Tuesday, September 23, 2008

get some tea and sit down. this is gonna be a long one.

Why didn't anyone tell me how hard parenting is? And damn it, you manage to survive the sleepless nights, the colic, the projectile vomiting, the "Terrible Twos" and the year they are 3, which is so hideous there's not even a name for it. It should be known as the year of throwing one's self on the ground crying uncontrollably because mommy reflexively reached out to assist with pulling up a sock and THAT. RUINED. EVERY THING. BECAUSE. I. CAN. DO. IT. MYSELF. AND. NOW. I. HAVE. TO GET. COMPLETELY. UNDRESSED. AND. START. OVER. BECAUSE. YOU. TOUCHED. MY. SOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So you get through those years without killing yourself or your child or the dog, and they start school. And while it is true that they can spend hours sitting in a chair reading to themselves and they can dress themselves and even get their own glass of water and sleep in their own room (most of the time) and they are, for the most part, all sweetness and light, well, they start school where there are other kids and teachers and learning and STRESS.

Every child experiences stress, but it is so much more difficult for the "sensitive child." And oh man, do I have a sensitive child. Also, I have come to realized that Eric and I probably should not have reproduced. Between his deeply sensitive nature and my tendency toward Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), well, this kid is SCREWED.

I started noticing some signs of OCD back when she was three. But as I said above, three is just plain C-R-A-Z-Y so you can't think about anything other than "how do I get through the next 12 hours without walking into a mall and opening fire?" Anyway, when she started kindergarten (the year her home life imploded), she began obsessively washing her hands. She would come home from school with her poor little hands just bloody and raw. I understand that behavior because I have lived it: when life as you know it has changed irreparably, you seize control of whatever you can. For me it was counting repetitiously. For her it was hand-washing. We got through that one with a lot of love and compassion and it eventually went away.

Over the past few years (ages 5 to almost 8) there have been periods of OCD flare-ups; first grade brought on some short-lived stuff, so did David and I announcing plans to marry and her father's increasing emotional stress. Her bouts were fewer and farther between, and frankly, I thought it was over because she has grown increasingly comfortable with our family situation and she flourished in first grade, so her self-confidence soared. She was a leader amongst her friends, she was reading off the charts, her teacher was kind and loving and gave her lots of praise and support.

And then, second grade. Her two best friends from 1st grade are in a different class room and her new teacher is COLD and brisk and just NOT a kid person. Her teaching style and personality are the exact opposite of what Anna had last year, and Anna is struggling to find her place in this new world. Her stress has started to manifest itself in the constant urge to go to the bathroom. I noticed it a little bit a week or so ago, at bedtime; she's been at her dad's for the past several days and then, last night, back at home, it was in full swing. She brushes her teeth and goes to the bathroom, and then immediately feels the urge to go again. She went probably 10 times in 30 minute period. She broke down crying last night and told me that it's a real problem in class, too. She'll need to go and then, on the way back to the classroom she'll feel like she needs to go again. So she goes back and goes again, and then when she washes her hands, the running water makes her need to go again. So what is happening is that she'll end up spending 5-10 minutes trapped in the vicious cycle of feeling like she has to go and then when she gets back to class, she's missed the teacher's instructions on what the kids are supposed to be doing. So she has to sit there and figure it out herself; this makes her take too long so the teacher makes her skip recess to get it done, which makes Anna feel more isolated and, as she said, "stupid", which, of course, makes her stress and OCD go through the roof. She also told me that when she asks to go to the bathroom, the teacher will loudly announce "You're in second grade now! WE don't have to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes in second grade!" Then Anna feels like the other kids are laughing at her. It is effecting her self-confidence and could change, forever, the way she feels about school and her ability.

What can I do?? I know it is not physical; she NEVER has accidents at night, so I know she can go 9 hours at a time without going. I pointed that out to her this morning; it is in her mind but she just can't control it. Once you start thinking you have to go, you have to go. I'm just worried sick about her. I know that with time, it will pass, just as it always has. But her teacher is making it worse, not better. I sent a note to school today asking the teacher to contact me; I want her to understand that making Anna feel badly about it is only going to make it worse and last longer. If this teacher can't be compassionate to an 8 year old who is going through an emotional struggle, then she has no business teaching 2nd grade.

Do I try to get Anna switched to the other class-room to be with her friends (and the much warmer teacher)? I know that we can't protect her from every pain or challenge, but as I said, I am really worried that this could have a long-term affect on her self-confidence in her ability to learn.

