The first day of school is supposed to be fun for the parents and miserable for the children. For my family it was very different from what we are used to. Before the school year was over last year, my son’s teacher and I decided that it was best to keep my son back in first grade. While this was a difficult decision, I figured that it was best for him. It took a lot for me to get over the embarrassment and the guilt, but I am posting this because it could help other moms (and children) that could be in the same situation. I will take you all back to how it began and how we came to this decision.
During the school year, T had a lot of major changes in his life. Changes that would impact a six year old. His father came back into his life on a consistent basis, we moved (again), he started a new school, and he was diagnosed with ADD. Like I said, it was a lot for a child. Along with that, I was dealing with a shit show at work. That means late nights, early mornings, and overnights. That also meant, him coming to work with me. We would do homework in between guests, heat up dinner, enjoy a movie on Netflix, and then he would tucked in on the floor of my office for the rest of the night. If I was working a night shift, I would have to wake him up, go home, and get him back down to bed. Needless to say Melatonin was my best friend. There were days that I would have to pick him up early from school so that I could make it to work on time. The life of a single mother.
Unfortunately he would get used to that life and would become upset when 2pm rolled around on a school day and I hadn’t shown up to pick him up. At that point he would completely shut down. He didn’t want to do any more work for the day and sometimes would cry until it was time to get on the bus. I blame myself for this behavior of course because I created that habit.
With the ADD, his emotions were all over the place. After he was diagnosed, most people were skeptical about it but I knew and had known for a while. My younger brother has ADHD and T had similar symptoms but he was not violent or destructive. So I knew it wasn’t severe, he just had trouble keeping still and focusing. Retaining information was also a huge problem for him. Everyone was telling me that this was just another Doctor trying to diagnose and medicate a young black child for simply being a child BUT as his mother, I know my child. If he needs help focusing in class, we need the right combination of patience, a great teacher, and possibly medication to get him through the day. That is where it became difficult.
T’s first teacher did not have the patience for him (unmedicated). She even tried to tell me that his diagnoses in incorrect and that he had ADHD. Because of my vulnerable and stressed out state, I started to believe her. I thank God for my younger brother because without being able to compare the two of them, I would not have been able to see that he does not have ADHD.
Our first step was to change his teacher. I remember emailing his teacher letting her know that if she could not be patient with my child than it would be best that he is removed from her classroom. I had had enough of her by then and could not stand someone calling me every day speaking negatively about my son. All I will say was she did not have his best interest at heart, so she needed to go.
Next, it was finding the right medication that would help him in class. His doctor had one in mind, but the insurance company did not approve of it. They stated that we had to try the others first before going to the one his doctor prescribed. Adderall was the first and probably the worst for him. I already knew it would be because my younger brother had this one and he was a completely different person. The same went for my son. He became very mean, violent, and emotional. I did not know the child who was standing in front of me. The side effects showed up early on, but the insurance did not approve another medication until the Adderall was completed. For thirty days I had to relearn how to be a mother to this kid I didn’t know.
After the thirty days were completed, we tried another medication I do not remember the name of. Began with a C…anyway it was much better than the Adderall but it still did not help him in any way. He was still having issues with his behavior in school, he cried at the drop of a dime, and he still could not focus. The good thing is that he was no longer violent and angry. Don’t get me wrong, this was the most frustrating process for us. I was becoming impatient and angry. I had to leave work bullshit to come home to more bullshit. It was very hard and I did not help the situation.
Remember that by the time he was on the new medication, it was at the end of the school year. His teacher was amazing and she helped me every step of the way. She knew the amount of pressure that I was under and was willing to help with whatever she could. She became his school mom. I still tell her when I see her how much I appreciated her help with T. It made a world of a difference.
