Monday, July 18, 2011

Finding his way

Little Dog has not had an easy time at school over the past year.  He has decided that school is bad and not so much for him.  I'm not 100% certain where this all comes from, but a few things probably come into play here.  He thinks of himself as an older kid than he is and finds it frustrating not to be doing exactly what Big Dog is doing, this included going to the same school. He was the victim of some bullying at his preschool, more than I knew about and yes, it is far too young for this to start, but apparently it does.  He is also more of an introvert who takes a while to warm up to new settings and tends to take things very personally even when they are not directed at him in the least.  Bundle those things together and we get a child who has a hard time with school.

I had hoped that this summer would be a relief for him.  He was out of his old school and now in summer camps with his brother.  What I didn't account for was his extra difficulties in entering new situations.  At times he is truly anxious about entering a group.  It has not been easy.  He's had good and bad days, but his excitement about going each day is still very low.
I'm hoping that as he gets more into the swing of things (we've been breaking things up a lot with days off and family vacations that keep him going in and out of camp) he'll start to discover the fun of it instead of simply resenting the part of camp that requires him to be away from his comfort zone at home for any part of his day.

To help with this, Little Dog has recently joined a play group that targets building comfort in social interactions.  We had the first session today.  I had to rush him out of the house this morning to get there on time.  "We have an appointment we need to keep, let's get moving," I said repeatedly, and he did.  It wasn't until he was in the car that he even questioned this.
"Where are we going?" he asked once we were in the car, buckled in and backing out of the driveway.
"We're going to a playgroup for kids who are starting kindergarten," I said.  I didn't have a better answer prepared, but this seemed to be interesting for him.  "Sound good?" I asked.
"Awesome," he said, but his voice didn't puff that word with enthusiasm.
He was quiet for most of the ride there.  "Are you doing ok?" I asked several times looking in the rear view mirror at a very quiet little boy.  "What are you thinking about?" I asked again.
No answers were forthcoming so after about a dozen attempts to engage him, I said, "I'm going to stop asking because I think you're just thinking about this.  If you want to share those thoughts with me, let me know." And we completed our drive in silence.

Once we pulled into the parking lot and I gathered our stuff up to go into the building, he finally spoke.  "I don't think I'm going to like this," he said.
"But you might love it, and you'll never know if you don't try," I suggested. "Let's go and check it out."
That didn't really work.  I still had to coax him out of the car, but once we were inside we read a book in the waiting room and he started to relax.  The other children started to arrive and finally the door to the playroom opened.  The coordinator came out, introduced herself and invited Little Dog to show me the space.  She also explained that sometimes, if they hear a seaplane trying to land they stop everything and watch.  It's one of the rules, she said seriously.  She also asked if he liked treasure boxes and received an enthusiastic if not shyly silent nod.  She explained that good behavior in the playgroup earned points and at the end of playgroup they could turn those points in for prizes.  His eyes lit up and he peered into the treasure box to size up the pickin's.  He found a stretchy gummy character that seemed to catch his eye and he whispered to me, "What does THAT do?" at which point she showed him that it was super stretchy and could stick to things.  He was charmed. After the brief tour, I told Little Dog that mommies weren't allowed to stay for the playgroup so I had to leave, but he was going to have fun and I'd see him right afterward.  He nodded and pushed me toward the door, for which he earned his first point for being so good about saying goodbye.

I sat in the waiting area while playgroup started.  After a few minutes the coordinator poked her head out and as much as I was anticipating a report that Little Dog was melting down, she said, "He's doing great!" The hour passed and when they came out, Little Dog made a beeline for me and asked, "Can we come here again next year!"  I explained that we'd come back even sooner, that we'd be back next week and he was beaming. 

I have high hopes.  Even if it just gives Little Dog a tiny space that is just his, I think it's well worth the price of admission.

1 comment:

Sybil said...

Oh you totally described my older daughter's experience, down to the bullying. I have been trying to find the right social skills group for her, too. It is great to read about your son's experience with it!

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