Tales of Snow, School and Un-Sperming the Dog

posted in: Large Family | 37

 Snow isn't a given in the Pacific Northwest....so you can bet my kids take full advantage when it arrives.

Snow isn’t a given in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. In fact, we have had none  the past two years. 

The local weathermen have been whispering rumors about snow….but we are never quite sure whether to believe them or not. Monday morning I woke up and peeked outside with trepidation…nope, not a flake of snow. Just green, green grass.

An hour later, it was snowing.

Snow isn't a given in the Pacific Northwest....so you can bet my kids take full advantage when it arrives.

Snow is always exciting to our kids. When Apollo awoke I said, “I have something to show you” and carried him over to the window. As I pulled the curtain back and he caught sight of the powdery white ground…his face lit up and he whispered, in awe, “Thank you, Mama!” Next, he hugged my neck with his skinny arms as his body melted into mine.

It was a fine moment.

Snow isn't a given in the Pacific Northwest....so you can bet my kids take full advantage when it arrives.

I’m going to be honest with you….I am not in charge of the weather. I have exactly ZERO control over whether it snows or not. And if it were up to me, it would never be cold enough to snow. But in that moment? I happily accepted the hug…and was even happy for the snow that inspired it.

Snow isn't a given in the Pacific Northwest....so you can bet my kids take full advantage when it arrives.

And by the time they returned home from school? It was all melted. 

They were devastated.

Snow isn't a given in the Pacific Northwest....so you can bet my kids take full advantage when it arrives.

I have a few funny stories I have to tell you about Apollo. The day we went down to have his packing removed from his incision I gave him hydrocodone (Vicodin) half an hour before his appointment. The procedure was still painful, but we were happy he at least had some pain meds on board. On the way home I was explaining to Hezekiah why we needed to keep Apollo calm.

“He’s feeling good right now because he’s on drugs, but we need to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself…” Before I could even finish  Apollo piped up from the back, “Yeah, I feel GREAT! I love this drug!”

Yep, and that’s why they prescribe in in such small doses.

 —

The other day Frodo was getting hyper (he is a puppy after all) and Apollo said, “Mom, you really need to get Frodo un-spermed”

“Do you mean neutered?”

“Yeah, un-spermed so he can’t have babies”.

And now on to a serious question…I am having so much trouble getting Apollo to school. Some days he’s fine, other days he says he’s sick, school is boring, he just wants to homeschool…this is so hard. He deals with anxiety (which is why we put him in school in the first place) but it is so hard (and some days impossible) to force him on the bus or even into the school if I drive him. 

He asks why he has to go to school and I tell him so he can learn…then he just asks to homeschool. I know he needs to practice separating…but this is killing me. I know the academics could be done in less than an hour…but I also know he needs to be away from me…thoughts? Have you ever deal with anxiety or a kid refusing to go to school?

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37 Responses

  1. withasmile

    My thoughts on Apollo and school… I’d keep him home. He’s missing a lot of school anyway and he says he’d prefer to homeschool. I wouldn’t use school as a way to help him deal with anxiety or practice separating. There are plenty of other ways to do those things. Separating from you will eventually come naturally to him, gradually and with time. It might take him a little longer after all he’s gone through, but I really think those skills will develop as he grows. It’s just how kids are programmed.

    • Renee

      Thanks for your input! I’m not sure how long you’ve been reading, but before I put him in kindergarten his anxiety was so severe he wouldn’t even get off my lap or touch the floor. I couldn’t do a load of laundry or wash dishes without him freaking out. I should add, he also gets speech therapy at school, which is important. But you are right, he misses a ton already 🙁

      • Melpub

        It does seem to me that not enough time has elapsed since this very painful surgery and packed wound that Apollo endured. So I’m not surprised that he’s in a “two steps back” phase–going to school is too much for him right now. He’s fine reading and learning at home for a while, I think. My children did not have these terrible health problems that he’s weathered with such grace–but I do remember two occasions when they didn’t want to go to kindergarten or day care for no reason I could understand–I took my then three-year-old son to day care and he clung and clung and finally even the teacher said, “he needs you,” and I took him home and I think if I’d insisted he stay I’d have betrayed him in some way. And my daughter one day just did not want to go to kindergarten–she’d never had a problem with it, but that day she cried and begged and I told her she’d be bored stiff in my university classroom, but I took her along and even though she was bored stiff (my husband was able to pick her up half an hour into my class) she felt reassured. (But she said: “Daddy, I was so bored I wanted to scream–and I held it in for hours!)

