Show me that smile again

            “You did it on purpose!” he wailed.  “You’re the meanest person in the world!”  Our au pair looked relieved.  Yesterday, she was the meanest person in the world and the day before that, one of his classmates was.

            “I guess I stole your title,” I said to her over the screaming.

            She smiled, “I just feel bad for him.  He seems to have all the meanest people in his life.”

            I want to be very clear.  Not only did I not knock over Zachary’s structure, I was not even within ten feet of it when it happened.  If we must lay blame, the fault lies with gravity, and while I am happy to take it up with Sir Issac Newton, I will not do shit for him when he is melting down over a pile of blocks.   It was also not my fault when the rocket-shaped challah that he made in preschool broke in two.  I was in the driver’s seat.  He was in the third row.  He broke the damned thing just after I buckled him in but before I started the car.  Perhaps if he had nicely asked for help, I would have come back and helped him secure the two pieces, but he opted for a level four hissy fit, instead.  And that’s how one of the pieces ended up on the floor of the minivan, where he watched it on the entire drive home through paroxysms of bread-induced grief.

            We know the signs, J and I.  Increased tantrums, low tolerance for frustration, plain old-fashioned meanness.  Yep.  Zachary is going through a cognitive burst. 

            You see, in our house, before some major intellectual breakthrough (if I may use that term on a person under the age of seventeen), we experience upheaval.  His emotions are trying to catch up with his brain and are scared shitless by the whole, “Crap, I’m growing up” phenomenon.  And so he becomes impossible to deal with, losing his shit continually for a week or a month or however long it takes him to process the development.

            This is why you will never find me homeschooling.  I have way too much of a disincentive to teach him anything.  I would spend all my time trying to prevent him from learning in hopes of maintaining a pleasant home environment.

            (Also, I would shoot myself in the foot just to get to go the emergency room and escape the children for a few hours.)

            This time, however, I think I know what brought on the uncontrollable mania/outbursts of fury.  Zachary is graduating from preschool in a couple of weeks.  And, while he pretends to be all sanguine about it, he is not a huge fan of the unknown, transitions, or having to make new friends.  What he is a fan of is his current teacher, with whom he has been since we moved here from London last spring.  The teacher he will be leaving behind as he moves out into the wild blue yonder.

            If my posts have seemed insufferably weepy lately, that is due in large part to the fact that I write them at night, as I sit around mooning over the fact that my baby is growing up.  He is moving past the stage where I can go into the school and enlighten the teachers on just what his issues are and enlist their help in guiding his social forays.  His kindergarten teacher is there to make sure No Child is Left Behind, but I am reasonably sure that they are talking about math skills there, not Entering a Group Game 101.  I am freaked out by the challenges he will face, although he himself has shown great signs of ability to handle it all. 

            I just hope none of the meanest people in the world are there in his kindergarten class.

28 responses to “Show me that smile again

  1. Sometimes I am certain you are writing about Calvin. Since he saves most of his emotional meltdowns for family members or complete strangers, all of my friends think I am crazy. They have no idea what he is like., especially before a big cognitive development.

    But there is light. The bad periods seem to be getting shorter as he grows up into his emotions and mind. I still get “I hate you” and “I wish you were dead” or major meltdowns regularly, but they aren’t as frequent as they were. Learning to read helped Calvin-A LOT.

    My sympathies to you and to their teachers. For the record, I don’t think either of us are that mean 🙂

  2. I’m not sure about your kindergarten teachers, but ours are definitely more about entering group games than math skills. Angus is no genius, but he has some hardcore anxiety issues, and his kindergarten teacher was wonderful dealing with them. They also should be just as receptive to your input about your child and his needs. And it’s okay that it’s scary for you too :).

