Before I get started on my series of posts on infertility and my journey through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and ultimately donor eggs, I wanted to update you on Monkey Boy. I do actually split my time among three kids; it’s just that Monkey Boy requires a little, make that a lot of, extra attention. I can’t even tell you what he does that’s different. My other two kids aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and Master Yi-Yi has his own homework issues, but there’s something about Monkey Boy that makes you want to scream like a lunatic and rip your hair out one minute and just sit and hug him and protect him from the world the next. And so began my thoughts for this post.
Homework is a nightmare. Once upon a time, I had a chart for Monkey Boy, and it worked really well for a while. And then he got too smart, and decided the rewards weren’t worth it. It’s amazing how much time he spends telling me he’s dumb, when he is so good at manipulation. His favorite of late is to tell me he’s going to answer with what he thinks I want to hear whenever I ask him a question, just so I’ll leave him alone. But back to the chart, there is no incentive for making him want to do homework. Nothing competes with just plain old not having to do the work.
This leads me to the whole point of this post: tonight’s homework. The sad part is he is actually doing better with homework this year than he has for the past couple of years. Of course, he wants to put it off until 7pm, when all remnants of his ADHD medicine are gone. Technically, he should do it immediately after school. But he needs a break. And by the time we get settled and prepare, eat and clean up dinner, it is well after six. I have found there is no good way to break it up, either, because if I lose him, I will never get him back.
He’s also insisted this year on doing his homework in the living room. He absolutely refuses to do it at the table. And I figure, ok, I’ll at least let him be comfortable. Then we have the battle with the TV. I don’t even know where this has come from. It’s not like we ever did homework in front of the TV before. I refuse to capitulate on this, obviously. And then I feel like a pushover for letting him do homework in the living room to begin with. So, I tell him no TV or we do the work in another room.
So, in his usual fashion, he goes from playing calmly in the family room, to bouncing everywhere in the living room. The child actually has self-control when he wants to, that’s what I don’t get. I thought kids with ADHD had no control over themselves, but I guess Monkey Boy proves me wrong. Just getting near homework sets him off like a jumping bean. So, tonight was math. Five math problems shouldn’t take too long. Ha! Not with Monkey Boy. What should take about ten minutes took at least 50. They were word problems mainly with multiplication at their root. I would read and discuss the problems with him, and I even made little visuals to aid my explanation. However, they only work if he will actually look at them. So, for every problem, I probably ask the same questions at least 20 times. In the meantime, I feel my patience level dwindle down to zero. And I really did start out calmly trying to go through the problems attempting to rationalize that the sooner we started, the sooner we would be finished. He tells me that he’ll do the work if I don’t yell. I tell him I won’t yell, if he’d listen to me the first time. And so it goes, for all five problems.
And then I’m caught in this vicious thought cycle. Am I pushing him too hard, am I spoiling him if I let it go, has he really had too much or is he just being ornery, does his brain literally have no more room in it for more work, if I let it go this once, then I’ll never get him to do homework and what am I going to do in middle school, when the homework load multiplies? And how is he ever going to handle middle school, period?
We finally get to the last problem. And he bursts out crying. This really isn’t typical, though I do have to say when this happens for whatever reason, not just homework; he gets angelic after he finishes weeping. Thus my irritation segues into tenderness. And he goes from being mad at me to letting me cuddle him. And then I feel terrible. This one definitely has me on an emotional roller coaster.
So, we finally finished math, but we had the twenty minutes of nonfiction reading left to do. So far this year, I’ve read to him. It’s generally while he’s in jumping bean mode. Tonight it was through tears. I make him read a sentence or two every so often, but ideally I want him sitting beside me reading along taking turns. This is what I’m aspiring to. I’ll keep you posted.
We finished homework, and he went back to playing. About ten minutes later he asked to go to bed. And this cute little voice is telling me he wants to “relax with momma.” So, he’s back to sleeping in my bed. And, yes, I seem to be the biggest pushover ever. When absolutely everything is a battle, you have to pick and choose. And sometimes, it just isn’t worth it, especially with Monkey Boy. And when these far too rare sweet moments creep in, I can’t resist him at all.
By the way, despite the homework battles, Monkey Boy seems to be adjusting well to fifth grade. He loves his teacher, and it seems like the perfect match. I think he is even paying better attention in class. We will see how it continues to pan out.
And next, we’ll begin the series of posts I promised you on how two of my beautiful children came to me via the miracle of donor eggs.