Bigger kids. Bigger problems. PDF Print E-mail
Written by OHmommy   
Thursday, 23 September 2010 00:00

My aunt told me that, years ago.  But it still haunts me today.


"Bigger kids.  Bigger problems."  she responded to my cries.  I had just found my three year old son with a lego piece that loosely resembled a gun, chasing our daschund around the house.  A gun!  Pointed at our dog!  Convinced that he was heading straight towards juvenile detention - I called my seasoned aunt, mother of three.  "He doesn't even watch TV."  I whimpered.  "Do you think it's the extra hormones in chicken?  Should we go organic?  What am I doing wrong?"


That's when she laughed at me and said, "Wait until he's older.  Bigger kids.  Bigger problems.


Jay as a three-year-old with me

(before I was introduced to self tanners, stilettos and a push-up bra).


Five years later and my eight-year-old son has no interest in playing with guns.  Instead I have bigger problems to tackle.


Yesterday morning, I began to read through all the amazing comments on my bullying post.  Absorbed in thought, I started to mentally beat myself up because the majority of you said approach the parent and stick up for your child.


"If I have to trudge through hell raising respectful humans, they have to first see me stand up for them." - Traci


I can not believe that I failed to see that.


Those eye opening comments couldn't have come at a more perfect time in my life. Because minutes after devouring them I got an email that made me cry more than I've cried in the last eight years of parenting.  It was the same type of email that I've gotten four weeks into the school year, every year, for the last three years.  I'm not sure I want to get into the details - not sure the story is mine to tell.  But as a mother who has read the same email in kindergarten, and first grade, and now second grade I wept until my back ached.  I don't remember the last time my body shook so much that I was physically unable to dial the phone.


I called my husband first.  I bawled.

I called a prestigious all boys school in Cleveland and cried like a baby to the admissions counselor, a complete stranger.

I skyped my mother on vacation and hiccuped through the story.

I emailed a girlfriend in academia and she called back a minute later.  I howled for thirty minutes.

My neighbor called to see if we were up for a hayride on Friday and I blew up in tears.

I tweeted "Considering turning off my phone because I'm afraid of crying if I speak to anyone else. So.Frustrated." 11:06 AM Sep 21st via web."


I was a complete wreck, ready to put our house up for sale and get a job at McDonalds to afford a school that could offer my son the attention he deserved.  My sweet sensitive first born son with a heart of gold, who loves animals and thinks of others first. He calls me "mousie mama" out of love.  (Insert me pathetically crying as I type this) Alone in my house I actually roared out loud at myself, "You dropped the ball!  You failed!  You screwed up your first born child!"  I refused to look in the mirror.  "You knew he was having trouble academically, but you trusted the teachers.  How many more emails, like this, do you need before you get it?"  I curled myself in the prenatal position on my bed and wept.  "The biggest mistake, was not listening to myself."


It was an epiphany of sorts.


I've gone far and beyond to do everything possible for him, at home.   Tutoring, reading, reading and tutoring until nightfall.  It was time for me to stand up for him, in school. Your comments, although out of context, were the backbone that I needed.  I gathered myself emotionally and emailed the school.  I WILL STAND UP FOR MY CHILD - even if the problem is tiny in the school district's eyes and doesn't gather enough attention for extra academic support.


Pretty sure that the principal thinks I am a suicidal mess now; but, my questions were not only answered - immediate actions were put into place.  It was awesome.  Hurray for adjectives!


Moral of the story?  Little kids with little problems turn into bigger kids with bigger problems - a mother always knows best.



If I was able to rewind (give me that pleasure), I would have told his kindergarten teacher that I was much more concerned.   I would have told his first grade teacher that I insisted he get extra support. Now that he's in the second grade I feel like... well, that I've failed him because I listened to the teachers that told me he was fine when my heart said he needed some more.


