Monday, January 15, 2007

The Pain in the Ass (PITA) Factor

The kids are with grandma for MLK day, and yes, all you single working parents who read this blog, I do know how lucky I am to have my mother, who is mostly still in control of her faculties, close enough to cover for me on school holidays, at least when she doesn’t have other plans, which she is perfectly entitled to have, don’t get me wrong, but I’m so grateful when she’s available to be the relief hitter.

And speaking of no heat, my office is located in a circa 1898 school building that was turned into office space in the 1980s. So its all exposed brick, original maple floors, very appealing visually, BUT with global HVAC problems (last winter was ridiculous and we were without heat for days and days) and localized HVAC problems for this suite only (something something, damper motor, something) and it’s damn cold in here, my gadget clock says 61 degrees and I’m practically sitting on my space heater, but still, my hands just want to quit typing and curl up inside my coat sleeves. It’s been bad for three weeks, on again, off again, and I’m kind of at wit’s end, but I digress.

So, yes, the PITA factor. Just called to check on the girls and mom says, yes, they’re fine, but Nora is just a pain in the ass. I say, yes, yes, I know. She says what can you do about it? I say, just keep my cool and hope she grows out of it. And really, what else can I do? She is either (a) complaining about something that seems to me to be insignificant, but to her is grossly unfair (victim mentality, oh my, so unattractive on a child), followed up with a harrumph, a stamp off in a huff and a pout with arms folded across chest for extra emphasis, or (b) indulging her hair-trigger negative reaction to everything regardless if the trigger is a good or bad thing (e.g. Nora, flush the toilet after yourself, neutral request, yes? No. That is very negative comment in her book and must be accompanied flopping and whining and moaning). She is “very reactive” as Miss Judy says, and oh my, it wears one down, or(c) giggling maniacally in any new situation or circumstance or when she alone finds something amusing (she has a pretty warped sense of humor) to the point you just want to crawl under the cone of silence until she quits.

When Suzanne, the social worker who has written all of my adoption home study reports, came to finish our last home study interview for Nora’s one year post placement report, Nora treated her to twenty minutes of the inappropriate giggling and/or back talk or sassiness in response to every question Suzanne asked of her. When we moved to a different room, away from the kids, to complete the interview, Suzanne noted that, yes, indeed, Nora is a PITA and it must wear me out to constructively redirect her every three minutes and was I concerned about her ability to ever make any friends because who would put up with that crap? And no, Nora has not made any friends at school and she has no idea how lucky she is that her sisters are tolerant of her crap. Even Ellie has run out of patience with her and that’s hard to do, that’s just very hard to do.

However, Nora does have flashes of cooperative behavior and I praise praise praise her for any positive impulse that she comes up with. She loves the attention for good behavior, but doesn’t seem to mind the negative attention for bad behavior. She plays so well with Lan Ellison who is one year younger than Nora. It is truly amazing how well they get along together. But Nora cannot maintain her composure when she plays with kids her own age and something ends up getting tossed or I have to end up separating Nora from the other kids so they can play in peace.

Mimi and Nora are in the same class and I’ve said no to a few invitations for Mimi to go on play dates when it did not include Nora, but most of the mom’s will extend the invitation to Nora when I mention that they are sisters. Last week Sarah’s mom called to invite Mimi to Jungle Jim’s after school on Friday and I did not want Mimi to miss out just because Nora wasn’t invited. When I called back to confirm the invitation, I mentioned that Nora and Mimi were sisters, and yes, I was trying to be ever so slightly manipulative, but hey, can you blame me, but this mom was very direct and didn’t let me manipulate her. The invitation was for Mimi only because she did not feel like she could handle 4 hours of Nora. I agreed, and reiterated that I wasn’t asking for her to take Nora too, just making sure the she would be prepared for Nora’s water works when she picked up Sarah and Mimi at school. Needless to say, this was a crushing blow to Nora, and to her credit, she did not fall completely apart, just one or two jags. I think we’re going to run into this more and more as Mimi and Nora get older. Nora is having a very difficult time learning to read and if she doesn’t start picking up on social cues and learn to get along with kids better, I will have to make the decision to hold her back. I don’t think Miss Judy wants her for another year, but I don’t want Nora to constantly be fighting to keep up academically and socially for her entire elementary school experience. Parent teacher conferences are next month. When I mentioned my concerns about Nora last time, Miss Judy thought she had plenty of time during the rest of the year to catch up. I’ll talk to Miss Judy again, see where she thinks Nora is heading, but holding her back sounds more and more appealing to me as each week that passes finds her unable to connect that letters are sounds and words are a series of sounds, she just can’t see it yet.

So here I am, one year later, with a few more insights into Nora’s personality, and the knowledge that yes, she’s a royal PITA and not easy to love. What I’m still finding difficult to overcome is that, even with these insights, I still let her push my buttons and play me like an ocarina. I have precious little more insight into why I can’t find the level of affection for her that I hold for my other girls. We will always be oil and water, okay, that’s a given, now how do I snap out of it and just learn to love the little PITA even though she is a little PITA? And I do love her, please don’t worry that I’m cold and remote or withholding, I’m too sappy and sentimental for that. But I still do not love her the same and I feel sorry for her and me because I haven’t found the code that will let her gain entry all the way into my heart where the other three not perfect either but so much easier to love children are latched on like burrs.


Anonymous said...

Hi Marji,
Before I read any past your observation that Nora plays so well with a child a year younger than her, I immediately thought, maybe you should give her another year in kindergarten!

Then, I read on and saw you are considering it...

So, my 2 cents as a kindergarten teacher....without hesitation, give her another year as a kindergartner!!!

You shouldn't have to worry about her learning to read this year...the social piece is enough. Also, while she is close to Mimi's age, it seems that (based on what you've written) she isn't there emotionally....

If she does another year of K, she will know the drill already and can focus on new things! I've had kids do a year over and the growth is so amazing to see! It seems that you like Miss Judy and while it might seem hard for her to consider another year (if this one has been a challenge) she will know Nora that much better and that will be great!

Just my 2 cents, as a teacher!

As a parent, of course, I think you are great!

Maura in Boston
(Zoe's mama)

Anonymous said...


I totally agree with Maura. We give children an extra year in either preschool or kindergarten all the time. Truly. Early intervention *works*, IMHO and frontloading her services now, will pay off later.

Plus, Nora and Mimi are in different stages (even at similar ages) and who needs to feel compared and competive? Let her be (school-wise, anyway) the "baby".

PS I also think you are a great parent.

(from Iowa)

Abby from Massachusetts said...

I've been following your blog for a couple months now and truly admire your candor and courage with dealing with all the various issues that keep popping up.

A couple of these posts have just shocked me with how much they remind me of myself at about Nora's age. I was always an angry/unhappy child and my family always jokes that we don't have any pictures of me smiling before I was about 10 or 12 years old.
However, looking back myself, I realize that I was actually really depressed as a child. I had some traumatic instability in my life when I was really little and I think it really lead to my acting out.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't think that kids can actually be seriously depressed, and I was just figured to have various behavior problems. I finally started going to a counselor in college and have worked through things and developed better ways to handle stress, etc. but I have no doubt that things might have been a lot easier if the problem had been addressed when I was a lot younger.

So, to shorten it all up, I'm just wondering if you've ever considered taking Nora to talk to a counselor/therapist/psychiatrist to see if these problems can be alleviated more quickly? =)

Best of luck with everything!