Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Wow friends. I had no idea the havoc kindergarten would unleash on our lives.

Charlie is struggling with focusing and finishing projects.  Just that one thing, apparently, but he is having major problems and it is really getting all of us down.  We've been practicing at home, we've been corresponding daily (sometimes more than that!) with his teacher, we've been encouraging him, we've celebrated his successes, we've gently but firmly reminded him that his teacher is in charge and if she says it's time to color your Mother Goose then you need to color your Mother Goose while at the same time internally questioning the importance of coloring as an academic skill for a kid who can read and add and subtract.  I've come up with many professional ways to say "But he's my baby, please be gentle with him, just look at those freckles!!" and cried many, MANY tears of frustration--in the kitchen after bedtime, in my car, in my office before important meetings--wondering if he was one of those smart boys who just doesn't "do school" well, wondering if he needed to be moved to a Montessori school out in the country, wondering if I needed to quit my job so I could spend more time volunteering in his classroom.  And yes, I've eaten all the chocolate in the house.

Mostly what we've done is we've held on with our fingernails waiting for that magical sixth week, after which some kind of "adjustment" is said to be complete.

I've hoped for improvement, some shred of good news every single day.  There has been some.  His teacher has done an excellent job at cheering him on for the good things he does.  He's neat, he pushes in his chair, he's polite, he's thoughtful, he doesn't speak out of turn.  He's a good boy.  But this project issue seemed to be a big one.

Yesterday he came out with a note that I had to sign and send back.  He wasn't completing his work, which meant he was being irresponsible.

He flung it at me and told me he didn't want to go to school today.  Then he picked a fight with Wes and rode his bike far away from us.

My baby.  My smart, sweet, loving baby boy who loves to learn and wants nothing more than to please his teacher, who taught himself to read this summer so he wouldn't disappoint her, did not want to go to school.

He's going to hate school, I thought.  He's going to be like all those smart kids I knew growing up who got terrible grades.  Who were angry and withdrawn.  Who did drugs.  Who ended up working at adult bookstores after graduation.  This is how it starts.

There was more crying.  I polished off the rest of the semisweet baking chocolate.  I filled Ryan in via email and was relieved when he came home early.

After dinner I went to an information night at his school.  It was supposed to be a fun little get to know the kindergarten curriculum kind of event.  But I got there early and sat in the front and smiled cautiously at his teacher when I saw her.

She immediately came over and sat down.  We talked for fifteen minutes.  She was great.  She said "I do NOT want him to hate school.  I would rather he do less work than hate school.  Tell him 'Do not worry about this.  You will be fine.  I will work with you.  School should be fun.'  I have lots of ideas.  If he doesn't want to color, he can start with cutting and gluing.  If he has to finish coloring at home where he can be alone, that is fine with me.  He is not the only kid to have had this problem and I know he's a smart kid.  I know he can read.  He's always polite and considerate.  He's a good boy.  Please tell him not to worry about this any more."

And so I went home and told him what his teacher had said.  He rolled over in his bed with Phent and said "I don't know.  I think I'll be sick tomorrow."  And I told him how when I worry about things at night my tummy feels sick the next morning.  I emphasized again that his teacher said to tell him "Don't worry.  Tomorrow will be better.  You do not have to color."

This morning he was a new kid.  He jumped out of bed before his alarm.  He dressed quickly and ran downstairs for breakfast.  He was cheerful and goofy and pleasant and adorable.  He was HIMSELF.  Ryan said he rode quickly to school and walked confidently into the building.  It was a good morning.  Such a good morning.

I thought about him all day, my nerves still raw and ready for another bad email, another bad note home, another blank sheet of construction paper folded into has backpack.

After my class I ran back to my office to check my phone.  I texted our nanny.  She responded, "GOLD STAR FOR CHARLIE TODAY!!"

I cried some more.  I emailed Ryan.  I exhaled for the first time in two weeks.  I hope this is the start of something good.



Kyla said...

Sending your kids to school is like giving your heart to someone, only it is STATE MANDATED and YOU DON'T PICK who gets your heart. It sounds like your little heart is in good hands, I'm so glad! But sorry about the worries, though. It really is tough sometimes.