        • withasmile

          I’ve been reading since Apollo was a baby, so I do know how severe his anxiety has been. I was just offering my own opinion because you’d asked for advice. It’s always hard to feel torn as a parent. I hope that you find a solution that works for all of you. ❤️

  2. Tracy Willis

    I never like people who tell me how they think I should raise my kids, especially when it comes to my decision to keep my special needs son at home. My son has separation anxiety so bad. He doesn’t get much practice socializing outside of our tiny circle of friends and family. In stores, he hides his face from strangers and seldom makes eye contact. This leads complete strangers to offer me parenting advice. However, as his mom, I know that my little boy will not always be a tiny little boy. He won’t hide his face forever. And, even if I force him to go to public school, he’ll still be shy and even more stressed. Since you did ask for opinions, I will give you mine. Bring your baby back home. He wants you, his family, the comfort of his own home, a lap to snuggle on that he can’t find at school. He’s telling you exactly what he needs in order to feel his best, emotionally. Our job as parents is complex, and there’s so many ways to “screw it up” that we all miss sleep pondering our potential mistakes. But, I have a feeling, in Apollo’s eyes, that if you let him come home, you’ll be an even bigger hero than the time you made it snow. Hugs, Momma.

    • Renee

      I agree, unsolicited advice, no good. But I *am* asking…It is so hard to know what to do. I really don’t want him to miss out on speech therapy (though at our last conference we were told the mistakes he’s making now are “normal” for a six year old”!) I am considering looking into a program that is just a few days a week…instead of all day every day.

      • Kara

        He should be able to go just for speech therapy. Kristi used to go to public school for an hour 3 days a week for physical therapy when she was in private school. We did have to be responsible for getting her their and back, but she did that for a year.

      • Julie

        FWIW, when we were homeschooling full time, my littlest (kindy at the time) got weekly speech therapy from the public school, though we had no one enrolled. It’s an option.

    • J

      I somewhat disagree that a child “will not hide his face forever.” (Of course, I really think there is no “wrong” way to do this–Apollo will no either way that you care for him, which is the most important thing, and there are pros and cons to both approaches). But as an adult who was a child who had severe anxiety, separation anxiety and several panic attacks everyday for the majority of my childhood, I can say for sure that kids don’t just “grow out” of severe anxiety or suddenly learn how to be social without anxiety as they age.

      I didn’t learn how to be social without anxiety as I got older but I DID learn how to be social WITH anxiety–and that was because my parents forced me to do things that made me anxious or panic on an everyday basis. This is an important thing to learn. I know some kids do go through very brief periods of anxiety, but if it is someone like me or how it sounds like Apollo is where this has been a problem for years and from a very young age, the problem is not just going to go away. It has to be worked with. When my parents forced me to do things like going to school or after school (and I do mean force! I was often hyperventilating and crying!) I learned how to do necessary things WHILE panicking. As a child, your parents can effectively stop your life for you and move you out of the situation that is bothering you (like school) but as an adult, this is not possible and a child needs to grow into the type of adult who knows how to deal with these situations. For instance, I still regularly panic at work and college classes, places I cannot leave without serious repercussions. But because I had so much practice panicking while remaining in school, I CAN stay and I can even be productive! I think this is a very important skill for anxious children to learn, and the younger the better.

      Of course, the other side needs to be dealt with as well–making sure the child has enough psychological support and trying to solve the anxiety from the root, rather than simply dealing with the symptoms. These are things that my parents have told me in retrospect that they feel they didn’t do well enough when I was young, in part because I was the first child and they didn’t know how abnormal my anxiety was as compared to typical separation anxiety and in part because childhood psychological care was not as good even 20 years ago as it is today. So I think it has to be a mixture of both–the parent putting the child in these situations despite the panic, but also providing them with the love and psychological care that they need.