Regardless.  The school district will know who Pauline Karwowski is, this year.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 September 2010 08:21


# MissivesFromSuburbia 2010-09-22 23:17
Yes, FIGHT. My mother never fought for us. I will never forget that lesson. People can call me overbearing or a pain in the butt, but my kids will never feel like I didn't fight for them. My goal is to remember that they must also learn to fight for themselves someday, so I'll have to walk that line carefully when they're bigger. But that little guy of yours is still little, so he needs you. Way to go, Mama. You haven't dropped the ball. You're on it, and that's what matters.
# Carrie 2010-09-22 23:23
I have to do the same thing tomrrow night at Wyatt's 6th grade curriculum night. We're talking middle school here and boy oh freaking boy, it's so much harder w/him than it was for his brother. I'll keep you in mind when I approach the math teacher about my brilliant boy. Thank you...

after all, we're all they've got right now and we have to teach them how it's done.
# naomi 2010-09-23 00:03
Dearest Pauline ...

You are a beautiful mother who has not .... and never will fail her children. The best gift you can give them you said ... is to FIGHT, be honest with them and never admit defeat.

YOU are their role model ... the one they will (in secret sometimes, without you watching or knowing) look to as the example.

Fight hard, don't take no for an answer ... and do NOT be afraid to let them (even your sweet boy) see you cry.

My mother taught me that it was ok to cry as the mama ... and that it's healthy, natural, normal.

YOU are their advocate (all three of them) and that little boy .... who is rapidly turning into a young man ... will be better simply because he got YOU for a mama.

Carry on, my friend ... carry on!
# Elizabeth 2010-09-23 00:47
I told the school in Kinder and 1st that there was a problem. While they could, rapid fire, list my daughters challenges in the classroom, they would never acknowledge that there might be a greater issue. Fed up with their "she's fine, but..." approach and seeing that their method would be to let her struggle through school, I took her to outside testing. My baby girl has dyslexia and Inattentive ADD. With an official diagnosis, the school is more than willing to provide her with the extra support she needs and, so far, her grades and happiness are reflecting that.

I had to fight too...up until 2nd grade. There is a classy way to do it and I'm sure you will find your balance there.

I knew all along that there was an issue regardless of what the school said.
# Ashley 2010-09-23 06:39
I am 28 years old, mother of four, wife of a physician and my mom still fights for me when I can't stand up for myself. It's mother's love.

Good luck and God bless you and your family!
# Val 2010-09-23 07:40
I only know you from what I read on your blog...but it sounds like you are an OUTSTANDING mother. Don't beat yourself up! I believe you are a great role model to your kids...look at all you've been able to accomplish professionally while still being able to stay at home with your children. That amazes must make you a strong women, who I am sure will be able to stand up for her children. Good Luck! My thoughts are with you.
# Frannie 2010-09-23 07:46
My son's second grade teacher approached us to say that she thought our son would benefit from Title I (similar to IEP) tutoring in Reading/Spelling etc. but we had to ask for in order to get it.

At first I was horrified and indignant that she thought something was wrong with him but after taking a few deep breaths and thinking it can't possiblly hurt we went to the parent informational meeting and signed him up.

Pauline...7 years later (now) he's a Freshman and came home after his first day of school to tell me that he had been advanced to Honors Writing and History.

It's not too late, you haven't failed him, everything you're doing now will give Jay the skills and confidence to do it on his own.
# amy 2010-09-23 07:54
Could not have said it better. Thanks Naomi:-D

Quoting naomi:
Dearest Pauline ...

You are a beautiful mother who has not .... and never will fail her children. The best gift you can give them you said ... is to FIGHT, be honest with them and never admit defeat.

YOU are their role model ... the one they will (in secret sometimes, without you watching or knowing) look to as the example.

Fight hard, don't take no for an answer ... and do NOT be afraid to let them (even your sweet boy) see you cry.

My mother taught me that it was ok to cry as the mama ... and that it's healthy, natural, normal.

YOU are their advocate (all three of them) and that little boy .... who is rapidly turning into a young man ... will be better simply because he got YOU for a mama.

