(ALERT: LONG POST!)
In kindergarten the nurse told us perhaps Reed had hearing or processing problems. If you hear the word “processing problems/issues”, I’d call that a red flag. Pay attention.
First, second, third grade. Shouldn’t these school days be about exploration, learning and just a BIT of fun? There was none of that for our boy while in school. He could be open and engaging until he entered the school room doors. They’d close and he’d close up. The light went out of his eyes. Teachers would be shocked when I’d tell them that, yes, he is (sometimes) happy and loving and fun at home.
In first grade he was class clown and the write-ups began. Back then “hyperactivity” was the buzz word and we fell for it and put Reed on Ritalin. His anger turned to rages that scared and shocked us to our core. The world was telling us he was a defiant, behavior problem and the world solution to this problem was time out, spanking or screaming like banshees. “He needs discipline!” was the mantra. I would get so angry at my baby I thought I was losing my mind. When it was over I was spent and utterly exhausted. Oh, yes…then we’d do our making-up-I-love-you-forever act.
God chased me down and in 1998 (2nd grade for Reed) I timidly attended a Bible study. As I looked around the circle of women God’s sense of humor was evident. Five of the group knew each other well. We had played Bunco together for many years. We’d often laugh – “from Bunco to Bible study.” A new season of life had begun. It was what my mind and soul needed. I ran into our bedroom that first night and jumped on our bed: “You won’t believe these women. It’s what I’ve been looking for – exactly what I need.” I was a novice in prayer but knew it would impact our children and our marriage. I began praying with Reed – talking to him about God – about the Bible. He was an open book – ripe to hear it all. It delighted my heart and filled me so full, at times I’d burst. It became a ritual to pray together –with his dear hands crossed, eyes closed he was my angel.
By the time he was in fourth grade I had no pride….about parenting. I became an open book. In my case this meant begging for prayer. I dubbed myself the “Prayer Hog.” I am not a fan of roller coasters, they scare me! Yet our life was one: ranting and raging. Next you might see us as the all American family – cute as pie, all kisses and smiles. Reed had been a love-bug since day one. His emotions ran the gamut but he loved just as fiercely as he raged.
In hindsight I am able to see where His hand was. God was smack dab in it with me. When I was in the fire it was about me or my sons, or stepping in between boys and husband. The focus was on The Circumstance. My focus was not on the Lord. The Hand of God (HOG) moments are pretty cool. They came in the form of just the right song on the radio, that day’s devotional, an email or in human form. There are no coincidences. I’m of the belief that every, single, solitary, teeninsy detail is in the hands of God!
Reed’s elementary years were a challenge to put it mildly. It was a real struggle for my boy who was unable to voice what was happening in his little body and mind. His teachers were also challenged. He was a regular visitor to the principal’s office.
I saw said principal at our church when Reed was in high school. She had always been kind and gentle to us. I walked up to her a bit hesitant…and as she turned, a smile flooded her face. “How is our Reed? I’ve been praying for him all these years.” Do you see it???? The hand of God!
(Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.) - Deuteronomy 31:6
Fourth grade was a turning point. Toward the end of that year, Reed’s anger was routine and aimed at authority figures. It could be the soccer coach, a teacher or his parents. Our home life was tense. We walked on eggshells never knowing when he’d blow. The word “no” was the switch that turned our sweet-faced, handsome boy into a raging tiger. As intense as each episode was the making up was just as intense. Reed and I do love fiercely! Always have. Our baby would be beside himself with remorse and we’d fall into one another, hugging and loving each other. I’d ask his forgiveness and he’d ask mine. All was well. Until next time…
Reed was placed in special education for his learning disabilities and we had rights under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). We met with his teachers once a year. These (intimidating) meetings were called ARDs. They were a resource to help parents and families of students who are eligible for special education supports and services. Waiting for the meeting to begin made ME feel like the student!
I worked full time and the afternoon was interrupted by one of those dreaded phone calls. “Mrs. ___, Reed was brought to the principal’s office for acting out. He proceeded to tell the principal *@# and then ran out of the office. We had to call the school police. You’ll need to come pick him up.” It was a Friday. Our fourth grader was expelled from school until the following Wednesday.
We took our son home clueless about his future education. I turned on The Oprah Winfrey show at 4 pm. The promo stopped me dead in my tracks. “Is your child ADHD or Bipolar?” Two checklists were on the screen. Why, I believed we had a 10 year old with Bipolar Disorder. Oh…the school district had made an appointment with a psychiatrist for us the following week, before he could return to school. They did have four years’ worth of files on him.
Enter scary psychiatrist. Me: “Sir, if I may…I believe he may be Bipolar.” Doctor: “No, duh. Why’d you take so long to get here?” We agreed with everything he said. We believed him. And trusted him. At that point, it’d been seven years of fits. We did not know what else to do. And so…we put our son on heavy psychotropic drugs. Those were for Bipolar; and since he was ADHD we added that pill to the mix.
It was time for the ARD in fourth grade which included the psychiatrist’s report. My husband and I entered a conference room and were joined by the principal, teachers, school psychologist and a few others. There were piles of files on our son. Every write-up was documented. Every phone call was noted. Remember how much I hated caller ID!