"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.