      This is a really difficult situation for both parent and child, but as a child who was in Apollo’s place, I would urge you not to shy away from asking (and even sometimes forcing) him to do the everyday things that make him anxious. And don’t be surprised or hurt if he expresses negative feelings towards you during these times! When I was in periods of extreme anxiety, I definitely resented my parents for making me do so many things I was afraid of, but now I am extremely grateful that they were so firm about it and we have a wonderful relationship. What I have found even still is that the less I stretch myself and the more I avoid situations that are even mildly uncomfortable (like crowded spaces, traveling, etc.) the more my world shrinks. I become so anxious as to be almost phobic about things that I do not do daily. For this reason, I am very proactive about constantly doing things that I find uncomfortable in order to stretch out the borders of my world of comfort. This was a skill I learned from how my parents treated me as a child, and it is certainly not one that I would have developed on my own. I think it is important to remember that an anxious person will always avoid, avoid, avoid and that without practice and encouragement, they will rarely willingly step out of a very small ring of activities/ places. Because I was forced to practice this daily as a child, I am able to see the benefit and the necessity of continuing to practice as an adult.

      I would also recommend looking into E.M.D.R therapy, which is used to treat anxiety and panic specifically related to trauma. I also experienced anxiety related to medical trauma and this was extremely helpful! It is even more fast-acting and helpful when done on young children. The trauma I experienced (also a medical trauma) happened to me as a toddler and the psychologist said to me that what took us many months of treatment as a 20 year old probably would have taken only several weeks if I had come for treatment as a 4 year old.

      Sorry for such a long comment! I hope this all make sense. I am not a parent, so please do take my advice with a grain of salt. I just thought it might be helpful for you to hear from someone who grew up with similar fears as Apollo.

      • caringone

        J,

        Your comment shows lots of courage and is great insight from the other side of childhood! I am a foster parent and second the EMDR therapy. Very effective!

  3. Kristy

    I have dealt with a very severe case of school anxiety/ separation anxiety with one of mine for the last 6 months. With the help of a child psych, this is what has worked for us – reduce school to something small and manageable, say 1hr. Start with just lunchtime, not the beginning of the day. When you have a week or so of the child being happy to leave you, add some extra time…slowly build from there. Has taken us many weeks but we are now at 2/3 of a day at school. It is a big commitment for all involved, including the school..not to mention your time.

    • Renee

      Half days of school…that’s something we talked about last year, but haven’t discussed this year…his latest medical drama has really set him back 🙁

      • bemis

        I also immediately thought of the possibility of partial days or just 2-3 days a week. Would it be possible to homeschool about half the time, while being involved in school/speech therapy for the other part of the time? Because of the anxiety needs, I think you’re probably right in not taking him out entirely, but could phrase it as, “We can homeschool on these days, but you go to school on these days.” And try to work for him being there for the speech therapy, and most social/fun parts of the day, so that it’ll be a good incentive!

        I’m with you in that the academic part is the least of the worries, but severe anxiety is something that needs to be dealt with. I don’t think anyone is getting what they need when Apollo is wrapped around you unwilling to touch the floor all day.

  4. Katie

    Is it the transition from home to school or the actual separation of being away from you all day that is harder? (or both?) What does his teacher do to support him? Some kids need transition support to leave a parent. I also want to say, I love how you look at all angles when you parent. Thank you for your transparency to share the struggles!

  5. gabrielpossenti

    I really liked Tracy Willis’s comment and kind of just want to say “what she said”.

    I am finding as I grow as a parent, that one thing that is hard for us is to separate what our child is asking/needing from us, from what we want to give them/think they need. Sometimes they’re different. Sometimes the child is asking for something very different, and it’s difficult as a parent to let go of our vision for them. I’m not talking about toys and things, I’m talking about emotional, psychological things. It’s like when you are just *so* sure that it’s potty training time, and he’s giving you so many signals that he’s not ready, but you keep keep pushing it because you *know* it’s time. Well, it’s not. And you have to get over yourself. I must have a hard time with this lesson because I have to keep relearning it all the time.

