"Do you have a minute for a quick chat?"
A seemingly innocuous question but my heart was instantly and uncomfortably in my mouth.
"Sure!" I smiled nervously and followed Luca's 3-year-old pre-school teacher into her office.
The last time she'd pulled me aside was to inform me that Luca had smacked a little girl in the face – and we didn't retreat to her office for that conversation.
Shit! What the hell had my kid done? Been caught making a bomb out of glue and tan bark?
No. What she actually wanted to see me about absolutely floored me.
"I just want to run the idea of Luca repeating 3-year-old kinder past you."
I was numb for most of the ensuing conversation but was able to express that my first instinct was to say no.
If Luca was taking his time settling in, there were a number of reasons;
- He started kinder two weeks into the third term.
- He'd come from a daycare situation that had unfortunately exposed him to bullying which had caused this once confident and sociable boy to retreat somewhat.
- We had just moved house.
The change and upheaval was taking it's toll on me, let alone my small son.
I knew he was a stubborn child – getting Luca to do something he didn't want to do was tricky – but I thought once he adjusted to the new routine, he'd be fine. What upset me was how he would reach nervously for me when we arrived at preschool, asking me not to leave – this was the kid who had started daycare when he was two and never given me a backward glance.
We agreed to reassess at the end of the year but I was sure down to my toes that by then Luca would be back to his old self.
I also understood that Bren and I had to look at our parenting and be honest about our role in Luca's current behaviour.
On reflection, it was clear that our house had descended into a much more 'shout-y' place than either of us liked to admit.
The stress of moving had taken its toll on us, too, and that extra level of exhaustion affected our patience (and therefore, parenting) in detrimental ways.
As I suspected, an adjustment at home, implementing a more calm approach to discipline saw an almost immediate change in Luca's behaviour.
Actually, the change was incredible in its immediacy.
By year's end, Luca's teacher marvelled at how far he had come in that final term.
I never doubted he would get there. I knew the behaviours he had been exhibiting (not listening or joining group activities and easily upset when told it was time to pack up) were not typical of him but a result of all the recent change and that it was a matter of time before he regained his mojo.
But I was verychallenged by the notion of having a 'difficult' child.
I looked, with envy, at the little girls in the class, particularly the precocious ones – advanced language, motivated by praise and the desire to get things right – the little girls that reminded me of….me.
I have read any number of times that boys mature more slowly than girls but I never really considered that this might apply to my son.
I thought he would breeze through, I thought he would be just like….me.
But he is something else. Something infinitely better. He is Luca, a normal boy with abnormally gorgeous eyes and all the promise in the world, if I only have the courage to sit back and let him discover it in his own time.
It’s amazing how things affect kids that they just can’t verbalise. So great that you could recognise what it was – and take the steps to make life better.
I’m glad you found a difference in him after a while of changing your interactions. Believe me, I have to focus on that a lot. It is so easy to get shouty when you just need to get things done and the kids are not cooperating.
But at the same time, don’t think that what was happening with him is because you did something wrong. I know that sounds like I’ve just contradicted myself. And I probably have but I’m going to push on regardless.
As you rightly pointed out, they are who they are. The temperament is inborn. We can shape and guide them but they do insist on doing things their way (and I know you, like me would want it no other way).
You’re wise to be focusing on the emotional maturity I think because that seems to have the biggest impact on how much they will enjoy the learning environment. It is amazing how much they grow and change in that short time between three and six. Lovely to watch too.
Hope all goes well with him this year.
Absolutely. They pick up on so much. Frightening, really!
I think what I came to realise was that all this change had been difficult for him to process and that meant he needed the safety and comfort of his parents more than ever….but we weren’t doing such a great job providing that.
Lesson: as a parent, you have to keep your human-ness in check. You can’t just fall apart. Sigh.
