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As a kid, I loved school. I didn’t simply like it, I LOVED it. I know what you’re thinking, people who loved school were either a bookworm, overachiever type or, well, nuts. Most people couldn’t wait to graduate, go to college, begin their life. I always knew, in my heart, that life would never be as simple or as free as it was in high school…….and I was right.
I loved school for so many reasons. With a few exceptions, I enjoyed my classes, I had some pretty amazing teachers, but most of all, I loved the social aspect of it, I was a joiner. I was in so many clubs and activities that I have to look at my yearbook to remember which ones. I was friendly with people in multiple social groups or ‘cliques’. Although I had my share of teasing in middle school, I had very few ‘enemies’ in high school. School was a place where I could hang out with my friends, had no responsibilities other than getting to class on time, and I could be a kid.
Flash forward to the day my son told me he hated school. Because I am not living in his body, I simply couldn’t understand how anybody could hate school with the passion he was expressing. I knew his anxiety was getting worse, but with medication we were getting a handle on it, so why, if he was feeling better emotionally, was this hate for school not getting better?
Here is the reason why: In addition to his bipolar diagnosis, my son also deals with extreme anxiety, sensory processing disorder and OCD tendencies. Some of the challenges my son has had that go along with these diagnoses are disabilities such as, dysgraphia, auditory, tactile, vestibular and proprioception dysfunctions. Combine all of these things and it is like your body is at war with itself every day.
Although my son has learned how to cope with many of these disorders and can regulate himself enough to not have meltdowns in class (most of the time), school itself if is a building filled with things that can be overwhelming to kids with neurological disorders or mental illnesses. Flourescent lights, chairs scraping the floors, crowded hallways, kids yelling at each other, teachers yelling at kids or even the silence of having to sit in a classroom during a test can all attack the senses. Add on top of all that the bipolar symptom of just not caring. Not caring that you failed a test or not caring that you didn’t do the homework and the teacher will be upset but don’t forget to mix in the lovely anxiety that comes after the teacher has yelled at you or your parents are disappointed in the failed test. For kids that usually deal with these challenges, their own brain is usually the biggest bully they will ever face.
I wish, more than anything, that I could make things better for my son. I wish that he could have the wonderful experience with school that I did. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids? To make their life and experiences better than what we had?
What has happened in recent years is that his hate for school has caused me to hate school. While most parents groan come summer vacation and do a little dance on the first day back in the fall, I am the complete opposite. I count the days until a school break. Thankfully, here in Georgia, the school year is broken up quite a bit. I am currently giddy that April break is next week and then we only have 1 month until Summer vacation. I am not only excited for him to have some down-time from the stress of it all, I am happy for the peace that comes with it.
In our house, everyone gets along much better during breaks from school. There is so much less tension, no fights to get up in the morning, no fights about school work or projects due. My son and I have a much better relationship when school is not in session.
Do I think education is important, of course. I want nothing more than for my son to be able to make it through high school and have the ability to gain a decent job. I do, however, try to think ahead realistically, I don’t allow myself to dream of college for him. My dream for my little boy who once wanted to be an architect, a game designer, a psychologist has now changed. I would simply be happy if he is a functioning member of society that can sustain himself financially. I have made it my goal that he doesn’t become one of the many bipolar patients that end up in jail or become one of the 25% of kids with early onset bipolar to commit suicide.
I hate that he hates school so much. It hurts my heart that he struggles with the basic things the rest of us take for granted. It makes it even harder to know that he can’t achieve a future if he doesn’t put himself into that situation every day. Until graduation day, and I pray that we will get there, I will keep counting days until vacation and to a little bit of peace for him…..well, for us.