    Apollo is young. I don’t think he’s going to grow into a maladjusted adult because you let him cling to you a little more at this age. I’d let him be home with you if that’s what he needs. You’ve been with him through it all, always his rock of comfort. It’s okay for him to need you and depend on you. He will grow. He has siblings in school-some day/year he’ll probably want to go back to be like them.

    Praying for you that you make the right decision for him.

    • Emily G

      Apparently my husband has a wordpress account…sorry about that. It was me.

  6. Michele@Familyfaithandfridays

    Oh Renee, I feel your pain in some regards. We are now being told by a counselor that sending our 9 year old to school will help him face his fears and force him to learn to deal with things where he is not in control. But a medical friend of ours with experience with trauma and PTSD said that is the very thing that could send him spiraling downward when he just isn’t ready. So, I have no answers for you, but I am praying for wisdom! For both of us!

  7. Kendra

    Hey! I didn’t read all the comments so sorry if this is repeated info. I noticed you mentioned in a comment that speech therapy is one hesitation to bringing him home; the schools are required to give speech therapy to all children who qualify regardless of where they attend school. Not sure why it’s the only therapy that is like that, but it is. Prayers as you make this difficult decision.

  8. Stephanie Mazzon

    Hi Renee! Does Apollo start to get anxious the night before at bedtime or in the morning when he gets up? Is he fine in the morning until it is time to go wait for the bus?
    I am just wondering what the trigger is before I offer any advice.

    Off the subject: Are you still using the instantpot? I am inching ever closer to buying one but do not like “gadgets” that just sit in the cupboard.

    • Renee

      Stephanie,
      He is fine the night before. In the mornings (especially if he wakes up early) he will ask if it is a school day. If he asks that as soon as he wakes, I know it will be a struggle to get him to school. He doesn’t seem upset at the “idea” of school, but somedays I think he is too tired (maybe physically, maybe mentally) to deal with the idea of school…I think it is hard on his teacher to have him miss so much too, because he then his “behind” the other students…I’m interested in hearing your thoughts!

      • Stephanie Mazzon

        I have really given this some deep thought. I do not have any real great ideas. I am very happy to know that it is not a “worry” the night before at bedtime!

        I wonder if you could try half days until Christmas break. Lots of running for you tho. Put him on the bus with his siblings. Pick him up after lunch. Encourage him to have an hour of quiet time ( rest ) in his room. Also: do a page or two from a kindergarten workbook with you or a sibling in the evening. Reinforcing: If he does not go to school all day, there will be a little work at home. Not pressuring him about it tho or battling. This is just what we do on the days you are coming home.

        Please remember: Apollo is FINE cognitively! He is going to school to address eating, peer relationships, independence, speech, and routine. Please do not worry or let his teacher worry if he is “behind”. Apollo can easity get “caught up” in the summer. You might tell his teacher: ” Please do not stress if Apollo is behind. We are physically healing from a surgery and working on the following this year in school.”…..( listed above).

        The full day could be really exhausting for him. His body is not like a typical five year old body.

        I will keep praying, I promise!

        • Lucy

          I don’t have personal experience with a situation as extreme as Apollo’s, but I’ve been reading through the comments (and I’ve read your blog for sometime) and my thoughts are that physical healing is underrated in today’s world. “Convalescence” isn’t even in our vernacular any more. It seems as though he needs more time to heal, gain strength, gain weight, make his body as strong as possible. Stressing about the psychological before the physical is ready won’t do the physical any favors.

          So I like your approach of keeping some part time schooling, but possibly arrange afternoons 2-3 days a week for a while? That would let him get as much sleep as he could want (so important for healing), plenty of time in the morning for food/nourishment and maybe a little learning to prep the mental gears before taking him into the stressful social setting.

          So many good suggestions in your comments, and I think if you focus on allowing the physical healing to be priority while not totally neglecting maintaining the social you will be on the right track.

  9. Jessica

    Idk how it is in Washington but here in Oregon my kids could attend “specials” if homeschooled. So PE, music, etc. One of my son’s classmates even just came for lunch and recess. Maybe you can back off full time a bit and work back up to it next year when, theoretically, he’ll be well removed from medical procedures?
    There’s no perfect solution I fear 🙁
    We didn’t get much snow here, just a brief snow fall. Like 5 minutes of fat flakes. My almost 6 year old gasped when I showed him and said “mama it’s Christmas” 🙂 but he lollygagged getting his shoes and coat on so missed it. I would have given anything to make it come back for him, he was so sad.
    But it’s in the forecast as a possibility through Thursday so I’m remaining hopeful.