Carry on, my friend ... carry on!
# melissa 2010-09-23 07:56
i've been there. i'm still there.
and i've learned that, no matter what any teacher tells you, you go with your heart because it's connected to your child.
it'll be fine honey. it always ends up fine and they get the help they need. plus, you're there with your love and support.
# Jo-Lynne 2010-09-23 08:40
So um. Hi. I am in the SAME BOAT with my 2nd grade daughter. The teachers always say that it's okay, she's getting by, we'll keep an eye on things. So I went along with it, even though in my heart of hearts, I know she needs more. This year, her first-year teacher, fresh out of college, called me in the 3rd week of school to talk to me about what she's witnessing and put some plans into place. It's about time. I probably should have fought harder, but I didn't want to single her out, I hoped she'd outgrow it. I know better now.

I feel your pain, wanting to move mountains to send her to a better school, somewhere different, maybe one that uses an alternative method of teaching. But I have 3 kids. I can't afford that. And I can't justify giving one child a superior education because she struggles, and not the others b/c they're blessed enough to excel in any environment. So we keep plugging on. I'm blessed to have an excellent public school system. But I definitely need to get more involved. Best of luck to you.
# Rachel 2010-09-23 08:45
hell YES!
also.. Traci's comment: damn.
# Loukia 2010-09-23 08:53
Okay, P. So this post made *me* cry. You are a GREAT mother. You should be proud of yourself. You have not failed. You did the right thing. And he will be okay. HUGS. And yes... bigger children, bigger problems. It never goes away, does it?
# Kim 2010-09-23 08:53
The fact that you are seeing there is a "problem" now shows that you are a good parent (he still has a lot of years of schooling ahead of him)! We are taught to trust our teachers, doctors, religious figures, etc from a very early age. I think most of us take that into adulthood, and into parenting. Being a parent is a learning process, as you well know. Sounds to me as though you are learning some valuable lessons, and that my friend is good parenting! I have been following your blog for sometime, and you have written many posts that have inspired me to be a better Mother! Keep up the good work Mama! Your children seem very lucky to belong to such a caring family filled with rich experiences!
# Chanda Thomas 2010-09-23 09:07
You did the right thing. As a parent I absolutley dont play when it comes to my kids. They no who I am as soon as school starts. I always tell my kids its my battle not yours. No matter what I will handle it to ensure my kids a great school year. Doesnt matter to me if I have to go sit in on a class, Ive done it before. My kids are going to be treated with respect and are taught to treat others with respect. You stand up and go to bat for your baby. Dont feel bad for doing what you think is right for your son no matter what others think!!
# Flea 2010-09-23 09:11
Good. For. You. You are the loudest advocate your child will ever have.

My youngest has endured bullying, but he was homeschooled till he was 10. At ten we worked with him to stand up for himself. Talk to the right people. Stepped in when that failed. Younger? Mama or Dad steps in.

He also has an IEP. He struggled to read. Didn't read till he was nearly nine. He's 13 now and just this week received a letter from Duke University asking him to take the SAT in 7th grade because his reading scores are so high. I was involved with his school, his teacher. It makes a HUGE difference.

You're a fantastic mom, Pauline. Your kids are going to be dynamic forces to be reckoned with, regardless of what they choose to do. :)
# The Daily Stroll 2010-09-23 09:22
I can't say it any better than Naomi did :)

You are a wonderful mother Pauline! You have not failed. You are rising the bar and taking a stand for your son. That is the best gift you can ever give him!
# roo 2010-09-23 10:06
I *always* second guess myself as a mother. It doesn't mean that I'm a failure. And neither are you. You're a good mother who loves her children and IS doing what's right for them. Don't beat yourself up. ((hugs))
# clevelandsaplum 2010-09-23 10:34
i'm proud of you!!!! you started out upset and ended ready to fight - do it.

