Last week was a difficult one for Karen, and for all of us. Without going into the details, her school called us on Tuesday to pick her up at around 10 am after she behaved horribly and nearly caused a riot in class. I kept her home from some of her after school programs and she spent most of the week thinking about her behavior and how disappointed we are that she hasn’t been able to maintain a moderate level of equanimity regardless of what we and the school try. Almost 2 years of therapy, hard work on our part and on hers, and still, she lost control and continues to lose control when she thinks she’s being slighted or attacked. She perceives slights even if another student gives her a “look”.
In spite of the situation at school, she’s been a real joy at home. It’s almost as if she needs to get the anger out. Either she releases it at school, and then can be more relaxed at home, or else she holds it in all day, and then takes it out on me when I pick her up.
It’s so hard for her. She clearly made a huge effort to control her behavior for several weeks leading up to her birthday. She knew that if there were any major problems, we would cancel the party. Now that her birthday is over, it seems her incentive is gone. She is an excellent student and is reading well and even began doing multiplication this week. The school seems at a loss as to how to deal with her. I think they are also finding it very confusing to see a girl who excels at school, yet who sometimes reacts violently to the smallest slight.
While there may seem to have been much focus on Karen this month, Matan too has made great strides in language and play while we navigate the complex municipal procedures to have Matan in a speech school next year. The Center for Childhood Development has helped guide us through the circuitous process, but even with their backing, the municipality is a law unto themselves. We were supposed to have a review board that decides whether to admit Matan by end of February, but due to “internal problems at the municipality”, this is now pushed to April, at which time I’m sure it will be pushed again for Passover.
Matan’s vocabulary is improving almost daily, but he still shies away from using verbs. Most of the work I do with him focuses on using verbs and helping him become more independent, something he is also eager to increase. He’s unambiguous about stating what he wants and doesn’t want, which is great in terms of communication, and development. He enjoys playing with peers, but prefers being with me over most anything else. He’s become much more strident in his “NO”, and bawls when he doesn’t get his way. This is frustrating for me, but I understand how important it is for him to find his sense of self in this way.
The most beautiful part of having both children is seeing the two of them playing together, watching over each other and falling asleep together. True, they do fight, but it’s so limited compared to the amount of time they are happy together. Karen really loves feeling like she takes care of him. If he cries because I told him “no” to something, she will immediately come to his defense. She even makes breakfast (cereal and milk) for him some mornings. She’s learned that if she wants to eat cereal in peace and quiet, then she’ll have to make him a small bowl too.
In between MY cold, MY laryngitis and MY flu, we celebrated Karen’s birthday in full pomp and style becoming to a young lady of seven years.
The gorgeous princess cake was created by my friend, and expert cake designer, Hagit Avital. The party was designed and executed by Maly Mivulbali, who brought decorations, giveaways and a sound system. The party was a huge success. Karen said it was her best birthday, ever. One of the moms told me her daughter told her, “mom, you wouldn’t believe it, but there was a REAL princess there!”.
Today we had our half year parent-teacher meeting. The report was as good as we could have reasonably expected. In spite of the behavior problems that seemed to me overwhelming at times, Karen is a very good student, and generous with her classmates, freely lending her coloring materials, pencils and other personal items to other students who may have forgotten to bring theirs. She writes very well and is exceptionally good at math. While her reading is still halting, she does read, and simply needs to improve the fluidity. She reads better than I did in first grade!
Overall, a good report card. The teacher reports communicating with our psychologist once or twice for guidance, and there has been a great overall improvement in Karen’s behavior. Most importantly, she now knows immediately that she’s acted inappropriately. She quickly recognizes that what she’s done is unacceptable, and she usually apologizes quickly. The school, and in particular her teachers, have been very understanding and willing to adapt to help Karen overcome her impulsiveness and control her acting out in anger. She’s also working with an animal therapist once a week at school. She’s managed to overcome her fear of small creatures and is enjoying the activity.
I see Karen maturing week by week, and I’m really impressed with her growing ability to accept and adapt to more socially acceptable behavior.
Fifth Birthday Cake
Less than a week to go before our Princess Party on Friday. Karen is excited, but balanced about it. She will be 7 years old next week!
Our last two birthday parties went reasonably well. Last year I don’t even recall any meltdowns. We had our first party for her at age 4, with only 6 children. She had 3-4 meltdowns. We had our first party for her girlfriends from preschool at her 5th birthday party. I recall only 1-2 meltdowns. Last year was the first year we had a semi-professional run the party, and I don’t recall a single meltdown. This year, we are inviting 20 girls, more than ever before. But I hired a very professional “Princess Party” entertainer, someone Karen had really enjoyed at another girl’s party recently. This is the entertainer Karen requested.
Our Princess entertainer is expensive, but we do get added value. She arrives early, decorates the whole living room, brings giveaways for all the participants and promises personal attention for all the girls, while maintaining Karen as the centerpiece for all activities. Anyone who knows my attention-seeking daughter will understand how important it is to her to be #1.
Her need to be the best, the first, #1, is frustrating, but may be useful to her later in life. While her competitive spirit makes it very hard for her to socialize and keep friends, it also ensures she excels at school and the sports she’s chosen for this year. I need to read up on highly competitive people to see whether there are any tips and tricks to help her file down her sharp edges when it comes to her need to win all the time, against everyone.