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    First day, dragons and voter fraud

    February 19th, 2016

    Following up after my last post, S2 had a GREAT first day at his new pre-school.

    Drop off was surprisingly easy. It was like …. “wait for the shoe to drop” kind of easy. He walked in, wrote in his name (that’s how they sign in for the day), showed off his lovey to his teachers, and let us go. No clinging, no tears. I probably was holding back more tears than him.
    His teacher welcomed him showing him his seat on his cubbby, some building toys she thought he would like, and invited him for breakfast (they serve breakfast there as well as lunch).

    At pick-up both the director (at the new school) and his new teacher commented on what a great day he had. This program does two positive reinforcement techniques, which I think are cool:
    1) A “stick” chart, where you can earn different sticks for doing good things. Like a friendship stick, for doing something kind for a friend. S2 got all his sticks today. Sweet! Maybe it’s first day sticks, but whatever — great way to start off a new environment. And it’s awesome that it’s something that he can feel he has accomplished.
    2) Popcorn party. The class, together, earns a popcorn kernel whenever they do something good. When they get to 20 popcorn pieces, the whole classroom gets a popcorn party. They’re one kernel away, so hopefully sometime next week they’ll get to that 20 — for a kid like S2 that digs popcorn, I think that will be another great perk to experience.

    His teacher read the evaluation report we gave her from the parenting coach that observed S2. We talked about it, and it was really good to hear her talk about her own approach to the classroom.

    The class recently did a chapter on Chinese New Years. They made a dragon head, and since they were done she was going to throw it away. Guess who requested to take it home instead? Yeah — we’re now the proud owners of a cardboard dragon head… and apparently a 5yr old dragon. I’m cool with this — yet another piece for our mounting cardboard box collection in our living room.


    Oh yea… voter fraud. The class is talking about presidents this week. Hence the white house project. Also they voted for a class president. S2 voted. For himself. Twice! Alas he didn’t win.

    I’m relieved to be honest. I know this is just the start. I know that the true test will come when he shows bad day side. But I’m glad it started off on a good foot.

    Parenting & hard choices

    February 19th, 2016

    This blog post has been months in the making. For better or for worse, each time I think of sitting down to write it I have no energy to, or no time. So it’s been brewing in my head. And then when things open up, there’s a new development.

    Summary: S2 is moving pre-schools. Today. It took S and I a long time to actually see that the place he had been attending was not a good fit for him.

    I’ve been a big proponent of this program, and as of this year have come to learn that 1) It’s not all that; 2) What they say about different kids needing different things is entirely true.
    I’ll talk about the second bit first. S2 is not the kind of child that is motivated by punishment and privileges being taken away. He is very much a positive re-enforcement kind of kid. Think more carrot than stick. So much so that if you use the stick approach he digs in [deep] and things get out of hand quickly. This is SO frikkin hard. As a parent, with sometimes little time to be patient and come up with a different approach, it feels impossibly difficult to think constantly on the spot how to come up with a new plan and de-escalate a situation. Especially when there are times you just want him to do what you ask him to do. The other half of the equation is that I’m constantly asking myself, and feeling judged that when we use this approach people (like the director in said preschool) thinks we’re too soft with him, and he just needs stricter discipline.

    The issue at hand is his impulsive response to situations. He’s not violent, and doesn’t harm anyone physically. But if he doesn’t like what you say he rolls his eyes at you and mocks you to your face…. without any regard to whether he’s responding this way to another 5 year-old friend, or a 50 year-old teacher. Totally not appropriate! I make no excuses for that. Being the subject of this ridicule is enough to make you incensed pretty gosh darn quickly. Aaaand, of course, it’s his go-to reaction to being corrected.
    At home, we’re working with him to tell him this action is really disrespectful, and teaching him other ways he can respond in these situations. Depending on how we talk to him he stops, or escalates. At his pre-school it was straight to time-out, so you can be pretty sure the escalation path is his go-to there.

    Late last year, we had a parenting coach come in to do an observation of S2 at school. The report we received in return was really disheartening. Actually less so on what she wrote about our son, and more about what she observed in the program: public shaming of kids; quickness to negative repercussions; and very much a “my way or the highway” attitude. In speaking with the director, she was faced with a response of “These teachers have been at it for 30 years, and there’s no reason for them to change their approach”. We did implement a star-chart, with much annoyance on their part to have to do something different/special with him… except what was supposed to be a positive reinforcement of good behavior became a focus solely on the periods of time he had a time-out.