# Momma Goose 2010-09-23 11:54
BRA-VO!!!!!!! Congratulations on standing up for your son when he wasn't able to stand up for himself. And thank you for writing this post, as I'm sure it will inspire many of your readers (myself included) to follow our guts, even when the "teachers" are telling us otherwise. You didn't fail your son. You were there for him all along. He's a lucky boy.
# PW 2010-09-23 12:21
Yay!!! that's the Spirit!!
we need to fight for our children!! They are the future!! And they need to know we will always be there for them.
Love your blog! :lol:
# Weekend Cowgirl 2010-09-23 12:55
It looks like you have lots of good input. Your son will grow up to be a wonderful young man because you will give him the support and love he needs and you will work with the school and teachers to make sure he is successful. I promise that when he is 21 you will look back and be so proud of both of you...
# Amber Hopkins 2010-09-23 14:34
Okay, I have to speak as a first grade teacher. I have no idea what the problem is either, so this could be WAY off base. guess is that maybe they thought he WOULD get better. Most teachers, especially k-3, have pretty big hearts, and do try their best, they are not out to not help your kid. I have had plenty of kids come in to my class, "low," and they leave close to grade level, if not solidly on grade level. It all depends on when they are developmentally ready to learn-and all kids are different. I have found that there is such a difference between kids who have home support, and kids who don't-so it is great that he is getting such help at home.

Also, if he is getting tested for an IEP, usually we don't test until they are a little older, so they definitely meet criteria to get an IEP. If he was tested in kindergarten, he may not have been "low enough" to be tested in and get extra support in school. And law states that they can only be tested every 3 years. So, if he was to be tested in 1st, he wouldn't qualify to be tested again until 4th. The good news is that, if it is an IEP, it is really not the worst thing in the world! PLENTY of kids have them, for different reasons, including just speech. Email me if you want more specifics. I teach an inclusion class, and I know how difficult it can be. Hope the problem gets resolved...
# Pauline 2010-09-23 15:19
Hi Amber -

That's exactly what happened. Both the teachers and I thought it would get better. The teachers have always been helpful - our school district is beyond amazing. I just feel like I should have intervened sooner. I'm not bashing the teachers by any means (I was a former teacher) I mainly angry with myself.
# The Divas Thoughts 2010-09-23 14:35
Good for you!!!!
# alissa 2010-09-23 15:37
My mom always stood up for me. At times it was annoying. I just wanted to disappear, to not have the mom who puts in the extra effort to call the school, the coach, the consoler. But now looking back, if it wasn't for her in my court, I think things would have ended badly. She's a wonderful mother, who still has my back today.

I'm sorry to read about your week. As a new mom of 2 boys, one 18 months, the other 2 months, I can only imagine how draining times let these can be on us emotionally.

He's in 2nd grade and has a mom who will make a difference in his life...that's not letting him down, it's lifting him up.
# Elaine 2010-09-23 16:26
I think you did what you thought was right at the time and gave it a good "go" to see if it would get better. I KNOW you have his best interests as heart (OBVIOUSLY!!!) and now that you've seen that it's not getting better without extra help, you can move on to the next step and you'll both be just fine. :) hugs friend...
# Issa 2010-09-23 16:39
Good for you darling. If we don't stand up for them, who will. Huge hugs honey. I'm sorry that your son is having a bit of a hard time. I hope you can get everything working better soon.

My school counselor in elementary school despised my mother. She would show up with crazy eyes and yell at the woman. That woman was mean to my brother. Told my parents he was lazy and just too dumb to learn to read and write. I'd get so embarrassed. OMG my mother...crazy eyes, the horror.

Now? I'm just like her. Mess with my babies and you mess with me. I always stand up for my kids when they need it. And? I stand up for the teachers when my kids were in the wrong.
# GreenInOC 2010-09-23 17:12
They won't know Pauline Karwowski.

They've been introduced to and won't soon forget, Pauline Mama Lion Karwowski.
# tara 2010-09-23 17:58
I stood up to the stepmother of my kids this week. It felt good.
# J 2010-09-23 18:29
Oh Pauline, even though I don't know you, I do know from reading your blog that you have a heart of gold and your kids are your life. You're a wonderful mother and role model. It's not too late to get your son the help that he needs. I'm glad you stood up for him b/c afterall, we are the advocates for our children when they can't speak for themselves. So hurray to you and hope that he has a great year in school!!!
# Lucia P. 2010-09-23 18:30
Hi Pauline:

NOTHING is worse than kid problems. Nothing nothing nothing.

I totally feel your pain. Clearly, I don't know exactly what's going on or anything about your public school.

But I would say that yes, why not investigate the private school option? Take a look, have a visiting day at a few (or one). And just sit with it for awhile.

