Monday, October 24, 2005

An Incident At School

You know, I'm always writing about all of the wonderful things my son does. How brave and smart and strong he is. And that's all true. But he's also human. And never more so than on Friday.

Man, this is tough. Aw hell, let's just jump right in.

Joseph has been saying "fuck" lately. Not in my presence. Or in front of other adults. But with his buddies on the school yard. How do I know? Because, he told me, that's how. He tells me whenever he's done anything he's not real proud of. Often saying, "Mom, I don't feel right unless I tell you about it. It just sits in my stomach and makes me feel sick."

I'm not naive. This will certainly change as he gets older. But for now, as it was when he was very little, this boy feels compelled to fess up when he's done something wrong.

Anyhow, we've talked about the "F" word before-- back a few years ago when a friend of his had shared this word with him. At that time he asked me about it, and I had explained that it's an ugly word-- one of the nastiest words you could use, and one that could get you in a lot of trouble for saying.

Yeah, I know. I probably just served up one big 'ol hunk of forbidden fruit.

Now, after our little chat, he seemed impressed enough not to use the word, and to be sufficiently shocked if he heard it on the street (we live in a college town -- not an unusual thing to hear around campus).

Fast forward to just two months ago-- that's when he began saying the word himself. And shortly after, he made the decision to, as he put it, "break the habit." Needless to say, I was not happy to hear of his recent experiment with bad language (remember folks, he just turned 10), but I was proud of the fact that he wanted to talk with me about it-- and that he wanted it to stop.

He'd been doing great-- bursting with pride as he shared his progress.

But now he's in trouble.

On Friday, Joseph sat down to take his spelling test. His teacher said the first word, and Joseph didn't hear it. His teacher described to me, in an email, what happened next:

Joe was flustered because he missed the first key word. I don't repeat words so that kids stay listening and focused. I told him he needed to keep on going with the other words and would not give him that word. That word would come to him at some point during the test. He repeatedly asked for the word in a disruptive (loud) way. I continued administering the quiz to the class. Joe said, aloud, a phrase which had within it the word "fuck." I told him quietly at that point that his test was invalid-- he would get a 0 for it. Joe became quite upset for a moment, then proceeded to take the rest of the test. I'm sure he did well on it.

On our way to recess outside he apologized. I accepted it. I also said I would be contacting you. He was not happy during recess. I took him down to the nurse right after recess when he said he felt low.
Before I read this email, I already knew what it was about. Joseph told me the moment we arrived home on Friday.

"Mom, I did something really bad. And I mean, really bad. I said that word again."

"Oh Joseph, we've talked about this."

"No mom, it's way worse. I said it in class."

"You didn't say it in front of your teacher, did you?"

At this point, Joseph looked absolutely miserable.

"Oh yeah. I didn't hear him say the first spelling word when he was giving us our test, and he wouldn't tell it to me. I just got really mad because he was being so mean about it! He just wouldn't say it again. And I guess I muttered under my breath 'What the F... ' I took the test, though. Even though Mr. S is giving me a zero. It was hard, but I didn't want everyone to think I was stupid. Then I went out to recess and just cried. Sam tried to make me feel better. But I knew Mr. S. was so mad. And that you'd be mad, too."

Yes, I was.

And, at first it was all about the consequences-- no Friday night movie, no gum (which he LOVES) for a month, and so on.

But later that night, and over the weekend, I got to thinking about my son, and what a terrific kid he is. And I also got to thinking about the events of Friday. Sure, Joseph can be hot-tempered, and irrational. But nine times out of ten, when that happens -- when it's that extreme -- there's something funky going on with his blood sugar.

Soooo, I thought back to Friday. After his teacher had left him in the nurse's office -- after recess -- it was discovered that, yes, he had been low.

He was 56.

On Saturday, I asked Joseph, "When did you take that spelling test?"

His answer: "Right before recess."


Now, I didn't tell him why I was asking. I don't want him to blame all of his moods or bad behavior on his blood sugar-- and I really don't want him to view his diabetes as a free pass to act out of control.

But then again, I don't want him penalized for something he can't control.

Do you see my quandary, here?

That's what made me think back to last Thursday, the day before the "incident." When I was leaving the school with Joseph that day, his teacher pulled me aside and told me that Joseph had been "acting out a bit lately in class," but that he and the kids are "getting used to it" and that my talk had really helped them understand this a little better.

Maybe I didn't do such a good job after all.

I don't want them to "get used to it." I want his teacher to recognize when something's wrong. Like when Joseph misses a spelling word, and then (loudly) badgers him to repeat it.

I want him to see when my son is clearly acting unlike his normal self, and suggest that he check his sugar before he says "What the Fuck?!"

I don't want my son to be different in a way that people feel they have to "get used to."

I don't want him to have diabetes.


Jamie said...

