This past school year has been especially difficult for my son behaviorally. I find myself wondering if my husband didn’t die by suicide if our son would have as many behavior problems. Or maybe if our teachers were more educated on suicide and the aftermath that it leaves behind that maybe just maybe we could find a way to help him.
Day after day I’ve received phone call after phone call from the school explaining yet another coping skill that our son needs to learn. I feel like I have done everything in my power to help him succeed. I volunteered in his classroom multiple times a week, which didn’t seem to help the situation only made it worse for those days I wasn’t there. I have been in constant communication with everyone in the school to see if there is anything else we can do to help him.
Then one day I got an email about how he had a great day up until the end and then he became fidgety. To me fidgety is such a vague term, I mean was he able to sit, was he throwing things or what exactly was he dong to make him so “fidgety”. I became a little frustrated and started to feel that no matter what my son did it wasn’t going to be good enough for them. So, in my frustration I wrote all the teachers and principal a letter about who my son is and the things he has had to endure in his short life. I presented this letter at his annual speech IEP meeting and asked before they interrupt me to please listen.
“At the age of 4 my son lost his grandma. She played a huge role in his life and now she was suddenly gone. Then a few short 6 months later his dad died by suicide. It wasn’t just your typical suicide, both kids were still in the house. I had to rush them out of the house, call 911 and wait for the cops to arrive. My aunt came and got both of the kids and took them to her house. Now imagine for a small second being in his shoes. How would you handle your everyday tasks? Would you take things more personally or be quick to anger like he is some days? Or would you become fidgety towards the end of the day? Fortunately, since you haven’t been in that situation you don’t know. This plays a huge role into the person my son is today and as much as I wish I could erase this time in his life, I can’t.
What I do know is my son is a great brother, son and friend. He is compassionate, friendly, smart, ambitious and stubborn, all of which I love and admire about him. Instead of us saying what he needs to fix or change I feel we need to redirect and ask ourselves what we can do to help him, what are we doing to make sure he can succeed.
Now I know he needs to develop coping skills and things aren’t always going to go his way, but what I don’t understand is why we can’t work to make more successes for him. Why can’t we as a team come up with ways to promote that feeling of accomplishment for him, as his mother I am afraid that if he doesn’t start have those successful days he will quit trying all together.
If we as a team can’t figure out a plan that can do that then I need to look at the alternatives. My job as his mom is to be his advocate, I’m not making excuses for him I am simply giving you the background so you can understand exactly what he has gone through in his short life.”
After I finished reading the letter they all looked a little stunned and didn’t seem to know what to say or how to act. This is a typical response when we talk about things like suicide and the aftermath that it can have on everyone involved, teachers included. We ended up having a great meeting and decided to have another to come up with a full understanding of who my son is and what motivates him, so we can establish a plan that he wants to participate in and do well.
I hope and dream that I’m able to fulfil all of my sons needs without making him a victim, rather a strong independent man someday. I need everyone’s help along the way, because I am by no means the perfect mom. I too have my own breaking points and question my daily routines with not just my son but my other children as well.
So I ask all of you to be kind to those kids who appear to be throwing a tantrum for no reason or offer a hug to a child who is crying, for we have no clue as to what their lives entail or the trails they have been through. By being kind and understanding hopefully we can be the change and show our children how to do the same.