Monday, September 29, 2008

Preschool update

KB joined preschool on Sep 10 for the MWF morning session. Last Wednesday was the first day he went in totally cheerful and played and was happy throughout. But unfortunately, I had to go to the room at the back of his classroom for some volunteer work. I told the administrator to shut the doors so he would not hear me. But the meeting took much longer than I thought it would and KG was getting upset to be bound to her stroller. I had to let her out and keep running behind her so she wouldn't trip in that place full of things. But when some woman came asking us how to go to the main office, the door was opened and KG tried to escape out. When I held her back, she let out this loud scream and threw herself on the floor crying loudly. And almost immediately, I could hear KB crying in his class room adjacent to the room we were in. That might have been the turning point towards a positive outcome and I botched it up thanks to that meeting.

Last Friday he looked sleepy when he went in. And we went to the store to get flowers for his teacher for her birthday. So somehow there was some change in schedule that morning when he went in. Also he wanted to get bagels when we were at the store - I think he went into school with the thought that he wanted to have bagel and cream cheese. After a promising day on Wednesday, we thought he would do even better on Friday. B waited for a few minutes so KB could sing a birthday song for his teacher and then KB gave her the flowers and then left for work. But KB started his tears just as B was leaving. Again, I called the office to check with them if I need to pick up KB early and they told me to please come and get him as he was crying.

Monday - Sep 29 - B dropped him as usual. Again KB started crying. B called me from work and told me it was pointless since they will anyway be calling me to tell me to pick up KB early and that I should just leave right away and get him. So I just abruptly left w/out taking a diaper bag or milk for KG. When I got there, I asked the admin staff who happened to be outside to check with the teacher if I need to get KB. She came back and told me that he was doing better and that I could just wait in the back building. I was going into the back building when KB's teacher came out of her class just to see me and tell me that he was doing much better and that he still made some noises (crying) but he was playing with puzzles with the assistant teacher etc. I was not prepared to stay on for two hours and it became difficult for me to contain KG since she was sleepy and also I didn't have her milk bottle with me. So I called the teacher after half an hour and she sent word that KB was still crying on and off but that I could come at 11.30 am and get him. I assumed that meant things were going better and I left.

I came back at 11.30 am to get KB. The director told me to wait and meet her in her office. I knew then that they were going to tell me to pull out KB from school for a month or two. I then went into class and the moment KB saw me he stopped his tears - well, not even tears - just loud noises and just went about playing with stuff in the playground. But the teacher Ms.T said to me, "I just think it's better he sort out the seperation issue at home first and then try again a month later or in January. I don't want this to be a traumatic experience for him.". The director later told me, "His crying is beginning to affect the confidence level of couple of other kids who were initially comfortable. Today two other children were crying a lot. I think it would work well for every one if he just took a break, sorted out the seperation issue at home and then came back. He has a very strong sense of self and I just think his crying is just more of an obstinate sort not so much sad crying. He just knows what he wants and he doesn't want to budge on it. It can work well in some things but work in the wrong way as well as in this case. But for now, it is best he tries to sort this out at home - to be away from mom. It' just that his crying is loud. If not, we would just let him cry it out and get used to it". (On a lighter note, when the director and me were seriously discussing this, KB went behind her chair near the window and spotted a little spider. His fascination. He immediately told her, "Ms.C, there is a spider here". She said to him "That's OK. He just likes to live there". KB says, "Can you give me a tissue, I want to get the spider". She hands him a tissue and he spots yet another one. He gets one and then turns to her and says, " I don't know where the spider ran away").

I am not in agreement with this. I feel it is not even a month since school started, they don't have a five day option, so he only goes three days a week. The problem is not so much that he is not ready for school but that the school does not have the bandwidth to engage him and distract him or even just let him cry it out the entire time for a few days until he gets used to being in school without mom around. KB has not had much opportunity to be away from me at home - when he is home with B and I go out. That probably is the root cause of all this trouble. Now we do this deliberately - every morning I go out for a walk leaving KB at home. And almost every other evening, I go out for an hour or so leaving KB with B at home. Each time, KB cries the entire time. B thinks it is all related and that the school is right in saying he needs to sort this out at home. I feel that the two can happen simultaneously and that KB was on the verge of getting used to school. Either way the choice now is not mine. The director has told me to pull him out of school for a month and come back again in Nov. I want to believe that they are sincere in doing the best for him. But I also think they are not giving him a fair chance now.

