Thursday, March 12, 2009


Until I read some anecdotes about history and treatment today, I don't think it had quite sunk in how many anxiety symptoms I showed as a child. I just thought of myself as quick, a little eccentric, a little nervous. My mother got billed every year for the textbooks I ruined by ripping off pieces of paper to chew. No, not the corners, the whole bottom margin, then the side, and by the end of the year, the top. And I knew she couldn't afford it and hated myself for it. I chewed all pencils and pens, regularly getting mouth slivers, or ink squirts in my mouth. I got kept in for tapping. And rocking. Unraveled my sweaters. Bit my nails. Factored numbers in my head endlessly. Ate my erasers and rulers (you had to be careful around the metal edges though).

It is true I was arrogant and lazy at school, and those may have been the primary factors in my just getting by at all levels of school, despite my IQ. But I am increasingly amazed that I got through at all. My strongest memory of school every year was of enduring sitting still, getting through to the bell.

Had I known there was a "reason," a "condition" that made me that way, I don't know whether it would have helped. I suspect I would have used it as an excuse.


bellisaurius said...

Funny how some of these maladaptive school behaviors transform to more useful things as life goes on.

That said, I think the point of having a reason, or a condition is more for the people around you coping, and which strategies they should use, as opposed to how you'll use it (ie as a rationalization for behavior you were going to do anyway). Your mom's may have been something along the lines of "that's how kids are, always bouncing around and doing stuff. It's normal, and he'll grow out of it."

Another approach could have been, "This behavior isn't the best one for him right now. Hypothesizing that nervousness is the cause, I will take efforts to make him feel him feel calmer, and see if it adjusts the book chewing." It should work similarly for teachers.

terri said...

That said, I think the point of having a reason, or a condition is more for the people around you coping, and which strategies they should use, as opposed to how you'll use it


I appreciate your comment and have been thinking about it since I read it.

I think you are definitely right. My oldest son, while being very kind and sympathetic to others, can tend to be overly argumentative and negative. A born pessimist. After trying to help him work through these for a very long time, I have finally accepted that to a certain extent these are some of his unchangeable personality traits.

It doesn't change anything, but it does help me cope and be patient with him when I am about to lose my cool.

We mothers need these kinds of reassurances. they keep us sane! :-)

Boethius said...

As a teacher, I always feel badly for the student who does not fit the traditional form of education. After all, in a hunter/gatherer society, one would want the boy who could not sit still for he would be collecting the most necessary items for living (ie wood, ect.). Then again, since hunting requires patience and stillness, he may not have the most food to feed me. As the adults in that child's life, we need to guide and direct them to those things they will excel in regardless of their eccentricities.

I, therefore, never let the student use it as an excuse....they can take breaks but they have to get the job done!

Anonymous said...

LOL! I hated how pencils felt after I had chewed on them, but I wouldn't stop. Especially interesting were the patterns my crooked teeth made.
I also liked to manipulate things inside my mouth, even pins. Once I swallowed a pin by accident and told my teacher because I was worried about its sharpness. In the office, the principal, teacher, and my mother kept asking me, "Did you swallow a pin?" and I kept answering "I didn't want to, but I did." Then they would ask me again and I would answer again. I didn't know why they couldn't understand me. And I really wanted them to know that I didn't do it on purpose.

I remember my mother looking at my brother's report cards and tossing them aside saying, "They're BOYS; what does she expect?"

I'm so glad I homeschooled my boys, especially the one with asperger's, as he could learn while bouncing on his head and not getting into trouble for it.
He went to college at fifteen and did fine.

Anonymous said...

Once I realized (in my forties) just how bizarre a child I had been, I asked my mother how she had put up with me and she said that whenever she got frustrated, she would tell herself that I was demonstrating a character trait that I would likely need as an adult.
I don't know how that helped.

Larry Sheldon said...

I don't think there is any question but what if I had been born 25 years or so later I would have been doped up on Ritalin in Kindergarten and would have ridden the little bus to school all of my school years.

As it was I was "sent to work in the garden" a lot.

I was sent to an out-of-area school (under the same Principal (who told my Mother she dressed me funny -- apparently because she made our clothes--could not afford store-bought) for a rear, but I have virtually no memory of the interior of that building and no recall, at all of the teacher.

I can recall fine details of lots of other stuff from the period.

Love it. Captcha = Canon (Subday is Vestry meeting.)