Aw Sandra - I can totally understand where you are coming from. Have you talked, yet AGAIN, to his teacher about this? I mean, yes, kids will push their limits at times (non D's and D's), but to know your son does not normally behave in this manner, should that have not prompted his teacher to please ask him to test? It's so frustrating to read stuff like this. It makes me want to take his teacher (and I'm sure he's a very good teacher), put him in a small room and reprimand HIM on this. Joseph is still a young kid. He's 10. While I'm sure he is can tell you when he's low or when he's high, at times when they have other things on their minds, such as a test or quiz, they wouldn't be thinking "Geez, I'm pretty snarky here - not normal - maybe I should go and test."

Please contact his teacher. And while I'm sure you don't want his teacher thinking "That woman is blaming everything on the Diabetes.", be sure to point out that if he hadn't of tested low right after, you wouldn't be having this conversation with him.

Joseph sounds like a good kid - the fact that he tells you when he's done something wrong is a good indicator of that. You know your son best - and you know Diabetes more than his teacher does. Time to have another little talk with the man.

(sorry, writing a novel here - it just irks me when stuff like this happens)

Teresa Kilroy said...

Obviously, Joseph's teacher does NOT have a hearing impaired child in his class (that really irks me)--he needs to repeat things if children don't hear it. Was Joseph paying attention prior to Mr. S. saying the word--did the teacher notice? Maybe Joseph's sugar should be checked prior to any tests like that? I would discuss with the teacher the 'getting used to remark' and that should be an indicator to stop and have Joseph check his sugar. Just my 2 cents.

JustLinda said...

My husband is diabetic and he often gets, well, aggressive when he's going low. I've researched it and it's not uncommon. I can't remember why, but there is a biological explanation.

I know people think I'm making excuses for him, but I'm not. I'm just trying to understand and help him.

Allison said...

Hey- yikes, that must have not been much fun for Joseph. I've never had that kind of thing happen with me, per se, but when I was in high school, I used to get into the raging arguments with my parents. Yelling and fighting, you name it. Finally, some of these started happening around the time when I had either just tested or was just about to test, and we noticed that my blood sugars were high. Now, if I'm fighting my parents and just really not making any kind of logical sense they say "Go test." If my blood sugar is above 300, they say "Take a shot, we'll talk about this later." We wait and then I come back and we discuss what's going on and usually, not always but usually, I make much more sense.

However, sometimes I really am just annoying teenager acting out and diabetes has nothing to do with it. But hey, it has gotten me out of some groundings... Just make sure you do know why Joseph is acting the way he is. If he's being a punk (which he invariably will be as he gets older), do what you think is best as parental unit. But if he is high, you shouldn't punish him for something he can't really control.

And that's my 2 cents.

Kelsey said...

Hi Sandra, I've had type 1 for over twelve years and all my close family and friends will tell you that I get really irritable when my blood sugar is getting low! I'm a generally happy, upbeat person so it was pretty obvious when my low blood sugar moods came on. I don't know the explanation for it, but it happens. Also, if Joseph was getting low, he may have misheard the word because of the lack of concentration that accompanies lows. Good luck :)

christy214 said...

I know exactly how you're feeling.
Not so much with my son, but my husband. He grew up with his mother doing exactly that. That to excuse his behavior, because his BS is wacky. I've had to step in and clearly say, my husband is a grown man, who clearly can take care of himself. My son is learning how to manage and keep his condition in control to the best he can.Since,Josh has been diagnosed my husband has taken more steps towards taking better care of himself. Today he made an appt. with an ENDO (Yeah), the last time was probably over 6yrs ago....
I've been understanding of my husband's actions, but not allowing him to use diabetes as a crutch he can use as an excuse. It's very hard to see how diabetes affects the one's we love, and honestly say they can control their actions I'm sure it's hard for them when you're not feeling well. I've had to firmly ask my husband to let me know if he's high or low and what he would like me to do. When my son starts acting odd, I test right away, sometimes he's low, but sometimes he's just acting like a normal 5yr.
Ask the teacher if next time, your son acts differently to be a little suspicous and have him test his BS. You're doing the right thing. I can totally relate,sorry if this rambles on, but before Josh was diagnosed, I never truly understood WHY my husband would act the way he does, without excusing the behaviour, I can at least find a way to cope better in letting my husband know how his highs and lows affect me too and together we can find a solution to help us with diabetes.

Sandra Miller said...

Thanks for all the feedback on this...

I'll be speaking with Joseph's teacher this afternoon, and quite frankly, am very nervous about this conversation. He just sent me another email this morning, telling me that Joseph said two weeks ago that "he doesn't like school."

Man, this makes me sad. Last year he LOVED school, often telling me that his teacher was "the best in the school."

Mr. S also suggests in this email that "we sit down with the Doc and Joe to get a more aware discussion going about how Joe
perceives his moods and changes so that
[Mr. S] and others can create the
best environment for the moment..."