My concern with this whole thing is that if we were to go back in Jan, he would have been with us all during the holidays and there is no guarantee he won't cry again. If they cannot let him just cry it out for 5 or 6 classes in a row without my having to pick him up early, then how is he going to get used to it? When he knows mom will come if he cries? I like this school, he likes the school but if they again come back and tell me that he is loud and that I need to pick him up early, how will this sort out? It is hard to find good preschools that just feels right when you go tour them. This was one of the few where I felt the children looked really happy - it was noisy, cheerful, happy and lively. Not that the silent/calm atmosphere in a Montessori setting is bad. I in fact always felt KB would fit really well in a Montessori setting. Even now, I wonder if I made the right decision in going with a developmental preschool rather than a Montessori. He loves the Montessori materials - even last week when I went to tour a Montessori, he was like a fish in water - just pulled out the little chair, took a tray of beads and spooned them into other cups and put it back and then went on to some scooping activity, then on to checking out the live rabbit, then on to checking out the planet models they had on display. He sat in on their story time and listened eagerly. So may be a more structured environment in a Montessori would have engaged him better. I am not sure. But at this point in my local area, none of the Montessori schools have an opening. So it is not really an option until he turns four. I am just going with the hope that when he goes back to his current school either in Nov or in Jan, he will mentally make up his mind to not cry and just adapt easily.

I am not worried even if he doesn't go to school until age four. He enjoys his time with his little sister, he meets other kids every now and then and I can take him to other fun classes offered by the city. But I just feel bad that he likes this school and the teacher and he is not being given the time he needs to get used to being away from me at school. But it is what it is and we move on from here! In my old age, I am sure I will wistfully think of these days when KB needed me so badly! :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

KB speak...

I am writing some of these because this is the only way I will remember the things that KB said which B and I find really cute (of course as parents even "duh" things that kids say are really just so "smart" and "amazing" and "cute"!).

KB loves watching any kind of "Fix it" work being done either by B or by the handyman. Even when he was two he used to pretend like he was unscrewing his toys and putting the batteries in.

And when a bulb fuses, it is a source of excitement for KB. He will remind us non stop that we ought to take him to "Home D" ( he says that for Home Depot) and buy a new bulb. He learned the word "fuse" when we were talking to each other saying that the bulb had fused.

We have recessed lighting in the living room and suddenly yesterday when we had guests over, we turned the lights on and found that a couple of bulbs had fused. KB has been talking about it non stop and before going to be bed he suddenly told me "Mamma, the bulb is confused. We have to go to home D and get new bulbs".

Yes dear, in our house even the bulbs are confused! :)
KB read this book called "Mr.Bell's fix it shop", an old used book that my sister had sent for KB. It is a really nice book about an old man named Mr.Bell who can fix just about anything - his board says - except broken hearts. But the little girl who is his helper is heart broken because her puppy chewed her doll. Mr. Bell fixes her doll and so she asks him to change his board to say "I can fix anything, even broken hearts". Digressed to talk about the book.

KB loves some of the words in the book like "Gingham and Satin" and "musty, dusty corner" type rhyming words. He has a smile when I read those lines to him. He picked up the word "customers" from that book where the barber comes and tells Mr.Bell to fix his radio since his customers are missing the music in his shop.

The other day KB was toying around with KG's puzzle sorter and couldn't find some of the puzzles. He came to me and said, "Mamma, the customers are missing the shapes, Mamma!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Preschool - ready or not?

KB started school last Wed. He is registered for MWF classes.

Wed - 45 min peaceful time in class. Then crying began till finish time.

Friday - Cried the entire time - 9 to 11.30 am. But teacher still felt he was much better since he did not cry loudly and he answered all her questions. And he was in a great mood all day after that and talked often about his teacher.

Weekend in between.

Monday - Was reluctant to go even when he was home. Tried to tell me that he only had school "Nalaki" (tomorrow) and that he doesn't have to go. I convinced him I would come and get him soon after story time (the last thing they do) and that he will have fun. The moment we reached school he started crying a lot. After I left him in class, he cried so much that he threw up three times and the teacher had to change his clothes twice.
She was very sweet about it - didn't complain even once. She said it was not surprising since he had had a weekend in between and Mondays are usually harder.

Today (Wednesday) - I decided I would drop him late around 9.30 am.
Until 8.30 am he kept telling me about school - how if he is good I will get him balloons etc - but suddenly when he realized it was really time to leave - he said - nalaki dhan (tomorrow) school. So we tried all tactics and finally I told him he has to go to school. But I asked him if he wanted to lie down for a bit (he was yawning - KG woke up at 6.00 am and so he woke up an hour earlier than normal) - he said yes and went to his nap bed and lay down - around 9.00 a.m., I changed KGs diaper and got ready to drop him at school. He was calm but not cheerful - he knew I was packing his back pack - he sat in the car seat - talked OK etc - when he got down he started the tears - though it didn't come easily at first. He managed to kick start the crying and then it flowed easily and the volume got louder. I took him to the bathroom and then sat him down in class and gave him a hug, told him to be good and left - the assistant teacher Ms.S whisked him off for some painting.

But he did nothing till 11.30 - he was quiet during story time - but that's it. Rest of the time he had been crying.

