Stood outside my son’s classroom I held my breath, please let today be a good day I prayed silently. As the teacher stepped out I tried to avoid her eyes wishing I could be momentarily invisible, but as the sea of Mum’s parted I knew she was headed my way! There and then with her post it note in hand she may as well have unfolded a scroll of paper and order a public hanging!! She starts from the top; ‘He couldn’t sit still today, he kept shouting out the answers, he helped himself to another apple, he’s too competitive’. As I stood wanting the playground to swallow me and my son up; she looked me square in the eye as if my child were a mass murderer and finally added ‘and I caught him jumping on snails!’.
Every week my (then) four year old son’s aeroplane (on the reward chart) crashed and burned and most days we would take the walk of shame through the playground. What, must the other parents be thinking!?
As the morning would dawn on another school day I would say to him ‘make Mummy proud today little man’ but still the lists kept coming! Over the years the Aeroplane turned into a hot air balloon, which plummeted as easily, taking with it his self esteem and confidence. ‘he was sent out today because he couldn’t sit still in assembly, our pre preschoolers set a better example’ ‘he was sent to the heads office today because he kicked a ball on the field when we told him not to’. All genuine complaints, my son just could not conform to the high expectations being placed on him and as a result he became more oppositional and more defiant.
At this part of my tale of School woe I’d like to stop you to engage in a mindful type of activity. Hopefully this will go some way to helping you to view the world of the classrooms and behaviour charts through my sons eyes. So sit back, get comfortable, and think carefully….
Imagine you are sat at your desk in a packed office. Last night you had partaken in one too many of your favourite tipples at the office Christmas Party and regrettably found yourself in the photocopier room photocopying your not so Kim Kardashian/David Beckham toosh. Back in the office the next day you remember what you did the night before and are now sitting there racked with fear and guilt. Your boss walks in and in front of everyone in the room declares that your behaviour isn’t good enough whilst at the same time putting a picture of your not so perky derrière on the wall for everyone to see…..Now pause. Those feelings right there are shame, humiliation embarrassment, guilt. You may be wondering what everyone in your office is thinking and it could keep you awake at night.
Now picture the same scenario again but imagine this time that you have consumed so much booze that you have absolutely no recollection of your misbehaviour in the photocopier room and therefore are completely unprepared when the punishment/humiliation hits. This just represents that sometimes my son is aware of his behaviour and other times he is completely oblivious. Now eat sleep repeat in this case for three school years and consider how this may impact on a child’s motivation, self esteem and confidence.
Why my beef with shame and the education system which we rely on to nurture and educate our most precious gifts you may wonder? It is a fact of life that Adopted children and children currently in the care system would and will have already experienced more shame than most adults let alone other children. They may feel shame at not being able to live with their biological families.
They may have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused by someone they should trust. In addition to this all adopted children would have experienced some degree of trauma and disruptions in attachment.
So what did I do? I’d love to be able to tell you at this point that I’m a perfect parent who always gets it right but unfortunately that is not the case! Some days I have those smug parenting moments where I want to high five myself at my brilliance and then others I can only describe as ‘epic parenting fails’. I can’t model perfection for my children and in turn I don’t expect them to be perfect either. Caught on the hamster wheel of shame and blame I decided to ‘support the school’ and found myself requesting my son to write letters of apology and even dished out the odd consequence on top and watched helplessly as the tiny remanence of his confidence and self esteem evaporated in front of my eyes.
As humans we are not perfect but the greatest strength we have is the ability to reflect and learn from our mistakes and this is what schools should be teaching our children. In my epic parenting fail I realised that the only person I needed to show my support to was my son and if that meant finding him a label….so be it.
You wouldn’t think that four little letters could invoke such emotion but they did! Sadness that your child isn’t quite like the rest, fear for what the future may bring and lastly an overwhelming sense of relief that he may finally gain the understanding he needs.
I will not let these four little letters define him and they will never be an excuse for unacceptable behaviour, however if they serve as a forcefield to protect his self esteem and confidence I will shout them from the roof tops!!
So my handsome, strong sporty boy, put that extra energy to good use…..
‘Gymnastics taught me discipline and respect and overall I didn’t get in to too much trouble’
Olympic champion Louis Smith (Mirror August 2013)
So my little Master Chef who loves to cook and sneak off and watch Junior Bake Off!
As a kid I wasn’t very bright and I was very hyper. I think I was very cuddly and my parents thought I had ADHD. I don’t know if I do, I could be deeply sincere and serious, and then an absolute idiot.
Jamie Oliver Celebrity Chef (Daily Mail August 2015)
So my little comedian, who jumps out of my wardrobe in the morning and makes me laugh.
‘medication has switched my brain from radio one techno to classic fm’
Rory Bremner comedian (Mirror April 2017)
and little man watching you struggle has made me think about my own childhood and you are more like your old Mum than you think. I have no regrets about not paying attention in my genetics lesson as they didn’t matter then and they don’t matter now.
Below Average – Joanne Harris
Joanne finds some areas of the Science Course much easier than others. Her progress varies due to this and her inconsistent effort. Her lack of interest leads to poor attention, sometimes to the extent of distracting others. She is sometimes able to apply theory to make predictions and to perform suitable experiments to test these. When homework is attempted, it is of reasonable quality.
A more positive attitude is needed
This report was compiled by Mrs L Burrows, Mrs M Chappell, Mr A Day and Mr C Sharp
And lastly my little whirlwind who keeps me on my toes, my hyperactivity gave me all the energy I needed to keep up with you, my impulsivity keeps all our lives exciting and whilst I know I get bored and switch off easily you are one thing I will never get bored of.
You will go on to be……..
Just like me
October is ADHD Awareness month