Does the Eldest have ADHD? or is he just clowning around? Does the Toddles have sensory integration issues? or is he just overwhelmed, and balancing himself? Does the Eldest have a new environmental allergy? or is he breaking out in hives from the old one? Does the Toddles have attention issues? or is he just a distractible little kid?
And are those pairs of the same question, posed different ways?
When the Eldest handed us a clear-cut medical puzzle to chew on, oh, I tell you - it was such a relief. Alas for the medically normal, that the major puzzles are fuzzy, mushy psycho-kid stuff. Alas for us, that we don't get a Get-Out-Of-Irritating-Kid-Stuff Free card. I find myself chasing my own tail on the emotional/psych stuff, reading books, questioning the evaluations, my own perspective, my habit of wanting to tie problem to diagnosed solution, and hey, the alignment of the stars. But a medical, what the fuck is making my kid gasp and complain that his seatbelt is too tight? Love it. Clear symptoms, straight-forward diagnostic process (medical history? risk factors? likely diagnosis? testing?) - this is so much easier than trying to figure out why the Toddles doesn't play with groups of his peers.
(answer: I have no freakin' idea. Maybe he's just shy.)
Bizarre as it may be, I'm delighted to be taking the Eldest for asthma testing tomorrow. He's been complaining of too-tight seatbelts, gasping and puffing up his ribcage for the past year or so, and it feels so damned good to finally be charging in and examining this with his medical team. And, look! It's a measurable issue, with data points! On the advice of the pediatrician and the allergy gurus, we'll do a spirometry test, measuring his input and output. How we check this, if he's not having a bout of the can't-get-enough-air-freaking-out-ness, I dunno. But hey, we're going to test something physical, and dammit, diagnose it. Or not.
I can't wait.
And now I'm laughing at myself. Such a lovely dichotomy! Messy psych vs tidy medical? Ha. As if there were such a thing as a purely medical something, as if those medical somethings don't dovetail with the emotional ripples that they cause. (ahem) I write this as if the Eldest, when his chest tightens, can actually tell that he's getting upset because his chest is tight, and not because his brother is breathing on me - quit it - MOOOOOOOOM! I'd be willing to be that he's choosing that oh-so messy emotion (you irritating git, stop that - hey - stop!) over the tidy and freakin' scary medical (air! need air!). Oh, yeah. It's a clean dichotomy. See?
So clean that I spent a precious morning, explaining to the head of the Eldest's school that a certain staff member was not to be involved with the Eldest's care: she appears unable to evaluate a situation, nor do I trust her to respond appropriately. More to the point, the Eldest doesn't trust her. And if the Eldest can't name the problem (air! need air! vs bwahahaha! we're going to do mathERmatics!), then he can't advocate for himself. And he can easily end up stuck, working to inhale, exhale, awash in that messy psych - and observed by an adult who can't help him separate the ripple from the medical stone. Who very well might not even see the medical stone.
It was, I must admit, one of the more exhausting bits of advocacy that I've done this year. How do you express a lack of faith in a staff member, casting doubts on her ability to evaluate the child in front of her? Rather than the child that she expects to see? The implications of this are wide-ranging - assuming, of course, that the parent expressing this concern is heard. Deemed trustworthy, and generally non-bitchy.
The night before, the Man and I sat down and type up a list of points. We went for observations, not analysis - the analysis would be implicit, I hoped. Show the principal, don't tell her - let her see for herself what the problem is. Hopefully, anyway. We came up with a 6 point presentation: background; the Eldest's (stated) feeling about the staff member; how we responded to that (give her another chance, etc) and the outcome; what I have observed; what I like about her; my concerns, irrespective of that liking, based on the Eldest's opinion and my own observations. And our goals: the Eldest isn't left alone with her, nor is she to be involved in discipline/classroom interactions.
I got through three points, and was part-way through the fourth, when the principal paused in her note taking. Looked up. Then X is out of the picture, she said. Just done. Out of the picture, won't be involved with the Eldest any more.
Just like that? Something so simple and clean? Well, now wouldn't that be nice...