Photo: Minor’s work today. Two puzzles, all by himself. I wasn’t even in the room! He was just like, “I want to do the small puzzles” and then, boom. Done. No help from his brother (he was at school) and not even a question for me. I don’t worry about the brain power that my boys have… but all of the social stuff? I worry all the time…
I am having some second about the boys’ preschool and I am starting to feel a little anxious about kindergarten. We’re committed for next year, and we chose this school, and we aren’t new to it, but still… I am feeling a little bit anxious. Some of it is ridiculous but… some of it? I dunno…
I was sitting in the waiting area with two other moms, Minor and his classmates. This is called the “layover” time when the younger siblings in the toddler class hang out for a half-hour while the big siblings in the preschool classes wrap up their day. We were reading books to the children and talking in between. Small stuff, you know?
And then one of Minor’s classmates, a little boy, started going into the cubbies and ripping down some of the personal pictures inside of them. His mother quickly grabbed him and told him to stop. A minute later, he was back at it, successfully ripping a picture. She sat him down and told him not to do it again. She settled back into a book that she was reading with another child. Her son then came up to her and, with the full force of his muster, began to hit his mother in the arm. Not once. Not twice. But five times. You could hear the impact. He was doing it in anger and with intent. And each time she said, “stop that. Do you need to have some time to yourself?”
It was after the 6th strike that she put down the child she was reading to, picked up her child and took him to a quiet area, where she talked to him and then brought him back to the group.
Mind you, Minor watched the whole thing.
And when I knelt down in front of him to put on his coat and zip it up, he chose to test the waters. He kicked me. Not in anger, but with intent.
“Did you just kick me?” I asked with an edge of anger.
“Yes,” he answered sheepishly.
“Have you lost your mind?”
“Yes,” he answered again.
Don’t even think about it, little boy.
But that wasn’t the end of the day for me. Because Major brought some stuff home, too.
That evening, I put a plate of beautiful fish po’ boys on the table for dinner. Gorgeous things. Seriously. And I called the boys for dinner. “I made special fish sandwiches for dinner! Don’t they look yummy?”
Major took three steps forward, looked at the plate, scowled, crossed his arms, and then went storming back. “I don’t want that! I don’t want that for dinner! That looks yucky!”
Uh huh. Ok. “Well, you don’t know that it’s yucky because you haven’t tried it yet, baby. Please come to the table and try it. That’s all–”
“NO! I said that I won’t. It’s yucky and I won’t eat it! I WON’T EAT IT!”
I raised an eyebrow. “Little boy, who are you talking to?”
“I’M TALKING TO YOU! THAT IS YUCKY! I WON’T EAT!”
Yeah, I lost it. I didn’t spank him (which is what my mother would have done), but I gave him one hell of a talking to. I couldn’t believe it.
Now, some of that is natural 4 year-old behavior, but I’ve seen that behavior at school, too: child to parent and student to teacher. This is a school where kids call teachers by their first names (I make my sons put a “miss” in front of it and I don’t care), and kids, essentially, do whatever they want. Teachers are sugar sweet, even in behavioral situations. They try to outmaneuver and negotiate, having children come to their own conclusions about appropriate behavior. Only in extreme situations are children “disciplined.” There are stations for different activities, but everything is, essentially, optional. If Major wants to play with cars and trucks all day, he can totally do that (and he sometimes does!) instead of doing art or reading books with a teacher or playing with friends.
As an educator, I am philosophically ok with that. This is an age if exploration. That’s how children learn. They should spend these early years filling their brains with everything.
But as a mother, I’m starting to find it counter what my expectations. Why can’t we explore academically and learn some social boundaries?
Because, Major has to go to “real” school soon, where there are real stakes and real expectations. And I’m really worried about that transition for him. I know that we have one more full school year of preschool before kindergarten, and that represents a lot of growing, but… will it be enough? There is a structure and culture to real school, and this school seems to be counter to that…
And then there will be the academic expectations. I learned over the weekend that the expectations in public school around here are that kids are reading by the end of kindergarten. That struck me as really early when I was speaking to some parents at church on Sunday. A few conversations with my mother and others informed me that this isn’t unusual (indeed, my sister and I, as well as my husband were all reading by that time). But will Major and Minor be doing that? I’m not seeing a lot of work on this at the expensive preschool I’m sending them to!
Ok… I have to calm down.
I realize that I’m a woman with two brain here. Three, really. There is the brain of the worried mother, the brain of the former educator, and the brain of the former education student who was filled with grand philosophical ideas of what education “could” and “should” be rather than what it is. And what my two boys need to get out of it. I’m making a lot of investments, taking a lot of risks… and I won’t see the returns for years.
And I realize that I am asking a lot of the boys: I am asking them to adhere to a certain culture at school that may actually clash with the culture at home. But then again, that’s good training because, frankly, all little children of color have to do that. Code-switching is a thing. Even if the “code” is technically the same in both of the places where they traverse. And maybe these are just the early days of that social learning. There are things that I can/cannot do out there and there are things that I can/cannot/must do in here. I hope, though, that it doesn’t make their transition to the big-leagues a more difficult task.
Am I crazy, dear reader? Motherhood presents so many things to worry about that I can’t discern which way is up or down!
My writer’s block is gone! I am here, I am writing, and The Modern Idiot gave me a good push and some ideas on what I can do to get my writing back on track. 🙂 Thanks, girl! (But I’m still never going to share this novel with anyone ever for any reason! ;-P )
Let’s have a good week, folks!