It all started when my son was not even 2 years old. He had been expelled from daycare (daycare!) because he just couldn’t participate with the rest of the children and sit obediently during circle time. You can imagine how stressful it was trying to find alternate childcare while working full-time and being a single mom. You can also imagine how sad you feel as a parent knowing your child was rejected. I fought hard to keep him in the program but the Director wasn’t going to budge. Apparently my son was just too much for anyone to handle. How is it even possible that a daycare couldn’t manage a two year old?
After scrambling, I eventually found another daycare near my office but about 2 years later, my son was expelled again for the same reason but also because he was starting to display defiant behaviors (ex: running out of classrooms when he was asked to participate in group activities, refusing teachers’ instructions, etc).
Teachers and program directors would call me several times a week, while I was at work, complaining that my son wasn’t listening or cooperating. On many occasions, I would have to go in during work hours for parent meetings to discuss the behaviors. Over time, because they could not handle the defiance, they would issue suspensions and because I had no other family member or childcare option, I had to take days off from work to be with him.
This cycle repeated itself in pre-K, kindergarten and even afterschool programs. The stress started to build – of hearing people constantly complain about my child, of having to make up excuses in order to leave work early or stay home for suspensions and not jeopardize my job, of having to wonder what’s wrong with my child or what’s wrong with me that my child is behaving this way. To make matters worse, I had very little support because my family lived very far away. I wasn’t making a lot of money so I didn’t have the luxury of hiring a babysitter or taking time for myself to deal with the stresses. As if all that weren’t enough, my son’s father was not pleasant or helpful at all and often accused my parenting style as contributing to the issues (this was also the beginning of me starting to internalize that I wasn’t a good parent/mom). At the time, I had no idea what was wrong with my son.
So this was basically our lives for the first five years – frustrating, upsetting, lonely, unsettled, stressful. If what I described sounds similar to what you are experiencing with your own child or family member, perhaps he/she has oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). It’s OK. Don’t do what I did – get upset, frustrated or stressed. Take it one day at a time. Observe your child or family member and take notes of the behaviors. Be kind to him/her and to yourself. Constantly remind him/her and especially yourself that you’re both doing the best that you can. That’s all you can expect at this moment.
In upcoming posts, I will provide strategies for navigating the medical and education systems so that you can find the best support for your child or family member. For now, hang in and remember that You’re Not A Bad Parent.