Tuesday, December 02, 2008

on drawing pumpkins and circles....

i'm going to pretend that i haven't blogged since june... i suggest you join me... i MAY even explain later...

(like anyone is actually reading this...)

so, the paloma came home a few days ago with this drawing that she did in school. it's amazing to see how far she's come with drawing and coloring. she's actually following directions and using the "correct" colors for things like purple for grapes, red for apples, yellow for bananas, etc... although, when it's just the two of us, she's still coloring things all willy nilly - making them striped or polka dotted...

it was the pumpkin in the middle that reminded me of something that happened to me in grade school.

i don't remember how old i was but i had a teacher who had given us a similar project. my teacher was pretty gifted artistically. she made a cornucopia out of brown construction paper and tacked it to a large corkboard in our classroom. then, she gave each of us a fruit to make as an assignment. it was really just busy work, since i was given a precut, blank, pumpkin cut-out to trace, cut out and color in. all i had to do was trace onto orange construction paper, draw in the ribs of the pumpkin and color the stem... no tendrils, no vines, no seeds, no blossom end - just give the blank, pumpkin cut-out a little more depth.

well, my pumpkin looked pretty much like the paloma's above. i'd drawn the lines straight up and down NOT like the printed pumpkin underneath where the lines are convex and attach to the stem. admittedly, i was rushing because it was the end of the day and i wanted to get home, but i thought my pumpkin was fine.

my teacher did not. in fact, she was so disappointed, she refused to put my pumpkin up and told me that i had to sit in my seat until i made a pumpkin properly. well, it must have been eight or so rejected pumpkins later that she finally let me go home... after the janitor had cleaned our room... after everyone had finally grown tired of the monkey bars and the merry go round... i walked home absolutely weary and defeated by a stupid pumpkin drawing battle.

weeks earlier, the same teacher had me stay after school because i didn't color in one direction and within the lines. the janitor came and went that day too, as did my classmates' afterschool playtime.

i doubt my teacher called my home to tell my mom about keeping me afterschool. i'm not sure i ever told my mom. i was a latchkey kid and was usually home before she got off work. and i don't think my grandmother lived with us yet. you'd think i'd be over this, but in reality, i'm not.

a little while back, out of some inexplicable frustration, the thin man was trying to get the paloma to color in the lines. and i responded with a knee jerk reaction to defend her and her milestones... i was little emotional about it and i realized i was transported back to that empty classroom and that empty feeling. i didn't want her to feel that. eventually yes. but not yet. not now when she's 5.

the thing is this... (and this is where i clue you into my blogging disappearance) at the beginning of june, we met with the paloma's preschool teacher who out of the blue gave us a laundry list of things that she'd been doing that year. things that she thought were age inappropriate. she didn't say that she thought that the paloma needed to be evaluated. but the laundry list looked like a behavioral checklist for an evaluation of a child with learning disabilities. and then, she told us that the paloma cried at least ONCE a day, EVERY day that school year.

and this meeting, at the END of the school year, was the first time we were hearing about it. even though, we'd met with her at the middle of the year and i walked the paloma to school everyday. we were never told that she had cried for a whole year.

i was devastated. i felt like i was the worst mom on the planet. what kind of mom doesn't know that her child is crying in school every day?! what kind of teacher doesn't tell a student's parent that she's crying in school every day?! so, after i cried and criticized and stewed over it, i finally got my act together. i called a behavioral therapist to talk about the paloma and set up an appointment for the paloma to be evaluated by the city of chicago for any learning disabilites...

when we got to the testing site at the local library, i was shocked at how many people were already waiting and how tough it must be for parents of children with learning disorders. for the most part, the paloma (who is very active and talkative and bored easily) was very well behaved and patient. the other parents had children with obvious behavior issues and i really sympathized/empathized with them - especially for the parents of two or more. i was lucky that a generous friend of mine came with her child and read with the porkchop in the kids room while we waited and finally got tested. most of the parents had all their children together. that waiting room was another level of hell for some, i'm sure...

anyway, the paloma flew thru the testing with flying colors. the evaluator saw nothing out of the ordinary and said, "your daughter is not exhibiting anything that i can see. you've been here a few hours right? you've seen these children? she is not like them. maybe she's just not a montessori kid. maybe she's bored. my advice is take her out of that environment, enroll her in your local public school and see how it goes. public school is much more structured and if she does exhibit any issues they can catch it there."

so, i visited the local school and talked to the counselor there who reassured me the evaluator was correct that if there were any issues, they would see them and they would take care of her.

when the school year started, i met with the paloma's new teacher. a neighbor told me that she specialized in special education and was a favorite teacher for all of her kids who are older and "normal". i gave the paloma's new teacher the laundry list that her former teacher had given us. after she read it over, she called to tell me that everything the former teacher had noted/pointed out were behaviors she considered age appropriate. she reassured me that she'd keep an eye on the paloma but that she didn't think that we should worry.

