Have you ever reached a moment of deflation as a parent?
The preschool my son goes to is academic based; it really is school for little people that operates on a curriculum, lesson plans, and is nationally accredited, so is held to strict standards.
Last year, he thrived in this environment. Even though he was the youngest in his class, he was also one of the brightest. His language was early, his vocabulary is quite advanced, he was fully potty trained (even at night) at 29 months, and his teachers always talked about how impressed they were with him.
I guess we were so impressed and pleased with him that we just stopped trying. We never stopped loving or taking care of him but we stopped trying to challenge him. He seemed so far ahead and we were so proud that we forgot to do a very basic part of parenting; teaching.
Earlier this school year, my mommy heart was broken when his new-to-him teachers said he was having a bit of an attitude problem. This was in direct contradiction to the rave reviews his first teachers had given him. I felt bad, because as he transitioned into three I transitioned into trying to find a balance between motherhood and womanhood again. I have finally regained parts of myself and feel balanced, but I am afraid that my new-found balance has thrown off my son’s.
I am also afraid that this set of teachers is quite a different fit. Last year he adored his teachers and talked about them frequently at home. This year he often says he doesn’t want to go to school and I don’t hear about his teachers unless I ask him directly.
Parent teacher conferences were held Monday. Unlike last year when I went in to pick him up each day and was very aware of his progress, this year he does car pool, so I very rarely see his teachers I had a very narrow understanding on how he was doing in school.
Based on his teachers, he can recognize half of the alphabet, has no number recognition, and only a few shapes. The only skills he has mastered are colors and social skills with peers and he has a good start on writing his name. He still needs help wiping his bottom and pulling up his pants after going to the bathroom, when his teachers would like him to be self-sufficient at this already. He also is not able to dress himself yet, though the teachers would like them all to be able to put on their own coats to go outside. And the main concern they have with him is his attitude. He is frequently stubborn, says no, and once threw a tantrum in the middle of class because he did not agree with the way another student dressed the weather bear during calendar time. Also? They recommend he get a speech screening.
That is a lot of information to take in about your child in 15 minutes.
A lot of it I don’t feel bad about. I used to teach Kindergarten and it was the goal at the end of Kindergarten for children to have mastered all letter and number recognition, write their name and a few basic words, and recognize more advanced shapes. This will all come, but I also know that he is intelligent. He knew half of the alphabet last year. It is our fault that we have not pushed him farther this year.
And I guess we have just been babying him with self-care. I don’t mind still helping him wipe his bottom or helping him get dressed. I guess I just didn’t realize that these were self-help skills he should have mastered already. When I said this to my husband he said the same thing I’ve been thinking, “But he’s our baby.”
This attitude is something we are struggling at home with, too. I am finding three to be the most challenging age (so far) because he is full of attitude and pushing limits. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have said that three is harder than two, and I assumed his earlier attitude problem had to do with his lack of sleep and consistency due to the fact that in the fall I was involved in a lot of late night rehearsals for a musical production.
The speech I was expecting at some point, because when he was 20 months old my poor little guy had to under go general anesthesia and have extensive dental work done because his teeth actually came in yellow. (Weird, right?) Part of the dental work done was actually the removal of 3 of his four top front teeth. I anticipated that speech would be a part of his life once his permanent teeth come in, because touching his tongue to his teeth will be a new skill. I just didn’t realize it was something we would need to start already, but of course we will do that.
The hardest thing for me to take away from the conference was that all of these things are direct reflections on our parenting. We’ve babied him too much with self-care, we’ve not challenged him enough academically, and we’ve chalked attitude problems up to his age rather than addressing it as an issue. We are also very laid back and joke around type of parents, which has blurred the lines between authority figure and friend, and not set clear expectations for him.
The moment you realize that your child is not thriving and that it is entirely your fault is a very deflating moment.
I summarized the conference to his teachers with this, “I think he is intelligent, I think he has an attitude, but I also think he is very young in comparison to the rest of the class.”
He teachers said they agreed completely with that assessment.
And so we will try harder, baby less, and challenge more.
And I will be welcoming any and all words of (constructive) advice.