* Introductions

Allow me to give you some background on Hercules and Alemena(that's me!), to set the stage:

Hercules has never seen his real father, a Costa Rican native that I met while studying abroad. Ironically, Hercules seems to have inherited much of his father's personality. When I returned to the States from Costa Rica, I moved to Tampa to live with my mother and stepfather. It was a pretty stressful living situation for a while, but it improved significantly over time and my family was a great source of support. When Hercules was 21 months old, I moved to Sarasota and enrolled in college again at New College of Florida, in order to finally finish my degree. During our first year in Sarasota, Hercules and I lived alone in a 1-br duplex. He was also in preschool for the first time, since my mom had cared for him while I lived and worked in Tampa. His first provider was in a home care setting, and it went pretty well at first, but after about 8 months she requested that I find another arrangement for Hercules. He was demanding too much of her energy, and she had more infants in her care then than she did previously.

At the end of my first year at NCF, my boyfriend and I decided to move in together. We were planning to finish the construction of a trimaran sailboat, a boat that would be our home upon completion. We moved into a garage apartment on a local horse farm, so that we could house the hulls in the adjacent RV garage. During that year, Hercules attended a nearby preschool. That was a tough year for us. I was in my thesis year at NCF, my relationship with The Boyfriend was strained, and Hercules was in trouble of some kind almost daily at his new school. He turned 3 that November, but they were complaining that Hercules wasn't potty trained (and not for a lack of trying, I might add). I felt this was a little ridiculous, seeing as that Hercules (due to the timing of his birthday) was in the 2 year old class. But they threatened to hold him back the following year if he couldn't use the potty consistently.

Meanwhile, Hercules also factored into my relationship struggles. All other issues aside (and there were plenty), The Boyfriend seemed to think that a 3 year old boy ought to know enough to clean up his toys as soon as he finished playing with them. Without being told. All the time. This is just one example of his unrealistic expectations. He also seemed to expect Hercules to be the same sort of passive, submissive, obedient, angelic child that he (and I) had been when we were very young. Well, wishful thinking. But guess what, Hercules is his own person and no amount of discipline is going to turn him into something he's not.

That spring, it all hit the fan. Our landlady sold the property, and we were given one month to find a new home and new place to house our (still untouched) bare-hull sailboat. One night, while we were considering all our options, The Boyfriend vehemently announced "There's no way I can live on a boat with him making all that noise!" Meaning Hercules, of course. That helped me make up my mind. I left him, bought my own boat and Rio and I moved aboard a 27-foot sailboat moored on Sarasota Bay. I was 2 months shy of completing my thesis and graduating from college. It was incredibly stressful, and also the best move I made during my entire stay in Florida.

For the next 6 months Hercules and I lived a rather idyllic life on the water, but that's another story:) By winter, I was still desperately unemployed and facing a depressingly hostile job market. So I made the difficult decision to move back to Tampa with my mom and sell my boat. Luckily, I found work there and Hercules was placed in another daycare in Tampa. At first, it seemed like a blessing to have him out of the previous one, where they wanted to corral him with 2 year olds indefinitely, even though he was clearly bigger, stronger, smarter and more developed than the kids his age. However, things at the new preschool didn't turn out so great either. His teacher had a lot of bad habits that I won't get into here. Luckily, I wasn't planning to stay in Tampa much longer, so we endured it for a short while.

Finally, I relocated to my current location, and we've been here since August of 2003. But an awful lot has happened in the couple of years or so. First of all, I fell in love and married a man with 7 children, five of whom stay with us on weekends. So Hercules is no longer an only child. He has adjusted much more easily to his new siblings than he has to my husband (I'll call him Pa), primarily because Pa moved in with us first. Hercules was used to having me all to himself, so there was some real jealousy and competition for my attention. We were sensitive to that from the start and we've made a lot of progress. Just the other night at the dinner table, Hercules asked us why he didn't call Pa "Dad." Basically, it's his choice and we'll see if he takes up that habit.

Meanwhile, Hercules was in preschool again, this time in a Head Start program. Once again, I started getting daily reports regarding his behavior problems - defiance, pushing and hitting other children, and being generally disruptive. I communicated with his teachers regularly, and they were really very patient and accommodating. They were concerned that if Hercules didn't learn to curb his impulsiveness, he would have a very difficult time in Kindergarten. They asked me for ideas as to how to deal with him. I was hoping they could give me some ideas, because I was pretty desperate myself.

In Kindergarten all of our worst fears came true. He was in trouble almost every day for one thing or another. I had conferences with his teacher, the principal, and the school counselor. His principal wanted to have him assessed for ADHD. Instead, we started seeing a behavioral counselor here in town and that has helped tremendously. Nonetheless, the principal at his Kindergarten was not appeased. She was the one pushing the ADHD agenda, telling me all about the miracles of kiddie drugs and so forth. This was the local Expressive Arts school, where I applied for permission for Hercules to attend, hoping that he would be captivated by that sort of thing (given his inborn desire to perform and make music). But because he was at that school on special permission, the principal would often remind me that they were not required to take on the rejects from other schools. Eventually, they did kick him out and forced him to attend his disctrict school and, despite all of my fears, it turned out to be a blessing.

Although Herc's new teachers were immensely supportive and accommodating, one thing didn't change - Hercules still had impulse control and anger management issues, and the result was that other kids were getting hurt and he was endangering himself on a regular basis. We signed him up for behavior counseling and Tae Kwon Do, and again he made some progress, but the core issues weren't going away. Finally, I made the decision to have him diagnosed and, in the end, put him on meds. This opened up a whole new world for both of us. He is now excelling in school and boasting of his accomplishments, while I have found a whole new joy in parenting that I thought I would never truly know.

Which means that lately I have more energy to focus on other pursuits and interests. This has resulted in a lot of self-reflection, while I try to reconcile my reality with my idealism. I'd like to call myself a radical mama, but I'm really not sure I've earned the right to wear that badge. Of course, I'm my own worse critic and radical is definitely a relative term. Part of the problem is that I tend to get overwhelmed by parenting and step-parenting, and the isolation that comes with that package. I'm very fortunate to have a true partner in my husband, who has never assumed that cooking, cleaning, or childcare are my primary responsibility.

It's only fair to admit that I'm an introvert by nature. Which isn't to say that I'm antisocial, but I am shy and I absolutely cherish my time alone. I think this has a lot to do with my ambition to be a writer, and why parenting has been so difficult for me. I've just begun to realize what Virginia Woolf was talking about in "A Room of One's Own." All I've ever really wanted to do is write, but finding the space to make that possible has largely eluded me. This blog appeases that craving somewhat, but it is a poor substitute. It doesn't suit my style. I prefer to dig deep and take lots of twists and turns and then revise, revise, revise. I want to write novels, not blurbs. Someday. Meanwhile, perhaps we can learn to relate to one another here in cyberspace and make the world around us more liveable. I can only hope.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He gets really involved in story-telling, doesn't he? Seemed like he was going to cry during a suspenceful scene in the movie tonight.
Just my opinion, but when he is happy he seems more happy than anyone. Dancing-happy. That's a good scale to judge for age six. :-]

Not to dismiss your concerns. Especially about that principal :[

jj

11/25/2004 9:30 PM  

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