Friday, April 22, 2011

Battle Cry!

In hindsight; I see how unique Reed has always been - from an extremely young age!  Many struggle during teen years with rebellion, drugs or the law and they can pinpoint their struggles - "it all began when Johnny started hanging out with the wrong crowd" or some such proclamation.  Not us.

I was interviewed by a psychiatrist when Reed was a junior in high school.  He delved into our boy's history...from BIRTH!  No one else had done so.  And in that session, much was revealed (more on that later).  But, at this point (in his high school years), we knew his academic struggles stemmed because his frontal lobe was not as developed as the Average Joe.  That's the simple explanation.  Who knew there was a disorder for THAT?  Executive Function Disorder.  We had been dealing with this diagnosis since his 5th grade year.  Yes, we went to a neuropsychiatrist when Reed was 11 years old.

One is 11 when one is in 5th grade.  That dern telephone rang (my stomach dropped when I checked caller ID).  It was the school.  We were told he hit his teacher (FELONY!) and would be arrested.  I could not handle this one so sent My Guy who entered the school to find his baby on the floor, straddled by the assistant principal.  He was handcuffed and taken to jail.  In 5th grade.


HOG (Hand of God) Moment

Said principal who had to straddle our boy was an amazing Christian man.  When friends heard we had moved and Reed was going to "this" school for 5th grade; they raved about the assistant principal!!!  And when that principal learned about Reed; he was quick to take him into his office and pray over him.  I am sure he prayed for our son for many, many years.  So, even while the police were taking our hand-cuffed son to their jail, that principal was praying for him.

After this episode he was sent to Alternative School for the first time.  It's where the "bad kids" were sent and was a huge stigma.  Oh, my word....I recall the morning I dropped him off.  They wore white Tees, jeans and a belt.  No baggie jeans either!  He got out of my car, turned around and mouthed "I love you."  It just about did me in.

Alternative School was for 5th through 12th graders.  The kids there had behavior problems, were caught with drugs or weapons in school. My son was in the minority in age and race.  The good news was that he had one-on-one ratio with his teachers. He did really well while there...and thrived.  Oh, his teachers were terrific and had a heart for our boy.  Ya know, there is nothing better than a teacher who loves his/her job!  They are my heros!  That was stint #1 at Tomball's Alternative School.

And because of his continuing anger and impulsivity; we went to the neuropsych.  That's when we learned about Executive Function disorder.  Yes, not only was he Bipolar with learning disabilities but now it was prophesied he'd forever be unorganized and impulsive.  If only I knew then what I know now...

Yet I have learned so much over the years.  And really & truly believe there was a reason for it all.  AND, yes, that it's now being used for good.  Romans 8:28 was a lifeline for me:

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good
of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

I learned about the brain, behavior, drugs, shrinks, rehabs, genetics, hospitals and about myself:  that I could not handle conflict well.  I reacted with bitter anger.  I was a mess and had an 11 year old and an 18 year old.  The Big War began in 2001.  Thank goodness for girlfriends who loved me unconditionally and prayed fervently.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Super Moms Wear Pearls!

I've always enjoyed clothing.  Make up.  Good hair days.  And pearls, oh how I've loved pearls!  Maybe, just maybe if I looked the part or if my boys looked a certain way; we'd morph into Super Mom or Perfect Preppy Angels.  You ask:  "'d that work for ya?"  Not so well.

I did learn what to "put on" before an ARD, a court appearance, for a consult at a rehab or psych hospital.  Humility (and sometimes pearls).  A lot of the professionals waiting for us behind closed doors assumed we'd barge in screaming about our rights or how unfair "all of it" is....we did not.  We lived with our boy and our eyes were wide open.  Year after year teachers thanked us for the way we handled the ARDs.  This is not to boast but I pray it might help another.  The minute we think "it's us against them" our battle is lost.  The parents and teachers need to be a team.  An ARD is to help: handpick the type of teacher best suited for his personality, the time of day certain courses should be scheduled, the discipline most effective.

