Tuesday snapshots - FamilyEducation

Tuesday snapshots

August 02,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

L.'s been seeing a new therapist for a few months now. We've been waiting to get on her appointment list since last fall, when his developmental pediatrician first told us she was joining the team. L.'s opinions of her vary, according to his mood. But as is the case with his feelings about everyone who tries to "force" him to change his ways, even if just a little, he mostly "hates" her.

Yesterday we had an appointment. When I told him that morning he threw down his book. "I HATE THAT WOMAN!" he declared and stomped off. But when it was time to go he put on his shoes and was ready to head out the door pretty quickly, all things considered.

"Are you going to tell her what I said?" L. asked me, as we got into the van.

"No, of course not."

"Why?" 

"Well, because it might hurt her feelings."

He was quiet for a minute or two. "I really wish I could take that back. What I said. Do you think I could?"

"Of course," I said. Years ago, early on in this business of parenting L., I clung to the belief that words are heavy, valuable things, not to be bartered casually or used lightly. Words carry weight and importance and they hurt, sometimes more than a physical blow. I've had to modify these thoughts a little, with L. I struggle with figuring out a way to walk that line: to teach him that my words to him are important, that while my I love yous and I'm proud of yous mean something I understand that his I hate yous and I wish you were deads are not truly how he feels. 

"Good," he said. "Because 'hate' was too strong a word."

Progress, I thought, is such a sweet, sweet thing.

***************

The kids both have summer bridge workbooks and we've officially embarked on a schedule of back-to-school-preparation. Both L. and T. are supposed to spend thirty minutes/day four times a week on some of the activities. Of course this is turning out in predictable ways. Last week one of the activities for L. involved writing a limerick using the AABBA rhyming scheme. After lots of protests and outbursts he came up with this:

This book is bad

It makes me mad

Whoever made it should be shot

And put in a pot

"Hmmmm...." I said. "I don't know about this."

"It's because I have the word 'shot' in it, isn't it?" L. said defensively.

I tried to choose my words carefully. "I don't like that part," I said. "It seems a little extreme."

"But you always said to write true things about how you feel!" L. said, getting frustrated. "That's what I did."

"Look," I said. "It's not even a limerick." Then I showed him the AABBA scheme, and how he had left off the last rhyming part. We searched for words that rhymed with 'sad' and 'mad' ('cad' and 'glad' and ''fad') but that could still convey his true feelings. He disappeared in a huff again and came back with another limerick:

This book is bad

It makes me mad

Whoever made it should be shot

And put in a pot

Or labeled an ignorant cad

"Oh much better," I said heartily, because it was. It was so much better. 

It made me smile.