Friday, July 20, 2007

I Did It

I made a person. A real, live person with a life independent of mine, who goes on about his day while I go on about mine, our paths crossing only in the afternoon, at the end of the day. Someone whose peers will now influence him almost as much as I do, whose teacher will know things about him that I don't. A person with an inner life who is, as I type, sitting alone in a room full of strangers, calling up all of his young emotional resources to adjust to a new place, a longer day, new friends and authority figures. A person who's doing very well with his first year of big kid school. Mostly.

I have been trying to write this post since Wednesday, Owen's first day, but my computer is acting wonky again, and I don't have time to take it over to tech services. But it's almost better to have a few days under my belt, a bit of perspective. I was fine when I dropped him off on Wednesday (maybe a wee bit sentimental), and he was fine, too. I looked back once as I walked to car after delivering him to his teacher, and he wasn't watching me, just sitting among the other kindergarteners on his new red and blue nap mat with a bravely stoic expression, that look we get when we're somewhere new, a little disoriented, and don't really know what to do with ourselves. He gazed around kind of blankly, waved when I finally caught his eye and gave me a small smile. Part of me wanted to run back and scoop him up, spare him those first few awkward days. I just kept thinking, he's only FIVE years old, and I'm leaving him in this brand new place with all of these strangers. Adjustments like that are scary even for grown-ups. It amazes me how he's taking it in stride.

So far his favorite things about kindergarten are art, recess, reading, and the discipline system, since his teacher rewards good behavior with a weekly trip to her "treasure chest" to pick a prize. He's striving with all his might to earn that damn treasure, so I guess the system works.

However. I'm also afraid what I feared may be happening. Remember the post about Owen's fear, where I predicted the conversation we'd have if he found a noise to be anxious about at school? That conversation happened this morning, almost word for word as I imagined it. But it's not a school bell that's bothering him, it's the building's intercom system. It startles him when it comes on with morning announcements and to call the kids' names for carpool. On the way to school this morning he said, "Mommy, I want to stay home and do fun things with you." Shit.

When he came home on the first day, he announced that they had a "speaker" in his classroom, then assured us that he wasn't scared of it at all. Not me. Uh uh. No way. But that's how his anxiety starts: first he denies it, fights it, tries to pretend he's not feeling it--hoping to get past it, I suppose. So when he tells me he's not afraid, he really means, "I'm very worried." Then it escalates. The second day he mentioned the intercom again, still claiming to be fine with it. Then this morning.

I knew why he wanted to stay with me, so I saved him having to tell me and asked, "What's bothering you? The speaker?" He said, "You got it!" Sigh. I told him he couldn't stay home, that he'd have a very sad and boring life if he let noises keep him home because noises were everywhere. I explained that every child in his class had something he or she was trying to get used to, even if no one else was worried about the speaker, and that everyone would feel more comfortable in a few days. I told him that the intercom was a very small part of a really fun day and he shouldn't let one part of the day ruin the rest of it. I assuaged him for now. I only hope his anxiety doesn't grow further.

I hate that his worry about that stupid speaker is complicating his adjustment to kindergarten. I wish we'd gotten in touch with a child psych before school started. I wish he could be reasonable about the whole thing and overcome it. Because when I imagine him, alive for only five years, on his own at real school for the first time, waiting for me to pick him up in carpool with his hands clapped over his ears and that alarmed expression on his face that makes him look like almost like a baby again, it breaks my heart. Why does life have to get harder? Why does it have to pull us farther and farther apart, separate an anxious five year old from his mother?

But truly, I know why, and I'm proud of him for doing as well as he's done so far. I'm proud of him for going without hysteria and tears today, for trying to listen to me and get past his fear. He left the car this morning with a quick hug, and I could almost see him brace himself for the day. That's one "first" I didn't expect--his first public face. The first mask he'd wear for everyone else. The first year he's old enough to realize that sometimes we have to grin and bear it, even if the grin masks fear.


my minivan is faster than yours said...

my son has so many fears i couldn't name em all. i hope i handle it as well as you did!

Wendy said...

The thing that just about killed me when my daughter was in preschool was the time she came home and told me that some girls in class were dancing together and she came up to dance with them and they told her she couldn't.

I literally had to hide my tears from her. I called my sister and she cried too. Then we were ready to go scream at their parents for raising such heartless little brats.

Having said all that, I wouldn't have kept her home even if it saved her feelings. They have to live out in that world eventually and learning to do it is easier when they're younger.

Wendy said...

Oops, I just saw the date on this one (my google reader popped this one up as new).

I guess I should read through your other posts to see how he's adjusting. I hope he's doing well!

Sometimes I think that small problems when they're little are perfect opportunities to talk with them about difficult stuff. They stop talking about these kinds of things as they get older.

Mean Mommy said...

I just brought this post over from my old site at LiveJournal. I didn't think about it popping up as new! So nice to have your comments either way, thank you!