  10. Klara

    I don’t know what’s best for Apollo. I only know him from your blog and naturally you have much more insight.
    The only thing I have is a strong belief in discussion and trust in children’s ability to come up with great solutions when they are explained all the options.

    If it was me, I would sit down with him and talk. Explain to him options you have. Can he go to school just half day? Can he go three days a week and stay home for two days? Can he attend just certain subjects and study the rest at home?: Whichever of these options is acceptable for you, I would give them to Apollo to chose from. Make a deal. Don’t hesitate to write it down. You will keep him home two days a week and he will not make scenes the remaining days he’s supposed to go to school. Or, he will be going to school just for half day, but he will also find one other activity outside the house he will participate in.

    Something of that sort. It’s simple but it really works. Use a special paper to write the contract down. Have him sign it and keep is somewhere visible. Something tells me this could work for a smart little kid Apollo is.

    Anyway…just my two cents. Hope it helps.

  11. Julia

    I do agree with you that it seems like going to school really has helped him with his anxiety, and that I image the survey/extended absence made it harder for him, he is only six after all. I also wonder, since he hasn’t been homeschooled as a grade schooled, what idea he has built up in his head as to what it would be, and once he fully recovers from his surgery if the idea would lose it’s appeal.
    That said, you can’t really learn and get better if you don’t practice, and people don’t always improve with age. Sometimes these things can get built up in your head as being huge and scary the longer you are away and stop doing things. I think the other poster who mentioned small increments has a good idea. If he is having a good day, just send him, if he’s having a bad day, try today, we’ll just go in for lunch and speech and music class and then build up to an hour then two then three a day et.c. It would involve a lot from the school, but it could work.
    I would also talk to the school counselor/social worker/psychologist too if you aren’t already, I’m sure they have more experience in dealing with anxious kids in school and have ideas to work on it. Between them and you, knowing Apollo best, you should be able to get a plan.

  12. furrcats

    Hi Renee I can only give you my perspective from things I’ve seen in my own family which is keep Apollo in school but you would know better than I about Apollo. if you wanted to you could take Apollo to a developmental psychologist to talk about the school iusse I think apollos school routine got messed up and he’s having trouble getting back into the grove of school but again you would know better then I these are my thoughts.

    • Renee

      Furrcats,
      Thanks for sharing. The waiting lists for any type of child psychologist around here are outrageous 🙁 He is definitely experiencing some major setbacks from this latest surgery (who can blame him). I wouldn’t take him out of school entirely, the practice and separation are too important.

  13. simonanderin

    I have a son with anxiety. He is now 14. We didn’t start treating his anxiety until he was about 12, although the signs were there from about 3 years old. I wish I had done something earlier though, because it just got worse and worse. I cant’ remember what you did with Tucker for his anxiety? Perhaps there is something appropriate for Apollo’s age? What I learned about anxiety from sitting in with my son was that it snowballs (appropriate for this post). You deal with one anxiety and another comes along. We did CBT and it was wonderful because it gave him tools to deal with his anxiety and the ability to not feed it.
    It’s not surprising he has it obviously – so many people around him have been anxious for him most of his life. Perhaps some reinforcement of the tools to deal with it might be helpful.
    My fear if you were to give him his wish of homeschooling is that it would reinforce his fear of school/separation (whatever the fear might be), and feed the anxiety. That being said, time somewhere safe while learning the tools might be helpful too….

    • Renee

      For Tucker did essential oils and Bach’s Rescue Remedy…I have no idea if they worked or were just a placebo. He had many, many “failures”…times when he could not pull it together and be away from me. I talked to Apollo about Tucker’s anxiety. About how sometimes he would be so anxious he would even vomit. We also did a lot of talking and the Beads of Courage sibling program. I think Apollo’s is much more deep seated than Tucker’s. Tucker’s was from worry about trauma (what if something happens to mom?) whereas Apollo’s comes from actual pain and suffering…

      What is CBT?

