Friday, March 2, 2012

And Then...You Make a Connection

Being a stepmom is not the easiest job, especially when your stepkids are older. My little bees cling to Marc like he's a superstar. At four and five years of age, they're so accepting of new people in their life, and since they spend so much time with Marc in our home, they've long since bonded with him.

The bigs have a different story. They are with their mother most of the time, and at nine and eleven, they have a much clearer memory of life with both of their parents together. They vividly remember the separation and divorce and have been slow to accept me as a part of their dad's life. Not only that, but they've also had to come to terms with two little brothers! These two literally buried their heads in their hands at the table when we told them we were engaged and refused to speak or discuss it for hours. No joke. We thought we were being punk'd!

Yes, they've come to accept it and generally be pretty happy with their lives since, but I often feel like I still have a long way to go before I'm really...well, wanted in the bigs' life. If you think the desire for popularity ends in high school, you've never been a stepparent!

On top of all this, my stepson has Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Let me put this into perspective - do you watch the show Parenthood? Adam and Kristina's son, Max, has Asperger's. You wouldn't think anything much upon meeting him other than noticing he's a little quirky, and reeaaallly likes to talk about Godzilla. Children with Asperger's are big on routine and familiarity. They do not like change. In schedule, in life, people coming in and out of their life, what's for breakfast, any of it. AND on top of that, he identifies with his mom more than anyone else in this world and truly does not like to be away from her.

Needless to say, I've got the cards stacked against me.

Carter has struggled in school a bit this school year as a result of all the change going on in his life, and we have yet to see great grades. When he has homework, Marc or I need to be close by to help him stay focused and on task, and if he doesn't like a subject or finds it difficult, he'll speed through it without concern for getting the correct answers. He can become frustrated or worn out quickly, so it's crucial to connect with him quickly and help him work through things while you've got your window of opportunity!

Last week he came home with no other homework besides studying for a couple of tests. His teachers send home study guides that they have filled out together in class so we know we have the correct answers to study. When I saw what he needed to do, I was reminded of his artwork and expressive nature and thought something visual would help. I asked if he knew what flashcards were. He said, "Sorta, but I've never used them." So, I got some construction paper, cut them into cards and told him to write the questions on one side and the answers on the back. He continued as we left to take Corrinne to gymnastics, and when he'd finished filling them out and reading through them a couple of times, I began to quiz him.

What was so great was that I didn't have to stay on him about finishing the task. Something in it clicked with him and he just got into a rhythm and finished. As we went through the cards, I separated them into piles of answers he knew and ones he needed to review. About halfway through he said, "Wait, you gotta admit. This is kinda fun."

I almost cried. I asked him, "Do you like the flashcards?"

He said, "Yeah!"

I had made a connection! A small one maybe, but a connection nonetheless. He was really proud to show his dad his flashcards when he got home, and wanted Marc to quiz him too. The following day, Carter aced that test!

Besides the fact that he despises Social Studies, I've never seen him bring home an A in anything. This is the most special refrigerator paper I've ever seen! I took him out to Braum's for ice cream that night to celebrate, and we studied for another test he had the next day. I told him ice cream was brain food. *grin.

As we sat and had our ice cream, we reviewed the information for the next day's test. Carter knew all the answers. He smiled and said enthusiastially, "I think you're right. This IS brain food!"

I may still be stepmom, but I think I've broken through to a new level, and that's cause to celebrate!

Love and Honey,


gina said...

That's so awesome, Missy! I've got two older stepdaughters and went through a similar trial, but it's all good now. It gets better and better with time! :)

Missy Rose said...

Thanks, Gina! It's so encouraging to know it gets better!

Erin said...

That's a really sweet post, Missy! You can tell him that I LIVED off flashcards through college. I wouldn't have passed ANYTHING without them.

Missy Rose said...

thanks erin! i will be sure to tell him!


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