My little man on his first day of Kindergarten. KINDERGARTEN! This was taken on Tuesday, but still - KINDERGARTEN!
Where in the world has the time gone?
Just a few months ago, John and I were worrying about restarting preschool given our experience with mainstream classrooms. Now, we're happy to report that Vince is happily where he is and looking forward to seeing his friends every day. He's in a small class (8 kids) and is with a teacher he knows and loves.
Thank you, God, for such a gift! :)
After a great day developing a partnership with Vince's teacher and principal, a call today threw me for a complete loop.
Vince had eaten something that didn't agree with him, and as a result, he had an accident.
I got a phone call asking me to come for him immediately. Apparently they do not help children wipe themselves, adjust their clothing, and they certainly will not change a child's clothing after an accident.
I was beyond floored. I began to argue, but realized I wouldn't get my point across and didn't want Vince being forced to wait any longer than he had to for help. Sitting by himself in soiled clothing is not only unhygienic, it's embarrassing and upsetting. I told the teacher I'd speak to her and the principal later as I wanted to contact my husband (who was much closer) so he could come for Vince.
After calling John and making him aware of the situation, I got onto the computer and sent the following letter:
Dear Mrs. X and Principal X,
Obviously I'm contacting you regarding your wiping policy. Given I'd written to you this morning about the issue, I'm not altogether surprised it reared its head in this manner after lunch.
However, I'd like to make very clear that I am incredibly disheartened by this policy. As an educator who has been in this situation and changed children ranging from Pre-K through 3rd grade, I am surprised that you don't have some sort of plan in place in the event of an accident- even if that plan is the school nurse, a trusted health care professional.
I understand the basis for your policy. You're worried about legal repercussions should a child claim inappropriate behavior.
However, fear should never be a substantial reason to allow a child to suffer an embarrassing, harmful health situation - and that's exactly what this amounts to.
His bowel movement was an abnormal occurrence precipitated by something that didn't agree with his belly. As such, even if Mrs. X was unable to dedicate time to handle the situation because she had to attend to the class, there was an aid present. If the aid was also wrangling the class (given girls and boys use separate rooms), the nurse can surely be sent for.
But to leave a child for an indefinite amount of time in a soiled state because you're afraid of being sued, especially after I've made every effort to let you know that I do not view you as enemies, but as partners in my son's development, I'm just floored.
I've been in your situations. Both of you. I've been the teacher juggling 20 kids while trying to clean up the one who had an accident, and I've been the principal trying to protect her teacher from any sort of legal worry for being in close proximity to a child's genital area.
I understand FULLY where both of you are coming from. Now please understand where I am coming from.
I know full well that a child's fine motor skills (necessary for properly wiping himself) are not fully functional until they are between 4 and 5 years old. Vincent is not yet four. If you need me to, I can get a letter from his pediatrician. That being said, I expect that should he ever be sick and have an accident like this in the future (which should rarely happen, if it ever happens again at all), he be sent to the nurse's office with his change of clothes.
After all, why else would you request them unless you expected to use them in cases like this?
I am doing everything in my power to make this transition to school possible for Vincent. I am his willing advocate and I will gladly do everything in my power to fall in line with requests you make of me. This, however, has me baffled. You are effectively asking something of my son that is simply physically impossible for him at this point. He's able to use the bathroom and has some ability to wipe himself, but should he have an accident, there is no preschooler that can handle cleaning him or herself up without the help of an adult.
So as I mentioned above, if you need a letter from his pediatrician, I'd be more than happy to comply.
I received an e-mail from his teacher about an hour or so later, and just as I responded to her, I got a call from the principal.
I was spot on with my analysis regarding why they wouldn't touch him, but given the points I made and the obvious willingness I've shown in working together in establishing a partnership with them, the principal agreed to allow the nurse to help Vincent should this problem ever arise again.
However, it was clear that she still expected Vincent to be farther ahead regarding his bathroom capabilities. I'm still surprised by that given all of my experience with children Vince's age (and even older) has set my expectation that kids that age are going to have accidents and will sometimes need help wiping.
Have my experiences just been wildly different from everyone else's? What age were your children able to properly wipe themselves? Button their pants? Tuck in their shirts?
I dunno. I'm glad that his teacher agreed to help him when necessary, and I'm glad the principal agreed to have the nurse could help with this situation in the future, too. I felt like it was finally something I did right for my son. I'm all for challenging him, but setting an expectation so high that he has no chance of touching it seems excessive.
