New Member of The Boy’s Tribe

The Boy adores his new summer day camp. They go swimming at the community pool three times a week, he has friends from school who attend, and they play Wii bowling – what’s not to love?

He also has a new member of his tribe. The camp director is a high school special education teacher from another school in the community, and she is amazing. Wanna know how I know? The Boy gets a huge smile on his face when I mention her, and he doesn’t do that for everyone.

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As I mentioned yesterday, he’s having some anxiety over absences again, exacerbated by one of his close friends being ambivalent about camp and intermittent with his attendance. Not only did the camp director figure out a way to entice his friend to come to camp (allowing him to do a few magic shows at camp), she has figured out a strategy to alleviate some of The Boy’s anxiety. She reasoned that his anxiety stems from not having control over whether or not others are absent, so why not allow him a little control over something else?

She said he is always letting her know when supplies are low (which is great because the staff does not), so she could have him do a daily inventory of supplies (and even campers!) with a clipboard. By allowing him input in tracking, it may alleviate some of his anxiety.

This, THIS, is the sign of a great teacher. One who actively thinks about her students and their needs, even outside of school (or camp) hours, and devises needs-based strategies to help them with their daily functioning and emotional state.

So, welcome to the tribe, Camp Director! The Boy can spot the good ones a mile away. Now we just have to get you to come over to our high school 😉

Traveling with The Boy

Tomorrow, The Boy and I depart on a school trip to Washington DC with his band. It is a short trip – only an overnight stay, with a ridiculously early report time tomorrow (let’s hope they haven’t changed that, too), and a ridiculously late return time on Saturday evening, but those two days should be packed with fun and excitement. As long as the weather doesn’t interfere (which it might), and as long as The Boy and I can handle our anxieties about changes to the itinerary, and not being in control of our activities…

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My anxieties stem from my former life as a band director, having taken groups on trips, and the amount of planning and forethought that should go into it. And the amount of communication with the chaperones. All of that should be happening, but as of today, I have no idea for what or whom I will be responsible. I don’t know with whom The Boy is rooming. I don’t know how seating will work on the bus. There’s a whole lot I don’t know, and that makes me anxious.

I’m anxious, too, about The Boy rooming with some other kids (how many? I don’t know…), and if he will be able to handle it. If not, he can always come to my room (I know that I’m supposed to have a single), and if they don’t like it, they can shove it where the sun don’t shine. I emailed the teacher on Tuesday just to make sure this was a fallback option, and haven’t heard back, so I take that as a yes.

The Boy is excited. He gets to travel and see some things, which he genuinely enjoys. He gets to (hopefully) hang out with some of his friends. But I hope he can roll with changes, and maybe not being able to sit by whom he would like, and maybe being put in a group of boys to sightsee, rather than his friends who are girls…

Keep your fingers crossed for us. I think we will have a good time, and I just hope we can keep our anxieties (mostly mine) at bay.

Screaming Children in Public Places

There seems to have been a recurring theme all summer, and it has now bled into the fall with the latest story of a couple of ladies who took it upon themselves to write a passive aggressive note to a parent at a restaurant. In previous cases, a restaurant owner balled out a toddler, and a woman had her check paid by a stranger.

It seems a pretty divisive conversation.  People do not hesitate to comment, and comment strongly, about WHAT THEY THINK.

I get both sides of the issue.  I really do.  And I was not there in any of these cases, so I personally do not know the extent of the “screaming”. There are times that The Man and I have been out to dinner, and been severely annoyed by a toddler allowed to run around the wooden booth behind us, and there are other times when a particularly enthusiastic child doesn’t bother me. A lot depends on the situation, the age of the child, and the parents’ attempt or lack thereof to control the behavior.

But here’s the thing. Public spaces are public. Kids are kids. Restaurants are open to all kinds of people. You cannot control your environment unless you are at home, and as soon as you try to, you infringe on someone else’s rights. Parents with rambunctious children have a right to go out to eat once in awhile.  And you may have to suffer through an annoying experience once in awhile.  That’s just life.  Unless you want to go off-grid and live like a hermit, you will have to deal with other people who are not under your control.

Also, how do you expect children to learn how to behave in restaurants if they never get the chance to go to one? What are we teaching children if we whisk them out of every public place as soon as they make a peep? The Boy is not whisked out of his classroom every time he needs to pace or starts to get upset, nor should he be.  He needs to learn how to manage his emotions and still participate in class, much like a small child should learn this as well.  They can only do that in situ.

This does all depend on the parent making the moment teachable, and monitoring when the behavior gets to be too much for the surroundings.

Judgy and opiniony.  It’s getting a little thick out there again.  Be nice, don’t judge, offer to help, and get over it.

But What Do I Do?

I spent some time on divorce forums after the split, hoping to find a community, mostly to help me work through my anger and hostility toward my ex.  I knew it wasn’t healthy for me to feel this way, and I still had some raw emotions, even though we hadn’t really loved each other in a long, long while.  In those forums, people would inevitably post questions about what to do when…

  • their ex didn’t pay child support
  • their ex didn’t show up for visitation
  • their ex yelled at them on the phone
  • their ex didn’t call enough
  • their ex cancelled plans at the last minute
  • their ex brought the girlfriend to parent-teacher conferences

and so on, and so on…

“But what do I do??” they would plead.

After awhile, even I knew the answer to every single question like this:  “Nothing!”

You do not have control over your ex.  You can’t make him (or her) do (or not do) anything.  The only thing you can control is your reaction to his/her actions. (Notice I didn’t say feelings – you can’t control feelings, and anything you feel is natural – let it be).  The ex doesn’t pay child support?  Find a way to live without it, and keep track.  Find out what your state agency will do for you and when.  Give them a friendly phone call and ask for enforcement.  The ex doesn’t show up for visitation?  Have a back up plan (always), and use it.  The ex yells at you on the phone?  Hang up.  The ex doesn’t call enough?  His/her loss.  (This is a hard one, when you know your child may be hurting.  Help them to know how much they are loved, use a backup plan, and know that in the end, your child will learn valuable lessons from this, and love you even more for being there for them).  The ex cancels plans?  Use your resources to cover childcare if necessary, and use your backup plan.  The ex brought the girlfriend to conferences?  In the whole scheme of things, it probably isn’t that big of a deal.  In any case, it’s out of your control, and as much as it is hard to accept sometimes, worrying about things that are not in your control is a waste of energy.  Save it for the big battles.

That being said, you can cordially express your displeasure with the ex about any of these things.  But don’t expect an appropriate, cordial response.  Document everything, know your rights, and if they are being violated (or your parenting agreement is not being met, etc.), step up and say something.  But always ask yourself if you are really just trying to control the situation.  Trying to control your ex will get you nothing but a headache.