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.