    At the time we stayed for the incredible parent community we met and their support. I will miss this, but hope that the friendships we’ve formed in the past 2 years will span beyond where he gets dropped off in the morning. Ultimately what forced our hand at moving was a second episode where S2 got sent home for bad behavior (yes, they do this… paired with being required to stay home the day after) and us asking the director how teachers have handled situations like ours in the past. The answer was “We’ve never seen this before!”. Really?!?!? That night S and I had a very long, and very productive conversation with a pre-school teacher at another school. She was amazing. She told us all the approaches she takes with kids when they act the was S2 has and how she’s worked with families to consolidate on handling things at home as well as school for consistency. S and I haven’t gotten this type of support. There’s been no working as a team, no other ideas being recommended to us, with the sole expectation that this is a parenting problem that should only be resolved through stricter discipline. This doesn’t work for this kid. Now what?!?! However, what we took away from the call and prompted us to instantly start looking elsewhere was our friend (the preschool teacher we talked to that night) telling us that her concern at this point was how not just how his teachers were responding to him, but the fact she was concerned that this was setting a precedent for him that this is how teachers will treat him for the rest of his life. He had no advocate in his current program, and someone he could turn to when things were difficult for support and encouragement. With a kid going into kindy next fall and looking at another 13 years at a public school, we can’t take a chance that the feeling of “always being wrong” is how he’ll feel about school for the rest of his life.

    Let me be clear — I’m not saying that S2 is fine just the way he is. His behavior with the eye rolling and the lip mockery sucks. We ARE working on it. But we need a partner in this that can help us. Because parenting is pretty frikkin’ hard. Especially when what works for one of your kids doesn’t work for the other.

    S and I were fortunate to have found 3 options in programs he can move to. We were open about our challenges with our son as well as his current environment during our visits. I hope we found the right one. No lie, I’m nervous.

    It’s not making it any easier that S2 doesn’t WANT to move schools. He’ll miss his friends. He’s up-front about that. He doesn’t want to go to a new school, because week-end play dates are not enough. There’ve been tears. He doesn’t understand why he has to move, and I can’t explain to him either. What do I say “Your behavior was bad, and your teachers don’t want you there anymore?” (<- over-simplified and not words I would actually use, but you get the point) Nope — wouldn't that. He's really frikkin' smart and draws connections like you wouldn't believe. How would that not encourage him to continue acting poorly so that he'd be asked to leave the next program? Instead we've been focusing on this being a great school that will help him get ready for kindergarten in the fall.
    In the last two days he's been starting to talk about his move as a more matter of fact. Still I have no idea what to expect of today. Or of next week.

    This week-end one of S2's buddies (that moved to CA just two year ago and remembers moving preschools) tried to comfort Storm by telling him that his first day would be sad, but after 3 days in his new school he will see how much fun he's having. It seriously melted my heart. 1) Because this kid was amazing in trying to comfort his friend, without any prompting (and he's only 5 himself!!!!!!); 2) because I so hope he's right.

    Gah! This sucks. I KNOW my son. I KNOW he's not a bad kid. I DON'T KNOW how to help him and make this whole thing go away. It's a process. I know it's on me and S to "fix it". I just… want a partner to help.

    Wish us luck?

    PS. In late March we do have an appointment with a child psychiatrist to talk about S2. Possibly have him evaluated for ADHD. The director of the current program kept hinting at it. We're doing it. I'm not in a position NOT to consider that possibility, because all I want is support and help for/with my kid.

    Evolution and Reincarnation

    February 13th, 2016

    I’ve had a fun week this week, with each kid catching me on each of these topics.

    G straight up asked “How did we come from apes?”, which enqueued a good discussion on what evolution is, positive traits that species want to hold onto, and superfluous ones that disappear over time. We talked about the use of pinkies… and would humans ever go down to just 4 fingers. It ended in G concluding that he wanted a tail again so he could “do stuff”. He’s thinking more of a 3rd arm though, to be clear. Frankly, I’d like a third arm too.

    On the flip side was S2 who exclaimed that he wanted to be a Phoenix. I initially thought he wanted his name to be Phoenix (which for the record WAS on the list, but given that there was already a Griffin, I didn’t want the naming scheme in our home to corner the market on Grecian mythological creatures), but as it turned out he wanted to literally be a Phoenix. He wanted to burst into flames and be reborn as a baby phoenix. This in turn kicked off a conversation about reincarnation, what some people believed in happens after death. He concluded that he would like to be reincarnated into a baby snow leopard. Who knows kid, you might get your shot.