From positive energy to parenting fail

I recall occasional glimpses into my son’s academic future when he was a toddler.  These glimpses typically ended with my shaking my head and thinking, “Boy, I don’t think school is going to come easily for him.”  Whether we were casually trying to ask him what color something was, or working with letter flashcards, or, later, trying to show him how to write his name, he would buck.  “No,” he would yell, “no!”  And we would back off and wait a few weeks or months before trying again.

His first two years of school began with teacher-requested conferences a month or so into the year.  “He’s such a sweet boy,” they would say, before launching into descriptions of daydreaming, zoning out, and difficulty following multi-step instructions.

On Friday afternoon, as I tried to coax him out-of-doors while the daylight lasted, he pleaded to be left alone.  “Mommy, please…I’ve had the worst day.”

I sat down next to him.  “What’s the matter?  Why did you have the worst day?”

“My teacher yelled at me,” he said softly.


“I don’t want to tell you.  I’m scared.”

“Nolan, listen.  I don’t hit you, I don’t yell at you, you have nothing to be scared of.  I need to know what happened.”

And after some gentle prodding, he revealed that he “didn’t hear” the teacher’s directions, and that when he asked how to do something, she yelled and told him that he would just have to get an “F” on his paper.

A quick check of his papers revealed a note from his teacher disclosing the other side of the story.  Daydreaming through directions and not finishing work.

After arranging yesterday to meet with his teacher today, I formed a plan of attack.  He needs a good night sleep.  I need to rethink breakfast.  And maybe a little hot cocoa would give him the spark necessary to stay alert in class.   Sending a well-rested, fortified little boy out the door in the morning with positive energy will surely help his day.

At 7 a.m. my plan started to fall apart.  When I woke him up, he was groggy.  I eased him out of bed with the promise of hot chocolate  I prepared a healthy slice of peanut butter toast, with instructions to eat while I got ready.  He agreed.

After a few minutes, I walked out my bedroom door and called to him…”Nolan, you have about three minutes to finish eating.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Several minutes later, I found him huddled over his hot chocolate, his nibbled slice of toast still mostly intact on the table.

“Nolan,” I said, taking the cup from his hands  “you’ve had two bites of toast!  Take a bite of toast while I get your shoes!”  And when, in the process of slipping his shoes on, a pile of sand spilled out of his shoes and landed on the floor, the rest of my plan which included positive vibes fell apart.

When my diatribe ended, we hugged half-heartedly as I sent him to the bus.  I walked back into the house and saw the scattered evidence of my failed morning…a half piece of toast, mostly-drunk hot cocoa, and a pile of sand on the floor.

Why, oh why, is this so hard?



About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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8 Responses to From positive energy to parenting fail

  1. First of all, I wish so much I could just have a cup of coffee with you, talk, listen and for sure be nodding my head in “I know, I get it! I get it!” What grade is dear Nolan in? I have three children. One is 18, he was the biggest “day dreamer” of them all but yet they all struggle all three. I ask myself so much this question, a simple “why?” My oldest son finished his first written paper in the 4th grade and he was so very proud and I’m not talking a long, neatly written out paper but one that was at least complete. He was so much so in his own world that he barley had any friends. I was heart broken when one day he shared he didn’t have lunch, I asked “why?” I gave you lunch money, his reply “I paid so and so to play with me” At least he was resourceful but it broke this mom’s heart to pieces. Just like us we want them to be liked, accepted and fit in. He was too much in his own little world. Do you know what I’m getting at? He was diagnosed with ADD, not the hyper one, just the day dreamer sort of thing. He made it, he made it through school. He graduated high school last June, he was looked upon as a leader among his peers because when he did channel his energy it produced creative things, like poems, and he was great at directing his peers in films and coming up with the ideas. I medicated him for a while from 4th grade thru middle school. Then tried to help teach him skills to overcome some of his forgetfulness and things like that. I have already written too much but I can tell you I GET IT, I DO. Does your boy also say things like “I’m stupid” or hit himself in the head in frustration, lots of tears during homework too? I’ll stop. You can always email me at ‘m a good listener.

    • Joyce says:

      Oh, bless you! I really appreciate your thoughts. The story of your son is so heartbreaking, and yet hearing how things turned out with him is a relief. What are his plans now?

      Our sons could be twins! Nolan is in second grade. More than anything he resists doing homework because it bores him to death, and he would much prefer not to be challenged. If something looks difficult – a puzzle, a fun activity, anything – he will not even attempt it. Yes, there have been tears at homework, and threats to break his pencil :-).

      I’ll email you soon. I really appreciate it. I’d also like to get your thoughts on medication.

      • I think a big part of the boys not even wanting to attempt something that is a bit of a challenge or difficult also has something to do with perfection. They want to do it perfect and if it’s not perfect they have a hard time with it, a REALLY hard time with it. At least that’s what I gathered on my end with raising my boy. And now he has a job and he is very dependable at his job, he did recently wreck his first car and that was a big day in our lives, he again still deals with the mentality of letting us down, not being that perfect person however it’s a chance and opportunity for him to shine as he saves his money to fix it back up to running condition and time with Dad as they work on it together. He isn’t going to school yet (college) but aspires to open his own bakery one day in the Pacific North West. I encourage his dream 100%. Looking forward to hearing from you. I know you are a busy working mom too.

  2. Sorry it was a rough morning after you had such good plans. I hope you can figure out what is up with Nolan and you can help him to make school more productive for him.

  3. I know! I know! I am such a visualizer. Kind of like if I can see it in my head I can make it happen. It works so well in so many areas in my life but not with parenting! Sometimes I feel like it comes so easy for others so why not for me. It’s good in a way to hear it’s a challenge for others too but doesn’t lessen my sympathy for you.

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