Thursday, April 22, 2010

Confused and Sad Mommy

So this is my budding ballerina.  Adorable isn't she?  Just look at that face, so bright eyed and beaming with excitement.

You wouldn't think any mother could possibly become unaccountable frustrated with such a cheerful and pleasant looking little girl.  Well you would be wrong.  I do get incredibly frustrated with my gal.

From having to tell her repeatedly to do simple tasks like make her bed, put her shoes on, comb her hair to having to tell her to calm down, stop growling like a tiger and jumping on the furniture, to it's not okay to hit back when you're mad at someone. 

Most of these things I think are normal.  But some, I think may be pointing to some larger issue that we just can't figure out. 


For starters, she can't remember more than one task at a time.  Go upstairs and make your bed and brush your teeth does not translate into the actual actions.  She may make her bed, she may brush her teeth but never both and when you ask her, she gets incredibly frustrated that you are bugging her. Probably because she forgot to do the second.  Then she often doesn't answer to her name being called.  She gets easily frustrated if the answer doesn't come to her quickly when doing homework.  She is easily distracted.  She doesn't focus and often doesn't pay close attention to you. Sometimes, I think it's overwhelming when I am trying to discuss certain aspects of her behaviour with her because she starts to just nod her head and say yes mom to everything I say.  Is anything sinking in?  I think not.  To me, who has no idea on how to get through to her, this is incredibly frustrating and some days not only do I want to, I DO lose it.

Take Ballet yesterday.  I was able to stay and watch her entire class.  Last week she was a little shy.  This week not so.  She started out charmingly enough having picked dandelion flowers for every one in the class.  The all loved receiving flowers.  But alas that was the end of it.  While she was prettily behaved through most of it, she could not help bouncing around, tottering around like she was drunk, and repeatedly putting her hand up to ask the teacher questions.  I'm not talking useful questions.  Ridiculous questions. Like the teacher just explained to them about freeze dancing.  The teacher had barely started talking when up goes her hand.  The teacher made her wait and continued to explain the dance.  After which, E had an opportunity to ask her question.  What did she ask?  "What is freeze dance?"  OMG.

Okay not a biggie you say.  I agree.  But still it's frustrating to sit and watch your child do the opposite of everyone else or simply stare off into space when she's supposed to be learning. No wonder her teacher's are somewhat frustrated with her.  She was lucky in her old school she had such patient ones. 

Of course, when I caught her eye, I frowned and mouthed at her to stop bouncing around and to pay attention.  While there were many times that I was smiling encouragement there were many where I was shaking my head as well.  How else was I going to get her to pay attention in class?

When she was done, the first thing she did was come up to me and apologize for being so bad.  I could have sunk into the floor.  All the parents are standing around me and here I sound like one of those mothers who sit on the sidelines of their child critizing their every move and how it could have been done better.  Yet, to be honest that is some of how I felt. 

When we got out to the van I tried to explain to her that she wasn't bad, that I thought she was a beautiful dancer but that she needed to listen.  That when I frowned at her I was trying to remind her to pay attention, that I didn't think she was bad.  I spent most of the time trying to reiterate that I could see what a lovely dancer she was and that I think she has talent. She just needs to focus, listen to the teacher and follow instructions. 

Did any of the positive stuff get through?  I think not.  When I looked back at her in the mirror I could tell she was sad and when I asked her why, she told me she was sad because she wasn't doing well.  Well, that just about broke my heart.  Did she not just hear all the parts of how I thought she was a terrific dancer? 

The more I dwelled on it, the more it upset me and I began to cry.  I blubbered my way all through McDonald's and all the way to my MIL's house to pick up the other two kids.  E asked me why I was upset and I simply told her that I was sad because I had made her sad and that I had spoiled her enjoyment of ballet. 

I so desperately struggle to have my children mind me and put a lot of thought unfortunately into how it must make me appear if they don't behave well in public.  Some of that stems from the fact that you hear people criticize other people a lot for lack of discipline etc. Well all know someone who lets their kids get away with murder.  I don't want to be that parent.  But the problem is I just care to much and can't seem to just let it all roll off my back.  I get embarrassed when they behave like little monsters. 

It also doesn't help that I am too blunt and honest.  While I have had to adjust my thinking quite a bit since we've had children.  After all, it doesn't do well to inform your child that their painting is really ugly and no, you don't want to hang it on the fridge.  Okay, that's a little extreme but you get the drift.  How many times have you suffered holding sticky half dead, stinky dandelions just because your child picked it for you.  I hate having my fingers sticky but I do it because they did it because they love me. 

But when it comes to being honest and frank with them about their talents and abilities. Well, I don't believe in sugar coating it.  Why tell them they are a complete virtuoso when they are not? I don't get that.  E wants to sing, she can sing okay at times but at other times it's a complete nightmare.  Should I let her get up on stage and perform?  I don't think so.  Instead, I told her that she does have a good voice but that she needs to have a few lessons to teach her to learn better.  Is that too harsh of a truth for a 7 year old?  I always try to stress the good points when I bring up the bad. 

