Bully For You

It’s almost like I was begging for it – right? Talking about how great kindergarten is going?

G rides the bus with his friend from two doors down. They’re both kindergartners and they both love playing outside with each other. These two have known each other for two years now and have really hit it off in recent months.

So imagine my surprise when G’s friend’s mom – my friend – calls me after the boys’ bedtime last night to break the news that my kid has been repeatedly punching her child all the way to school on the school bus. Even after he tells Graham to stop, Graham just… keeps on going. Even struck him in the face at least once.

And while my boisterous five-year-old has been coming home regaling the dinner table with tales of his brave new world, his friend down the street has gone home every day to seek consolation from his mother – asking her why his best friend is being so mean to him.

Breaks your heart, right? I *never* thought I’d be the one to get those phonecalls. I mean… I was the passive kid. Here, my boy who I tell everyone has compassion beyond his years has been rough with another kid and is totally not picking up on the cues that his actions are causing physical and emotional hurt.

Andy and I were so upset and disappointed after I hung up the phone with our neighbor. We played over and over what could have come over Graham, and our best guess is that he just wasn’t reading when the joke was over. Probably that the joke wasn’t ever funny to his sweet friend – who just wanted to sit on the bus and talk about Star Wars and upcoming birthday parties.

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We had a serious talk with G the next morning (this morning). Andy and I waited until he was dressed and downstairs at the kitchen table for breakfast. I told him about the phonecall. I told him how it felt to get that phonecall, and shame made Graham’s face go red. His eyes filled – then exceeded – their capacity. I knew what he was feeling. I remember that feeling. When you know what you did was wrong – so wrong, and you literally have nothing to say for yourself. You just desperately want everything to go back to the way it was before you’d made the choice you had.

We kept the talk brief. Stemmed the temptation to use a bunch of analogies and wax poetic about whatever. Instead, we focused on feelings. How Graham’s friend feels. How we feel. How Graham feels… all related to the choices he has made on the bus. Then we moved on to consequences. Graham’s friend doesn’t want to sit by him on the bus anymore, so Graham lost his bus buddy. There were a couple others too, but I think that was the thing that really stung.

G is a good kid, and a sweetheart. I have no doubt that this was a blip on the radar. It was an interesting wake up call to get though. We’ve got a little more work to do.

Kindergarten Greatness and Job Update

I realize that I haven’t written at all about how Graham’s kindergarten experience has been. The first day of Kinder was easily an entire post, so I’ll try and do a bit of an update and hope this suffices.

Kindergarten has been great. Like… so great. Better than I thought it would be. Graham is really handling everything so well. His teacher is awesome – he loves her, and he seems to be making friends too. He comes home with library books 2-3 times a week, new songs, and tales with not-quite-all-there details. He loves being a kindergartner so much.

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G rides the bus to school in the morning, which is about a quarter-mile walk from our front door. The great news is that his neighbor-friend Matthew from two houses down also rides the bus, so G has a built-in friend for the ride there!

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After school he rides with other friends to our local daycare. This has been working out so well, because the school bus takes him to daycare, he meets up with his daycare friends – who he has made over the past couple of years and who have now all split to different schools in the district, and Andy and I get to continue to pick up Graham and Reid at the same place at the end of the day! Win-win-win.

The job front has been buzzing. A Job #4 has emerged. I’ve made it to the second [onsite day-o-interviews] round with a couple of places, so I’ll be busy with that the next couple of weeks. If all goes well, I should know something by mid-October. Worst case scenario, they all fizzle out, and I’m back to square one of job applications and resume-tweaking. Hoping for something to pan out (of course!) Stay tuned!

Listening

Graham struggles at preschool. It’s maybe one of the biggest pangs of mom-guilt I get – that, because his father and I have two full-time working parent schedules, these kids have been pulling 10-hour days since they were 3 months old. Daycare was fine for G when he was little and all they did was sing songs and play trucks, but ever since he progressed into a class that started having expectations about his ability to follow directions in a series and allow the other kids in his class to participate in an uninterrupted group activity, we have been getting sporadic reports about his ability to cope.

I’ll stop a minute to be clear: Graham’s teachers are his advocates. They root for him, and take extraordinary measures at times to help him coexist in a classroom of his peers. He has flexibility to do his own thing when the class is doing another and he just doesn’t want to join. I read about the crazy expectations we crazy American parents have for our kids. This doesn’t feel like that. The expectations that Graham’s teachers have for him are not that he be an automaton and have a 9-to-5 desk schedule. It’s that he acknowledge that there is a story time going on for other kids and that he not scream out loud and bang toys around while a teacher is trying to tell a story.

Lately there have been increased reports from school that Graham is struggling again. It tends to go in waves. My latest crazy theory is that bad days happen on the full moon. That one’s not holding water. Obviously. We’ve had pep talks with him. Stern talks with him. Consequences. Brief conferences trading tactics with the teacher.

But today? Today as I was fixing dinner, Graham walked into the kitchen after arriving home from school and looked grief stricken. No drama, just… upset.

I said, “What’s wrong, buddy?” He looked at me. His voice cracked, his eyes filled and he said, “Mom. I don’t know what’s wrong with me… I can’t listen…. I am trying so hard, but I can’t listen. Ms. Peggy is trying to tell me stuff, and I don’t understand what she wants me to do.” And then the tears flowed. He just let loose. All the frustration that had been building up in him all day came out of his tiny little body.

