The blogosphere is all aglow with end of the year parenting anxiety. If you thought the kids were excited to be out of school, that’s nothing compared to the parents elation. No more projects, no more parties, no more homework, no more grind! Mommies are passing out their triumphs like jello shots: honor rolls and grade bragging, end-of-year parties and dance recitals, cakes and final field trips, summer camp dates and tuition, who needs new shoes, who needs a new bicycle, who has so much to do to get ready for their family vacations…
I don’t know many ADHD families that are celebrating at the moment. Even in a good year, when breakthroughs and accomplishments are abundant, the end of the year is the time for judgments, via the handing out of the report card. All those special moments of challenges set and met, don’t amount to a hill of beans as far as the report card is concerned. The report card tells matter-of-factly how much your child deviates from the accepted definition of normative. I’m sure that a good teacher would know how to finesse such a delicate situation, and despite low grades (at least low compared with children who don’t have any challenges), might be quick to point out the special child’s highlights. A good teacher might even enjoy such a task, understanding what an amazing opportunity it is to state in writing that the human experience is so much more dynamic than numerical scores.
But we didn’t have a good teacher this year, at least for most of the year. For a few short months we did have an amazing substitute teacher, while the home room teacher was on maternity leave. Thank G-d for this wonderful woman whose greatest gift was simply her willingness to believe the best was possible with all children, including mine. The permanent teacher is no such gem. The permanent teacher’s primary concern was with her own comfort levels, and her own intentions. As any special parent can tell you, this is a very poor mix with our amazing children, who constantly test and challenge our expectations: Am I setting firm rules in the best interest of my child, or just because of my need to be in charge? Is there a strong enough benefit by enrolling my special child in extra-curricular activities to justify the tantrum that occurs each day in response? What tools does my child need to succeed according to the best of her ability? What an amazing world it is, to watch an extra-ordinary child grow. But for the person who doesn’t like the pillars of their expectations shaken, a special child is an irritant.
And the homeroom teacher has exacted her revenge. While the substitute awarded First Daughter a report card full of A’s and B’s mid-year, this teacher has seen fit to hand out to my child only C’s and D’s. And one of the grades is a D-, clearly an indication that she could have held back my child if she wanted to. It’s not possible for a child to make an A in mid-year, and finish the year with a D-, not unless something terrible happened during the year, and of course such situations would require a phone call. Grades for classes not under the direction of the homeroom teacher were not as melodramatic. Mostly A’s and B’s. First Daughter was heartbroken over this report card, crying and wondering what she did to make this teacher give her grades like this. “I thought I studied, I thought I was doing really well, I’m a good person, I don’t deserve this.”
And yet again, I’m having to tell my daughter that sometimes the world lets you down. And sometimes authority figures have way too much control and can really mess things up for you. She hears this way too much, and I’m saddened at how often things don’t seem to go her way. What adult would gleefully face the world each day with such a pattern of disappointments, and how can we expect a child to, let along a child who already finds tasks deemed “basic” to be a daily challenge.
I shared this story with a friend of mine, whose son also has ADHD. She told me that she received a notice from her son’s school: If he agreed never to come back to the school, they would give him a passing grade. If he insisted on returning to the school, however, they would fail him. Presumably, if he returned, they would also commit to make his school life a living hell.
I’m so mad I could scream. I’m so mad at the bastards in the world who insist on punishing extra-ordinary children. Especially here in Israel, where schools receive extra funding for every diagnosed child, theoretically to provide said child with services. To accept that responsibility and then employ the worst kind of incompetent… it feels like theft.
It shouldn’t be so difficult to love these beautiful children.
For all the special families who are reading this, I wish you an easy out-of-the-box summer, with bike rides and frog-catching, an abundance of computer time and slow family dinners with lots and lots of vegetables. Oh and if you really want to liven up the mix, just take your first opportunity to add a brand new untrained puppy to the family. They say that puppies are great for ADHD families, because after all, aren’t we just so talented at putting up with random piles of shit?
Here’s the sweet latest addition to our family: Gallifrey. She’s a lot smaller in real life, it’s that Time-Lord technology that makes her seem larger than life in her pictures.