Joseph's endo has seen him exactly twice in the last six months. She is wonderful, but can she offer much insight into how Joseph "perceives his moods and changes?"

I'm not so sure.

Joseph has told me that he thinks his teacher doesn't care about him, because he never asks him about his bg (unlike his teacher last year)-- even when he is low. In his email, Mr. S. stated that he thinks "often about how [Joseph] may lull [him] into complacency because he takes care of his own business so well."

I think that right now, Joseph feels alone in his diabetes care in the classroom. That part of the reason he's not liking school is that he's bearing a heavy burden on his own. I believe this is an unexpected by-product of gaining Joseph the ability to test in the classroom.
When at home, we always work together to evaluate boluses, treat lows, etc...

I NEED to get his teacher to show Joseph that he cares-- to ask him about his sugars when he tests, and to suggest that he test when he seems high (which Joseph will never suggest himself) or low.

If anyone has further thoughts on this, please share, as I'm not sure if I'm just being one of those "moms-with-the-blinders-on" when it comes to my kid and his behavior.

Also, if all this weren't enough, we had a horrible all-nighter last night-- low to high 300s almost the whole night.

Poor kid.

Shannon said...

There's that delicate balance of discipling a kid for "acting out" and deciding if discipline is needed when the "acting out" was influenced by lows or highs.

The teacher should really have known that it was unlike Joseph to act out like that and to suspect a high or low in blood sugar.

We have that stipulation in Brendon's 504 Plan. If he acts unruly or out of character, it is to first be assumed that his glucose isn't in range and he's to be sent to the nurse.

Maybe have a conference with the teacher to remind him of this.

As for saying "fuck", my mom nipped it in the bud when I was a kid and gave me permission to use it in the house only, and only when we had no one visiting. After that, the appeal was gone and it wasn't such a big deal.

But, it sounds like Joseph has a pretty good head on his shoulders with a heavy duty sense of morals.

Anonymous said...

We are struggling with that issue, on a smaller level, every day. How can we have set rules of behavior when diabetes care dictates something different. With Bailey, its her habit now to wake up during the night and ask for food or water. Sometimes, she does need it (if she is low or high) and the other times, how can we deny it? She isnt old enough to understand it, but I have to think that our inconsistency with our own actions based on her care isnt good for her psyche or emotional well-being.

Sometimes its too easy to blame diabetes. And sometimes, you have no choice but to.

JustLinda said...

It's about serotonin. There is a direct correlation between low serotonin and aggressive behavior. And there is also a direct correlation between low blood sugar and low serotonin.

It's real and biological and studied.

I swear to you- my husband is the sweetest most sensitive person in the world. But he gets AGGRESSIVE when his bg is low. He's even gotten physically violent with me once. There are so many ways I can see a low coming on, but his behavior is usually the first clue.

julia said...

Sandra - What about the school nurse? Is she there all the time? Does she see how Joseph's bgs affect him on a daily basis? Maybe she would be a better person to have in on this discussion, rather than the endo. I know Olivia's endo has no real clue of Olivia's day to day life.

Good luck with the discussion. I'll be interested to hear how it went.

Anonymous said...

i know this isn't on topic, but maybe it is. what's with the "joe" stuff? is this teacher unaware that your son is called joseph? is this another example of not really paying attention to his students? p.s. my daughter is always cranky when low.

Martha O'Connor said...

Oh, Sandra. First of all {{{hugs}}}

If it makes you feel any better, we've dealt with swearing issues too. Not that they, you know, picked it up from ME or anything....

I just wanted to say that we have written into our son's 504 plan that he must test his blood glucose before each test and write the number on the top of the page. If he is <80 or >180 he has the opportunity to correct his blood sugars and retake the test or get extra time.

Kerri. said...

I have mixed feelings about the teacher suggesting that Joseph test. Bear in mind that I am the diabetic child and not the parent, so I have some serious blinders on in that respect.

But I always found it very frustrating when people would assume my "outburst" behavior was always bloodsugar related. Yes, sometimes it was (is). And yes, sometimes I don't test when I should because I'm too off the charts to realize I need those numbers.

However, I have also experienced serious frustration when I would get angry at a situation or voice a frustrated opinion and people assume it's diabetes related. I get heated. I'm an emotional person, diabetic or not. Sometimes I'm just mad. Or upset. Or I feel like screaming "FUCK!" or lashing out. Sometimes it has nothing to do with my glucose level and instead that I'm an emotional, volatile, strong willed woman. (Ask my sweet, patient boyfriend ... he can attest to this.)

It's a fine line you walk, as the parent or caregiver, wondering if it's "diabetes" or "teenagish moods." However you all decide to deal with it is both unique and correct. You know your child best.

But I do know that I have a repeated conversation with all my loved ones when I'm sick. It goes like this.

Kerri: I don't feel good.
Loved One: Are you low or high?
Kerri: No. I'm Real People Sick.

It's sad to have to differentiate. But we do.