He *has* been trying hard. Andy and I – along with Ms. Peggy – have been creating a ton of different strategies and tactics over the past year. We all get frustrated at times, because G gets so wild. Because he starts telling a story and has trouble in the middle remembering where he was trying to go with it. Because he gets so distracted trying to do a simple task like go to the bathroom or wash his hands or put on his shoes. I half think he’s so skinny because he can’t sit still long enough to finish a meal.

I’m writing this out because I never want to forget today. Today, Graham wasn’t about excuses or drama. Today, Graham set out to do well in school and couldn’t. And that just breaks my heart.

4K Graduation

Oh my big boy. Graham had his 4K (school district preschool) and Preschool (daycare class) graduations this week. It’s a little  cliché to say it, but I really can’t believe how time has flown.

The picture below shows Graham on his first (L) and last (R) days of 4K. I see these pics on Facebook, and I’m always amazed at how the kids have grown. I almost didn’t snap a ‘last day’ shot because I didn’t think Graham had grown that much.

First Last Day 4K

Oh, you know, only like 6 INCHES.

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First up was Preschool graduation. These are the kids who go to daycare together. (Their futures are so bright, they have to wear shades!) At this ceremony we got to see them participate in their circle time routine. What day is it, what will tomorrow be and what was yesterday. How to spell their names in English and Spanish. Those sorts of things. They told a collaborative story about the three little pigs. Totally awesome.

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Next up was 4K graduation at a local park pavilion. The 4K program took place in the same daycare building that he’s normally in, but in a different classroom. Additional kids are bussed in from the district, and the teacher is employed through the district as well.

Our teacher was Mr. Joel.

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God bless, Mr. Joel. It was so awesome to have a male influence for Graham. He’s had 100% female teachers thus far, and I think it was so cool to have the male approach to corralling a room full of preschoolers. Graham would come home with baseball analogies (Mr. Joel is a coach) and told us one time that the reason we wear gloves in winter is because our fingers will get frostbite and fall off. So great.

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These are Graham’s buddies. He really has made great friends in the time that we’ve been in Wisconsin. One of these kids will be at the same school as Graham, and two of them will be joining him in the same after-school care program, so they won’t be saying goodbye just yet. :)

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School has been a journey for Graham – and will continue to be – but he deserves to wear that smile. This child has been in school since he was 12 weeks old, and since his first day he’s had to shift between a mom-and-dad-run house and a teacher-run classroom. There’s a lot of learning and acclimating to be done, and he has totally rocked it. Way to go, buddy. We are so proud of you!

4K and Hand, Foot & Mouth

This weekend has been a mixed bag. But let’s start at our high point:

Graham started his 4K program today!

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Graham has been looking forward to today since we picked him out a backpack several weeks ago.

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Great choice? I think so. Please also note the fact that Graham has on a pair of short that are *not* of the athletic variety. This took moving a small mountain and the fact that 4K has a ‘no soft shorts on the first day’ rule.

::shrug:: Whaddyagonnado. I don’t make the rules.

This 4K program is a great deal for the G-man. It’s actually a program run through our public school district and housed at local daycares throughout the city. Graham’s daycare is a participating location, so that means he just goes to daycare like normal, then, after lunch, he lines up with his backpack at the door with the other kids going to 4K and walks downstairs to the 4K classroom. There, he meets up with other kids from the community. After a couple of hours, he goes back to his regular preschool daycare room.

The only thing we learned about Graham’s first day in 4K is that they sang the “Tootie Tot” song where they stuck out their butts and tongues and sang “a tootie tot, a tootie tot, a tootie tot-tot”. I tried to tell him that I know that song – it’s “Singing in the Rain” and WHOO BOY that was the wrong answer!!

Did I also mention that he no longer has time for a proper nap with the 4K schedule? Ha. Yeeeah.

I was home with Reid today while he convalesced after a rather wretched weekend with Hand Foot & Mouth disease.

Let me start off by saying: Reid is fully in the throes of toddlerhood. The man has plans and rarely do they jibe with ours. When things don’t go Reid’s way he roars and throws things and cries. So it was a solid 24 hours before Andy and I were like, “He seems fussier than normal, no?”

Basically, Reid was walking around crying all day long. When you’d try to give him something you think he wants, he’d yell “NNNNNO!”, take whatever it was that you’d given him, throw it, and about 50% of the time he’d hit you too, just to drive the point home.

The nurse I called today asked if Reid ever ran a fever over the weekend, Welll, yes and no ma’am. If you mean “Was he warm and sweaty?” then yes, he was because a perpetual state of pissed-off screaming will do that to you. If  you mean, “Did a thermometer read over 100.4” then no, because measuring Reid’s temperature would have been like trying to apply mascara to a cat.

But then there were moments like this:

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I read once, “If kids are fussy, apply fresh air.” So true, random Pinterest typographic print-maker, so true. My failsafe key to a screaming tantrum still works: GO OUTSIDE. An onslaught of pleasant stimuli to the 5 senses + a vague feeling of being watched by no one in particular = a calmed down child.

And so the weekend went on. Three days of crying on and off. Some cuddling. Some interrupted sleeping. Poor guy couldn’t eat. That was the worst part. He’d stick food in his mouth, chew it up and then start a piercing cry, shove his entire plate away and sign “All done” with tears streaming down his face and a mouth full of food he couldn’t swallow.

That’s why Reid and I stayed home today. His appetite hasn’t gone back to full capacity yet, but he’s able to eat now and is back to feeling better all around.

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That’s what I’m talking about. :)