Graham struggles at preschool. It’s maybe one of the biggest pangs of mom-guilt I get – that, because his father and I have two full-time working parent schedules, these kids have been pulling 10-hour days since they were 3 months old. Daycare was fine for G when he was little and all they did was sing songs and play trucks, but ever since he progressed into a class that started having expectations about his ability to follow directions in a series and allow the other kids in his class to participate in an uninterrupted group activity, we have been getting sporadic reports about his ability to cope.
I’ll stop a minute to be clear: Graham’s teachers are his advocates. They root for him, and take extraordinary measures at times to help him coexist in a classroom of his peers. He has flexibility to do his own thing when the class is doing another and he just doesn’t want to join. I read about the crazy expectations we crazy American parents have for our kids. This doesn’t feel like that. The expectations that Graham’s teachers have for him are not that he be an automaton and have a 9-to-5 desk schedule. It’s that he acknowledge that there is a story time going on for other kids and that he not scream out loud and bang toys around while a teacher is trying to tell a story.
Lately there have been increased reports from school that Graham is struggling again. It tends to go in waves. My latest crazy theory is that bad days happen on the full moon. That one’s not holding water. Obviously. We’ve had pep talks with him. Stern talks with him. Consequences. Brief conferences trading tactics with the teacher.
But today? Today as I was fixing dinner, Graham walked into the kitchen after arriving home from school and looked grief stricken. No drama, just… upset.
I said, “What’s wrong, buddy?” He looked at me. His voice cracked, his eyes filled and he said, “Mom. I don’t know what’s wrong with me… I can’t listen…. I am trying so hard, but I can’t listen. Ms. Peggy is trying to tell me stuff, and I don’t understand what she wants me to do.” And then the tears flowed. He just let loose. All the frustration that had been building up in him all day came out of his tiny little body.
He *has* been trying hard. Andy and I – along with Ms. Peggy – have been creating a ton of different strategies and tactics over the past year. We all get frustrated at times, because G gets so wild. Because he starts telling a story and has trouble in the middle remembering where he was trying to go with it. Because he gets so distracted trying to do a simple task like go to the bathroom or wash his hands or put on his shoes. I half think he’s so skinny because he can’t sit still long enough to finish a meal.
I’m writing this out because I never want to forget today. Today, Graham wasn’t about excuses or drama. Today, Graham set out to do well in school and couldn’t. And that just breaks my heart.