It's hard when parents have a certain vision for their child, and the child has very different plans. it seems the more a parent wants their kid to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or be on the football team, or win the cheer-leading championship, or enjoy kindergarten... the more they retaliate against you.
Toby only has school every other day. He was nervous, and I knew that, but I kept talking about all the positive fun things that would happen at school. I've seen in the past that if you start labeling too many emotions, like being nervous or sad or scared, the more he thinks 'oh, is that how I'm supposed to feel about this?' and it makes it worse.
It doesn't help that the month before school we were stopped by everyone we knew and asked if we were excited for school. Toby would hang his head as per usual and I would say something like 'Yeah it sounds like it should be fun' and then I would get comments over his head like "I remember liking kindergarten, but oh did I hate grade 3. I had a horrible teacher" or "The adjustment's pretty tough, it's hard to be away from mom for so long" or "The bus ride sounds long, that sucks that it comes so early."
Toby can hear you. Toby can hear everything you're saying and he remembers everything that people say. And I'm not blaming these comments, but it just all piles up in my head as another thing I have to counteract with positivity.
Wonder of wonders, he got on the bus the first day.
Wonder of wonders, he did it four days.
Everyday he was nervous, but went out the door. Everyday he came home and cried for an hour. All I could do was sit and hold him and say nothing. I understand that he doesn't like driving. I understand that it's a long day away from home (not away from 'mom' because he's used to staying home with my mom while I'm at work, etc.)
Then Toby got sick. We stayed home for a week getting over the flu. And then I think it clicked in his head that "I got to stay home on a school day".
This past week has been....difficult.
We woke up last Monday and he immediately started saying he didn't think he was ok to go to school. The morning got worse. The bus went by. I had to go to work. Toby stayed home.
Wednesday was the same, however I didn't have to go to work so I got to talk to him better. He crawled in bed with me and curled up in my arms and said he couldn't go to school. I asked him why. He said he didn't feel well. I had seen him at play the last few days and knew full well he wasn't sick so I asked him what was really bothering him and to please tell me so I could help.
He was quiet for a very long time and then very quietly said that there to too many kids at school and it was too loud.
We talked about it for a while and how I could ask his teacher to give him a quiet space to go if he needed it, but he was learning so much at school that we don't get to do at home so it would be good to try to go and I would drive him in but it would be good to take the bus home so his friends on the bus could see him. He shrugged and said he "wasn't really interested in talking to them".
He didn't go that morning, and I carried on my jobs and kept telling him I was still going to do my work because he was supposed to be at school. He very merrily went downstairs on his own and started practicing numbers himself on a number board we have. He made me a treasure hunt where he had written letters on 'clues' around the house.
Like he somehow knew the he'd better do some 'school' things even if he wasn't going.
I finally convinced him to go at lunch break and we got to the school and he wandered away to the school yard to find his friend from class. I picked him up at the end of the day and was met with an emotional mess again, but I had a note from his teacher saying he had a good day.
This is where it's hard...because I know he's learning things at school, and he has a friend who is very very similar to him. But the before-and-after nightmare that I have to deal with is emotionally exhausting.
I don't want him to stay home. I don't want to home-school. But I don't want school to be a punishment. I don't want the punishment for anxiety to be more anxiety.
There are some kids who kick up a fuss and say they hate school but it's all verbal, and they usually still end up putting clothes on and going out the door. Maybe they cry at goodbyes, but at the end of the day they don't have enough words for all the fun things they got to do that day.
Toby is just...sad. He just shuts down. And at the start of the day if I were to force clothes on him and throw him out the door he would have his clothes off as fast as I put them on. If I could even get near enough to get his pajamas off in he first place.
He's not jumping up and down and whining that he hates school... He's talking to me about it. We have a discussion. He tells me that he doesn't find it exciting. He tells me that it's too busy. And I have to respect that I guess, otherwise he'll never want to tell me anything hard again.
I don't want to 'lower my expectations' of him. But I maybe need to change them.
He's smart. He's really smart and loves learning. And I don't want school to make him hate learning. He can write all his letters and when he asks me how to spell a word I give him the sounds and make him figure out the letters on his own. He can sound words out on his own, although when you flat-out ask him to show you he gets all self-conscious and usually won't.
He can count. He can cut paper. He can draw. He's imaginative. He's good at building and balancing things that you would never think would work. He likes showing people things he's done.
This morning he said he'd try going to school at lunch, and then proceeded to merrily show Anthony all the letters he knows how to write and the 'Letter Train' that was sent home for him to work on. He can do the work. I think maybe it's just overwhelming to have it all taught to you at once with other kids around.
After talking a lot to my mom I think we've decided to (within reason) let him decide when he goes. If he misses a day and he's not sick, we'll go up to the school anyway to find out what they did in class. If I can convince him to go at some point during the day, an hour is better than nothing. Maybe he's just not ready. He developed at everything late, except talking. Maybe he just needs more time. And I'll just hope that he hasn't been scared off of school all together.
If we run into you in the next while, please don't ask how school's going. I don't want to lie and say IT'S GREAT while Toby hangs his head. And I don't want to sigh and quietly mutter something about 'challenges' because it furthers reinforced to Toby that he's a 'problem'.
As with everything in his life, it seems, you have to wait until he decided he wants to talk about it, and all you can do is respond enthusiastically.
This is either the rough beginning to a great adventure, or the quiet beginning to a very rough adventure.... I suppose only time will tell.