The ARD at the end of Reed's 4th grade year concluded with a BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan) and he was diagnosed  with early onset Bipolar and ADHD.  What a heavy, heavy yoke for my son. 

My Guy and I thought it time for a change.  I quit work, we moved to another school district and I began my eleven year stay-at-home life.  Oh how I had hope!  Such HIGH hope.  Oldest son was a senior so I'd be home for him after school.  I'd take Reed to his new school for fifth grade.  We'd chit and chat about life.  My June Cleaver came out and although I didn't wear pearls when vacuuming (well I didn't vacuum much at all!)...I was absolutely thrilled to be home.  A clean home when My Guy whistled his way through the door to deposit a 10-second kiss on my lips.  A healthy dinner with our angels around the table.  Homework finished with ease.  Prayers before bedtime.  And nights of utter peace. 

The first day of school was exciting for ME.  I got to drive my baby to school and even in 5th grade he was a bundle of affection.  I walked him through the doors and he hugged me hard, gave me a kiss and said "I love you Mom."  It made my morning and as I tootled down 249, listening to KSBJ I was soaring.  I remember what a thrill it was to go grocery shopping on a Monday morning at 8:30 am!!!  I was on my being Super Mom! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

School Days-Not So Fun Days!

In kindergarten the nurse told us perhaps Reed had hearing or processing problems. If you hear the word “processing problems/issues”, I’d call that a red flag. Pay attention.

First, second, third grade. Shouldn’t these school days be about exploration, learning and just a BIT of fun? There was none of that for our boy while in school. He could be open and engaging until he entered the school room doors. They’d close and he’d close up. The light went out of his eyes. Teachers would be shocked when I’d tell them that, yes, he is (sometimes) happy and loving and fun at home.

In first grade he was class clown and the write-ups began. Back then “hyperactivity” was the buzz word and we fell for it and put Reed on Ritalin. His anger turned to rages that scared and shocked us to our core. The world was telling us he was a defiant, behavior problem and the world solution to this problem was time out, spanking or screaming like banshees. “He needs discipline!” was the mantra. I would get so angry at my baby I thought I was losing my mind. When it was over I was spent and utterly exhausted. Oh, yes…then we’d do our making-up-I-love-you-forever act.

God chased me down and in 1998 (2nd grade for Reed) I timidly attended a Bible study. As I looked around the circle of women God’s sense of humor was evident. Five of the group knew each other well. We had played Bunco together for many years. We’d often laugh – “from Bunco to Bible study.” A new season of life had begun. It was what my mind and soul needed. I ran into our bedroom that first night and jumped on our bed: “You won’t believe these women. It’s what I’ve been looking for – exactly what I need.” I was a novice in prayer but knew it would impact our children and our marriage. I began praying with Reed – talking to him about God – about the Bible. He was an open book – ripe to hear it all. It delighted my heart and filled me so full, at times I’d burst. It became a ritual to pray together –with his dear hands crossed, eyes closed he was my angel.

By the time he was in fourth grade I had no pride….about parenting. I became an open book. In my case this meant begging for prayer. I dubbed myself the “Prayer Hog.” I am not a fan of roller coasters, they scare me! Yet our life was one: ranting and raging. Next you might see us as the all American family – cute as pie, all kisses and smiles. Reed had been a love-bug since day one. His emotions ran the gamut but he loved just as fiercely as he raged.

In hindsight I am able to see where His hand was. God was smack dab in it with me. When I was in the fire it was about me or my sons, or stepping in between boys and husband. The focus was on The Circumstance. My focus was not on the Lord. The Hand of God (HOG) moments are pretty cool. They came in the form of just the right song on the radio, that day’s devotional, an email or in human form. There are no coincidences. I’m of the belief that every, single, solitary, teeninsy detail is in the hands of God!