I am not saying that private school is a cure-all or "always better" choice by a long shot. But I would seriously, in this case, take a look and see what you and he (and your H) feel about what you find out.

Just saying..

Take care,


PS. full disclosure: my kids were in private school/are in private school. For us it was the right fit.
# Chrissy 2010-09-23 19:00
Thanks for sharing this, Pauline. I know there is something different with how my daughter - now in 2nd grade - learns. But I too have listened to the teachers who have said it's okay, nothing to worry about. She just needs some extra help. Given that I was struggling with our younger son who battles autism, I was happy to accept their words. But I think I will be be getting the same e-mail any week now ... and thanks to this post, I'll also fight for more services, evaluation and finding out what is really going on. Thanks for this post ... seriously.
# Kim Swales 2010-09-23 19:25
Hi Pauline,

I did not comment on the bullying post even though I read it. I wanted to see what other Moms thought. I knew what I thought but I ma kind of opinionated and thought I would hold mine for a while. But ...I will say...YOU are the only advocate for your child in school and really in life right now. I agree with whoever said...if you don't do it will they learn to do it. So,...heck go to that school and you get what you need for you child.


P.S. I have a 13 ad 1/2 year old...just imagine the issues NOW! In fact, we dealt with a BIG one today too.
# Jolyn@Budgets 2010-09-23 20:24
Yes! So proud of you, you are amazing. Unfortunately, our first-borns are our guinea pigs. I often say, "Well, you don't have to hit me on the head twice." But truth is, my oldest has some bruises from my having to learn things the hard way. :( We will prevail! And so will Jay! You go, momma bear!
# muskrat 2010-09-23 22:16
I find that a pumpkin with a butcher knife through it and a note that says: "YOU" gets the message across well.
# Chris 2010-09-23 22:36
Your post gave me chills! My kids are in 2nd grade too so your story really hit home. I am proud of you! You are a great mom!
# Nadine 2010-09-23 22:45
My heart crumbled for you when I read your post. Before I go any deeper-- you look awesome now [and, I now have a perfect new little black dress,because of you] and you looked awesome pre-stilletos and self tanners. Okay, this part of parenting is absolutely terrifying, draining, and, at times, worse than horrid. I've battled with educators and doctors. I've been labeled and talked about. I have cried. The worst part is, I have guilt for not doing better, sooner, more that stays under my skin and feel like when I let up and breathe for a moment -- I get whammed on the head. Point being -- you are an awesome mom and will be a wonderful advocate. If you need a hand, a crutch, a helper, a listener... get it for yourself. Sometimes the guilt, pain, love, tears, and hopes collide and confuse. When in doubt -- be bamboo! strong, but supple, hard, but soft. Then it won't break you. If you don't get that -- watch Mulan.
# Mama Bird Diaries 2010-09-24 06:29
So proud of you. You are an AMAZING mother. And I adore that photo.
# Amy Turn Sharp 2010-09-24 06:55
wonderful!!!! You go and go and go!
# Vicky 2010-09-24 12:22
I have never, ever written anything on a blog before. I have silently followed you for the past year and just when I would think no other mother could possibly be experiencing my emotions, you'd come through with a validation. This post could not have been more timely.
My son is starting 5th grade and after 2 years of not being 100% comfortable with "let's meet again next quarter and see where we stand", and tired of pushing the poor kid to do homework that resulted in tears (for elementary school none-the-less!!), I have decided this year to no longer ignore my maternal instinct and be the advocate my son needs. He is my DNA and heart. Thank you for the post!
# Lisa 2010-09-24 14:17
This Mama stuff is hard, huh? But good for you for going with your gut! Most importantly, your school district, teachers & staff will know who Jay is this year, and how he learns best. With all of you in his corner, rooting for him & cheering for him, you know he will succeed!
# LemonDrop 2010-09-24 14:58
My oldest is in 2nd grade this year too. We have been battling behavior issues since preschool. Luckily, it doesn't seem to have affected her academically so far. I have been to the school, talked with her teachers, talked to the administration, had her tested by the district and independently. I worry sometimes that I am not doing enough. As my son enters preschool this year, I hope that he does not have the same issues. Good luck on your new path and I hope your son gets the help he needs.
# Kristy 2010-09-24 15:02
I don't know you, but I am so proud of you. I know it's hard to stand up and fight. But you did it!
# Jennifer Arnott 2010-09-24 15:29
Your post is haunting 1st grade daughter just came off the bus. A 2nd grade boy has been bothering her since school started. Today he used the word C**T with her. I am beyond furious! I think I was 25 before I ever heard that word. I am waiting to receive my return phone call from the principal.