It's all due to these ridiculous laws put in place to "protect" children. All of this fear of pedophiles... we are our own undoing. The sins that we left fester have given us this as our legacy... stupid policies that end up hurting more than they help.
We're able to teach kids to masturbate and use condoms, but we can't help them with basic hygiene. What kind of world are we living in anymore?
God help us.
I love his teacher and his principal. I really do. They are beyond what I could have ever expected for Vince. Observing them only made me love and appreciate them more. They're in my prayers double-time for all the wonderful things they're doing for Vince and all the frustration they're putting up with on account of his difficulty transitioning. But this was just unacceptable to me, and I'm glad it was addressed sooner rather than later.
Really, I'm just glad I finally feel like I did something right for my kid. Seems I've been doing a bang up job of screwing things up lately. It's nice to have a victory every once in a while for him.
I took a personal day Thursday so I could stay at Vince's school and silently observe him to get a better feel for what was going on. His principal kindly rigged a little veil over the door for me so I could peek in without being detected.
I learned a lot that day. First and foremost, I was given confirmation that I'd made the right decision about where to send him. His principal and his teacher are rock stars. I know they are both dedicated to their kids and willing to go above and beyond to make sure they get the necessary care and attention they need. That is extremely gratifying, and I am incredibly thankful that I found such a wonderful place for him to grow.
Secondly, I got to see my son in a wholly new light. He was just as disruptive as they warned me he was. He was screaming in ways I'd never heard him scream before. That being said, I noted that much of his reactionary behavior was, as I had anticipated, completely understandable.
For example, he kept getting in trouble for not sitting where he was supposed to sit on the carpet. His teacher assigned a back spot for him, and he refused to stay there. He'd either get up and go to the table, or he'd try to sit closer to the front (typically squishing other kids in the process).
I immediately understood why he was doing that. First of all, his hearing is still not 100%, so he wants to sit closer to hear the stories better. Secondly, his job at his last daycare was "page-turner." He'd sit on the lap of the instructor and turn the pages of the book. He's probably confused as to why he's not turning the pages anymore, and might think that he's done something wrong to cause him to lose that privilege. So he keeps coming up over and over again to try to be where he thinks "his spot" is.
No one explained to him that he doesn't have the job of page-turner anymore. No one explained that since this is a new school, he has a new spot to sit and new "jobs" to do. When I explained that to his new teacher, a light bulb went off over her head and other little things like that fell into place.
Especially given how Vincent says how much he misses his old school and his old teachers, this really makes sense. He likely doesn't understand why he can't be with them anymore, and he certainly doesn't understand why he can't do all the things he used to do.
Then there were the transitions. It seemed to me that he was behind by 1 transition throughout the day.
For example, when it was time for circle, he'd be at the table. When the kids moved on from the circle to the library, he'd finally get in motion to move to the circle (and so on and so on). He is so slow and unwilling to transition that he was actually holding the class back from certain activities. The teacher and aid did their best to redirect him and get him on board in a timely fashion, but Vincent's frustration would kick in and he'd just shut down and ignore them.
I think that's the area I need to work on most. Transitioning has been one of the hardest things for him to feel comfortable with, and it's been an ongoing issue since he was a small child. It's why I've always been such a stickler for his schedules. Consistency really is key for my little munch, and now that his regular schedule is being transformed into something else entirely, he's confused and frustrated.
I'm hoping as this new schedule becomes more routine, he feels more confident and less confused. That, in itself, will help quell much of his frustration.
After I finished observations, I gave feedback to his new teacher and took feedback in turn. We shared a lot of good ideas and I'm implementing a few changes at home to help Vince keep the same level of consistency here as well as in school. She, for her part, will try some of my tricks for keeping Vince's focus and coaxing him into transitioning better.
At the end of the day, I felt as though a lot of progress had been made. I felt much better in Vince's chances for success there, and I hope his teacher and principal understood just how dedicated I am to getting him on the right track.
Keep those prayers coming, folks. I appreciate so much all the notes, ideas and comments you've sent. <3
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this much of a failure as a parent.
I got a call from Vincent’s principal this morning. My soon-to-be-four year old son was sent to the principal on his 3rd day of school.
Regardless of the situation, how can any parent say “Not my fault.”
On some level, it’s my fault. I did or didn’t do something right that caused him to act out in a negative way.