What made it really disappointing today was that even Ms.T (she has been teaching at this school for 23 years now - a really sweet person) seemed unsure if this would work out soon or not. She said to me, "He is not sad or upset - just mad that mom is not there with him...he is not having any fun and if there was some improvement then I would say OK. But he cried the entire time. And he is loud so I feel bad for the other kids since I have to think about them as well".

She suggested "mommy and me" classes, but that's not going to do any good. If he is not ready she said we can try again in January. I feared it shouldn't come to this - but it is what it is. I have to go with the flow now - at least thank God it is only age 3 class. Not a big deal. So many kids go straight to KG. Wait and see. As soon as I went he posed for a photo (the photographer said she waited till I came since he was crying) of the class kids...and asked the teacher if he could borrow a book (the second time he is borrowing from her) and brought some book from the shelf...he said bye to both the teachers very sweetly and told Ms.T that he will be good on Friday - she asked him if he will bring a smile - he said "yeah". Ms.T said to him "Leave your tears at home, just bring your smiles - because if you cry so much it hurts my ears and the other kids as well"...and she gave him a high five. He played for some time in the play ground on his own (which he can for even two hrs if I am somewhere in that building) while I talked to another parent and when he got into the car he told me how Ms.C (the director) was not there today and said "Phone panni kekalam (Let's call and ask) - Ms.Cindy please come to the W school". It is not any English language problem since he communicates well with the teachers in English. And he likes both the teachers. He loves the school. The only problem is my absence while he is at school.

I was feeling a little emotionally riled up thinking about what the teacher said - that he may not be ready for school yet. It is hard as a parent to just accept that especially when you see two other kids in class who are coming to school (others have been away from mom before this) for the first time and adjusting in a couple of days. It is hard not to project this on myself as some kind of failure on my part to have given him adequate exposure or time away from me.

KB is otherwise so confident when he talks to the teachers, is observant and aware of what is happening around him in school despite his crying - he tells me which book they read, which kid did what etc. I guess this is the beginning of my own growth in the process of parenting outside the warm confines and comforts of my own home. I can have expectations of things going a certain way but I have to accept things as it is and let him just be and come to terms with things at his own pace. I have to call the shots here - do I want to keep pushing it because it is generally accepted that children have a hard time initially or do I believe the teacher (I don't have a choice really - if she feels he is not ready - but I could at least request her to try for a little longer) when she says he is not ready and just wait a few months. I thought this whole process would be an emotional one for me. But I am glad that I feel a strange sense of calm despite the disappointment of such a difficult start - that if I have to wait a few more months I am OK with it. It is just age three and if he needs a slower transition into being away from me (which is clearly the only problem and not going to school itself), we will just work on it in the coming months. We are to blame too - B comes home past 8.00 pm on most days and on weekends we tend to go out as a family. So KB hardly has time away from me - I am an absolute constant in his life. So I can't expect this to be easy on him - although I guess I didn't expect it to come to this - where they may ask me to pull him out for now. Anyway - he has promised me he will be good on Friday - so there is always hope.

When KB was about 3 or 6m old (I don't remember clearly), his pediatrician wrote in his notes (which I saw a year later) "sensitive and opinionated". KB is very strong willed. While he is soft-natured in the sense of being concerned about other people, there are things he just will not budge on - no reward can make him change his mind. I had told him I would get him a new set of balloons if he was good at school today - but that clearly did not work - he knew he hadn't been good so he didn't even ask for it on our ride back from school. His doctor told me to watch for some of the infant personality traits to show up again in his adulthood - that he believes that some of those show up even later in life. I suppose this is a preview of what life at age 3, 13 or 30 will be like for me with KB!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First day at preschool

It's been five months since I wrote this post about my preschool search. KB turned three in August and it was time for the "big boy" to start school. The big day - KB's first day of preschool - was upon me/us this morning. It was big not just because he was starting preschool but this was probably the first time ever he was going to be away from me ever. The best he has done away from me is when he is home with B and I go out to get something quick and come back home asap. But usually I don't get enough time after B returns home to do that on week days and on weekends, we usually end up going out together. And this was a big day for me to see how I react to being away from KB. I imagined myself breaking down in tears to leave him in school and wipe it off movie style and start my car and drive back home. I imagined KB shrieking and howling holding on to my legs only to be pried apart by the teacher and having to run out of class. That didn't happen really.

What did happen?

I had prepped KB over the last few weeks that we would be going to school W and I would drop him off in the morning and he would do all the fun things at school and when it was time to go home I would come and pick him back up. He would recite all of this like a story back to me. Often. We also read a couple of books about starting school. And even this morning when we left for school he told me he would be a "good boy" and have fun at school W and that he wouldn't cry. Well, our boy is a good story teller I have decided. He would get to the finest details about this whole school story - how he would get into the car when I came to pick him up and how KG will be happy to see him, how she would scream in delight when she saw him etc etc.

