Sunday, September 30, 2012

Self-Help Skills=Mommy's Frustrations

Me: "Kate! Go upstairs and get dressed please!"
Kate: "Ok Mommy!"

And, off she goes. She runs up the stairs, picks out a decently well put together outfit (usually), changes her underwear, puts on her clothes and comes running downstairs to show me how beautiful she looks. Sometimes, she requires a slight tweak here or there (no you can NOT wear the bright pink shirt with that; no you may NOT wear your fairy wings and "heels" to the park; no you may not wear a sundress and sandals when it is snowing outside), but overall, she did it herself...and she is proud of that fact.

Me: "Go brush your teeth please."
Kate: "Ok Mommy."

Relatively clean teeth in about 2 minutes flat. Toothbrush put away, toothpaste not too messy, sink relatively clean.

Bliss! That is life with my 4-year old typical girl.

Kate (age 4) learning to brush her hair...on her own.

Me: "Ben, go get dressed please"
Ben: (Silence)

Now I have to figure out 1) did he hear me? 2) is he ignoring me? 3) did he process what I asked him?

Me: "Ben, come here please. (he walks over) What did I just ask you to do?
Ben: "Ummmm... go eat please?"
Me: "Go get dressed please."

Processing issue...possible behavior/ignoring issue. Off he goes upstairs. 10 minutes pass and I don't see Ben yet.

Me: "Ben, did you get dressed?"
Ben: (while playing with a toy in the hallway on the way to his room) "Oops! I forgot."

Attention issue.... possible behavior/ignoring issue. He's not arguing or giving attitude, so I let it go. Off he runs into his room and starts going through his drawers. I leave him to it, trying to teach him to follow through with my instructions without me "babysitting" him. 10 minutes pass and he comes downstairs, mostly naked, holding clothes in his hands.

Ben: "I got my clothes! I need help putting them on!"

I look at the clothes. He has baseball pants and a sweater.... it's 100 degrees with 80% humidity outside.

Me: "Silly goose. Do you wear baseball pants everyday?"
Ben: "Nooooooooooooo."
Me: "Do you wear a sweater when it's summer?"
Ben: "Nooooooooooooo."
Me: "What kind of clothes should you get?"
Ben: "Shorts and a shirt."
Me: (dreading sending him upstairs yet again to get sidetracked) "Ok. Go on back upstairs and get the right clothes. Remember. It's hot outside."

Off he goes. He returns a few minutes later, still mostly naked, with the correct clothes in hand. At this point, almost half an hour has passed since I made the first request. My patience is running thin, but I keep telling myself that a year ago he couldn't do ANY of this on his own and that it's getting better...really it is. And, this was a big part of the decision to homeschool. He has to learn basic self-help skills and has to learn to do these things ON HIS OWN.

I quickly set out the clothes on the floor to make it easier for him to get them on. Knowing that he will quickly get distracted, I sit next to him and tell him to put on his underwear... then his shorts... then his shirt. He does it pretty much on his own. Success!

Me: "Good job getting yourself dressed!" (while I am thinking, 'Does this really have to take 35 minutes?')

Me: "Andrew, go brush your teeth. Remember not to get water all over the bathroom and not to get toothpaste everywhere."
Andrew: "Ok!"

Off he goes. I am praying that he will just brush his teeth without destroying the bathroom, but know that the chances are not in my favor. But, I have to let him do it on his own and suffer the consequences on his own. 5 minutes later, I go in to check on him. Like normal, he is sitting on top of the sink (it's easier than standing on the step stool for him since he can climb, but can't stand). I can tell already that it's a bad toothbrushing day. Both faucets are blasting and every electric toothbrush is turned on. There is toothpaste on the sink, oozing out of its container and Andrew is filling up a cup with water to watch it overflow.

Me: (trying not to start screaming my head off) "Andrew. Turn off the water and the toothbrushes NOW."
Andrew: "Ok."
Me: "Have you even started brushing your teeth yet?"
Andrew: "Oh, oops!"
Me: (head starting to spin around, eyes wide open, nostrils flaring. I speak slowly through gritted teeth, trying to calm down) "Brush your teeth and clean up the bathroom. If you are not done with that in 5 minutes, you will be grounded for the rest of your life and have to sleep hanging upside down from your toes from the playroom tomorrow. Do you understand?"
Andrew: "Ok. Mommy."

Magically, this does the trick. He's done and the bathroom is cleaned up (sorta). Now, I KNOW that in the evening his ADHD medication is completely out of his system. I KNOW that when he is not on his medication, he has basically no impulse control because that part of his brain is not only damaged, but mostly gone. He doesn't generally leave a path of destruction behind him during the day when the medication is in full force. But, boy does it make me lose my temper to see a kid who I know is capable of doing the right thing decide to completely ignore everything and create a mess that I will probably have to clean up.

Why can't they just do it? Why can't they just get themselves dressed without having to be reminded and told 100 times? Why can't they just brush their teeth on their own?

And, then, I think about how a year ago I had to do it for them completely. A year ago, Andrew didn't have the dexterity to brush his teeth or the attention to even make it into the bathroom and on the sink without being reminded and brought in there by an adult. A year ago, Benjamin couldn't even take his shirt off on his own and could barely put it on by himself. Putting underwear on was not even something we were working on yet.

So, yeah, it's frustrating. Yes, there are times when I want to scream and think of the unfairness of it all. I know that I need to be grateful that they at least have some of these abilities, because that was not always apparent. It's just hard to remember that in the moment... when I am tired and cranky and have worked all day to teach them something only to have them not do it. I sometimes just want to give up and do it for them. But then, Andrew comes into my room one night to proudly tell me that not only did he brush his teeth on his own without me telling him, but that he put all of the stuff away too. Or Benjamin goes upstairs for bath time and gets himself completely undressed without me even telling him once. That's when I realize that it's worth it. I am helping my boys to succeed in areas that they might otherwise not succeed.... and it will get better. It just takes an extra heaping spoonful of patience in the meantime. And, it's ok that I don't always have it.

They will ALWAYS be worth it.

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