Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Scared School-less

As adults, many of us don't deal well with change, whereas children are known to be flexible and more adaptable. But when your child bucks change and seems to be diving head first into frustration and despair, you can literally feel your heart break.

I had the idea to help Liam transition into Pre-K by participating in a day camp program held at the same school he will be attending in September. It boasts fabulous, fun-filled days with two field trips each week. I envisioned him meeting new friends, discovering new places, becoming used to the new commute and getting to the know the teachers and school staff—then skipping off to his first day of Pre-K filled with confidence and happiness.

Well… it was messy… a bit of an adjustment….. OK OK, it was an EPIC FAIL.

Because I can't help myself and feel the need to be positive, I will say that yes, he did get used to the new commute and stopped the seemingly endless cycle of dragging his feet down the sidewalk, then running wildly into traffic. But every other moment was flat-out misery.

Evenings were filled with tears, anger, talking back and total anxiety—I don't want to go to camp. He would wake up during the night because something on a field trip to the seemingly harmless Children's Museum of Manhattan terrified him—I don't want to go on field trips any more. Then most mornings it would be a resigned acceptance that he was going back to camp, except on the days that I pulled out the field trip camp shirt—screams echoed through the building as we tried our best to reassure him the indoor jungle gym they were going to wouldn't be frightening.

Many times I spoke with the teachers—how is he doing? Is he meeting people? Is he having good days?
I heard: He is a smart boy. He is starting to understand the rules. He is very, very loud. He plays well alongside the other kids. He has had some time outs….
What I didn't hear: He is making friends. He is happy.

As a parent, we all think our child is amazing and I know that while I love my kid, not everyone else in the world feels the same way (although they should, ha!) It's just that this summer I felt like Liam was changing, for the worse and no one at camp seemed to notice. To me, it looked like they saw an oversensitive, sometimes hyper, possibly even difficult little boy. Whereas from my (very one-sided) mommy-point-of-view, I was seeing that he lost his confidence, he lost his stride, he lost his joy.
I started to get really upset about it. I contributed to my son's unhappiness… How could I do this?

Camp finally ended for the summer and he is back at daycare full-time until school starts. He is happy to have the break from camp, but now every day is filled with: No Pre-K. I don't want Pre-K. I'm not going to Pre-K. 

I have been feeling very unsure how to handle it (and quite frankly a little lost and overwhelmed) but the other day I had a good, productive conversation with his provider where I finally started to understand why he was so miserable.

The things that make Liam so wonderful are his creativity, his imagination and his free spirit—sometimes these attributes are not exactly classroom-material. I know the teachers this summer had a plan to help get these children ready for school—a plan that included learning to follow rules, something my little eccentric has never been good at.

As a mom who loves her boy, I yearn for him to live in a world of his choosing, where he doesn't have to conform structure if he finds that uncomfortable, but as an adult I know that following the rules is part of life. As much as I wish I could act on every creative whim, I need to go to work or make dinner or clean the bathroom. But, I am just not ready for him to feel like that. I don't want to see his openness and originality compromised. And I am afraid he will lose that slightly-fragile, slightly-flawed artist nature that makes him so special.

School is just a few weeks away… Any advice on how to reinforce that school comes with rules while celebrating and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking?

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