Monthly Archives: June 2010

The center cannot hold

I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my son’s therapist’s office, and I’m crying.

I’m on the phone with my mother-in-law, telling her that Zachary is completely imploding.  He has been lashing out at his parents, his siblings, and his friends.  Earlier this week, we had a friend over and Zach kept yelling at him to stay where he had put him because otherwise he would cheat at some game they were playing.  Zach called his friend “rude,” which is astonishing because this is – and I say this having had a great deal of experience with kids in many different places – the nicest child in the Western hemisphere.

Yes, the nicest child in the Western hemisphere wants to be friends with my son, and Zach shat all over that gift.

Then, today, I pick him up at school, only to have the aide in the classroom inform me that Zach spent the morning telling kids he hates them and hitting.  She’s standing there, no sympathy in her voice, rattling off his list of offenses.  The teacher isn’t in, and so it has fallen to her to tell me that Zach has been having problems for a week.  A task she seems to delight in, by the way.

“Pouting!” she says.  “Like that.  See that?” pointing to him.  Because maybe I don’t know what my kid pouting looks like.

So, I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my son’s therapist’s office, and I’m crying.

My husband doesn’t think this therapist is doing Zach very much good, and perhaps he is right.  After all, Zach is still just as anxious as when he started six months ago.  We are seeing no improvement in his behavior or his self-esteem.  Because it is all about low self-esteem.  He’s off-the-charts smart, and I mean truly off the charts, but all Zach can see is that for some reason he doesn’t fit in with his peers.  He doesn’t know why, so he figures it’s because there is something wrong with him.

Or maybe them.  Maybe there’s something wrong with them?  Yeah, that’s it!  If I don’t feel like I fit in with my peers, let’s blame THEM.  That oughta make me feel better.

I have a call in to a new therapist.  I am hoping she can get in to observe him before the school year ends, because he only exhibits these problems with other children, so she needs to see him in his native element.  In the meantime, the uncertainty of the end of the year is killing this kid.  We still haven’t found a house, creating more uncertainty, and since he has been moved so much, Zach puts no stock in our assurances that we are only looking for houses right here in town, near his friends.

If he keeps any friends.

I can’t figure out how to help him.  We get him therapists, we talk to him, we shower him with positive attention, we create boundaries – we do all the right things.  But sometimes – in moments when I am being honest with myself – I recognize that we are just chasing our tails.  Because we can’t help him.  He’s going to have to learn to fit in on his own terms, and we can’t show him how to do it.

Which is why I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my son’s therapist’s office, and I’m crying.

Spirit of it

It is Spirit Week at my son’s school, which means that each day there is a theme and the kids are supposed to come in costume, a fact I registered and then completely forgot until we were walking up to the kindergarten line on Monday morning and noticed that several of his classmates were wearing tie-dye for “Hippie Day.”  No matter – I ran back to the car, grabbed some Burt’s Bees colored lip balm, and put peace signs on his cheeks, mumbling something under my breath about  how peace signs are not particular to an era and maybe something else about how being a hippie is a state of mind, not a fashion statement.

Tuesday was mixed-up crazy day, but Zach is a first child and therefore could not possibly wear his clothes backwards or inside out.  Hell, I’d be lucky if I could get him to wear gold and silver together or white before Memorial Day.  He decided to tie a sock around his wrist.  Whoa, there kiddo.  Don’t get too out of hand.

Wednesday, however, was a snap.  Wednesday was advertised as “Earth Day – Go Green, Recycle.”  That one I had covered, although I’m not sure the mother whose SUV idles outside the school for half-hour every single afternoon had any clue what to do.

We walked up to the kindergarten line this morning, and Zachary started to pout.  “I’m not wearing anything green,” he complained, looking at his friends.

“Zach, the theme is Earth Day – Go green, Recycle.  You are wearing a Scrap Kins shirt.  They live in a recycling center.”

“Yes, but trees help too,” he told me, looking at a girl with paper leaves glues onto her pants.  Paper she will most likely need to throw away this afternoon.

“Your shirt is organic cotton, and it is about recycling.  It is a small, locally owned business, and it was shipped to us from New York, so it has a small carbon footprint.  Your pants are organic cotton, made by a company with socially responsible business practices.  Your underpants are also organic cotton, also made by Hanna Andersson.  In fact, with the possible exception of your socks, everything you are wearing is ethically produced.  You are the most ethically dressed kid here.  Possibly in New Jersey.”

He looked unconvinced, sighing with envy as a child ran by covered in cotton balls, shouting “I’m a cloud for Earth Day.”


