Marvin and I decided to "force" our boys to take choir as the music portion of school.  By "force" I litterally mean FORCE.  If they had their 'druthers, they'd never leave the house.  They'd have all their play dates here, they'd never play outside, they'd only shop online (Ha!), etc.  Yes, I did say "they'd never play outside"!  What? Yeah, I know, they're boys...not sure what happened there...

Anyways, amidst the moaning and tears, I shoved them into the van this afternoon.  I was prepared to quietly entertain Ava while I (and Ava) sat beside Benji on the risers for 30 min. as he (hopefully) listened and followed instructions.  I was then prepared to quietly entertain Ava and Benji in another room while Alec, the braver of the two boys, (hopefully) listened and followed instructions for 50 min.

I was also prepared to park a block or so away and walk to the building with three kids, three bulky winter coats, two backpacks and my bag and water bottle.  Oh, and prepared to pay $50 for the privilege of experiencing this once a week for several months!

So we get there and the building is like something out of one of my claustrophobia nightmares.  A maze of unmarked hallways were constipated with parents, kids and all of their bulky coats and bags.  Not to mention that we're supposed to be quiet so as not to compromise our working relationship with the college who is graciously letting us rent the space for our humble little homeschool choir!

By this point, Benji's eyes were filled with tears and he had a death grip on my hand, Ava was running away, and Alec was frozen wide-eyed like a scared prairie dog.  I convinced Alec to sit at the other end of the room and read, and made my way up to the very front, apologizing profusely to the very gracious choir teacher, and sat down behind Benji with Ava beside me.

I spent the next 30 min trying as inconspicuously as possible to keep Ava quiet while I remained in constant physical contact with Benji so that he wouldn't turn around in a panic, thinking that I had somehow mysteriously vaporized from the seat behind him.

I spent the 10 minute break afterward wading through the constipated hallways again to the postage-stamp sized bathroom and then back to the choir room to get Alec situated for his session. When we got to the bathroom, Ava relieved herself and then threw a tantrum when I insisted on closing the door while I relieved myself.  She must have missed those 5 emails about being quiet.

The next 50 min. were spent sitting in a minorly larger area of the hallway, talking with a couple other moms and pooling our efforts to again keep naturally loud children quiet.

After one final trip through my favorite hallway, we found our way out of the building.  Ava refused to hold my hand, and hurtled herself VERY LOUDLY through the lobby, out the doors and towards the icy concrete steps.  The picture of her bloody lip from an accident yesterday still fresh in my mind, I clamped my hand around her wrist and hauled her down the stairs while she protested.

We're home now and the leftovers that I thought would feed the five of us for dinner barely fed the three kids.

I try to be brave and prepared for anything when I take my kids to this stuff.  But...Benji is painfully shy.  I was as a kid and know how he feels.  Ava is three and fiercely independent. Alec is a little shy, but has three years of public school under his belt, so he knows the drill.

When we get to the class or whatever it is, no matter how much I've psyched myself up, no matter how much stuff I've brought to keep Ava in one place, no matter how many times I've told Benji that I'm not leaving him, I'm never really prepared.

I always end up feeling really angry and frustrated with Benji.  He follows EVERY STEP I take, and has to have constant eye contact or feel me beside him or the tears start to fall. Ava, on the other hand, wants her own seat, her own books, to have privacy in the bathroom (even though she routinely falls into the toilet).

So taking the kids to an activity other than a playdate is a total disaster.  We've taken them to Awana for four weeks and stayed for the 2 1/2 hours so that Benji would hopefully feel comfortable enough to even just participate, let alone stay without us.  Is it working? NO.  I feel like giving up on everything and just keeping the kids in the house with me like they want for another year.

I know it's good for them to experience a wide variety of activities, participate in organized things lead by someone other than me, to meet new people, etc. But at what cost?  Right now it doesn't seem worth it.

(I hear that there is a lovely seating area on the second floor of the building where choir is, for parents of "normal" kids...Maybe one day I'll get to see it, or maybe sit there and read a book!)

6 readers took time to leave a thought:

McSarah February 2, 2010 at 6:18 PM  

Have courage my dear friend, you will be able to sit in the "special" lobby someday. And then one day you will look back on this and wish they still wanted to hold your hand : )

Crystal February 2, 2010 at 6:25 PM  

oh this just breaks my heart. how tough for ALL of you! if I have learned anything as a parent it is that things are much easier when my kids are ready to do things on their own...i don't know what the answer is for you but if it were me...well maybe I should just zip my lip. hang in there and do what you think is best...because it probably IS the best. :)

Sara Kay February 2, 2010 at 7:43 PM  

Ugh. Experiences like that are what I'm always afraid of when I do things like that with my kids. One thing comes to mind that I thought might be worth sharing, in case it helps... My brother Nathan is/was very shy like Benji. He has no interest in doing much of anything, and if left alone, would not leave his room for days at a time except to eat. :) Obviously, my parents needed to help teach him a work ethic, etc., but largely they did not force him into situations where he was uncomfortable. When they did, he became so miserable that it almost made the whole thing worse. He didn't change, just became angry. So, within reason, they allowed him to be himself. He just turned 21, and has a full time job as a computer programmer that will probably pay him 60,000+ (and opportunity to continue to make more) in the next year or two, with absolutely no college education. What does he do? Sit by himself and play with his computer all day! LOL! And he's good at it!

While I don't know your kids, I think the thing I love most about homeschooling is that we don't have to force our kids to all fit into the same, or even a similar mold. My mom continually reminds me that I don't have to compare my kids to other people's, and she often talks about how parents "compete" with one another through their kids accomplishments, when those accomplishments don't necessarily mean a child is healthy or happy or even doing what God has for them.

So...sorry to ramble! If this helps, take it, if not, throw it out. ;)

Becca February 3, 2010 at 11:59 AM  

You've gotten great advice already...all I can add is additional support to keep on keeping on. And pray. You know and love your kids more than anyone else on earth and you can only do your best. This season is so very short, really, even when a year seems like a very long time. Before you know it you'll wish he were still holding on to you. You'll make it through this season...and look back on it with such fondness!

Michelle Jamie February 4, 2010 at 7:57 AM  

I'm doing catch up. My oldest is really bad at dealing with new situations or even the though of going out of his comfort zone. Last year when he started his play group, it took him 4 months to adjust. Then over this last December he was home with me for 6 weeks. We are almost back to square one with him. It's a real tough one. I have said that at the end of the year I'm going to start homeschooling with him. I think he's gotten enough exposure to the outside world to have grown. I know usually if I want success I need to meet his need that I'm not going to leave him. He does EVENTUALLY get to the point that he says he doesn't need me but that doesn't come easily. I find in the times when I'm inwardly desiring him to do something new on his own he clams up and clings even more, so I do things with him gradually and over time. They also might be overwhelmed by the crowds and that is increasing their fear. So the simple but greatly sacrificial way of dealing with this is give them the time that they need to adjust...pushing them just a little every time. I also think you can try make a game of the crowds like...how many people had blue jackets on or count how many people we passed on the way in or lets pretend I don't know where you have choir practice and you direct me to your class. You could also ask them to write a story of their experience...it might give you insight to what they're seeing and that could give you more tools to help them...if they can't write a story yet ask them to draw a picture about choir and ask them to explain it.

Sara Kay February 4, 2010 at 11:03 AM  

Ooh, I like that idea of having them write a story or draw a picture to understand what's going on in their head! I'll have to remember that one with my oldest...

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