Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Demolishing the Fortress of Coping Mechanisms, Brick by Measly Brick

Clearly, attempting the 12 days of Christmas was overly ambitious on my part.

This month has flown by. The entire second half of the year has, really, as the calendar in my mind shows July 2011.

Where did Summer and Fall go?

Our holidays were nice this year, truly. The past two weeks have been a blur of baking, knitting (seriously, if you ever find me attempting to knit Christmas presents the week before Christmas, for the love of all things holy, stage an intervention and take my needles away), watching Christmas movies, preparing presents, etc.

My mom and I took the kids up to visit my grandparents, who are somewhat housebound in their home on a lake in very Northern Wisconsin (i.e., the middle of nowhere.) We brought up pictures and the keyboard and violins, and had a little Christmas recital for them.

The kids have been fighting off the flu/headcolds all week. I knew my turn was coming, but somehow I literally forced my way through it until 6 p.m. Christmas Day. Within 5 minutes of the last guest leaving, my sinuses blew up, my tonsils caught fire and my lymph nodes swelled into shooter marbles.

Fortunately (or not, depending on your reference point), the Mister's industry takes the week between Christmas and New Year's off. Meaning he has been on Mr. Mom duty ever since I took to bed. I'm on Day 2 in bed, resting so I can be up and about for Knitty Knight tonight.

My Haitian Sensations have been holding it all together remarkably well, given the buzz about the holidays. In fact, now that I think about it, they did great, and I'm really proud of them.

While at times I feel like we're treading water, when I look at the Yearly Big Picture, the amount of growth is amazing.

Slowly, but surely, Keenan is beginning to recognize, acknowledge and process emotions. This is huge. H-U-G-E. It is neither an easy nor pretty process, but it's so important that it happens. Testing shows he's at the emotional development of a 24-30 month old, but that's okay.

For the first 2 years he was home, he had nearly zero emotional development. The child was stuck in a Fortress of Coping Mechanisms.

In many ways, he still is, as he retreats to that Fortress often. He is completely uncomfortable and often unwilling to accept any feelings of discomfort, dislike, and displeasure. Sometimes I get confused thinking this is an entitlement issue, but really, I think it is an inability-to-process-emotions issue.

This is a constant push-pull dance that we have with homeschool. Keenan does not like doing math work. He is super stinking smart in math, and can do all the work, but he doesn't like it. It's not fun. Why do math when you can play with toys and feel good.

So, instant retreat into "I don't know what a 4 is," or "I don't know what a pencil is." Anything to try and block those feelings of not liking something.

I work hard at pulling/coaxing him out of it. When I'm "on," I can remain perky and try to pull/coax him with positivity and rewards. It takes tremendous energy/effort to do this, because most days I just want to roll my eyes and say, "Too bad! No one has ever died from doing math! Deal with it!"

(Although I don't say that, because I'm pretty sure that doing so would tempt fate into making me the First Homeschool Mom who Died from Math. And that, to steal a phrase from Paloma, would be a Bad Bummah.)

On days when I can't muster it, or when the situation becomes so imbalanced that I must give focus/energy to the others and not allow Keenan to suck all the oxygen out of the room, then I move to an (ideally) empathetic and (hopefully) calm manner of: "You are welcome to play/go outside/call a friend to play as soon as you are done with math. School is every child's job, including yours."

I call that the Empathetic-yet-Practical Boredom Approach to Math.

Somedays he can pull through and get it done; others he will sulk and refuse to do it, choosing to spend an afternoon pretending he doesn't know how to add 1 + 2.

Those times are tough. It often seems like he literally wants to be forced into doing his math, whether it is me encouraging him or me warning him that if he doesn't want Mama's Homeschool, he can do Daddy's Homeschool after dinner. Either way doesn't matter to him; it is just that he wants someone else to force him into it. As if he is somehow forced into doing it, then it's not really him doing it.

Does that make any sense?

I don't quite get that yet.

But, the larger picture is that he can't live in a bubble, nor can he expect/demand/force other people to let him live in that Happy La-La Land (which was the main trouble with public school, as he is very cute and very charming and he knew exactly what to do to get out of work.)

So, I'm trying to turn something unbearable for him into something bearable. To try and teach him: there's always going to be something we don't like, but we have to push through and get the work done. And you know what? That sense of accomplishment from doing something we don't want to do but do anyway? That feels really good.

So far, he's not really buying into that.

At times I want to say: Holy hell, kid, you'll be doing math every day for the next 11 years! Do you really want to make yourself miserable every day for the next 11 years?

But honestly, that thought makes me really nauseated.


ManyBlessings said...

"it is just that he wants someone else to force him into it. As if he is somehow forced into doing it, then it's not really him doing it."

Makes perfect sense. It's not wanting to "own" the issue. Because then it's not "his" issue.

Have a couple of winkies here with that one too. ;)

Merry Christmas to your family!

stellarparenting.com said...

we have a similar battle over here but it is only with math homework, thinking that if we homeschool next year he is going to do math online so that it is not my problem. Good luck with getting out tonight and i would never take your needles away, the consequences might be deadly.

Amy said...

Ahhh! Sounds just like J. He is good at math. He does his 7th grade math with the rest of his class. The only thing he gets help with is reading the word problems and figuring out what the heck they want him to do. Everything else is ESL modified for him but he balks the most at math, the one thing he's good at. Go figure.