Thursday, January 7, 2010


While one child, Big Dog, seems to be thriving at school, the other, Little Dog, seems to be floundering. I keep hoping he'll grow into it. I keep hoping he'll develop the love of school his brother has, but it seems doubtful. See, since we started preschool in September, he's been not loving it so much. He has good days and bad days, but lately the bad seem to outnumber the good. And still, when I pick him up, he isn't in a rush to get out of there, so it can't be that bad, right? Please tell me I'm right here. I need the validation.

Unfortunately this transition for him has been a big one. When he was a baby he was in a group daycare. He was not a fan. He liked one caregiver above all others and would cling to her. He did fine there as long as she was around and if it hadn't been for a string of recurring ear infections, he'd probably have stayed in group childcare right up until Kindergarten, just like his brother did. Unfortunately for him, his ears were a problem. Even after having tubes placed, they continued to be an issue. He was constantly on antibiotics and there seemed to be no end to it. When his preferred care giver quit, we decided to hire her as a nanny. So we took him out of daycare and like that, the ear infections stopped. He had one or two more over the next couple of years, but compared to the back to back, twice a month infections we'd been dealing with, it was heavenly.

NE was like a member of our family. She still is. But when Mr. Dog was not working, we had to let her go. It was kind of good timing for all of us since Little Dog appeared to be ready for a group environment. He'd been doing co-op preschool and really ate up the group interaction. He'd cling to NE while she was there, but he transitioned well enough when she wasn't. Also NE was ready to go to a job that let her work with infants again, so when the time came to part ways, it was more or less smooth for all of us. (NE is now working at a child care center in the infant room. Just in case you were wondering.)

So the spring and summer for Little Dog were spent at home with Mr. Dog. I think it did them both a lot of good. The boys got more one on one time with Mr. Dog and he got an amazing immersion into the crazy world of full time care giving. The last couple of months we decided to put Little Dog and Big Dog in preschool part time, but together. And they loved it. Little Dog may not have been so great at following rules, but he loved being in school "like a big boy" and Big Dog loved the additional days off at home.

Then Mr. Dog found a new job. And Big Dog started kindergarten. And Little Dog started his own school. By himself. For the first time since he was a baby.
I am more than sympathetic that this must be a fairly traumatic transition for him and I've tried to do everything I could to make it as smooth as possible. The school we chose is pretty great. I'd been on the wait list for ages and was stunned when they told us they had a spot right when we needed it. Low teacher to child ratio, low staff turnover. Great early childhood education foundation for all programs. They offer ongoing parent and staff education including weekly discussion and education handouts to address topic the parents choose. They have a giant playground, the classrooms are spacious and bright. They have a cook on staff and all snacks and lunches are prepared on site. They do a ton of art and lots of collaborative games. Each week they do a cooking project with the kids. We have regular parent conferences and they create a record of each child's progress through the year in a portfolio. They also do a number of pot luck dinners to create a real community feeling for the families who have children enrolled there. Being home with a nanny or a parent is a far cry from daily school, but I expected his irrepressible lust for new adventures to eventually outweigh the disruption of being pulled from his comfort zone. And I've been waiting for that to happen since September.

It was pretty typical at first. He'd have a hard drop off but the teachers assured me that as soon as I left, he was fine. He'd melt down as I left only to bounce back in time for the first morning activity and the rest of the day was more or less fine. Then something happened. From Thanksgiving to Christmas he was having terrible nightmares at nap time. He was more frustrated by an inability to decide what he wanted to do, and he was more unhappy at drop offs. Taking nearly two weeks off at Christmas has not helped. After an especially difficult drop off that left me emotionally wrenched on Tuesday, I talked to his head teacher. I asked, looking for reassurance, if he got better during the day. I had hoped that she'd tell me, as she had before, that he assimilated into class shortly after I left, that the rest of the day would be fine. But she didn't. She expressed some concern that he was having bouts of sadness during the day. She said his frustration with not knowing what puzzle to do or game to play was growing. That no matter what they tried, he rejected their efforts to cheer him up. She suggested we schedule a conference to figure out what to do.
I drove to work in tears.

Trying to create a strategy, I contacted his pediatrician. At this stage I'm out of tricks and I hoped she'd be able to give me some new resources, including a referral to a child psychologist or counselor who might be able to give me some new insights and tactics. She did, all the while reassuring me that he'd be fine, reminding me that he is going through a lot and that it will all work out. She even stressed it is better, if he has to have a strong reaction to full time school, that he do it now than when he begins kindergarten when the transition would only be exacerbated by academic requirements and a far higher child to teacher ratio. I cannot express what a relief this was.

On a happier note, his teacher left me a long note in his folder at pick up time. He'd had a great afternoon and the teachers were trying out a new approach with him in the morning that seemed to pay off. When I picked him up he was in high spirits and the mood continued all evening. Even the typical sibling rivalry that seems to boil up in our house after dinner was kept to a minimum.

I've been wracking my brain to think of what might have happened to bring this on, what I did wrong to make this happen. Did I say something in frustration that made him fear that I'd leave him at school and never come back? Did he see something on TV that frightened him? Did some interaction go awry and leave him with a fear of being abandoned if he wasn't a perfect child? And so far I have nothing. I even called my parents, who we stayed with at Thanksgiving, and pumped them for information. Nothing. So now I wait. I will talk to the child psychologist on Friday. In the meantime, I'm second guessing everything I do and say as I try to help him every day.


mamamilkers said...

There very likely wasn't anything you specifically did. I hope you know that!

My two girls are very similar, but it's my older one that has issues. I do find it fascinating that two kids are raised the same way and turn out soooo differently.

I hope things turn around for him, it's so stressful.

geekymummy said...

Poor guy, and poor you. I doubt it is anything you dud or didn't do. He is maybe very intense and sensitive, great qualities to have but That may allow him to become overwhelmed by feelings. You probably have done ths, but if not perhaps go back to that "spirited child" book. The stuff about introvet vs extrovert children and what they need to "recharge" is very interesting. Potentially LD is an introvert like his papa and needs more time apart from the other kids during the day. Anyway, I ramble, and I hope you can make life easier for your lovely boy.

Green said...

My close friend's daughter is almost 7, in 1st grade, and can't remember ever not knowing me. I've changed her diapers, she's thrown up on me and accidentally called me mommy.

Sometimes when she's with me for the day she gets teary because she misses her mom. This is even on days when she has REQUESTED to spend time with me. She just really, REALLY digs her mom. There's nothing wrong.

There's nothing wrong with Little Dog. It sounds like he's overwhelmed with all the possibilities and can't decide which kind of fun to have first. Sounds like he's not a "free time" kind of kid. That's all.

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