. In my experience when a child can do things sometimes and not others, it's often because the child is not yet strong enough to do it consistently. He can do it in some settings and not others, or perhaps on days when he had a lot of sleep the night before, or when he's feeling uncharacteristically confident.

When a child can only do things sometimes, it's usually useful to ask what it was that was different about the times he was successful, to see if we can replicate the circumstances that make success possible.

When a child can only do things sometimes we may need to consider what kind of effort it takes for him to do it. We might have to think in terms of battery hours (how long before he needs to recharge?) or about what prophylactic measures will extend his abilities. These approaches tend to work better than assuming the kid isn't trying hard enough.


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  2. I'm so happy you got a glimpse of the light, if only reflected from others' eyes. I see it rarely and briefly, like a break in the clouds. May we all be able to see it someday.

    Even so, Lord.

  3. I hear you on the "sometimes" - remembering that kids may simply not be ready is a good lesson.

    Glad your trip to the school was okay.

  4. I'm probably preaching to the choir, but in my experience children who can't "hold it together" "let it all out" at home because that's where they feel the safest. I admire you and your family a great deal. My professional experience has been in working with young people with smiliar difficulties, and I'm also the mother of 5 children & 16 grandchildren! AA

  5. @Anonymous, I think that's true. And I love the "5 children and 16 grandchildren" part!