Still, I can't help but feel sad that MY desire for her to do well and MY expectations of how she should behave spoiled her enjoyment of her class.  So somewhere in all of this I must be wrong.  I really, really want to be that laid back mom that can just laugh and enjoy her kid's cuteness and not worry that everyone else might think my kid is a nighmare.  I want her to be secure not to feel lacking. 

Am I approaching this stuff wrong?  Is it too young for such harsh realities?  It is after all just a dream. It's not like I'm the kind parent who would push her into auditions or stuff like that.  Please, I can barely order chinese.  Anything that she does will be because she's asked to do it. 

I am probably making much of this but I just want her to be happy and I don't think she is.  All that's gone on, the move, the struggles with learning, it's all been weighing her down and me too. 

4 comments:

  1. Ok, this is the first time I've come across your blog, but this affected me a bit, probably because I was always one of those moms (and now grammas) that has a tiny blind spot when it comes to my kids. (Say it ain't so!!) So I have to say something. And I feel like I can say it with authority because I have been on both sides of this particular fence.

    See, I was also a music teacher for 15 years. Piano and voice. I had students who, after 3 months, were READY for the Christmas concert and could WOW everyone with their mad music skilz. And then there were those who, after 3 YEARS acted like they had never seen this music before in their lives. Really. Had one little girl (didn't help that she was my MIL's great-neice) who totally froze at the piano during a recital. I had to sit with her and help her as if at a lesson.

    Try finding the words to tell a child's parents that maybe piano is not her strength.

    I was grappling with my embarassment on the child's behalf when her mom just hugged her and said something to the effect of "Whew! you made it! I was so proud!"

    After the girl ran off to hang out with the others, her mom said, "I know she's probably never going to be very good at this, but she loves the lessons. I'm hoping that eventually she'll pick up something!" In spite of what many others might have seen as a "failure" her mom mostly acknowledged her efforts.

    In other words, you don't have to say, "You were GREAT!", but rather say, "I can see how much work / effort you put into this! That makes me proud." Or even, "Looked like you were having a great time! I wish I had the courage to even try that."

    I tell my kids is that one of the hardest things you have to do as a parent is to watch your kid fall - or fail for that matter. But you have to. You have to let them make mistakes, try new things, just be there to catch them when they fall, hug them when they fail. Remember that they will not always be the best at everything, even when they try their best. As for the stage mom coaching, let the teacher do that. I guarantee you that she has tons of experience with unattentive little girls.

    Back in the day, with extra-curricular activities, I learned to ask questions along the lines of: "Did you have fun? Did you learn anything new? Is there some cool trick/song/picture you want to show me?" When they stopped having fun, when they stopped learning something, when the extra-curricular fun became drudge, we stopped. I had three daughters - oldest is a music/ dance/ theatre teacher to this day, she loved it so much. At the time, second daughter could take it or leave it, now she sings and dances with her daughter - for fun, not on stage - although she was really more talented and had a better build for dancing. Daughter three - well, never showed any interest dancing or music at all. And the son, no dancing, quit baseball, quit football, all with my support, because they were not fun - however, he loved music and ended up Drum Major of the band. It took each of them several false starts to find their strengths.

    One last thing - you may want to her your daughter tested by a doctor, if you see this affecting her schoolwork. My oldest granddaughter was recently diagnosed with ADD - her classroom teacher suggested the testing. My son and DIL were totally against medicating, but they talked with the doctor, started making observations of their own and finally decided to try it on a trial basis. The doctor also gave them some suggestions about her diet, sleep schedule, and other things that may be causing her symptoms. Anyhoo, she's been on the medicine for a little whil (not sure what she's taking) and there's a noticeable difference. Instead of staring off into space when she's supposed to be doing her homework, she's DOING her homework.

    Oh, and the piano-playing "failure"? She's 28 years old and works with a church choir.

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  2. She sounds an awful lot like my son. My son is 3.5. I can't remember how old your daughter is? I think some kids just don't settle and pay attention as well as others. Part of that is age and part of that is personality or a combination therein.

    My son doesn't listen to me most of the time. I know he seems to get confused if I give him more that one instruction at a time so I tell him just one thing. For example I would tell him to put his clothes on. After that's done I'll tell him to brush his teeth. It seems to be less frustrating for him. He does his tasks and that means I'm less frustrated too.

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  3. Mama Tech, I really appreciate you sharing your experiences. It's great to get some perspectives on it.

    You're right Marilyn, it is easier to just give them one task at a time. E is 6 and I'd hoped she would have grown out of it.

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  4. Tada...she's a little girl. I was the same way. I was in ballet as a toddler and my mom said I loved it. I did great in class, would show off my skills at home to anyone who would watch, but then at the recitle...I froze. She said all the other girls danced around me and I just stood there. She'll find her way out of her funk, just gotta be patient.

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