Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture

Yesterday I volunteered at my daughter’s school again, as I plan to do on Wednesdays.  Yesterday was an unusual day because they performed the Dragon Parade, which was beautiful and exciting.

One of the unique things about my daughter’s school is that, as an Arts Magnet, there is art everywhere.  Her math teacher creates intricate drawings to illustrate concepts.  The science teachers and social studies teachers collaborate with the art teachers and music teachers to bring lessons to life through art.  And every morning they have an assembly which is started by an amazing African Drum Circle and concluded by an energetic song in unison.  I think it’s a wonderful and positive way to begin each day!

Yesterday I planned on exercising after the volunteering in the morning but the act of interacting with the kids was very taxing.  I was working on math with small groups — and man, did these kids need the extra help!  But this is not my forte.  I can cut out stars from construction paper or file papers or whatever other dumb thing a teacher needs me to do but holy crap, it’s like herding cats to get an under-performing child to focus on math in a small group if you don’t know what you’re doing!  It was a learning experience to say the least.

So, I was famished and grabbed a lunch date with my husband who took a mental health day yesterday and then… well, I don’t know where my afternoon went but I didn’t exercise and I didn’t write.  I’m pretty sure there must have been an alien abduction because I don’t recall what I did before going to get my littlest from school.

See — I didn’t get that energy that I’ve been getting from my morning physical exercise and morning mental/emotional/spiritual exercise (writing).  My tank was empty when the special ed intern called to say that the team had observed several traits in my youngest that could be indicative  of autism and they’d like to evaluate him for that as well.  I couldn’t cope with that very well.  That was not OK.  I was not OK after that.  Yesterday, when I got that phone call when I was running on empty?  Just, no.  No.  Going down this path again is just not something I am going to be able to do.  Just, no.

I prepared some felafel to fry with my middle child (he LOVES to cook!)  and picked up my daughter from a play date.  She informed me that she was required to wear uniform pants (which she does not have) on her field trip (which would begin 14 hours later) so we went off on a hunt for them (at 630 pm) and I called my husband to tell him to order pizza because I wasn’t confident that we’d find uniform pants in February!  We lucked out at Old Navy and she was so overwhelmed by all the “fashion,” and it was really cool to see her in this environment.  We’ve been lucky enough to have bags and bags and bags of hand-me-downs, but as a result she doesn’t get new clothes that she picks out.  She tends to wear the same clothes all the time.  This might be genetic.  I mentioned that I was going to wear a red shirt for the Dragon Parade and she said, “Mommy, you don’t have a red shirt.  You just have black and grey and brown shirts!”  So, since she has a dress-down day coming up I let her pick out a new shirt too.

We beat the pizza home.  I felt silly for having ordered pizza when I really could have cooked.  But it was a real relief to just have a home-run dinner and relax a little.  We let my girl stay up late to watch American Idol and then after the kids were in bed we talked about the little one.  I think we both think he has a speech delay and maybe some sensory issues but I think we’re both on the same page that autism isn’t something we think is in play.  I called the lady and told her that we’d rather have him independently evaluated.

Today I went to my youngest’s class for his Valentine’s Day party.  I was of two minds.  I really feel the negative difference when I’m not on my schedule.  Because I’m like an infant apparently.  But on the other hand, remember what the point of Project Karen 2.0 is?  To figure out a career for me?  Well, this is might be the last Valentine’s Day party I can just go to without really moving heaven and earth.  So I went, and the ENTIRE special education team happened to be there.

Basically, if they see something that indicates X, Y, or Z in their observations, they have to follow through in order for their evaluation to be completed.  In this case, my son shakes his head (I attribute this to his hair being a little shaggy)  and that at center time he plays by himself, and actively avoids other children when they try to play with him.  So, in order for him to receive services at school, they need to complete their evaluation and since they observed those behaviors, that will have to be part of their evaluation.  They also mentioned that he might be learning some behaviors  from his brother — basically imitating behaviors that are typical in autistic kids and thereby setting off false red flags.