Friday afternoon, I was stopped by Vincent’s teacher and warned about his behavior. He was acting out by swatting at children and screaming at his teacher. He refused to follow directions and insisted on going off by himself over and over again.
When she said that, my heart practically tore itself in half.
“Going off by himself over and over again.”
Immediately images of him playing by himself in a room full of children as I picked him up from daycare flooded my mind. You guys have heard me talk about this before. I can’t help but feel responsible for my son’s social immaturity.
Aside from the fact that he was hearing-impaired his first two years (which stunted his speech and comprehension), he didn’t have much interaction with children his age outside of daycare. Why? Because he was never given a sibling.
I feel so angry and so guilty for this. When I heard the teacher cite the same exact symptom I was so keenly aware of every time I’d pick Vince up from daycare, I knew in my heart just how disadvantaged Vincent was made by the situation between my husband and I.
I immediately became livid. After putting Vince into the car, my blood pressure must’ve soared as I had visions of tearing into John for his selfishness… his thoughtlessness. How could he not see the damage he was doing to Vincent? All I wanted to do was scream and yell at him, myself. I wanted to punch and kick him. I wanted to do everything that Vincent had done as if John feeling it would somehow make him realize how incredibly wrong he was.
I quickly realized I needed to cool down. I almost felt like I wasn’t in my right mind. On a logical level, I fully understood that my rage was simply masking the root of my emotional maelstrom. I felt guilty and depressed; sad and hopeless. All of visions I had in my head of creating the perfect family environment for my children was taken away from me and I’d let it happen. I never provided Vincent the sibling I wanted him to have. Little Myla, the sister he has in Heaven, slipped away under my watch. All of the anger and rage that I was directing at John was simply a bait and switch. If I was able to focus on him, I didn’t have to realize how much of the blame I shouldered for his deficiencies.
Logically, I fully understood all of that. Emotionally, however, I didn’t give a hoot. I wanted to call him and tell him that if he was home, he should leave. Maybe find a friend to spend the night with ‘cause I didn’t want him home with me. I wanted so much to lash out in the most spiteful, angry way I could to make him feel just a fraction of the hurt I carried.
Thank God my logical side fought back, because my emotional side was gunning for separation. It really, truly was. That is not, however, the Christian way of handling problems, and I really have tried so hard to grow myself into a better example of what it means to be truly loving in my actions, especially with John.
Plus, in my heart, I know that’s not the answer. It’s not fair to John who is not entirely to blame. So I forced myself to calm down. I forced myself to refrain from spewing lava the moment he walked into the house.
However, he could quickly tell I was upset. I said we’d talk after Vincent went to bed, and he backed off. Somehow, by the grace of God, he actually backed off. Normally he will push until his curiosity is satiated, but in this instance, he did not. That gave me enough time to collect myself and slowly vent, alone, until I was ready to discuss things in a manner that was fair to both of us.
So after Vince went to bed, he asked. At first I didn’t know how to delve into it. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to restrain my tongue. I wanted to be fair, but I was still emotionally raw. I have no doubt I didn’t handle myself perfectly, but I can say I made the right decision. I’m glad that I waited until Vince went to bed, and I’m glad that I resolved to talk things through with John rather than remain dedicated to heaping blame and anger on him without his knowledge.
I explained what the teacher said. I explained my experiences picking Vince up from daycare. I then explained that I truly believed Vince wouldn’t be as socially behind if he had a sibling. I felt guilty for not providing him one, and I was angry that John couldn’t see how damaging that was to him. I explained why I didn’t say anything earlier, and I also explained how incredibly angry I was on the way home. However, I also explained that I understood anger is my self-defense mechanism, so it’s the emotion that crops up most strongly when I feel sad or guilty.
In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that the angrier I am about a given situation, the more upset I am about it. Anger, to me, is a controlled force. I feel empowered and in-control when I am angry. I’m able to speak eloquently and my mind is razor sharp. However, the second I allow the sadness, guilt or despair creep in, my eloquence goes out the window, I feel as if I’ve lost control and I am left weak and vulnerable.
Doesn’t that seem strange? But it’s true. Angry Gina is like a brilliant lawyer poised to tear into a guilty convict. Upset Gina is the babbling convict who wants to cry in the corner. Very, very seldom does Upset Gina come out to play.
