Thursday, November 30, 2006
Parenting requires you to have your eyes open all the time. When they are babies, you watch them breath, when they get older you watch them climb and crawl and fall down, and do your utmost to prevent major injuries. As they get older though, this watchfulness requires more finesse, and less active (or at least less obvious) intervention.
A couple years ago, when my son was in preschool, he was deathly afraid of a boy in his class. He would cry every day when I dropped him off. I couldn't figure it out for months. Then finally it came out, and we told his teacher. She was of the belief that my son needed to deal with it. He needed to use his words and say what he needed to say to this boy. And he couldn't do it. He couldn't put his finger on why this boy scared him for the longest time. So he continued to cry at drop off. Every. single. day. It wasn't until he had a substitute teacher that it happened. With her help, he named it and conquered it. She noticed him clinging to me and asked what was wrong. He told her he was scared of this boy. And when she asked him why, he said "because he makes mean faces at me in his heart". His teacher and I looked at each other, and she said "well, I'll go talk to him right now". I'm not sure that she said anything to him about my son, but she walked over and talked to him. And my son knew he had an ally, someone he could go to when I wasn't there, someone who would help him learn to keep himself safe. I was and am, so grateful. But the thing that stuck with me was what my son said about this boy. He made "mean faces in his heart". He was mean to my son. He did it carefully so as not to get caught or called on it. At four, he knew how to do this. I eventually witnessed it for myself, and I did call him on it. Rightly or wrongly, my mama instincts compelled me to say "I saw that. Knock it off." But as my son gets older, and enters the world of elementary school, where mama's interference might just make things worse, I'm left trying to sort out those feelings on my own.
I volunteer in my son's classroom one day a week. It's a priveledge and an education. I'm there for an hour or so, doing whatever the teacher needs me to do. I love his teacher - she is completely and utterly present for these kids. She's not gooey at all, and has enough years of experience (and kids of her own) to know how to deal with 18-20 five and six year olds, but not so many years under her belt that she has hardened into one forced set of rules and regulations. She is learning with them and from them, and she has eyes not just in the back of her head, but everywhere, it seems.
Most of the time when I'm there, I do testing. Although I don't know if they call it that, it's more of an assessment. I hate the thought of "testing" for kids so young, but at this point I believe it's more of an indicator to see where the kids are and what their particular needs will be. I get that, and I can wrap my brain around it and stand behind it. And even though my heart aches for those kids who apparently don't have the parental guidance to know how to count past 7, I don't worry for them. They are in good hands. They will have help and caring instruction and encouragement.
But I do worry for this one boy. This child is tall for his age, and full of something more than just piss and vinegar, as my parents so quaintly put it. Every time I've been in my son's class, he's been willfully mean. To me, and to the kids around him. He's disruptive and violent and knows how not to get caught, and I wonder what's happening at home and worry that he's being hurt or neglected, and I worry for the kids that are in his path, and those that are just watching. Ugh. But mostly, I worry that his rage will grow with him, and become even more destructive. The teacher is on him and watches his behavior closely. She does what she can, and doesn't give anything away emotionally to give him any power. I know the school is aware of him - I trust them, I really do. That is a comforting feeling, because even though it's only a half mile away, my son is there and I'm here, and I'm sure other parents know what I'm talking about.
My son is much better now at dealing with behavior he doesn't like in other kids. He's found the power of his voice, and is confident that he'll be heard. It's a wonder to witness, and I'm grateful to see it. And yet...
I'll keep my eyes open, keep watching, just in case.