So, The Kid started kindergarten last week. The school works it so that in the first three days, only a third of the class comes in on one day, therefore allowing parents to come along, get to know how it will work. This, I'm sure, makes the first day without parents run a little more smoothly.
Our first day went pretty good. The Kid immediately required everyone's full attention, playing the comedian whenever he could. Everyone knew The Kid by the end of the day. The Teacher knew there was more comedy (heh) in store for the rest of the year, and asked me at the end of the day if we could talk. Of course, I started crying. I don't know if it was the pressure of school starting, knowing how important our relationship was going to be, the embarrassment of being the mom-of-the-kid-in-the-center-of-attention thing, I can't explain it, but I exploded and couldn't get an intelligent word out of my mouth. So, I promised we'd talk another day, and that I'd e-mail her what I would say had I the presence of mind.
The e-mail that resulted follows (or at least most of it, abridged and revised slightly because I'm obsessive, and because I don't refer to him as "The Kid" to his teacher, duh):
The Kid has been a special case since birth. He was a voracious nurser. He didn't sleep much as an infant, and was extremely alert and wakable until he began walking (early but normal, about 9-10 mos), when he started to sleep in a more "normal" schedule (like a whole 5 hours at a time). Doctors have always said that he is a completely healthy child, albeit with some very strong impulses. No medical diagnoses. Last year, realizing that kindergarten was not too far away, I enrolled him at a county school-district run preschool, where I knew they had county resources (like psychologists, therapists, social workers) that no other preschool could possibly provide. We ran him through the child find program [this is a Colorado program designed to evaluate children w/ learning disabilities in primary education], when his teachers suspected some possible sensory integration issues. He was tested but they found no substantial sensory integration issues (on the spectrum, he was low, although he has a few traits like sensitivity to clothing, but none of the truly serious ones--fear of touch, chewing, mouthing, etc) and no further reason to classify him as special education at that time. We continued on at The Preschool throughout the year. I think he came a long way there, although he still has some major obstacles in front of him.
His principal issue is impulse control. He wants attention, he wants it now. He wants to be first, not second. He wants to touch object X, nothing can stop him. He and I use the vocabulary of "keeping control" or "getting under control" and talk about his "control panel." If you've seen the JamieLee Curtis book "It's Hard to Be Five," you'll understand the visual that he and I talk about with the control panel. He understands that Control is his job, but he still really struggles with it. It's hard to watch him because he is often so upset after he loses control. He talks about how he tries but then he forgets... Which I suppose is the ultimate issue with impulse control, isn't it?
Working with The Preschool during the school year was wonderful. We set up a system where I got a daily progress report page that gave him happy faces or sad faces for the different sections of the day. We were able to see the trend of difficult times (transitions, nap--he is so happy to be done with institutionalized naptime, afternoon centers), and we saw the phases of issues that he had. He and his teacher would go through the page together in the late afternoon, and they would talk about the choices he had made,what had been good and what had not been so good. The idea was to reward him for jobs well done, but to help make me aware of the issues going on day-to-day so that I could enforce at home the behaviour at school. I kept a sticker chart--one sticker for each happy face--at home that when full resulted in a kind of reward (some were big, some were little). Additionally, the days with more sad than happy faces would result in some kind of "hits home" punishment at home, like no television, computer time, no play with our neighbor friend, etc. I saw a lot of improvement, and most of all, self awareness of how controlling himself is his job, cannot be blamed on the situation or other kids.
I also have talked to a child psychologist about The Kid. He has not yet met The Kid, and probably won't for a couple more months. Like the pediatricians, he has told me to stay the course with him, provide him stability (which I certainly try to do) and consistency, and when he's more mature, we can start working on psychological analyses and tests. He has also met with The Preschool's psychologist and a County School District social worker. They all say about the same thing. Good job, Mom, keep up the good work. I kind of think the good work has got to really start in earnest now, though, as he is now in school with the kids and in the system I hope he will be with for the next 13 years.
I think the key to helping The Kid is keeping a steady flow of information coming and going between us. I need to know what's going on, because if I ask him, he'll tell me everything's great. He's such an incredible kid, he's so smart, he is so bright, compassionate and has a love for life that has taught me so much as a parent and, well, human being. I just want him to be a success at school, and as we both know, being bright and passionate doesn't mean that he will fit in at school. It's the culture of school that is our problem, not the academics. Just have a three minute conversation with him and you will know he's smart, willing and ready for the academic stuff.
So, I wrote her all of this. She finally wrote me back today and thanked me for my LONG email. That cracked me up because, yes, it was long, but why not cut the crap and just put it all out on the table? This is what you're up against, Teach, but you also have the mother who is so involved, she just might start to haunt your dreams.
She also agreed to the daily progress report thing. And Dammit if The Kid isn't kicking and hitting on the playground. WHAT TO DO? I certainly don't hit and kick him, where does he get that kind of aggression? It's that impulse thing. If I didn't have a good impulse control, I might hit or kick at least 5 people per day.
Anyway, better sign off before you say, thanks for the LONG post, yo.