Friday, October 06, 2006

October Surprise

You know it's political season when name recognition extends to four-year-olds. Benjamin today picked up a flyer from a realtor, pointed to the realtor's portrait on the sheet and asked if the man pictured was Jim Doyle. Jim Doyle is our governor here in Wisconsin currently running for re-election.

True, Benjamin is not quite ready to identify the Governor by sight. Nevertheless, the Governor, with all due respect, would be, I think, much complimented to have someone mistake the much better-looking, younger, and much less bald realtor in question for him.

Hey, Mike Timmins1 of Homestead Real Estate, if you're out there, you've got my son's vote.
1 Names changed to protect the innocent

Thursday, October 05, 2006

First Days of School and Railroad Crossing Therapy

Benjamin has started school and we all had a hard time with it at first. It is hard to turn over care of your child to someone else, particularly to people to whom you are not close. This statement is almost hackneyed, I think, because it is true of so many parents. I don't think I could understand this before I became a father. I doubt I even understood it a couple years ago, when Benjamin was little and this time was so far in the future.

Once the time was upon us, even though we selected his school with great care and deliberation, we were nervous and questioning ourselves.

He started a daily pre-Kindergarten program at the school to which we think we will send him for Kindergarten, 1st grade, etc. When we dropped him off he was cautious and serious for the first couple days. This made sense. He was feeling the effects of a big change in his routine, but was really interested in what was going on in school and wanted to be there.

On the second or third day, Benjamin said I should be sure to drive him home past a railroad crossing, because that would make him feel better. (Benjamin right now is very consumed by all things trains. Also, he has before asked us to drive him past a railroad crossing when he was in a bad mood.) Feel better?  What was wrong? He said he was bored because he'd had school that day and that he had missed me. (Bored!!? )

The following day he'd mentioned that he'd cried at school. Cried? (I remained calm so as not to betray my surprise and pity.) I asked why, and he said that he had missed his mama and me.

We talked to his teacher and she said he had cried for a little bit kind of out of nowhere. She asked what was wrong and he said he didn't know. The rest of the time, though, he was involved, acted normal, in a good mood, etc. The next time he cried, he did tell his teacher it was because he missed us.

These happenings set off a spate of self-questioning of our school decision, whether he was ready  for school, how we should approach it with him, etc. We were also afraid that while we were preparing him for the transition to school by talking often and positively about it as something to excitedly look forward to, he got the message that it was a very important duty and that he couldn't tell us anything negative about it.

And what was the deal with the 'bored' thing? We talked to Benjamin about that. We finally got to the crux of it once our conversation went this way:

"Are you bored when we take a long ride in the car?" one of us asked.


"Are you bored when you're just sitting on the couch doing nothing?"

"When you guys are with me, or when you're not with me?" he countered.

Huh? Ohhhh. He didn't know what 'bored' meant. In his mind it was the same, we discovered, as being homesick or missing us.

Despite these emotions, he very much  wanted to go to school, he always told us, because he really "likes all the activities."

After my wife and I talked about it extensively, and explored it with Benjamin, we agreed on an idea. Maybe he could take something with him to school to cheer himself up, like a picture of us or something.

"No, I don't think that  will help. How about a railroad crossing sign? That will make me feel better."

That's right. So now he carries a little toy railway crossing sign from his train set in his pocket. In case he is a bit sad because he misses us, he can just take it out of his pocket and look at and that will cheer him up. As far as I can tell from his reporting, etc., he's never actually done that, but he knows it's there.

We were still concerned, so my wife checked William Sears (Dr. Sears) website. We found it was common for attachment-parented kids to react this way. Dr. Bob Sears's article suggested walking your child to his classroom, perhaps staying a while (and other measures if the child does not become comfortable). Though other parents rarely do this at Benjamin's school, we started taking him right up to the room for a quick goodbye. Sometimes it feels a little awkward to seem like the doting parent. (I'm sure part of that feeling comes from being a teacher and hearing colleagues in Kindergarten talk about clingy parents hanging around the door making it so much harder for the child to get used to staying.) Nonetheless, it's helped Benjamin. He's 4  years old. It's the right thing for right now.

The tears have subsided and, thanks to some patience, talking and a little "R/R X" sign, Benjamin is much more comfortable and happy at school.