A NEW LIFE – A FRESH START - Part 2
Winter reluctantly admitted defeat to spring that year after several attempts to discourage new beginnings. For Lynn, every day was a challenge both at work and home. While Traci was in a self contained class for kids with ADHD and behavioral issues and finally had a teacher better equipped to teach her, this time was not without its trials. Traci had begun to act out in more serious ways than she had in the regular classes. It almost seemed as if seeing some of her classmates demonstrating behaviors that were not acceptable encouraged her to join in. She was an impulsive child but her main issues were concentration and an abundance of energy that needed to be channeled at all times. Her preschool teacher said of her that she wanted 25 out of every 24 hours of your undivided attention. She really didn’t seem to care whether that attention was positive or negative as long as she was the focus. While in her previous school she would wander away from her desk and water pots of flowers for the teacher or feed the fish, possibly stopping at another student’s desk to say hello, her behavior now was destructive. She threw her books out the window, glued Mrs. Bowen’s grade book pages together and dumped her lunch tray onto the floor when she was asked to take her seat instead of wandering around the lunchroom. Lynn was called in for a conference with the teacher long before the first parent teacher conference was due.
Mrs. Bowen was truly a gift from God. Her son had ADHD before it was defined and spent his entire school life as a miserable parent who was accused of abuse, neglect and indifference in dealing with his outbursts and lack of attention. She had gone back to college after he graduated from high school and finished her degree, specializing in teaching kids with behavioral disorders. In the early eighties, the mental health community had one answer for Hyperactivity – Ritalin. It was actually used as a diet pill but it was found to have an affect on some children of slowing them down and allowing an improvement in concentration levels. Lynn had been taking Traci to a Psychiatrist since her kindergarten days when they actually expelled her for a week for disrupting the class.
Schools were ill equipped to deal with these kids and they were labeled trouble makers with disinterested parents. They had tried Ritalin for Traci and she was admitted to the hospital after Lynn’s frantic phone call to the doctor saying that if he didn’t admit her for observation she would likely be admitted for being bounced off a wall. Lynn had never come as close to child abuse as she did in the weeks they had her on this medicine. Rather than slowing her down, she was “speeding” and to move any faster or talk any more than normal was something Lynn would have bet could not happen. They did admit her and she opened her roommate’s gifts, popped her balloons, stopped up the toilet with wash cloths and towels. When they brought her behind the nurse’s desk so she would have more supervision, she color crayoned the patient’s charts. The doctor agreed that this might not be the answer for Staci and also put Lynn on Valium.
Since that fiasco, they had been working on removing sugar and red dye from her diet and tried every other new discovery that might possibly help. There was a lot of discussion on whether ADD was caused by an abnormality in brain chemistry or problems in the home. Either brought guilt to Lynn that she could not shake. Mrs. Bowen’s approach was not to find what caused the problem but how to work around it. She had invented many individualized plans for her students and each required a carry over at home. Reward charts seemed to work well with Traci in school so they began one at home. If she was able to get to the breakfast table dressed for school with only five reminders of each step she was given points. These reminders were as basic as, “brush your teeth now. Put on your clothes now. Stop playing with your toys and put on your clothes now. Make your bed now. Bring the brush so your hair can be fixed now.” If given a list of more than one thing at a time or simply told to get ready for breakfast the results were disastrous.
On mornings that Lynn hit the snooze on the alarm trying to grab another ten minutes sleep, getting ready for school turned into a nerve wracking yelling match between the two females. Bill always stepped in and took over when Lynn’s patience was exhausted. Tim learned several things from all of this. First of all, he was simply expected to show up at the table fully dressed, hair combed and teeth brushed, though he was three years younger than Traci. His reward for this was … nothing. Traci demanded attention and usually got it whether it was an extra few minutes of someone listening to her or being put in time out, which also required attention because she would not stay sitting in a chair. If he wanted something, he took care of it himself. If there was an argument at breakfast he would go and pour himself a bowl of cereal and not wait for the French toast that was burning in the pan. If he needed a permission slip signed, as he got older, he learned how to copy his Mother’s signature. If he needed lunch money, he got it out of his Mother’s purse. He was put on the back burner. A good kid, very bright and one who would turn inward in later years to the degree he found his reward in drugs, drinking and his friends became his family. But as long as his Dad was around, he kept things calm in the house between his Mom and his sister. Tim was secretly afraid of him when he was drinking but he would rather that he live with them then trying to find his way with a mother who was distracted with work and his sister. He hated the yelling and he resented his sister. She was embarrassing and always at the root of his Mom’s bitchy moods. He knew that she loved him. She made time for him, acknowledged his good behavior and good grades but there was always a feeling that it was simply expected of him.
The truly wonderful times he and his Mom had were when Traci was spending the night at a girlfriend’s or away for one glorious week at camp. His Mom was relaxed then and they were best buds. They loved the same movies and laughed at the same things. She would take him swimming and they’d splash each other and race for the picnic table to see who got the extra piece of watermelon – they’d go for ice cream when it was almost bedtime. She was like a different person when Traci wasn’t around. His Dad was like two people too. One who was fun and attentive teaching him to fish, throw a curve ball, shoot hoops and the loud scary drunk who would haul his mother out of bed in the middle of the night and throw her on the kitchen floor demanding she cook him something to eat. His life was so full of contradictions he grew up not knowing what was to be trusted and what was a fleeting moment of security.