My Young Child is Stealing Food
How about stealing time to play!
Stealing food from children. Really? That is how Mrs. M wrote it in her message. We are starting week two of medication or in other words, it is day eight. I know in my heart that I am uncomfortable with my child needing medication. But as I put it to her brothers, it’s like needing glasses. All that squinting, missing homework assignments written on the whiteboard, not seeing the lacrosse ball– my kid needed corrective lenses for better focus. Did this completely change his life? Yes and no. The non-stimulant ADHD medication will hopefully change her life and ours for the better. After I had returned to our therapist for a consultation, after having a medication evaluation and after a few days of starting the medication, I got a long email from her kindergarten teacher. As soon as I opened it, I braced myself. Four paragraphs. What now? Well, turns out that for the past 6 or so weeks food has gone missing from her students’ lunch boxes. And surprisingly while we were on a family trip for three days, nothing happened. Yet when we returned, the missing of items resumed. Mystery solved? Yes. Problem corrected? No.
It was time. She was having rough days 9 out of every 10 school days. Her impulsivity was significant — she was lying, stealing, and sneaking food each weekend. Every once in a while, we had that uneventful day. The last one still fresh in my memory.
“Isn’t it great I had a good day?” she asked me, her wide toothy grin in the rearview mirror. She has the look of wanting validation. “Yes, it is. It’s a day you can have every day.”
Her special needs are not immediately visible.
Again, she revisited the topic. “Isn’t it so special! I had a great day! Are you happy, Momma?” I answered, “Yes, I am. I know you can have lots of good days.”
The self-praises continued that afternoon. By dinner time she had revised once more, “I love having good days! I was so special today, right Momma?” I made the silent coyote signal with my hand, gesturing for her to be quiet. Then I corrected, “It’s not special and you are not behaving special. Your teacher said it wasn’t a bad day. That’s what she said!”
And there it was, my words cutting through the glee. Yes, it is time. Our former therapist emailed me back with instructions to fill out the intake paperwork so that we can schedule a consultation with her. Within 18 hours, I had completed the hefty packet and hand delivered it to her office. I wrote her: when are you free?
My daughter had a rocky start to her life in this world. She was born into a lifestyle of irresponsibility. The State Child Welfare department removed her from her birth parents due to neglect. I imagine this means not feeding her when necessary, not responding to her crying within a reasonable time, and neighbors calling in concerns. We will never know for sure what happened between those four walls. Next up she lived in a home with a sedentary, food fixated lifestyle. We will never know the details of living in that foster home. Fast forward three years and she moved in with us. At age 3 ½, she was diagnosed as developmentally delayed.
What I do know is she is very bright, adventurous, and eager for social activities. When she is approached by others — familiar and not– she will happily chit chat. She blurts out answers in her kindergarten classroom, unable to hold back her knowledge. She runs ahead, wanting to be first. She laughs loudly at something amusing. She looked up at the sky watching a plane, then announced, “Some day I am going to see the world!”
A lot of classroom work does not get completed with our special needs little one.
My daughter has to make an effort all day long to use adaptive skills. It is her full-time job. Her teacher observed that she will have to work harder than the others. When she is focused, willing to follow through, and kind to others we have delightful days. When she slacks off, I get the report that it was a “rough” day. Not, “she had a rough one”, but it was difficult for everyone rough day. Each school day, she needs to practice socializing positively with classmates and adults, paying attention and not interrupting, and regulating her emotions. Sometimes just saying to her, “I know it’s hard, you are working hard, and I can tell you are trying” emits a smile of relief. Her little face looking upward to me relaxing and nodding. Other times, I say, “What happened today? what made it so hard to be nice to classmates? Screaming at ____ and not moving your chair to make room for _____ and pushing _____ on the playground and he fell!” I dunno she says quietly looking down. “Well, something made it hard today…? what makes it ok to be mean to others?” I dunno is the repeated reply. I give up. Retcha-fretcha-don’t understand is my mumbling rant I make as we walk to the car. I let it go for a while. Then I work on practicing with her. “Let’s go over a situation,” I say. “I’ll be a kid who wants to sit next to the window. Can you tell me in nice words that YOU want to sit there…?” I know it is not an easy task for her. And so I try to have compassion.