Monday, September 24, 2012

Heavy heart

I'm at a place as a parent where I don't know what to do. Again. It's a bit of a familiar place. Where we live, this is the first year that kindergarten has been changed to all day/every day. That means 5 days/week from basically 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 7 hour days for 5 year olds. I can't speak for all 5 year olds but my 5 year old is not ready for that. Neither is the boy who works himself up so much when his dad drops him off every morning that he pukes. every morning. The school bell rings to start the school day, the kids line up on the playground and he's puking. This morning the teacher opened the door to puke at the kid's feet and said, "Again?!?"

My kid's not puking but he is sobbing every morning when I walk him to his classroom.

"Why are you so sad?" I ask him.
"I just miss you." he sobs.

And this isn't even kindergarten. This is Young Fives. Which is still all day/every day. However, we have him enrolled all day MWF rather than all five days. I have felt very strongly that my son is not ready for 7 hours of school 5 days a week. He is 5. And I know that there are many kids who have been in daycare and preschool those hours 5 days a week and that this change is wonderful for those parents working full time who don't have to pay for daycare now. But that is not my son. I am so grateful that I can be home with my kids and can choose my own hours with our counseling practice to see clients in the evening when my husband is home. That is important to me and it works for our family. He started preschool at age 2 but he's always been more comfortable and outgoing with adults than kids his own age. Last year was the first time he made a couple friends at preschool and we'd have playdates apart from preschool. He was invited to birthday parties for the first time. And at church, he had a couple friends he would play with.

But adjusting to 3 full days of school has been very sad for my son. We are just starting our 4th week now. The first week went really well. He was excited. He really likes his teacher. The second week, the honeymoon is over. Tiredness is hitting him and the reality of it all is sinking in. "How much longer do I have to go to school, Mommy?" he sobs at drop off. And yet, he doesn't fight it. He's not throwing a tantrum or begging me to take him home. We call it a brave sadness... tears are rolling down his face but he still lines up with the other kids in his class. He's crying but he's still waving goodbye and blowing me kisses.

This has continued for the last couple weeks. One morning we talk about how he has to get through this school if he wants to go to firefighting school. That helped. But still tears goodbye. Another morning, before school we made a get well card for a girl in his class who got hurt and was in the hospital. He really enjoyed this and it brightened his spirits. Come to find out, this girl (Olivia who takes the #11 bus) is an imaginary friend. He had those when he started preschool as well. And still tears goodbye. And I'm ok with the tears. I don't need him to stop crying. If he is sad, I want him to express himself. I'm not crazy about his teacher's way of dealing with it... telling him to stop crying, he's a big boy now, he's 5 years old now. I cringe at her dismissing his feelings and worry what it will do to his heart to be told to stop crying. It goes against everything within my psychologically-trained mind. However, I can see it from her point of view. She's got ten other students (one of them puking). She's got her hands full. But it would only take a second for her to give him a hug. Tell him I'm sorry you're sad. Mom will be back to pick you up this afternoon. Let's go have a fun day...

Another day, my son came home telling me that his teacher told him that if he doesn't cry the next day she has a surprise for him. Well, my son was so excited because he was certain the surprise was a puppy. I give the teacher kuddos for trying but I had mixed feelings about this. If he doesn't cry, he's going to be disappointed the surprise isn't a puppy. And if he does cry, well, he will be upset he didn't get the surprise. It's a bit of a set up. Plus, it's not really getting at the heart of what's going on. Sure it may nip the behavior (for a time) but it can't lead to lasting change (in a positive way) without dealing with what's really going on.

But this morning, for the first time, we got at what's really going on. This morning he was able to tell me that he's sad because he doesn't have any friends to play with. This breaks my heart. I might be a little biased as his mother when I say that my son is likable and fun and funny. And he is usually very outgoing and social (more so than I am). But what if he doesn't have a chance at making a friend because of him only going MWF? What if it's not going to get better with time without him going either one more day or all five days?

Talking with his teacher this morning, she suggesting I drop him off on the playground rather than walk him to the classroom. That way the kids will interact with him more. She said the kids don't know him and he's a bit alienated due to that. Painful things to hear. But I'm glad to know what's really going on so we can deal with this.

We've talked about God being with him all day when Mommy can't be with him. And I've been intentional about praying over him before school. The other day I asked him who is with him all day at school and he said, "The one who has his hand on the top of my head. He is God." But I would be a negligent parent if I am only praying. I also need to be preparing him. My son is struggling to know how to make a friend. So this morning on the way to school we prayed that God would help him make a friend and be a friend so he's not so sad at school. And then we talked about tangible things he can do... pick one classmate today and find out what they had for breakfast and tell him what you had. Or remember how much you were laughing this morning when your sister was trying to put on your underwear and then we drove to school and you thought it was hilarious that we saw two dogs wearing sweaters? Pick a classmate and tell him about those two things...

Until we figure out whether we're gonna have to add more days or not, we'll be helping him with suggestions like this on the way to school.

Praying for wisdom as to know how to proceed from here...

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