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Bye, Bye, Bus Part 2

January 27, 2012

In Part 1 of this post, I shared some of the characteristics that have made Hope’s recent transition from home school to public school relatively easy for her. In this post, I want to talk about the changes in family dynamics.

I should say at the outset that Hope is not currently taking medication for ADHD. So we’re not on the roller coaster of best-hours-0f-the-day-missed-at-school, meds-worn-off-at-home.

I’m also grateful that the season of very intense behavior we entered last October resolved in December –exactly what I hoped when it first occurred to me that it might be an anniversary reaction.  I’m grateful we had two ordinary  weeks –where ‘ordinary’ mean’s Hope’s personal baseline –before school started so I’m not tempted to attribute every change to sending Hope out for school.

The flip side is also true: she began school at a good time, a stable place, where she’s been able to employ the assets that help her cope with her deficits. The result is that she feels very good about school so far.

Family dynamics are definitely part of that equation. Hope and Mercy are only 10 months apart in age and are best friends. However, Hope has always lived in Mercy’s shadow because Mercy is mature for her age while Hope, due to FASD, feels and acts younger than her chronological age.

But Hope has a competitive streak. At seven years old, she’s not come to a place yet where she can say,”Well, God made us differently. You do what God made you good at and I’ll do what God made me good at.” (I don’t think my sister and I arrived at that truce until we were adults :).)

So Hope has always unfairly measured herself against Mercy. Mercy has chosen to stay home for school. So now each girl has an environment where she can shine. For example, Hope has always been reluctant to work on reading skills because “reading” for Hope means “reading as well as Mercy reads.” Mercy taught herself to read at age three so there’s quite a gap between their abilities.

However, pooled with a bunch of kids her own age, Hope’s confidence in her reading ability is taking off. Even the early-reading first graders are not yet fluent and every day she sees and hears other kids sounding out words just like she tries to do. I’m certain she’s not stopped internally comparing herself to other people. But she now finds herself daily in the running, not out back trailing behind her unusual sister.

I did not realize it at the time, but in retrospect, I think this helps the two of them as much as it helped my sister and I to attend different schools: we each found a place to shine in our own unique way. The result (that I can recall) was less interpersonal friction between the two of us at home. That, too, is true for Mercy and Hope. Their after school and evening hours have been great together.

Mercy is benefiting, too. Even though God has given her remarkable patience, Mercy is still and introvert  who recharges her emotional batteries by absorbing quiet, stillness, order, predictability. Mercy’s stress level is palpably lower with Hope in school. She’s falling asleep more easily at night, is laughing more, is more spontaneously creative.

Every family is different so please don’t prickle at this. But in our case, I think Hope is happier and more functional for spending time each day outside our family. We’re still untangling the snarls of past ambivalent attachment –her early years before we understood her behavior was the effect of brain damage, not steel-willed opposition. And because my husband works from home, when Hope was home schooled, she had two attachment figures in her world 24/7.

It seems to me like she’s under less stress for being able to get away from her expectations for us. Her brain is spending less time every day with the stress-hormone switches toggled to the “on” position so her brain is free to think and learn and grow more freely. Due to the effects of prenatal alcohol on her brain, she already has to work harder to do basic things like trying to stay regulated and focused and to communicate.

Hope was very clearly in that category of kids who are oppositional at home and sometimes when  engaging with a parent outside the home, but are socially quite functional when mom and dad are not in the room. I wish that were not so, but it is true. So while it flies in the face of traditional parenting logic, in Hope’s case our home was not her most  functional environment all day long–at least right now.

And while it has been hard for me to let go of the idea that as a home schooler, I can do it all –give each of my children everything they need to thrive –God has already been disabusing me of my sin of presumption through Joy. That subject –learning to accept outside help –is something I’ll come back to in near-future post.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    January 27, 2012 10:39 pm

    My eldest does not have any prenatal exposure or adoption issues but I can really relate to what you are saying about “Hope was very clearly in that category of kids who are oppositional at home and sometimes when engaging with a parent outside the home, but are socially quite functional when mom and dad are not in the room. ” Even at our absolute worst period, last spring and early summer, she was still okay when she was out of the home and with other adults. And she SHINES in kindergarten in a way that I am absolutely confident she would not do if at home all day.

  2. January 28, 2012 8:33 am

    Amanda, You make a great point. Our oldest (bio.) has attended a private school since K, with the exception of 5th (when I home schooled her) because after doing K home school the year she was 4 my husband and I noticed the same thing you did. She’s not exposed or adopted; it just seems to be the temperament/personality God gave her. Because Hope has FASD and is adopted, those temperamental characteristics are assessed under those umbrellas. But none of us has a clear idea of what our adopted kids would have been like in other circumstances and some parts of who they are might be very similar.

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