Friday, July 16, 2010

Danny, meet world.

This week, Danny attended vacation bible school at a local church. I was a bit anxious since this was the first time he'd ever done anything remotely structured. I figured, though, what's the worst that can happen? He'll be going with his "best friend," our neighbors' 3 year old son. Well, friends, read on, read on. 

Day 1: Danny is brought to me soaking wet, kicking and screaming in the arms of an older lady who wished me luck. He wanted to go on the "boat" on the stage and took a swing at the woman who stopped him. I thought seriously about not taking him back.

Day 2: A happier boy with wet pants is sitting at the feet of the preschool teacher when I arrive. Hm.

Day 3: A happy boy with dry pants is once again sitting at the feet of the preschool teacher. Utto.

Day 4: A subdued, sad looking boy with dry pants and no name tag is once again sitting at the feet of the preschool teacher who seemed to be avoiding my gaze. A teen volunteer carries him to me. I ask if he's okay. She says "He's jumpy." (sweetie, you don't know the half of it) A lady in the church lobby said to him, cheerily, "There's a special chair for you in the office, isn't there?"

So he essentially got sent to the principles' office. Within four days. At church.

When I got him into the van on day four, he told me quietly that his teacher, Miss Jackie, took his name tag. It just broke my heart.

Day 5: A happier boy who let off steam last night by screaming his head off and running around in his underwear in a summer downpour (so sorry dear neighbors) is now at his regular Friday morning PMO.

Over the week, Danny shared bits and pieces of what went on. They played tag and duck, duck, goose. They had snacks of cookies and gummy worms or M&Ms and marshmallows. Each day his mouth was stained red from the fruit punch they gave him. He made a friend in a tween boy named George who seemed just delighted with Danny. Other adventures?

"I got lost, mommy," he said. He probably wandered away from his class.

"I hit a kid," he told me. He said this each day. He got a time out for it, which is totally appropriate.

Now, I don't want to be one of those moms who thinks her kid is unique and needs special attention. Nor do I want to ever come off as the mom who thinks her kid can do no wrong. Believe me, my kid takes wrong to a whole new level some days.

I had hopes that he would behave because most of the time, for us and others who know him well and respect him, he does. Our expectations here a different than those of a preschool or day camp or any other social setting. And that's okay. I feel no need to teach him how to sit still and be quiet and listen to stories and do crafts. If he wants to do those things, he will and usually does.

But what I struggle with is how to tell him to behave in social situations that I'm not even sure yet are best for his age, maturity level and, more importantly, his temperment. Surely there will be growing pains. His personality and maturity will bend and stretch and grow, sometimes painfully. My job as a mom, his first and best teacher and always his advocate, is to make sure he doesn't break in the process. The human spirit is quite resilient and I do believe there's very little that can permanently ruin a child. However, the damage that can be done if I knowingly try to force my little square peg into a round hole may leave lifetime scars. There is plenty of unintentional damage flowing from his parents, I'm sure. I don't need to knowingly add experiences that will break his spirit. That is tantamount to negligence in my mind.

He's going to preschool in the fall. Two days a week, three hours a day. Time for us to establish a longer, more meaningful relationship with the environment and the teachers. While we probably will home school, the experience is not incompatible with that goal. He needs to learn to get along with other kids. He needs some time to do his own thing, apart from his sister and brother. He does need to learn to listen to other adults just in case we do find that school is a good choice for him.

So, yes, it was just a church camp. It was just one week. It was a short preview of what we may be in for this fall. If it doesn't work out, if he comes home with that heartbreaking look on his face, I'll know exactly what to do.


Heidi said...

Josee I did want to point out that although all of our kids have there difficulties and "issue" as i say, pumping the kids up on food dyes and sugar is asking for trouble. Devin is an absolute maniac if he has red dye 40, it's crazy he cannot control himself. Took us 6 years to figure it out but hey better late than never. I just wanted to point out that maybe if they are silly enought to give kids those foods then they need to be able to face the consiquences.

Josee said...

No kidding, Heidi. I had a feeling the snacks were at least partially responsible for his behavior. I'm afraid he doesn't take to structured activity. He does much better when left to his own devices.