Today I was really surprised, actually, to see him sitting in his orange square on rug during circle time LIKE A BOSS and participating in the routines in a perfect way.  He was the Weather Reporter and did a crazy good job, even though he spoke so softly in the reporting that his teacher could barely hear him.  I was really proud of they way he was attending to his routines.  Last time I was there was for his Christmas party, which was right after he started and he was all over the fucking place.  He’s made a TON of progress.  I did notice him shaking his head and also covering his ears.

The other observation I had is — and granted, today was an party day — that place is a fucking zoo.  Like, those kids were ALL OVER THE PLACE.  Circle time was fine, and then they went to tables to work on a Valentine’s Day craft (my baby at this time did his OT evaluation and really did well.  He tested at a 38 month level and he’s 42 months.  The OT also thought that she saw zero indications of autism in her brief time with him).  After that was free play at centers… for like, an hour.  It was completely unsupervised and completely chaotic.  The teachers were not interacting with the children — they were doing paperwork, chatting with other adults, organizing cupboards, what have you.

I might just be used to my older son’s pre-K experience with was slightly more towards the boot camp end of the spectrum.  There, after circle time, they did small group work that had something to do with the actual lesson introduced and was really closely attended by the teachers and volunteers.

After this crazy hour of free play, it was snack time.  Cheezy Poofs and Fruit Punch.  They were told to go to the circle carpet when they were done, and of course no one finished at the same time and it was more chaos.  They got them back for gross motor time (singing and dancing) and then they “settled down” for a story, which was totally chaotic too.  All the kids were talking (except mine, of course) and they were all over each other.  It was ridiculous.

I tried to sneak out at that time because I was frankly starting to feel a little autistic myself.  I was so overstimulated myself and I don’t know how those kids aren’t too.  I was very tempted to grab my kid and run but I was assured by another parent that it’s not always such a fucking clown show.  So I helped get lunch set up for the kids. Mine is the only one who packs a lunch, and she reassured me once again that they have vegetarian options every day.  Today it was a “grilled” “cheese” sandwich.  Other days it’s an Uncrustable.  This is what my middle child ate every day in Pre-K and he was a lot less picky prior to that. So now I’m insisting on sending lunches in.  I was horrified at the slop they fed the kids.  It was taco day.  One scoop of taco meat (I learned that this is turkey and tofu), one scoop of very runny refried beans, “cheese” sauce, a single-serving bag of Tostitos, and strawberries that were in syrup.  No vegetables.  I noticed one kid had plain milk and the others all had chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry milk.  I wanted to barf.  I don’t know how many grade levels eat at the same time but that place was FULL.  It was noisy, full of disgusting, unhealthy food, served in a way that reminded me of feeding inmates rather than feeding humans.

So, my overall impressions from this morning are that my child is shy, he is not confident in his ability to communicate, and he’s in an environment that might be so overstimulating that he isn’t able to gain confidence.  I really don’t think autism is what we’re seeing, but I think that whatever smaller setting interaction with a dedicated adult (as I said, today at least, there was NOT any supervised small group time), will be good.  My husband makes the point that he doesn’t really care what the label is, as long as he gets the help he needs.

Needless to say, when I got home at 12:30, I was feeling confused, discouraged, exhausted, and defeated.  And you know what I did?  I did the 10 lbs Down Better Body Blast.  The physical exertion was something I was craving and I knew I’d feel better and clearer after.  And I definitely did.

Yesterday I skipped everything.  Today I didn’t and I’m glad.  This is the first time I’ve adjusted my schedule and it has been successful.  I now have a lot more confidence in going to school on Wednesday to volunteer because I feel like I can now adjust the schedule and take care of myself even when I’m giving back.


  •  Cardio: 20 minutes
  • Words written: 1700+ !!!
  • Weight: 146 (I’m very close to eliminating this bullet point)
  • Job I Don’t Want: Still an Elementary School Teacher.
  • Deck Check: All Alright, Fun. (Some  Nights) (I feel old when I listen to this album.)

One Response »

  1. I wish schools fed the kids better. I’m glad you pack them lunches generally. It’s pretty ridiculous what they get. I didn’t even realize how many of the schools around here didn’t actually have kitchens, and they get sent the food from a central facility and at most they nuke it. Ridic. Jamie Oliver’s head would explode.

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