HOG Moment

Reed’s elementary years were a challenge to put it mildly. It was a real struggle for my boy who was unable to voice what was happening in his little body and mind. His teachers were also challenged. He was a regular visitor to the principal’s office.

I saw said principal at our church when Reed was in high school. She had always been kind and gentle to us. I walked up to her a bit hesitant…and as she turned, a smile flooded her face. “How is our Reed? I’ve been praying for him all these years.” Do you see it???? The hand of God!

(Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.) - Deuteronomy 31:6

Fourth grade was a turning point. Toward the end of that year, Reed’s anger was routine and aimed at authority figures. It could be the soccer coach, a teacher or his parents. Our home life was tense. We walked on eggshells never knowing when he’d blow. The word “no” was the switch that turned our sweet-faced, handsome boy into a raging tiger. As intense as each episode was the making up was just as intense. Reed and I do love fiercely!  Always have. Our baby would be beside himself with remorse and we’d fall into one another, hugging and loving each other. I’d ask his forgiveness and he’d ask mine. All was well. Until next time…

Reed was placed in special education for his learning disabilities and we had rights under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). We met with his teachers once a year. These (intimidating) meetings were called ARDs. They were a resource to help parents and families of students who are eligible for special education supports and services. Waiting for the meeting to begin made ME feel like the student!

I worked full time and the afternoon was interrupted by one of those dreaded phone calls. “Mrs. ___, Reed was brought to the principal’s office for acting out. He proceeded to tell the principal *@# and then ran out of the office. We had to call the school police. You’ll need to come pick him up.” It was a Friday. Our fourth grader was expelled from school until the following Wednesday.

We took our son home clueless about his future education. I turned on The Oprah Winfrey show at 4 pm. The promo stopped me dead in my tracks. “Is your child ADHD or Bipolar?” Two checklists were on the screen. Why, I believed we had a 10 year old with Bipolar Disorder. Oh…the school district had made an appointment with a psychiatrist for us the following week, before he could return to school. They did have four years’ worth of files on him.

Enter scary psychiatrist. Me: “Sir, if I may…I believe he may be Bipolar.” Doctor: “No, duh. Why’d you take so long to get here?” We agreed with everything he said. We believed him. And trusted him. At that point, it’d been seven years of fits. We did not know what else to do. And so…we put our son on heavy psychotropic drugs. Those were for Bipolar; and since he was ADHD we added that pill to the mix.

It was time for the ARD in fourth grade which included the psychiatrist’s report. My husband and I entered a conference room and were joined by the principal, teachers, school psychologist and a few others. There were piles of files on our son. Every write-up was documented. Every phone call was noted. Remember how much I hated caller ID!

Let's Start at The Very Beginning...

I hated caller ID. I learned to pray “…help me, Lord” before I even looked at who was calling. It was such a relief when it wasn’t from the school district. (I have my son’s permission to tell our story.)
No one knew the anger that bubbled inside of me. I didn't "have" anger...except toward my boys.  Friends didn't believe me when I asked for prayer regarding my mouth, my blow-ups.  The 6 pm glass of wine was most appealing. Burying myself under the covers sounded heavenly. Running away from parenting was a consideration. And afterward I’d closet myself far from the family in tears, begging God for forgiveness, mercy, and help!

Where to begin? How about when he was in daycare? As young as three years old, our son was an angry soul. I recall once driving down the street, glancing over at my little cherub and the vitriol out of his mouth shocked me so I had to stop the car.

In pre-K, the teacher called me to a corner and with a very solemn face proceeded to prophesy over his future. “He’s not ready for kindergarten. I’d hold him back if I were you. Are you having problems at home? Is there a lot of anger in your house? Something is just not right with your son…”  I was happily married to My Guy.  We had each other's back.  We looked the part - you know, sort of cute, wholesome - WHY was this happening?
And so the story begins. I didn’t pay heed to that teacher and placed him in first grade. I simply could not deal with him more than I had to. I was one of those parents who hoped another’s influence would change him.