You ever have one of those mornings where the kids are hitting each other and you are trying to get them ready and they are yelling at one another and you start yelling at them that they shouldn’t be yelling and everyone is out the door in time to walk to school when the middle one decides he needs Cookie and Skunky to come to school with him and you are starting to leave when the older one realizes he forgot his show and tell and you send him back in for it and he starts wailing from inside the house because it’s not where he left it and you go back in and grab him by the hand and march him up to his room where it’s sitting on his nightstand and you are furious with him and snarling that he can’t just lose it over every little thing and shouting that maybe if he kept his temper we’d be out of here by now and you know how ridiculous that sounds and realize the windows are open and the neighbor is walking his dog?

You ever have two of those mornings in a row?

You ever have one of those afternoons where the middle one is so tired that he starts wailing every time his brother looks at him which makes his brother look at him more and the older one kicks his brother when you try to get them out of the house and they get into a wrestling match in the middle of the road right in front of the house and you realize this is even worse than yelling at them with the windows open but at least you haven’t yourself exhibited any horrific parenting so you figure this is actually a win?

You ever wonder if you can send them to their rooms for two weeks?

Your kid’s kindergarten teacher ever tell you that your son has a low tolerance for frustration and loses it quickly and your other kid’s preschool teacher ever tell you he has trouble keeping his temper and you stand there nodding but you really want to scream out who do you think he learns it from and frankly she lives down the street from you and has a dog so really she probably heard the yelling this morning?

You ever feel like there’s just not enough fair-trade chocolate in the world?


So, as you know, some time ago, Zachary broke his toe.  The toe has mostly healed, and he has resumed his normal activities.  And then, this afternoon, it happened.

His toenail started coming off.

We knew it would happen.  It was all black and creepy looking.  We were prepared.

Except I don’t know what to do now.  It is only attached on one side.  Do I rip it the rest of the way off?  Leave it hanging like that?  Book a three-day cruise to Key West?

OK, that last one has nothing to do with the toe, but I think it would be fun.

Please, folks, send some advice.  Because we’re just sitting around, waiting for a toenail to fall off.


“Pee and put on your shoes,” I instructed one of the boys, while brushing the other one’s teeth.  Benjamin stopped to swing on the bathroom door.  “Cut it out,” I snapped.  “Let me get your teeth brushed; fool around on your own time.”

Getting out the door is always a hassle.  Too many elbows and knees crowing into our tiny little mudroom.  It doesn’t help that the powder room door swings into the mudroom.

We pulled up in front of the elementary school, our first stop of the morning, and Zach reached down to unbuckle the minute the car was in park.  He shoved past Benjamin, anxious to be with his friends.  We stood in the kindergarten line, and one of the kids came up to me.  “Ben hit me,” he reported.

I sighed.  “I’m sure he did.  Benjamin, do not hit your brother’s friends.”  I knew full well he would continue to do so, but I am always charmed by the fact that these six-year-olds hold tight to the delusion that I have some control over my child’s behavior.  I’d hate to let them down.

The teacher came out and I leaned down to kiss Zach goodbye, but he was already halfway into the classroom.  “Come on, dude,” I said to his brother.  “Let’s get you to school.”

Around the corner, at the preschool, Benjamin took off the minute we hit the play yard.  When I tried to get a kiss goodbye, he turned around and half-blew me one before running off with his friends.

I picked up Lilah, who had gamely come along to assist in all the morning drop-offs.  “All right, kiddo, let’s get you to the doctor.”

It was a pneumonia follow-up, and her lungs checked out fine.  “But, there’s something else,” I told the doctor.  “In the morning, or after her nap, or even when she doesn’t want to go to bed at night, she comes out of her room and just stands there.”  I paused and the doctor shot me a blank look.  “I mean, she just stands there.  She doesn’t cry.  She doesn’t speak.  She just stands there, sucking her thumb.  She knows how to talk, she just doesn’t do it.  This morning, when I got out of the shower, she was standing silently in the hallway, waiting for me, without waking up anyone else.”

“Well, that is unusual,” the doctor replied.

“And she sits there at dinner and… eats.  I mean, just eats. She doesn’t say anything, unless she wants more of something.”

“Does she understand you?”

“Oh, yeah.  Completely.  And she definitely has words.  Is something wrong with her, or are we just used to her brothers, who never shut up?”

“Well, I’ll grant you it is unusual, but I don’t think anything is wrong.  She just has extreme patience.”

And there you have it – the first time any Rosenbaum has ever been diagnosed with extreme patience.