B came with us in a separate car and we went to drop off KB in school. He looked happy and cheerful when we went in. I took him to the bathroom and then got back into the classroom. I found a chair available and since we had to leave the classroom in a minute or so (school starts at 9.00 am), I just quickly seated him in a chair, gave him a hug and showed him the rolling pin for the play dough and said goodbye to him and left the classroom. It was really strange for me to drive home alone with KG alone and KB's car seat empty. A sad hindi film song would have been apt for that mood!

I got home and had my cereal, talked to my brother and a good friend - pretty much about this since they wanted to know about his first day. I thought to myself that if he crossed 10.00 am then he would be fine. Nuooooohoooo! Our boy had different plans.

At 10.30 am I got a call from the director of the preschool saying KB was having a hard time and if could may be pick him up earlier. So I just immediately left and went earlier than school ending time to get KB. As I parked the car, I saw KB standing in the play ground looking at the other kids while casually crying away to glory. The teacher Ms.T told me that he played with play dough etc till about 9.35 and then he came and told the teacher, "I am done". So she took him to a bin of cars and asked him to play with it. After which he asked for mom. And the flood gates were thrown open when mom didn't appear out of the play dough or jump out of his toy cars!

I was feeling really bad when I was walking towards his school for early pick up. But thankfully I didn't start crying myself. The teachers seemed quite supportive. Even though he was the only one in his class who cried this much, the teacher said there were other kids in other classes who also cried. As soon as he saw me he calmed down with a few whimpers thrown in for effect to show how much he had been crying. He was of course happy to be brought back home. But what gives me hope is that a) he did not cry for the first 40 min in school b) He loves this school
3) he told me stories about who did what in school and it seemed to me like he enjoyed being there.

Well, let's see what happens on Friday!

If it is possible to write posts while sleeping, you could give it to me. I am totally falling asleep here!

MammaMia - this one's for you : What do Bengali kids learn in preschool?

A for Orange! :) (Need I elaborate why Onondita?!)

Friday, September 05, 2008

KB speak

KB along with his sister is growing in different ways. A lot of personality changes that I feel has come about because of his little sister. He was always very playful and silly but now he has become very mischievous as well. He throws random objects up in the air, hides things in the CD player, sprays water all over the window shades with his sister's feeding bottle etc...It is a lot of fun and it is very interesting for me to see how her presence has changed him. I only wish her eating habits (she is also very difficult to feed these days but she is so willing and eager to try new foods unlike him) would also rub off on him.

KB is also getting better at defending himself because he has learned to fight her for his toys when she comes and grabs them from him. He has always been confident and bold in talking to adults but with physically stronger kids in the playground, he used to shy away. But now he just verbally tells them to move and give way for him if they are blocking the slide or tells them "Go, it's my turn now". I am hoping that preschool will help him with this even more. I don't want him to learn aggressive behavior but I am happy to see him feel physically confident around other children, even if he is smaller than them.

Now for some KB speak.

We got back from the library and as I was getting lunch ready for the kids, I asked KB to play some music. I tried to give him the CD instead of letting him choose one. He raised his voice and said "Eddddukaga indha maari pannre?". (WHY are you doing this?). I told him, "KB, kutti boys are not allowed to yell at their mamma's. Only big people yell if little kids do something wrong". It was sort of a light exchange. I went about my work soon after.

KB was trying to change CDs in the player when, as always, KG came running towards him to grab the CD he was holding. He turned to her and said "Kutti baby, Little girls should not disturb boys...Okay?!" .

OK thatha, I think to myself.
We were reading a book "Best friends" while I was givnig him his lunch. I then casually asked him, "Who is your best friend, KB?" and he replied with the same casual tone "Mamma" and turned the page. I guess I should enjoy this status while it lasts!
KB doesn't like it if his clothes are wet or his hands/feet are wet when he is at home. It's OK if he is in the water at the beach - but the moment he steps out, he has to be changed,cleaned etc.
The other day we were in the yard and his shorts got a little wet when he was playing at the water table. When he asked that his shorts be changed, I told him "It's OK, it's just a little bit of will dry up, KB".

Today while I was having my lunch, he poured some water from KG's water bottle into a cup and poured it on my pants. I told him not to pour water one me. He did it again on the other leg. I told him "KB, no, please don't put water on my pants, I will get wet now". Very sweetly, he tells me, "It's OK Mamma, it's just a little bit of water. It will dry up Mamma!".
Today the four of us were in the yard watering plants. I went back in to do some clean up work in the garage. B told me that KB asked him to give some water to the wind. B asked him why, he said, "Give some water to the wind, Daddy, wind is feeling thirsty". And B threw some water up in the air both kids delighted in it!