So through my conversation with John, I felt a tug of war going on between these two sides of myself. I knew that in order for John to understand that I didn’t hate him or fully blame him for everything, I had to be honest about my feelings of failure and guilt. However, in order to get my thoughts across in a clear manner, my words were edged with anger – not to reprimand John, but to help me keep my composure.
To my surprise, John did not defend himself or try to make me understand that my view of siblings was wrong. Instead, he apologized. He said that he understood I was in a terrible situation. He sympathized that I felt guilty for having failed Vincent in this manner. He did point out that there were other ways of giving Vincent the experience of other children his age, but he didn’t counter me when I said the experience of siblings is without equal.
He just apologized and said he wished he could change his mind on the matter. I waved him off, not because I didn’t appreciate it, but because I was still caught between Anger and Upset.
The upset side of me wanted to reassure him that I didn’t hate him for how he felt. That side of me fully understood where he was coming from and wanted to let him know that he didn’t need to “wish” he could change his mind.
The angry side of me realized it was about to lose its edge and decided bypassing that statement altogether would be a safer course of action than responding, because how can anger respond to love?
That is, after all, how John answered me. He listened to me, really heard me, tried to understand my point of view, and sympathized. He didn't agree, and he didn't have to. You don't have to agree with someone's perspective in order to sympathize. THAT is the response I've been waiting for.
I never wanted to force John to change his mind. I'd like him to, sure, but that was never the crux of my frustration. It was always his stubborn refusal to even give my point of view air time. I was wrong, and that was that. This is the very first time I felt as though he'd not only heard me out... he'd allowed himself to accept that my point of view wasn't entirely off-base. That doesn't mean he agrees with it, and that's okay. However, it does mean that I'm not the outright manipulator that I think he felt I was regarding children.
Thus, the conversation petered off. John apologizing for his part in my sadness, me accepting that I was stuck trying to figure out a way around this for myself and my family. As a mother, I have to figure out a way to help Vincent grow into a more socially adept little boy. I accept his current difficulties on account of his verbal / comprehension deficits, but I do not accept that these are permanent limitations. They are certainly not excuses for bad behavior.
So today I vowed to work with both the teacher and the principal on getting Vince better transitioned into his new environment. I’ve enlisted the help of his previous teachers, and I’ll be talking to my mom (a kindergarten teacher) later this afternoon. Obviously I also talked to John and we both agree that we’re giving this at least two weeks before throwing in the towel.
Maybe we find out that Vince really is just too young to begin. I, for one, will not make that decision without giving it a real try. Two days is not enough to judge a child’s ability to meet the expectations of an entirely new environment. The principal agreed with me, and we’re going to see what the next two weeks bring us.
Keep us in your prayers, folks. It’d be much appreciated. This entire experience has been so much more challenging than I’d ever imagined.
UPDATE: Since I was asked - Vincent was practically deaf for the first two years of his life. Given that therapy only got him so far, he's still behind his peers when it comes to communicating his fear or frustration. As a result, he relies on physical outbursts sometimes. Physical outbursts include swatting at others or stamping his feet. Both are negative behaviors that could potentially hurt someone, so they are serious. However, he's not maliciously threatening anyone and is reacting, in my mind, as a child of his cognative level would respond. Our job, as parents, is to teach him new coping skills and help him develop beyond physical response. We also need to work more on his willingness to share the attention of adults with other children (again, something a sibling would've helped with). He consistently demands the attention of the teacher, and if he doesn't get it, he simply shouts louder and louder until she's forced to give him attention (even though it's negative attention).
My background is education. I fully understand the dynamics of what is going on and why my son is acting out in the manner in which he's acting out. It makes sense, but my difficulty is how I can help re-teach him better behavior.
Anyone have any tricks or tips?
Top Rated Entries
My Darkest Secret
Do Animals Have Souls?
10 Things a Parent of an SPD Kid Wants to Say
Fun and Easy Lenten Crafts
Blessed Mother as Intercessor
Loss of Life
Women Priests II
Render Unto Caesar
The Godparent Poem
NYT Anti-Catholic Ad
Pages I Stalk
A Woman's Place
Real Catholic Love & Sex
Having Left the Altar
Fr. Z @ WDTPRS
These Stone Walls
St. Joseph's Vanguard
Traditional Latin Mass
Truth, Beauty and Goodness
The Way Out There
Written by the Finger of
Little Catholic Bubble
So You're a Church Musician
There and Back Again
Make It - Love It
St. Monica's Bridge