Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bad Mom (again, still)

My son started junior kindergarten a few weeks ago. I had vague concerns about this particular child in the public school system, but he'd adapted pretty well to daycare, so I told myself it would just be an extension of that.

It's not.

He's floundering. He's getting aggressive with other kids and the teacher. He's lying to me and to the teacher, often insisting in the face of contrary evidence. Yesterday he stole another child's toy and brought it home, claiming it was a gift. Today I sent it back with him. Tonight he admitted the theft without any provocation from me, and without any apparent remorse. In fact, he told me that he was telling me so that I would know that he wanted this toy so badly he had to steal it. It was, in fact, my fault, and I should buy it for him so he wouldn't have to steal. All with tears and whiny, expectant tone. Oh, yes, my boy is clever in averting responsibility.

These are all new behaviours. He's always had a temper and we've been working on explosive responses his whole life, so he's actually got some skill in dealing with them (at least at home). But stealing, lying - these are not explosive behaviours. These are selected behaviours in a rational state of mind. These are the behaviours of a powerless person attempting to take power or gain notice, enacted throughout history by powerless people, everywhere.

So I jump first to feeling guilty. I haven't been available to him. I've been incredibly busy with work, in and out, allowing other family to take most of the day-to-day with the kids for the past two weeks, just as he was working through this transition. I left him to deal with his powerlessness on his own, possibly even feeling abandoned by me. Right. You know by now how I work on myself.

See, what's really bothering me is this: one thing public school does is teach kids just how little power they have as people. Which is why I don't want him there. But.

But I took this job in non-profit. As a result, my salary is not more than half of what it was, which means we can't afford the bilingual school. For free, our choices are either public school or French public school. So it's 20 four-year old kids to one teacher, instead of 14:2. It's full French curriculum, instead of learning in both languages. And for him, it's being institutionalized in a rigid system designed for the most common denominator. instead of an individualized learning program. Every week-day for pretty much his entire childhood, since I work and summers will just be more day programs run out of schools.

I know that my child does not stand his best chance in this system designed and engineered for efficient processing of mediocrity. It's my choice for myself that has made it our only real option. Understanding the ramifications of that choice, now that more than a year has gone by and he's actually starting school, opens a well of sorry.

So I can lament it, and I do. More than I care to say.

And I also need to figure out how to help him feel like a human being, deserving of respect and love, even as he must relinquish a lot of his power to the system that controls his days. Oh, and convince him not to hit, lie and steal.

This feels very hard.  I think I need a hug.


  1. Well, first I must ruffle a bit at the idea that public schools take away power. Though you know my experiences, so maybe that is hard for you to believe. I am not familiar with the Canadian system, so I can't really comment on it at all. However, I can hug you very very tight.

    Is there a happy medium? Could ou put him in the "free" public schooling and then also after school classes of his own choosing?

    Have you read "Parenting With Love and Logic"? (Excellent)

    Also, it's possible this has nothing to do with his transition at all. It's just his way of acting out for attention, period, and pushing boundaries to see what you will do. How far he can manipulate to see how you will react. Simple.

    Hug hug hug hug.

  2. Thanks Cristina. I won't bore you with the details of why half-way solutions fail us, other than to say, I've thought and explored, and this is where we are.

    I haven't, but I've read more parenting books than I care to think about.

    I believe that people in general (adults as well as children) tend to exhibit boundary-pushing behaviours when they aren't secure about love/attention/position in group, and manipulative behaviours when they feel out of control or lacking in power. I don't think there's such a thing as "just" manipulating or pushing - I see them as symptoms.

  3. It is often symptomatic, you're absolutely right. And sometimes, the answer is just under our noses.

    There are tons and tons of parenting books. After you've taken a break from them all, that one is worth a skim through.

  4. Thanks again - your support helps me. I'll keep an eye out for that one at the library - each one has at least one nugget or phrasing that the others didn't, even when the answers are much easier on paper.

  5. Hugs, many many hugs, for sharing your life with us. I also have a clever little guy like yours and I also feel a huge amount of guilt, often, too much. No easy answers, but I can offer you virtual hugs until I can give you one in person. One day. I also do agree with Cristina that what I have observed from my 5yo is that he often is testing boundaries & it wears off after a while once he's determined what the consequences are to his actions. I just have to make sure to be consistent. Which is hard, for me.

  6. No. You are not a bad mom, or you would be HERE.
    First I shall say that This too shall pass....I've said that to myself more than I care to admit myself! Sometimes it was my only comfort when thrashing through the teen years with my daughters. (I'm still there and it has gotten better!)
    I have been remorseful, resentful, angry at myself, resigned, depressed and vilified by my kids and others because of choices I've made but the bottom line is this, dear one:
    We are fallible. We are human. We are mothers.
    None of us, not one. single. one. of us is ever perfect or even close.
    Children are not born with instruction manuals in their tiny hands that tell you how they are going to behave, and after my experiences so far with five kids, I believe more and more in the theory PREDISPOSITION.
    Stop beating yourself up and stop trying to live by the perfect mom's or authors' preconceived notions of "how it should be"...
    and for God's sakes, don't read another darn book on parenting.
    Beating yourself up does nothing but make you feel worse...and then you can't be the best mom you can be. which is what your peeps need right?
    Love yourself. No child needs to see their parent sacrifice themselves for them. How will they learn to be their own person? How will they see the world? What does that teach a child when a parent continually puts their needs last?
    Ok so, that's my two cents worth. I've been a mom for 23 years and have five children ages 23 to 5, and I'm still learning.

    I think you're pretty darn nifty. Start treating yourself that way.

  7. oh, I forgot your hug. sorry....
    You so deserve it!
    love and light to you,

  8. big. fat. HUG! we want to believe that we'll do it better than anyone else, and really, we're human. i think it's an amazing feat to not only have children, but then to have the wherewithal to understand just how human both you and your child are.

    you will be just fine, and so will your boy. but you already know that. yes, you do.

    and for fun's sake, here's another HUG =)


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