The difference a year makes

Sam, Me and Noah, left to right

I’m not trying to jinx us.  I’m honestly not.

But the school year started and we’ve had no trips to the principal’s office.

This may seem a rather random statement and a rather less-than-lofty bar to reach toward but it’s still one that I set.  Last year Noah had a really, really, hard time in school.  Now, there are a number of people obsessed with and worried about the fact that he must simply just miss his Mom so very much.  Yes, he misses his Mom.  Probably more than anything in the whole world.  However . . . and this is a statement I know every parent makes, but go with me . . . I know my son.  Particularly Noah.

Noah, you see, has so many tendencies that are just like his mother.  It’s also that reason, I think, that so many people don’t know how to handle him.  Even Andrea’s own folks sometimes didn’t know how to treat or handle her when things were going haywire.  The difference with Noah, I think, is that I’ve done my best – as have my parents when he stays with them over the summer – to head off his tantrums when things are stressful or not going his way.

I learned early on with my then-girlfriend-turned fiance-turned wife that when things were a major flurry of activity, chaotic, and crazy she lost it.  When we were running behind for some college event the had everybody getting ready and I simply asked how things were going (since we had to be there in 15 minutes) she bit my head off.  Not the impression you want to give your new boyfriend.  God help me, I stayed around.  Why?  Because that wasn’t the norm and it was part of the whole picture – when chaos ensued she couldn’t control her impulses.  Like fingers on a chalkboard, noisy unwarranted chaos drove her crazy.

Now, I get it, that drives most of us crazy.  But for Andrea, and now Noah, it bothers them.  It’s not OCD, nor is it ADHD.  It’s just . . . chaos.  Noah is a kid who likes to be busy.  He asks me to tell him when I’ve done laundry so he can put it away.  (Sam, who’s supposed to help, would probably prefer I NOT tell them)  He wants to work.  He likes to help with dinner.  In summation . . . he likes to be busy.  I know that’s not like most kids, but he’s smart and gets bored easy.  To me it’s a great thing that he realizes that being bored gets him into trouble.

Before you say anything, this isn’t an implication of his siblings.  His twin brother, Sam, is just as whip-smart.  But Sam is the a-typical guy.  He flirts (yes, at 9 he’s flirting.  God help me)  with cute girls of all ages.  He’s got a strong arm and he’s a Southpaw.  He loves running and is athletic.  Noah, unfortunately for him, got my build so he’s wiry, skinny, lanky, and lacks most athletic ability.  He’s good at basketball but doesn’t really like it.  He likes to play football at the park but doesn’t really try very hard to actually catch the ball.

But where last year he lost control, so far this short period of the school year, he’s been OK.  Part of that?  He’s a year older.  Another?  We’re a little more in control at the house.  Also, the school realized there was some communications issues between teachers, kids and parents in those most chaotic times . . . recess, Extended Day Program, and PE.  These are the times when Noah got into trouble.  The times when chaos ensues.  My father made the comment when he first got to the school that he didn’t understand how they learned anything the grounds were filled with noise and . . . well, chaos.  I don’t think he’s wrong.  I do think they listened, though, and are trying to fix it.

Last, the teacher and parent volunteer at the school in his class are great.  Not that last year they weren’t, the teachers were wonderful.  But he had a lot to work through last year, as does he still.  But as an example: last year Noah was being poked fun of on the playground.  I don’t blame the other kids much, that’s what you do when you’re playing on the playground.  They called him out and he disagreed.  According to his brother, Sam, he walked away, upset, but not acting out . . . until the other kids followed him, screaming in his ear over and over again he was out.  When I got the yellow note Noah had tears in his eyes.  I know when Noah’s trying to snow me.  He can’t lie and get away with it, much like his Mother couldn’t.  He looked at me and said “I tried to calm down, Dad.  I tried to just walk away but they wouldn’t stop.  When I told the teacher they wouldn’t listen and when I got angry they got mad at me.  I picked up a piece of bark and threw it and accidentally hit another kid in the back.”

When the teachers saw that they got angry with Noah.  In his anger he tried to explain why he was mad – and I do believe the next part – and said he just wanted to tell them his side.  Not to get out of trouble, but to say why he got so mad.  First one, then another person wouldn’t listen to him and he got so angry he couldn’t even talk at this point, crying and yelling.  It wasn’t until a parent volunteer saw him on the other side of the playground, upset, crying and angry came to him and calmly sat him down and simply asked: “Noah, why are you so mad?”  She had him take a breath and he relayed his thoughts.  That’s it.  That’s all he wanted to do.  After that . . . calm.

His Mom was the same way.  Anger would ensue, but get that angry, and she wasn’t thinking anymore.  The best thing, all she wanted at a certain point, was a hug and being told it was OK.

He’s doing better.  We have a new therapist, though I still haven’t been able to get an appointment to see them.  I have divvied up my attention to all the kids and not ignored him when others have had issues.  I’ve given him projects.

But the other wonderful thing . . . the volunteer who recognized Noah just wanted to say something and he’d calm down . . . the parent volunteer in his classroom this year.

God help me, but I’m hopeful that this is the difference a year makes.

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