Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worry List

Any any given time, I have two children who keep me up nights with worry. I don’t know if it’s because truly two children at a time are experiencing struggles or—more likely—two is all the worry I can handle. This weekend, I abruptly graduated two children who have been languishing on my worry list.

Roscoe has been heavy on my mind this school year. He’s signed himself up for a brutal schedule of overlapping, demanding, and to be frank, soul-stiflingly negative theater rehearsals. And before that was over, he had joined the wrestling team. Because of his theater schedule, he missed the first few weeks of wrestling  practice and so was thrown straight into competitions with almost no experience or training. It was brutal. I couldn’t bring myself to go watch him. (Thanks to Uncle Joe for filling in for me.) In his first match, he was pinned before he knew what hit him. He was pinned again and again. Then about halfway through the season, he attained the distinction of losing matches by points rather than by fall. (Explanation of the scoring rules for high school wrestling here.) 
Roscoe's first match. That's him in black on the right.
Going down.
For his last home competition of the season, Mark and I went to the high school to watch. (I’ll tell you right now that the crowd of parents and friends at a wrestling meet is very different from that at a theater production. The soda and nachos and candy and burgers those people were eating!) When the whistle blew and Roscoe and his opponent locked horns, I felt proud of myself for not cringing or looking away. But as the first period ended and the second began, I noticed that I was having an adrenaline surge that threatened to make me cry or hit someone or pee.
In the third period, Roscoe pinned his opponent.

I never would have imagined myself as the cheering section for a high school wrestler. Nor have I ever been more proud of one of my children. When Roscoe was the team’s worst wrestler, he carried on. When he got his face smashed into the mat again and again, he kept trucking. When he had to put on a singlet, walk out onto the mat, and take a beating in front of a gym-full of spectators, he didn’t worry about his pride or appearance—he just did his best. And by the end of the season, his best had become pretty darn good.

On Saturday, we loaded up the kids again to watch Roscoe at a JV region competition. By the time we arrived, the tournament was almost over. Only one match remained: Roscoe’s. His opponent threatened to pin him twice, but Roscoe muscled his way out of it. He implemented every move his coach yelled to him. And in the second round, he won. Even Betsy clapped and cheered.

Roscoe is one of the most dedicated, selfless, hardworking, focused people on the planet. I’m so grateful he has had a dose of the success that is his due.

Jesse. Oh, Jesse. I haven’t been so much heartsick over him as contemplating his need for professional intervention. He is so creative, engaged, innovative, and precocious. But the gap between his maturity and the mean of his peers seems to be widening. His fits—somewhat appropriate for a toddler or even a preschooler—rage on. His tolerance for structure and instruction remains almost zilch.

But last week I succeeded—or should I say Jesse succeeded—in something I’ve tried several times over the years: Jesse did a chart. Following the footsteps of my dear mommy, I’m all about charts. Charts for chores, charts for behaviors. Whatever I want you to do, or don’t want you to do, I put it on a chart and attach consequences.
All circles filled.
Jesse’s first chart was as elementary as you can get. I sketched it out on a piece of scrap paper. He could earn a smiley face by doing any of three things: Do homework, get dressed for school, and don’t throw a fit. Fill all ten circles with a smiley face and get a little Lego minifigure pack as a reward.

The first no-fit symbol I drew did not meet Jesse's specifications, so he made me cut it out and make a new one. And all this involved screaming. (Which only points up the need for this chart!) Also this chart experienced some water damage.
Normally Jesse refuses to participate in any plan that smacks of behavior modification. But he was on board with this one. He threw exactly one fit in the four days it took him to complete the chart. I'm telling you: that's major progress. We've now created a new chart. It has even more circles to fill, plus an additional way to earn a smiley face. The reward when all circles are filled: A trip to a Chinese restaurant he's had his eye on to get a fortune cookie.
Jesse enjoying the fruits of his labors.
Now that Roscoe's had some success and Jesse's moving in the right direction, I'm working on interventions for their two replacements at the top of my worry list.

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