WhitMc said...

I had to take a chocolate break when reading this post. Poor guy! Although his teacher sounds amazing, which makes me very happy. I hope this new greatness continues!

Meika said...

Holy cow! I'm glad for that ending; I was beginning to think this sounded way too intense for kindergarten. SO glad the teacher is someone you can work with - and so very glad that Charlie had a good day!

Alyssa said...

Oh my gosh...I could just feel your stress and anxiety spilling out of this post. I am so, so happy that he did so well and I hope it keeps getting better!

Sarah said...

In Harry's class last year, if they didn't get a project done, they had "catch up" during playtime. NONE of the kids wanted catch up, and they did a great job of keeping each other on task so they could all play together. It was adorable!

Hope things continue to look up for you guys!

Rima said...

Oh, man, my heart was just breaking for you guys as I read this. Kindergarten is a big adjustment, especially for a kid as smart as Charlie who is probably like, "You want me to color? But I know long division and quantum physics!" He's gonna be alright- he's such a good kid!

Jessica said...

All this growing up stuff is so hard. I don't know how I'm going to survive it.

I'm glad things are looking up for Charlie.

CP said...

What a sweet guy! Sounds like he has a great teacher.

Dr. Maureen said...

Oh, wow. You poor thing! His teacher sounds like a good one, though. Poor little Charlie! I'm so glad it's working out!

Judith said...

Whoa. What's with all the intensity and notes being sent home the first couple weeks of KINDERGARTEN? I'm glad the teacher corrected course, but that just seems kind of nuts to me. My baby is still a baby, but it terrifies me that this is what's waiting for me.

Ugh. So sorry you had to go through this.

- Long time reader/lurker, who was so weirded out by this post, I had to leave a comment.

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

You're such a good mommy! That's SO promising to hear the teacher doesn't want him to not like school. (He could've gotten stuck with the "you must color because I said so" teacher. *shivers*)

Sandy W said...

My son was having very similar problems last year in kindergarten. I was always hearing that he didn't finish or that it was sloppy and lazy. Come to find out my extremely intelligent little boy has dyspraxia. Doing the close meticulous work is very difficult for him. It got so bad last year that he was throwing up every morning. Keep your eye on this. I am not saying there is anything wrong, but if there is it would be best if it is caught early. Now that we know, this year so far has been wonderful.

SnarkyMommy said...

Oh Charlie! My heart is breaking. It will get better. Oh those first weeks (months) (year) of all-day school was tough. Always in trouble, lots of days on red. Sigh. Different issues, same song.

It will get better. IT WILL GET BETTER. I promise. He'll learn what's expected of him and it will all click.

Lucy said...

Oh I hated colouring in, hated it with a passion. All of my friends loved it and I just couldn't see the point. I had teachers who went on and on about my presentation because I couldn't be bothered to draw pretty pictures in the margins of my work. I think I got to year 5 (5th grade possibly? I was 9) before one teacher turned around to my parents at parents evening and said "she doesn't care about her presentation but it's not going to matter in the future so why worry about it". I loved her for that, still do!

I'm sure Charlie will be fine, they'll get on to doing something that he enjoys soon, and he'll really start to settle in. It sounds horrible for you though, so I hope it happens quickly.

Elissa said...

First-time commenter, but I'm a regular reader and love hearing all about your growing boys. Just wanted to say that my three-year-old had some behavior problems in preschool last year and I found it to be one of the most stressful and anxiety-provoking episodes I can remember. It's so hard--you love your kid so much and want what's best for him, but can't just jump in and fix everything right away. Glad to hear that things are looking up and sounds like the teacher is on the right track.

Erica said...

I read "Montessori school out of the country," so I guess that's where my head is at WRT Anna in two years.

sarah said...

Oh my goodness; I am so sorry I'm reading this so far after the fact. Sweet Charlie. I hope things are getting better for him--adjustments are so hard.

Ethan's absolutely struggling with 1st grade (he had no issues in K, but this year is hitting us hard). It is agonizing to see your kiddo start to dread school. Ugh.This business of growing up is TOUGH.

I"m so glad it sounds like he's got a great teacher who 'gets' him & who you know is on his side. That makes all the difference