I know I’ve written a bit about Catie’s anxiety here, and she’s getting to the age where I feel like I should stop blogging about her for the sake of her privacy. But at the same time, I get a lot of good ideas from those of you who leave comments here, and lately I need all the help I can get.
Catie has always had a hard time with what I call “losing her people.” It started from the time she was tiny – I very distinctly remember the meltdowns Catie used to have when my sister would come to visit and then leave to go home.
Rather than outgrowing them, her meltdowns seem to get progressively worse every time Dave comes to visit.
The last time he was here, a few weeks ago, he had a great visit with the kids. He came over the night before he left, to tell them goodbye. It’s become our normal routine for when he’s here visiting.
Lucy takes these things in stride – she’s never really known Dave as a constant figure in her life, and she’s generally the personality type that just kind of rolls with it and adapts easily. Her dad shows up, she has a great time with him. He leaves, she’s still ok.
But Catie grieves the loss every time, and it’s so hard. This last time, when he was tucking the kids into bed, I sat downstairs in my office and listened on the baby monitor as Catie sobbed and begged him to stay. It was heart-breaking. I wanted to rush upstairs and comfort her, but I also knew that I needed to allow her that time with her dad.
So I sat, and I listened to her cry. It was awful.
This past weekend, my brother came to visit. (My brother and my boyfriend are both named Chris, just to make it extra confusing.) We had a nice visit, and took the kids out to Green Acres Farm, which has become an annual tradition for us.
[Side note: my Chris and his kids came with us, and I got a really adorable picture of Lucy with Chris’s daughter, but I’m not posting it because I have a weird thing about posting other people’s kids on social media. Plus, based on what I know of his ex, I don’t want to give her any extra ammo.]
Anyway, on Sunday, when my brother left to go back to Charlotte, Catie completely fell apart. My brother was kind of surprised, since he comes to visit at least one weekend a month, so it isn’t like she never sees him. But she just sobbed, and said that she didn’t want him to leave.
I shoo’ed my brother on his way and pulled Catie into my lap. I said, “Sweetie, are you really sad about Chris leaving or is this something else?”
She said, “I just miss Daddy.” And then she sobbed harder.
I said that I know she misses him, and it’s hard, and I’m sorry that it isn’t fair that he lives so far away.
She said, “I’m the only one in my class who only has a mom.”
I mean, yeah ok, she does have a dad, not “only a mom,” but I knew what she meant. Dave isn’t there for her school programs and things like that. I’m sure there are other kids in her class whose parents are divorced, but I’m guessing the parents involved have stayed local.
So it sucks, and I’m not sure how to help her deal with that. Catie was really dealt an unfair hand in this. I can’t fix it, even though I wish like hell that I could.
Meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago, I had a parent-teacher conference with Catie’s teacher. And I got confirmation of what I suspected: she’s great when it comes to things like science and math that she enjoys. But if it’s something that doesn’t actively interest her, or if she isn’t positive that she’ll be able to do it perfectly – like, say, reading and spelling – she digs her heels in, says, “I can’t do it,” and refuses to even try.
She’s at or above grade level for all subjects except reading. And I don’t know how to get her past it. It seems like the minute I try to drill her on spelling words, Lucy is immediately throwing a tantrum, demanding my attention, and therefore making it impossible for Catie to concentrate.
I had the idea to maybe get a tutor for Catie, someone who can drill her on basic sight words and phonics and things. And this is where oversharing about your kid on social media comes in handy: thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I got some really great ideas for where to start. Someone pointed out that at a lot of high schools, the kids in the honor society are required to log a certain number of volunteer hours for their college applications.
I called the nearest high school to me, got the name and email address for the school’s honor society advisor, and I’m waiting to hear back from him. Hopefully that’ll at least provide an avenue to start working her up to reading at her grade level. Catie is so eager to please teenage girls and win their approval, I think it might work out really well.
Meanwhile! I hadn’t bothered to check Catie’s school folder over the weekend, until I was packing her lunch late Sunday night. The teacher doesn’t usually send home papers over the weekend, which is why I hadn’t looked at it.
I found out that – surprise! – this week is Catie’s week to be Star Student. (It’s first grade, these things aren’t based on merit, every kid gets a week to be Star Student. The teacher has all the kids’ names on popsicle sticks and pulls one at random to choose.)
And hey, being Star Student is great! Except there’s this whole poster with printed photos we were supposed to have ready for Monday morning. And I didn’t know about it until 11 p.m. on Sunday night. So I was scrambling to do it myself since Catie was long since asleep. Chris tried to help, God bless him – replacing the ink in my printer, digging out copy paper from Catie’s art supply bin, etc. We didn’t get to bed until after 1 a.m.
In the morning, I asked why she hadn’t told me that she was Star Student this week. She said that she hadn’t known this week was her turn. Then she burst into tears. “That means I have to read a book in front of the class and I can’t read!!”
(And yes, according to the sheet the teacher sent home, Star Student has a different “thing” each day of the week – Monday, they bring in their poster all about themselves. Tuesday, they bring their favorite book and read it to the class. Wednesday, I get to go to to school and have lunch with her, etc.)
I emailed her teacher and asked what to do. This is supposed to be something fun and special for her, not a source of anxiety. She suggested Catie bring in her Skylanders graphic novel and just re-tell part of the story. My parents kept Lucy busy last night so Catie and I could read through some of it (normally she just likes to look at the pictures), and we talked about it.
At bedtime last night, she decided she didn’t want to re-tell the story, and that she’d try to read “How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends?” to the class. It’s a board book, it’s a little baby-ish, but it’s sweet, and more importantly: she can read it. We practiced it together a few times (and again this morning). She was ready, but I know she was nervous about it.
Honestly, after I dropped her off at school, I had a knot in my stomach for her. I could tell how tense she was, and I hated that I couldn’t fix it or make her feel better. I sat at my desk and I just cried.
I wish I knew how to solve all of her worries. I just don’t.
Sometimes only having a mom has got to suck.