well, it's been more than a few months now, and i finally feel like i can take a breath. at our first report card pick up, the paloma's teacher only had good things to report, she's doing well academically and has a few things to work out behaviorally, but nothing outside the norm... and before i left, she said, "if you haven't done it already. i want you to tear up that letter. it can only do you and the paloma harm. don't worry, she's fine." at home, the paloma's tantrums are fewer and infrequent. she's becoming more and more of a little grown up to which i almost always respond, "you don't have to grow up so fast. there's no race to win here."

so today, the paloma is drawing inside the lines but not drawing an anatomically correct pumpkin... we're aware of it and no one is keeping her afterschool because of it. and best of all, no more secret tears.

last but not least, i realized while i was away that blogging and the bloggers who i have met online and IRL mean more to me than i thought. in real life, when things start to go downhill, i respond by staying home, being quiet and internalizing stuff, dealing with issues by myself when i can... mostly because i don't want to be my friends' depressed and depressing friend.... i hate to be a lead ballon. so, when i stopped blogging, i realized it was because i didn't want to be a lead balloon online either... so, i think i've diagnosed myself as a fairweather blogger. i'll blog about drive-ins and cat barf and john lennon and parenting and being brown in a white world, but don't expect me to blog about depressing stuff when i'm depressed. 'cause i just can't do that to you. and i won't.


bokumbop said...

Giving you a big virtual hug (and will give you a real one whenever I next see you). I'm right there with you.

Rachel said...

{{{Hugs.}}} I can't believe the teacher didn't say anything! I would definitely talk to her supervisor about that, if I were you. I'm glad the Paloma is fine. I think these days the definition of normal is too narrow.

I know what you mean about not wanting to write when things are going badly. I feel that way sometimes too. But I'm glad you're back.

Carrie said...

Wow. SO GLAD you're back. Nutmeg has been having behavior problems in school herself. Her teachers at her new preschool are so wonderful, they never say, "this child is this or that," instead they asked ME for advice on how to help Nutmeg when she gets so upset over the smallest provocation. But even tho the teachers were wonderful of course I'm a big ball of worry. Like, obviously our home must be an emotionally toxic environment, or we are doing everything all wrong, and her future teachers who won't be so understanding will not like her and she will be disruptive in school. Sigh. But then she'll go into a phase like she's in right now where she's all sunshine and light and we can forget about it for awhile.

By the way, I doubt I could draw a better pumpkin than the one Paloma drew. Sheesh, I can't believe that teacher of yours -- you're artistic! I'd have flunked.

MONKEYfightingSTYLE said...

your little one...she gots your creative genes... very nice, very nice. miss you xo

mamazilla said...

bokumbop - thanks for the hug... how are you!? i have to check your blog & your crackbook! :) big hugs right back atcha...

rachel - thanks for the hugs. i should have said something but honestly, i was so angry. i thought i should wait and well, here we are five months later... i wrote a review of the school on greatschools.net in the event that someone might be considering the school... but, i think i'm done dealing with them... clearly, we just did not fit in.

carrie - yes, it seems both the paloma and i have had our run ins with teachers... we are flowers that bloom in adversity. :)

monkey - she definitely has a creative streak, not sure she got them from me or if maybe i'm just helping her cultivate them... i'm a proud mama. :) miss you too. btw - i'll be in anaheim b4 xmas if you wanna meet the fam...

Bert said...

You, ladyzilla, are so delightful. What a wonderful entry. Thanks for sharing.

I really hate it when teachers judge the kids in their classes based upon their own expectations. Everyone is different. And it should be okay to make any kind of pumpkin you want in this big, varied world.

Angela said...

I'm so sorry you went through such a stressful and awful time...what an incredibly stupid and unhelpful teacher(I'll stop now, otherwise I'll end up ranting for pages and pages)
I'm so happy to read that Paloma is adjusting well to her new class, she's very lucky to have such supportive and loving parents.
The story you told of your experience regarding pumpkins and coloring made me so sad, obviously that teacher had serious issues and should not have been in a classroom, I wish I could have given that little girl a big hug and told her how wonderful she was and coloring outside the lines is okay. Sending you hugs and glad to see you're back blogging. I'm not sure when and if I'll start back up, but I'll let you know if I do.

ImPerceptible said...

Yeah, I don't like to post when I'm stressed either. I just write weird stuff for filler.

Sounds like the paloma has a much better teacher now. I hope you did tear up that letter.

For the record my perfectly normal 9yo learned to tie her shoes yesterday. They do things when their ready and not one minute before. And thats alright. :)


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