How badly do I want anxiety to leave us alone! Just for a bit, just for a day, I wish to have a child who will not be worried and fearful of the unknown.
This morning was our first day "back to school". I got planners for each boy (and one for myself), in a bid to make expectations more clear, and to keep progress organized. I spent a while last night writing a detailed plan for each boy. I wrote both Judaics and secular for 10 yo, and just secular subjects for 8 yo. I wrote down page numbers. It was not too long of a list. I also wrote a personal letter to each child, addressing different types of their personalities. I tucked the boys' letters into their planners, and left my daughter's letter on the breakfast table.
Man plans, and G-d laughs.
The baby was up at night, again. The kids had a long and tiresome day yesterday, so they slept in. In fact, when I woke up a bit after 7, I was the first one up. No biggie when you are homeschooling, and soon enough 4 yo made her appearance, followed by 1 yo and 10 yo. Then 1 yo sneaked into boys' room, and I was pretty sure that 8 yo was also up, just not coming out from under the covers. My husband left for shul and came back, but there was no sign of 8 yo. The rest of the kids finished folding and putting away laundry, going into the bedroom multiple times. I saw him stirring under the blanket, so I called out that he can come out, but still he stayed. Finally my husband coaxed him out. Immediately he told me how he's worried about schoolwork, and how he does not want to do it (without even looking at what's there). I decided this is ripe time to tell boys about their notes and assignments. They looked at them, read them, and the complaints started. 10 yo said that his list looks too long and too boring. I explained that I am trying to hit skills important to his growth. 8 yo asked why do I have to teach him anything and can't I let him be. I said that it is my responsibility to make sure that he learns enough to function on his own one day.
I also said that I am "locking" the kitchen up and declaring breakfast over by 9 am (a pet peeve, this forever mealtime, with everyone coming in and snacking and deciding that they are hungry and making mess). Then I raced 8 yo to get dressed. I let him beat me.
10 yo got started on his work. He was not loving it, and he was not super-enthusiastic, but as he was picking up speed, and the end was in sight, he visibly perked up. The problem was that I had no time to check his work, between 4 yo, 8 yo and the baby. 8 yo insisted on davening out loud next to me. That was pretty important in my eyes, so I prioritized that over helping 10 yo. When the baby went for a nap, I had to call HWT people since the code for Keyboarding Without Tears did not work and I had to call during business hours. 8 yo was very interested in that, inputting his name into the dashboard. He excitedly told me that he loved the exercises and even typed for a bit without looking.
If the day would unfold the way I want it to, I would do all help-intense activities with the boys during baby's nap, and be done by lunch time, so we would have an afternoon to do as we please. Instead, by the time the baby woke up from his nap, 10 yo did a ton of schoolwork which I did not have a chance to check and was muddling his way through Lashon haTorah Hey. 8 yo did flashcard math review for addition. The kids were starving and I had to make it to the library and the post office. I chose to serve "make your own pizza" for lunch, sort of an exciting first day back treat. Instead of this being nice, I was cranky that we were making a floury mess, the kids were cranky waiting for lunch, and the schoolwork was nowhere near as complete as I imagined it to be.
We rallied, and even bentched out loud together. Then we went to the library to pick up massive holds. Both boys had to renew their library cards and 10 yo had to confess that he lost his, fill out a form and pay a buck to get a new one. He stoically did it. 8 yo had some overdue fines, which he paid. Then we went to the post office to pick up HWT which, for some odd reason required my signature. For comic relief, I was asked whether I was born before 1993. I guess they do not release packages to minors...
When we got home, we tackled the rest of the school work. Chumash went remarkably smoothly with 10 yo, but then I checked his morning work and sent him to redo quite a bit of math. He had a few more corrections here and there, but it was OK. 8 yo wanted to start on script which we picked up, but I did not have it on my list. He wanted to do script instead of spelling. I said firmly that it is not happening. I chose for him first grade spelling words, and I wrote them down for him to copy. He had hard time with "sat": "What is this word? What is it supposed to mean?" I read it to him and he responded: "Oh I thought it was a short way to say "saturated"."
Then we started (for the third time) on First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. This time he did not resist being read to (he did this morning when I read the grammar for 10 yo). He even went out of his way to write "I am a boy." Then we moved onto the second lesson, memorizing the poem "The Caterpillar". 4 yo came into the room at the same time, so I told her that she can listen and illustrate it together with her brother. He interrupted me when I was reading it, explaining what the different parts mean. Then 4 yo went on to draw while he realized that it is not coming out the way he wanted it to look. He was actively illustrating every line of the poem, with arrows to show relationships. He melted down at "may no toad spy you". I thought he had hard time drawing a toad, but it had to do with drawing a toad not spying a caterpillar. The whole time he was making self-degrading remarks about his drawing and his abilities. 4 yo could not contain herself any longer and said that her drawing is even worse. I hated the whole interaction, but I had hard time dealing with it and with 1 yo who was trying to illustrate how he has access to the sun room and all the supplies we have there.
My in-laws came, and I told boys that it is time to get taekwondo uniforms on. We have not been going the whole summer. 10 yo got moody: "I have no time to do anything I want!" 8 yo melted down into a puddle: "I can't go and that's final! I don't remember anything! They will laugh at me! They will make fun of me! I'm a blue belt and I'm worse than white belts!" This morning, when I reminded boys about taekwondo, 8 yo got worried, but I told him that it was not time to worry now, he should wait till the afternoon. He did wait, but now he was very sad. I told him to come and sit on the couch with me and worry about taekwondo for five minutes (an anxiety technique). He was not worrying, he was despondent. He was throwing himself around, yelling, not listening. I tried running through worst-case scenario, but it was going nowhere. I listened, I sympathized, I tried staying calm. Then I said that 5 minutes are up. "Well, I'm not going and that's final!" Belt flies across the room. I am ready to lose it myself. Finally I told him that if he feels like a white belt, I can ask his teacher to make him a white belt. He did not exactly stop, and that was probably not the smartest thing to say.
The boys did go to the car, and 8 yo chilled while we were driving. When I was speaking to the teacher about the boys rejoining, 8 yo told him straight up that he forgot everything. The teacher calmly said that it is normal, everyone takes breaks, and everyone forgets. I was so grateful!
I went into class to watch him. The teacher positioned him in the second row for reviewing the movements, so he was surrounded by kids doing the correct moves all the time and he did not have to lead. He also reviewed all the forms, and I saw that while 8 yo hesitated some, his muscles were remembering what they were supposed to do. There are good teachers, and there are great teachers. I think we hit a jackpot with this one. He is strict and he did not let 8 yo's fidgeting off the hook, but he is also kind.
So dear anxiety, please go and take a hike, jump into the lake, vanish, and leave my boy alone!