Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A Sad Milestone

His first at-school meltdown. Oh just rip my heart out and mail it to the top of Kilimanjaro. It did me in. I'm likely to homeschool him from here on out. If only homeschooling didn't require any discipline on my part, I'm sure I could do it.

Many moms of elementary schoolers are probably already familiar with the "stoplight" system of discipline in the lower grades, but in case you're not savvy, here's an overview: Staying on green is the goal. Every kid has a stoplight and a clothespin. The pin starts out on green every day. If a child misbehaves, he gets an "X" on his behavior card. In our school, 4 X's mean the child's pin moves to yellow. Staying on green all week results in the much coveted trip to the treasure box on Friday.

Yesterday John picked Owen up from school. When they got home, Owen blew past me, shirttail out, shoes untied, and went to his room calling back to me, "I gotta unpack my bookbag!" I was puzzled, as he usually stops to say hello and blather about his day for a bit before moving on to anything else. When John passed me, he gave me a dark look. Something was amiss.

Before going back to check on him, I learned from John that Owen had gotten an "X" on his card. Just one. No change to his "green" status, just one little "X." This, apparently, was NOT okay with our little rule Nazi. In fact, it fairly undid him, and, John reported, he bawled all the way home from school. Sigh.

So I had a little chat with Owen, and he told me (after some snuffling and a round of fresh tears) that he'd been playing with his glasses when he was supposed to be doing something else, so the teacher had given him an "X." He got so upset about it, the teacher sent him to the restroom to calm down. I hugged him, wiped his eyes, and explained that everyone makes mistakes, told him that what happened was no big deal and one "X" wasn't the end of the world. I said that know he knew that he needed to listen closely to what the teacher wants him to do. He seemed much better after realizing we weren't disappointed in him.

I'm not sure which part of this is most painful to me. To imagine him feeling ashamed and humiliated and embarrassed with no one to turn to is gut wrenching. That he had to leave the classroom to get himself together is the saddest thing ever. And that he ran past me to unpack his bookbag before I could see any evidence of his "X" bothers me. Did he think we'd be angry about one little mistake? Does he see us as that hard nosed?

My reaction to this relatively small incident is so first-time mom of me, I know. But all of this letting them step into the world alone stuff is hard as hell. What's hardest for me is standing by while he faces moments of sadness or embarrassment or loneliness by himself, without us there to turn to. It's necessary, of course. But he's only 5, and that first push out of the nest is damn hard.

I'm sure I'll feel this way again, as we reach other milestones. Like college. Holy crap, college. Maybe if I start brushing up now, I'll be smart enough to homeschool him to a BA.

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