When my Big Five Year Old was a toddler I used to drive myself crazy with each new,
annoying phase he toddled into. He used to knock
over the television speakers and climb up onto them, standing tall as though he
had just conquered a mountain. He stopped doing that and started biting me.
Always on my neck when I was holding him, and always when I wasn’t expecting
it. And always me. He never bit my sweet husband or anyone else. He was laying
claim to his new mommy, and I couldn’t wait until he felt the transaction had
been complete. Eventually he stopped
biting me and entered the phase where he threw everything he could get his
hands on while sitting in a crowded restaurant. That was a super fun stage.
That guy never saw that piece of toast coming…
Just when his phases started to slow down and I could walk away from him without fear of him hurting himself or others, we brought home the Tiny Toddler. And the phases started all over again. Along with the new crop of weird toddler behaviors came the work we had just started letting go of: back to changing diapers, spoon feeding, preparing special foods, wearing the baby 24/7. And I didn’t complain. It was exhausting, but it was also wonderful. A whole new blessing.
And while we enjoyed the blessing still we looked ahead to the days of more independence. And now, our Big Five Year Old is there. He is gone from me now, spending every day in a classroom at his new school. He has new friends and new mountains to climb. And this phase, is so. much. harder.
The transition from preschool to kindergarten has not been an easy one for my sweet boy. While he is academically ready for the work, ahead of the curve there, really, he still needs to work on respecting authority and following orders. This is not news to me, of course. But that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s hard on him, and it’s hard on me. For the past three weeks our whole world has revolved around what “color” he ended his day on- anything green or above means a good day, yellow, orange, and, heaven forbid, red, mean not so good. So far he has been all over the color board, landing on the dreaded “red” just the other day. Now we know that just telling him to behave is not going to work. We know that this is a work in progress. We know there is a fine line between enforcing the rules and assuring that we don’t cross the line into a world where my sweet boy no longer enjoys school. There is so much pressure here! We are laying the groundwork for his entire school career, and I want him to get off on the right foot. I can already see him starting to shut down when we spend too much time talking about his behavior. He seems genuinely confused when I ask him what choices he made that pushed him into the lower colors. And I know he needs to figure this out for himself. We can guide him, we can gently redirect him, we can show him the correct way to behave. And after that, he has to figure it out for himself. But it is so hard! I want to be there, in the classroom with him. I want to be able to stop him when he makes a poor choice and say, “See? That is what your teacher is talking about! Don’t do that!” I want everyone at that school to be able to look past the tough transition and see my amazing kid for what he is, which is, well, amazing.
If you ask my Big Five Year Old what his favorite part of the day is he will tell you recess. Smart man. He can run and jump and scream and do all those things he isn’t allowed to do anywhere else. But when I ask him who he played with that day he always mentions the same two boys that he knows from church and his previous daycare. Neither of them are in his class, although they are both in kindergarten. His face will then often get a little cloudy as he tells me that no one else wants to play with him. We talk about how he can’t always be in charge of the games, that he has to let the other children pick the games too, how he has to do what others want to do too. We talk about how he should ask the other children to play, instead of waiting for them to ask him. Sometimes he says he understands and his face brightens. Sometimes he tells me that the other kids not wanting to play with him makes his “eyes water”, which is what he says when he feels like he is going to cry. Which makes my eyes water. I want to be there on that playground, I want to show him how to make friends. I want to sit those other kids down and lecture them on how wonderful my little boy is. Or better yet, I want to keep him home with me, where I will play with him and be his friend.
We are doing all the right things. We role play conversations with friends. We practice sitting still and listening. We are in daily contact with his teacher. We stick to the rules and enforce the consequences. And he is a smart kid. And he is outgoing and friendly. He will get through this transition just fine. I know he is not the only little one in his class feeling these growing pains. But he is my only little one in that class, and it breaks my heart to see him struggle. This phase, this is the hardest. And I can see the future. It isn’t going to get any easier. There will be fights with friends, crushes on girls, sporting events lost… The years before, they were physically hard, true. But this next phase, this is going to be a tough one. But my sweet boy needn’t worry. I won’t just see him on the other side. I will be walking through it, right along with him. God give me strength…