No news is good news. That's what I've been thinking.
Luca's kinder teacher hadn't pulled me aside for "a quick word" which is why I thought he was on track to start school next year.
Last year, Luca had started 3-year-old kinder half way into the year and took a little while to find his feet. I remember so well the sinking feeling as his lovely teacher took me into her office to discuss his progress and the merits of him repeating the year. I was confident that he would adjust before the year was out. And, bless his sweet heart, he did just that.
An awful déjà vu, that sinking feeling flooded through me once again today as the same sweet teacher described my eldest son as being a little lost at the moment. Unsettled. Gravitating towards the adults in the room. Pushing other children. Today he'd pushed another little boy, a boy that he likes and whose mother I adore, off the fort in the playground.
My heart was in my mouth.
She noted that the change in behaviour had begun around the time of Harlow's arrival. She also reassured me that we had a whole six months left of the year to make the decision, and that ultimately it would be my call, but that there might be the question of Luca repeating 4-year-old kinder if he still doesn't seem ready by year's end.
My honest reaction: gutted.
I have friends who have struggled with this same question. I encouraged their decision to repeat their child. Sending a kid to school before they are ready can have far reaching consequences for the rest of their schooling. I could see how it was an emotional decision but also fairly clear-cut.
But now that it's me? My child? Emotional decision is an understatement. And absolutely nothing about that decision is clear-cut.
If he doesn't repeat, will he be left behind? But if he does repeat, won't being with younger children cause him to regress even further?
Each question invited another.
That the behaviour began to change at around the time of Harlow's birth is no real surprise. Bringing a new baby into the home always creates some upheaval as everyone readjusts to the new normal. Bren and I had thought the transition was going quite smoothly. We were aware of the need to give Luca and Ziggy extra attention, to not make everything about Harlow.
I'm disappointed to have missed signs that all was not well.
It's hard not to think that I've been so caught up in the dream come true of my daughter that I've completely neglected to notice my son was flailing.
In truth, I am feeling panicked. Overwhelmed. Not because I don't think my son can get to where he needs to be. No, my faith in him and his abilities remains as strong as ever.
But me? As his mother, the one who is supposed to advocate for and guide him? Yep, it's her I worry will drop the ball.
I wrote this post a few weeks back, on the day I had 'the chat' – I was a little raw, huh?
I held off publishing it because Luca was having a birthday and I felt like I wanted to just celebrate him, not focus on any negatives.
The hardest thing for me to get my head around was that Luca's issues weren't related to any kind of delay. He is outgoing, his speech is excellent. But as can be typical with little boys, his teacher felt maybe his maturity might be an issue once he hit school.
If there was a concrete area he was behind in, we could focus on that and help him catch up. But how do you teach a five-year-old maturity?
Well, somehow, Bren and I are doing it.
And the key? Adjusting our behaviour first. We set the tone in this family and even though we thought we were managing well, when we looked more closely, it was obvious that exhaustion was colouring our parenting more than it should.
This story is so similar to last time, it's frightening. I guess life will be a series of falling off the good parenting wagon and then scrambling back on again.
The point is, we're back on for now and it's getting results. Approaching everything calmly has helped Luca to do the same. We are encouraging the behaviour we love and he is rising to that encouragement. We have let go the reins and in doing so, Luca is revelling in a new sense of independence. When we give him enough space to grow up, he does just that. I see now how we can baby him – things he should do for himself we have done because it's easier/faster/less messy. And in growing accustomed to this, he lost faith in his own ability to do things. Attempts to do it 'his way' were misread as defiance and then the kid was in trouble.
Oh, man. We've been making some mistakes around here.
But we are aware now.
An added blessing has been him turning five in the last week. Although one doesn't literally 'grow up' when they have a birthday, Luca doesn't know that and so attributes some of the new behaviour to being a whole year older. God love him, he is so proud and we are feeding that for all we are worth.
The biggest lesson for me has been that I must have more faith in my children – to step back and give them more room. When I stopped trying to control everything, Luca began learning exactly what he was capable of. And it's a beautiful thing to watch his confidence grow.
I think the hardest hurdle for us to overcome as parents is thinking “Okay, we’re good now” and then something else pops up and smacks us in the gob and we feel so unprepared.
I’m learning that so far as education is concerned, we’re never really done. You just watch and listen and adjust as you go along.
I’ve got a post sitting in drafts that I haven’t put up yet. Eerily what happened to us is kind of in the reverse order. Will let you know when it’s there to read.
babe, you and Bren ARE good parents – more than good parents because when shown the signs you take action, you care and you love.
Thank you for sharing – your honesty is something that I treasure. And tonight gave me a little teary eye, I got some work to do on the good parenting front and your post just gave me a solid wake up slap in the face!
Thank you, dear friend. You are an absolute gem of a woman.
We ALL have work to do. Like Mel said above, it’s a constant learning curve.
It’s a hard job and some days, the best we can do is just survive. But we can’t simply rest on that either, can we?
I don’t know. These lessons are tough but like my son, I think I am managing to rise to the challenge.
I just wish it didn’t require that solid slap each time! Holy shit, that hurts…
Yes! One can never take a self-satisfied breather.
Parenting is like no other challenge I have ever encountered. And when a problem rears its head, I am always afraid I am not equal to the task of solving it.
What made me think I’d be any good at this gig? Sure, I have my moments but this is heavy stuff.
Can’t wait to read your piece.
I think you are way too hard on yourself, love. You and Bren are excellent at this gig – you take action when it needs to be taken. You are tuned in to your little one’s needs, and nurture that. I’m glad that Luca is already responding to the positive changes you’ve made. He’ll be fine!
I can so relate on the control thing. Man, I am so guilty of that here – doing stuff for them because it’s easier/quicker/less messy. Yes, yes and yes (especially with P). It’s going to come and bite me on the bum, isn’t it? Sigh…
I’m more proud of you than I can say. Your beautiful big boy will flourish in the love and guidance he gets from you both. xx
Love your honesty. We make parenting mistakes almost everyday. When I’m thinking more balanced (read: medicated!) I’m ok with that because yes we make mistakes but we also discuss how we can do better and change things. Parenting fail would be making mistakes and not really giving a toss.! When I’m no doing well in myself each mistake is indeed another nail in the coffin of our parental disasters that cannot be undone! Parenting is bloody hard work and we too find ourselves constantly needing to evaluate why we do things and would it work better if we tried a different way? I don’t think that is a reflection on our, or your, parenting. But rather the reality that we raising children, real live little buggers that are unique and intricate with growing needs and needs that change, often. I think that from now until sweet forever we will be changing our parenting to suit our children. And that makes us bloody awesome mum’s Ange and you should be proud of yourself! Hope each knew day brings new joy for Luca and reassurance for you.