It was the last parent/teacher conference of the year where we decided together that him repeating the first grade was the best option for T. He had fallen behind on some many levels (maturity and academically) that if he were to go to second grade, we were afraid that he would drown. There were things that he was learning wasn’t sticking, he was always overwhelmed with the amount of work that he got, and it was always about playing and going the easy route. He was also introduced to video games that were not meant for a six year old and they completely consumed him. He would raise his hand in the middle of a lesson and announce the amount of kills he had on GTA. Now I know that he should not be playing that game, but I can only say and do so much when it comes to what he does at the other household. He damn sure isn’t playing that at my house. Obsessed is an understatement. Even in his journals he would write about the damn game. Sigh. The best part of life is that you get second chances, so we were going to give him one. Once they were out for summer vacation, the final decision had been made to keep him in first grade.
By then I was completely comfortable with the decision, but that didn’t keep me from feeling guilty. Had I not chosen work over my child’s education, maybe he would not be in this situation. I should have made studying a priority every week and I know that because I did when I was a child. A part of me also felt like this is how it is supposed to be. He was a premature child and was delayed in everything. Walking, talking, everything was delayed. However he is a very smart child. He picks up on a lot of things, but they don’t stick (unless he wants them to). If he is not interested, then retention is not his best friend. He could tell me an entire episode of Teen Titans, but couldn’t recall what 4+4 is. I was beginning to think that there was something else wrong with him. Then I sat and thought, had be been born in late September like he should have been, he would not have been in the first grade. He would actually be in Kindergarten, not first grade. Most children with a late birthday it is a hit or a miss when it comes to starting them out in school early. Some succeed while others just aren’t ready. So yes, maybe maturity is also premature. Is that a thing?
The hardest part was letting the immediate family know what was going on. It was as if I was telling them that I was pregnant all over again. This time, I had to explain how I have failed my son. The responses were mixed. Of course there was the one person who felt that the school was holding him back because he was a black child and I allowed them to convince me. Can I just tell you how annoying that is? Don’t come at me with that shit unless it makes sense. I would believe that theory except I made the decision, not them. I had an option and this is what I felt was best for my son’s academic career. Others (and myself) were afraid of him becoming bored with the repetitive work and he would act out as a result. That was an obstacle that we would have to overcome if it were to happen. We also created a plan in case that were to happen that would not have any negative effects. Once I broke down why I made this decision and that nothing they could say would change my mind, everyone was on board.
Summer came and went. I kept him off of the medication because I wanted him to have a clean slate. What a difference 3 months could be. He had already matured a lot. I even went through a period where I thought I had made the wrong decision by holding him back. That I didn’t give him enough time to mature on his own. After having a lot of issues with his insurance approving the new medication, I really didn’t have the time to see how he would react to it and learn the side effects. I was worried.
The first day of school came around and guess who could not be there? Me! I was fed up with the ridiculous demand of my other job that I had to quit. I found a new one, but of course, my training began on the first week of school. I had to take advantage of the opportunity to get out while it was presented to me, but I also could not help but feel guilty about missing the first day of school. I never miss the first day of school. I felt like a shit mother once again. Thankfully my neighbor was willing to put him on the bus for me and send me pictures. I smiled at them in the middle of training as tears filled my eyes. How could I miss this? He looked so happy and excited. Something that he never is for school. I wanted to be able to kiss him, tell him good luck. I wanted to remind him that he smart and strong. I did all of this earlier in the morning, but I wanted to remind him just before he got on the bus.
At the end of the day, he came home feeling drained from the “long” half day he had. As I sat with him, I scrolled through social media and saw all of the first day of school posts by mothers and fathers. I had no desire to post mine. I’m not the one who took the picture, I wasn’t there, I didn’t know what nonsense he said before getting on the bus. I know nothing. Just whatever vague response he gave me when I asked “how was school today?” Then I would also put that he’s back in first grade. I was embarrassed. The funny thing is that I don’t give a rat’s ass now. I’m over it and I know for sure this was the right decision. I got in my own way. Everything isn’t for social media and I understand that now more than ever. I barely post on there now. Again, why did I care so much?? Probably was PMSing.
Thank you to all of my family and friends who have remained supportive in our journey. It’s always something, but me and T always come out on top. It really takes a village to raise a child. All of the parents out there, I say all of that just to say DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR CHILD. Only you know what that is. No matter what others may say, keep doing you.
This is YOUR journey
This is YOUR blessing
This is YOUR lesson.