Thursday, January 29, 2009

Preschool drop-out.

Ever since oh, I don't know, the very first day a year and a half ago, I have had conflicting feelings about Liam being in school. I started him with the best of intentions but as the months dragged on, it became harder and harder for me to force him to go.

He has always been naturally reserved around kids his age so I enrolled him in a part-time parent's day out program two days a week hoping it would help him grow socially. I thought the social aspect of school would probably be hard for him at any age so it might be better to get used to it sooner rather than later. I couldn't stand the thought of him crying on his first day of kindergarten and being made fun of from that day forward. Better to cling to mama's leg at age 2 than at age 5.

Of course, the transition wasn't easy. On mornings before school he would whine and drag his feet and say he didn't want to go. When I would ask him why, he'd say he didn't like school. When I would pick him up at the end of the day, he'd be happy and seem like he had a good time, but when I would drive by the playground to spy on him he'd be sitting all alone, watching the other kids play. His teachers assured me that he liked to sit and watch the other kids play but it still broke my heart. When he told me last week that he was too sick to go to school, I finally heard what he'd been trying to tell me all along.

HE DOES NOT LIKE GOING TO SCHOOL! He has never liked going to school.

So why was I pushing my 2 year old to do something that made him feel uncomfortable? Did I really think this attempt at socialization was working or had I gotten so accustomed to my weekly me time that I was afraid to give it up? Sure it's good for me to have a break, but at the expense of my child? That's not right. Have I been pushing him to go against his grain just so he will fit in? And what? Be just like everyone else? Why?

And so on and so on and so on.

I spent the weekend weighing the pros and cons, asking for advice, talking to my family, researching expert opinions and reading, reading, reading.
What I decided was this: while preschool (or daycare or mother's day out or playgroup or school...) might be wonderful for some kids, it is not the best fit for all kids.

Liam is a very unique child: smart, imaginative and sensitive. He doesn't want to run and jump and throw blocks; he wants to read books and act things out and write in his notebook. This is wonderful but makes him different from a lot of other kids his age. Sure, a part of me would love to drive by the playground and see him running around with the other kids, laughing and having a good time. But at the expense of who he is? No way. I don't ever want him to stop being himself in order to fit in.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that is kind of what socialization is. Learning to fit in with others. While I definitely think that is an important skill to have, I don't think it is something that can be forced. Especially not on a kid who really does like sitting in the corner of the school yard, watching the other kids play.

I still didn't know if pulling him out of school would be considered over coddling or trusting my gut but I couldn't stand to send him another day. I called the school to let them know we were playing hooky and ended up talking to the director all about what I was feeling. She was very understanding and helped me see that, for Liam, not going to school was exactly what he needed right now. I only wish I had asked her for advice a little sooner.

I am starting to realize that all kids are special needs kids. It's our job as p
arents to figure out what our unique little wonders need so we can love, nurture and teach them the way that works best for them. Some need to be pushed while others need to be coddled. I am trusting Liam to teach me how to be the mother he needs me to be.

Sure, I'll miss my me time but I won't miss making this happen twice a week...

I'm kind of a bad-ass for lasting as long as I did!

1 comment:

The Lindwall Family said...

Oh I totally understand Maggie! Liam sounds a lot like Jack. I totally understand your decision - I would have done the same thing. BTW - I love reading your blog. You are a great writer.