      I wouldn’t homeschool him full-time. I believe the regular separation from me is important for him.

  14. Julie

    Is the kindy at the school full-day or half-day? Since he’s missed so much, what about putting him back a grade and letting him just go half-day? Or keep him in grade 1, but just go half-day?

    No experience with this, just trying to think of other options…

    • Renee

      Unfortunately kindy is full-day five days a week, so it would be the same schedule.

  15. Sarah

    To me, Apollo has been through a lot of trauma. I know for one of my kids who experienced trauma, he needed to be with me 24/7. I home schooled him and he is slowly starting to feel confident being apart from me. I k ow he will again one day. Life was scarey and right now he needs stability and normal Ness to feel secure. Maybe it’s the same for Apollo. Could you home school him for the rest of the year and then try school again?

    • Renee

      I don’t want to remove him entirely…I think the regular practice of separating is important…but maybe half days or only a fews days per week…

  16. Melody

    I am right in the thick of this very same thing with my 10 year old son who has high functioning autism. Two months ago he started in a special autism program in our district because his home school had finally exhausted all of their resources. The transition has been brutal! Some days I can’t get him on the bus, yesterday he got on just fine…but then refused to get back off once he got to school and they had to bring him back home and I had to drive him there myself, sometimes they even have to call me mid route and have me meet them to pick him up because he won’t stay in his seat. And even when I drive him myself it is not any better… a few days ago it took FIVE staff monitoring and guarding doors to get me out the door without him running after me! The breaks my mama heart so very much!! And there are moments when I think I am INSANE for sending him there day after day after day. After all I know him better than anyone else in the world! HOWEVER…the world is not made up only of me and I truly believe that if I homeschooled him, I would not be doing him any favors in the long run. The longer we avoid things that are scary and hard for us, they gain more power over us and become even more scary. The world is full of people and scary and challenging situations, and right now this is the best environment for him to gain the skills he needs to navigate the world. And because I am confident with this program and the teachers methods, I will continue to send him even though it is so very, very hard. But that does not mean I throw up my hands and sit back and eat bon bons and say, “Gee, I sure hope this gets better soon.” I am constantly advocating for him with his teachers…looking at his medication support for his anxiety making sure we are doing all we can on that avenue, and when he is home I reassure him as much as I can and give him as much praise and encouragement as possible.

    Having said ALL of that!! You know Apollo very best and only you know the specific of his challenges and if the support he is receiving at school is adequate. Last year, there was a time that my son did only attend half day because the lack of support at school was so severe and it made no sense to keep him in that environment all day, but I did feel that pulling him out entirely would be a huge set back in the long run.

    Hang in there! Know you are not alone! Hugs and prayers!!

    • Renee

      Melody, thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story! I would not pull him out and homeschool him 100%…that is, if I pulled him out he would be going somewhere (either a school or enrichment program) at least twice a week. I do wonder if 5 days isn’t too much for him physically and mentally…but I definitely won’t go do zero. He needs practice and needs that practice on a regular basis.

  17. Clarissa Shank

    I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. I fought my mom most days about going to school using the same excuses; I’m sick, It’s boring, I can learn more at home. I first want to say anxiety is irrational and illogical. It feed off itself, waxes and wanes at the flip of a coin, and what works one day may not work the next. You and Apollo are doing great with a deck that has been stacked against you.

    My advice would be to allowing him to take as much time as he needs before Christmas break he is healing and you’d probably lose progress over break. I would type up a checklist of what you and Apollo qualify as sick, print it out and put it up somewhere, and when Apollo says he feels sick go through it with him if he meets the requirements he can stay home if not the list says he has to go. I would also make some passes give him 1 or 2 and he can use one of them to stay home even if he isn’t sick, 1/week, 1/month or whatever you choose. So he has be sick, use a pass, or go to school. I would start with one pass per week and the decrease as you feel he is ready, you can also encourage him not to spend his pass by making it worth a prize at the end of the week/month if he still has it. This is taking the burden off you of being the “bad guy” and giving him reasonable control.

    I hope you find something that works for you and Apollo.

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