Here’s something I wrote back in 2010 before I properly understood my son’s executive function difficulties.
Our Town, June 2010
It’s a few minutes before midnight as I begin this letter of love to you, at the end of a very busy day.
Earlier this evening you shed tears of disappointment as we walked back to the car after the great Our Town Scout Jamboree. All the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts were gathered for a games night: tug of war, hide and seek, the bucket filling race, and toasting marshmallows on the campfire. You were awarded the Chief Scout’s Silver Award – the highest badge available in Cubs – and formally passed from Cubs to Scouts.
But still you cried, even though you have never been a cry baby. Why?
Because you did not receive the ‘Scottish Challenge Badge’.
And you blamed me.
When you were younger, you used to resist doing your reading homework, using every dodge, trick, displacement activity you could think of, and you had many, many tantrums about it. Later on, in P5, your homework refusal transferred itself to maths. Luckily for you, you hardly ever got maths homework in P6, but when you did my heart sank as it was always a horrible scene.
One evening a few months ago, you had maths homework, but wouldn’t do it. Work that should have taken 20 minutes took over an hour, and most of what you did was incorrect. By the time the maths homework was finally finished it was nearly 7.30 and you had missed an hour of Cubs. As the Cubs meeting finished at 8 pm, I said you couldn’t go at all, thinking that missing something you enjoyed would be a good lesson to encourage you to get your homework done in future.
Well, it turns out that three activities counting towards the Scottish Challenge badge were done that evening at Cubs, and it all came home to roost tonight when you saw other boys get that badge and you didn’t. You cried bitter tears, you couldn’t keep them in, as we walked back to the car after the meeting broke up. You said it was my fault you didn’t get the badge because I had made you miss that Cubs meeting. I could tell you remembered that evening even more clearly than I did.
I tried to gently reason with you that if you’d done the work quicker you wouldn’t have missed the Cubs meeting. You said I had made you do extra sums as well as the homework, and perhaps I did to try to reinforce what you’d been getting wrong. I reminded you that you’d had a dreadful tantrum and refused to do the homework. You said, “Of course I had a tantrum, because you were hitting me.”
I did hit you. Smack you. I did lose my temper. Although it was after I spent a very long time and a lot of emotional energy trying to get you to do a few little sums on a worksheet. It was after you were in a full blown oppositional-defiant tantrum, and I had used up all my resources, not before.
I’m sorry I hit you, I’m sorry I lost my temper. Those things are my fault and I am to blame. I am responsible for my behaviour.
I’m sorry you are sad about the Scottish Challenge badge. But is it my fault you missed out on it? It was a consequence of a chain of events that began with you refusing to quickly do a little bit of maths homework. When will you be responsible for your choices?
But I feel awful and am crying as I type this.
I love you more than I love my own life and I always will.