And I was very confronted by the idea that he might be significantly behind other children in his emotional maturity. Instinctively, I felt it was situational but I understood that the teacher couldn’t just take my word for it. As it turned out, there was no question that he was ready for 4yo kinder but I did struggle with the idea that, come the end of the year, that might not be the case.
I guess you just assume your kids will be ‘normal’ – but what the hell does that even mean? And how dangerous is our holding onto that notion in place of making the right decisions for the child we actually have as opposed to the one we thought we’d have?
Oh my, I’m still working on learning that lesson with my 9-year-old. He is so different than me in so many ways–not just in the boy-girl way. He learns differently (and in some ways better), he’s more sensitive, more shy, and does everything at his own pace. You name it–talking, walking, toilet training, reading, was done ON HIS TERMS. And once he masters something–he REALLY masters it. I figure by the time he’s 30 or so, I’ll get that through my thick skull :-).
The situation you were in, moving etc – it sounds like a completely normal response for a small boy, but not everybody would have the patience and insight that you possess.
With you as his mumma? Luca can only thrive. There’s no question of that. xxx
It’s funny, Victoria. Luca sounds similar to your boy in that even as a small baby, he sat back on things like crawling and walking until he knew he could do it. For instance, he never really ‘toddled’ – he started walking and almost as quickly, running. He likes to get it RIGHT. I’m seeing that now with him learning to write his name. He is such a perfectionist… which is just like me.
But shy? No, he has never been shy which was the thing that threw me most. Seeing him retreat socially was very upsetting and really worried me. I was ready to strangle the little bullies from daycare who had shaken his confidence so much.
Absolutely, the circumstances leading up to the behaviour change were obviously a huge factor. I could see that immediately but his teacher was only meeting him AFTER the changes so for all she knew, I was just being defensive about my son. Ultimately, I am grateful that she mentioned it (even though it was probably a premature call) because it gave me the wake-up I needed to give Luca that extra support he so desperately needed.
But I was verychallenged by the notion of having a ‘difficult’ child.
I cried at that Angel. Why? Because even though my beatiful third born is now exactly that – just beautiful – I live with the aftermath of having the difficult child. Once they are painted with that brush – it is hard to ever colour it with anything fresh.
Today I tried to get severla people to mind Jacob for me Saturday ngiht – no-one is prepared to. They still see him as the little boy he once was – the ‘difficult’ child. But he is so mcuh rmoe than that now, and in afct he always was. No-one ever saw the sweet, awesome little guy inside. Now he is that awesome little guy alomost all of the time – and it is a pleasure to be in his company – a true gift. But – he still can’t get a chance.
I was feeling pretty down about it this afternoon – until I went to pick him up from preschool. As I walked in – the teachers amde a fuss and told me to go check the noticeboard. There was a computer printout of a picture they had taken of him – as he shimmied up a tree! Hilarious. My son, had taken off his shoes and socks – and climbed halfway up a tree. Why? They had been talking about transport. They told the chldren when they were outside, they should look around at different ways you could mvoe from place to place, be it from one side to another or up and down etc. My son looks around, see’s a tree – and for him – that was one way you could go up. I love it. Thats my boy. And then when I was starting to feel my mood lift a bit – his teacher said to me “He’s really special – he is quite a characcter – I’m really enjoying getting to know him”.
And my heart soared. It sang, really.
You just want to reach right in and fix all you can for your bebe’s, but instead of standing over them – you have to stand right next to them all the way and help give them the tools they need to fix it for themselves.
Thats what you have done for Luca. Kudos Mumma Angel, Kudos. xxx
Oh, Ladybird, your littlest man IS a gift and made all the moreso because of what it took to get him where he is today. Kudos, you say? Well, Mumma Ladybird, you deserve the lion’s share of that.
And of course J-man went UP the tree. The only way is up! Such a character and a personality that you will delight in watching develop all through his life, I bet.
This gig is not easy but I seriously would not change a single hair on my kids’ heads. They are exactly as they should be and Lord give me the strength to be the kind of mother they deserve.
Amen to that my friend. xxx