Help. I really need some words of wisdom.


Dee said...

YES, you need to get her transferred! Do it right away. This teacher can and will do irreparable damage that truly could affect her all her life. !!! That happened in our family and the teacher made our male child stand in the corner till he wet his pants then teased and taunted him, thus the kids did too. I found a year later, that many other families had a child litterally ruined emotionally by this monster teacher.
Do not let this happen to Anna.
This breaks my heart. Teachers like that should NOT be teaching children, but they do because they cannot intimidate high school nor college students----only defenseless children ! They have found their niche.
How very frustrating for you ! Do speak to the principal right away.

JACKI said...

hmmm... it seems like my mom is going through the same thing with Adam. Does the teacher know that Anna has OCD? If not, I can see how she would get after a child for constantly wanting to go to the bathroom. She may think Anna just wants to get out of class or somthing?

Just seeing what mom goes through with Adam, here is my suggestion if you switch classes. Dont tell her YOU are switching her because of the teacher. You dont want Anna to think that YOU can protect her from every negative thing that comes up in her life. I know mom (hi mom!) is going through that with Adam and, well, sorta me too and its been really hard on her. Its a vicious cycle! Does that makes sense??? I bet mom can probably give you some good advice!


mysecondjournal said...

I have NO idea..I wish I did. First off you are 100% right about 3.. OMG terrible 2's were awesome.

Anna..I don't know. I know you will make the right decision..cuz you are smart like that.

I would tell her doctor..

Heidi said...

I think I'd have a heart-to-heart with the current teacher first and give her a chance to do the right thing. It may help to have a formal diagnosis of OCD so that the teacher takes you seriously. Then, if the situation doesn't improve, go to the principal and get her out of there. Maybe I'm being too easy on the current teacher, because I used to be a 2nd grade teacher myself? In any case, go with your gut and you'll make the right call.

Oh, and I have an almost 3 year old... do you know her? 'Cause your description of her is PERFECT.

kate said...

Well, I just got off the phone with the teacher and it turns out that she is not the fire-breathing dragon I thought she was. She actually seemed MUCH more warm and nice than my first impression of her. We talked at length and, among other things, she said that Anna did not miss recess because of the spending-time-in-the-bathroom-and-therefore-missing-the-instructions situation, but she lost recess privilages because she WOULDN'T STOP TALKING and distracting her friends. Ahem. Also, she (the teacher) said that she didn't mind Anna having to go regularly because she could tell that for Anna it was genuine, but the other kids were picking up on that being an option and THEY started going all the time, just to waste time. So that's when she announced loudly to the entire class that "In second grade we don't need to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes". In other words, there are always two sides to every story and because my precious golden daughter is an only child, well, I tend to, um, over react maybe a tiny bit. Shit, no wonder she's nuts. : )

The teacher did suggest that we come up with a reward system for Anna to use the bathroom only at break time, so that could help her get through this phase.

Sigh. Well, at the very least I feel better.

Robyn said...

I was gonna suggest exactly what Heidi said. Glad you talked to the teacher, and that you feel better rightnow, but obviously you will continue to monitor the situation. I hope you'll let us know how it goes!! Poor Anna. :(

jpogue said...

Kate, if the problem continues, I'd suggest taking her to the doc real quick to in order to make sure she doesn't have a bladder infection. Those can make you "feel like you have to go" even if you really don't. Very common in kids - especially girls. You can also try cranberry juice to see if that would take care of a possible bladder infection.

jpogue said...

Another thing. I would keep an eye on Anna for the next couple weeks and if things continue, I'd DEFINATELY talk to parents of other kids in that class and or parents that had kids in that teacher's class last year and make sure that there's no problems with other kids. Teachers can tell parents one thing and be totally opposite in class.

Just be aware and do what you have to do.

kate said...

Thanks sis. Actually I met two moms the other night whose kids either currently have or have had Mrs. R. as a teacher and they were both SHOCKED at my first impression of her (cold, not into kids etc.) because they love her and so do their kids. So I guess she was just having an "off night" at the Open House, or I was.

Also, I have had Anna checked for infection when this exact thing was going on last year (only in addition she was going to the nurse's office every day, remember that?). There is nothing physically wrong with her; it's just that she is a perfectionist who can not deal with situations in which she doesn't excel. She would rather not try something than try it and fail. But with, say, new class rooms and new teachers, she can't opt out....so her anxiety manifests itself this way. Hello, OCD.

le sigh....