The bigger the kid, the bigger the problem...I completely agree!
# tracey 2010-09-24 16:41
4 weeks was always the marker for Justin, too. You did NOT drop the ball. You were letting it bounce around, and trying to see where it might go. Now that you have bounced it for a while, you see what needs to be done. He's only in SECOND grade,not high school or college. There are many years for you guys to work with him.

But please remember that (IMHO) not all kids are meant to excel at the same ages. Some kids are long distance runners. Some are sprinters. If they get to the same spot, it really doesn't matter how they got there, does it? It's the race that was run, and how much effort was put into it.

I know that your son is pretty amazing. Chin up and stand proud for intervening in 2nd grade instead of 6th or 7th...
# Jaina 2010-09-24 16:43
What matters is that you are fighting NOW. That is what he will remember. ::hugs::
# soccermommyof3 2010-09-24 20:17
Sounds like one tough week. Be strong!
# Karen MEG 2010-09-25 17:49
Don't beat yourself up, Mamabear, you are so ON it! As Moms we're all works in progress - I look back at how I could have, should have done things a bit differently for certain matters with the school even last year, for my boy.
But seeing him so far this year with a new teacher, he's impressing me with how he's handling school and life in general.
Things happen for a reason, and timing for a reason. So I suspect your timing is just right.
# Their2Dads 2010-09-27 13:41
Hello, Classy :)

It's been too long! I'm glad to see you are still out there, keepin' us all on our toes!

Listen, there's always "shoulda', coulda', woulda'" out there. From a "teacher" perspective, the most important thing you can do for your kids is to #1 - love them, and #2 - communicate with them. Bullying is scary, for kids and for parents. But when you learn how to handle bullies, you take the "power" away from the bullies. It's hard, but I have absolutely no doubt that you are doing a phenomenal job with your kiddos! Keep up the great work.

Oh, and when the kids are in bed, safe and sound, have a glass of wine :)

# Sherry 2010-09-27 14:13
Having kiddos in 5th, 8th, and 11th grade, I'm going to tell you that you never quit fighting for them. Even if it's private school. They always need you to watch their back on something. The older they get, the more fighting you'll do.

I don't know what you are dealing with, but to reassure you that things can always change...
Our 11th grader started out shy, quiet, and she's blossomed into confident, talkative, and a very cool kid.

Our 8th grader once had a teacher who wanted to label him dyslexic. He did speech therapy for 3 years, and had English and Math tutors. He's now an extremely popular, straight A's, stud muffin.

You can do it!!!!

(sorry...accidentally posted this on yesterday's comments..i'm so far behind.)
# Lucia P. 2010-09-27 16:55
I agree wholeheartedly with Sherry. It never stops and that's not bad (and to be expected). Also I might add, when everything is smooth with one child, something goes haywire in another child's life.

And yup to the private school thing too-you'll have to advocate for things there too.


Random Posts

Climbing Mt. Everest seems like a more obtainable goal.
EDITED: I'm not crazy people.  Apparent...
Lost her battle with cancer, early this ...
St. Whipped Husband
My husband is nothing short of a saint.H...
Stilettos 101
Lola has enrolled in OHmommy's "Stiletto...
I'm Speaking at BlogHer '12 I'm Speaking at BlogHer '09
I'm speaking


Pauline Karwowski.

Is a self proclaimed globe trotting, minivan driving, SAHM stiletto ho.

Happily married mother to 3 Cleveland natives: Jay the son, Lola the daughter, and Fifi the banshee.

Now in Chicago, IL.

The content on this blog is the opinion of the blogger.


Email Subscription

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

CrocStyle Insider