  3. wherever you go you will find the meanest people in the world AND the nicest. it’s all in your perspective. 😉

  4. (by the way, both MQ’s Kindergarten AND first grade teachers were excellent at the whole group dynamic thing)

  5. He’s going to be great in kindergarten.

  6. When Jack Jack gets mad at me he says “I’m not Daddy’s friend anymore!” Because, somehow, not being Daddy’s friend is going to get back at me? It seems like quite a bit of he last 6 months have been a transition time for Jack Jack….

    It is interesting to step back and see how these changes occur and what happens as these little guys try to process the changes. Growing up IS hard.

  7. Transitions seem to be harder t0 anticipate than they are to endure. Because once you’re in it, you deal.

    I don’t know what your school is like, but as others have said, social development is commonly a big part of the kindergarten curriculum. To get all boring and practical, that’s one reason to put a kid in all day K (if the option exists) rather than 1/2 day–because then they have more time for the Group portion of the curriculum.

    Poor Zachary–it must be difficult to be surrounded by so many mean people. He and my 6 year old have that in common, apparently.

  8. I’m going to be a wreck when Alex graduates from Preschool.

    And Ben is either having “the best day” or “the worst day.” My kid, always the bipolar one.

  9. lifeineden

    The Snake is, indeed, a polar creature. Everything is “forever” or “never” or “always”. It is painful.

    Despite all his growing up last summer, we have been having tearful meltdowns before school lately. The teacher says some of the kindergartners are stressing over the end of the year. So see, it doesn’t even end with preschool. Sigh.

  10. We’ve experienced the toxicity leading up to change or developmental advance, too. They really do become unlivable.

    As for kindergarten, we have over a year to go so I have totally buried my head in the sand. I am just not ready to think about it yet.

  11. We still go through this. Although at 7.5 years old, M is now capable of controlling herself a bit more. Stopping herself when she realizes that life isn’t out to get her, she’s just struggling. And having the words to express her concerns. Really it is just different. We still get the fits, like the other night where she screamed at nothing for three solid hours. But the difference in the last few years is amazing. The fits are further and farther between.

    Change is hard for certain kids. maybe for all kids. But for a highly intelligent/sensitive kid it’s even harder.

    E, I say that all the time, I could NEVER home school. After a week, I’d be locked up in a nice pretty round room, looking for the corners.

  12. Good primary teachers aren’t just about academics, but socializing and other emotional skills. Still and all–I get it. I wept when each of my kids started kindergarten though I was also proud and amazed.

  13. Yeah, the idea of my kid going to school freaks me out. So we’ll wait until she’s seven and we’re in Sweden and there’s like six other kids in the class.

  14. When I had my first child I read this book about stages and it seemed like every single stage was hallmarked by horrific behavior and reverting to babydom. I finally had to stop reading because it got a little repetitive.

  15. we are also in this phase right now. i think he’s sorting out death and life…thank you, PBS dinosaur movie. it’s all very cheery.

    you make a good point about the homeschooling. 😉

  16. I wanted to tell you where my silly little blog is. Thank you for your comment on my anonymous posting.

  17. I saw a toddler melt down on 12th and University yesterday. And because I’m reading your (and other) mom’s blogs I have a different perspective now.

    I watched the moms face and saw so much understanding and sympathy as she tried to walk her shrieking blond son with one hand with the other on the stroller. She looked determined and overwhelmed, but not out of control.

    I thought of you and this post (that I read yesterday). You are demystifying the whole world of kids for me.

  18. Oh don’t worry. I’m sure no matter how frustrated he gets with his teachers, you’ll always be the meanest person in the world to him…:-)

  19. I am sorry that he’s having such a rough time. It makes it hard on everyone…

  20. Oh bless his heart. My son is also very sad to leave his 1st grade teacher. He was all trembly about it last week. But he generally transistions well, so I’m not overly concerned.

  21. What you’ve just written sounds Exactly like my Ramekin, who has just turned 4, and has been acting up and acting out like crazy the past week, week and a half.

    You’ve given a lot to think about…

  22. Leaving preschool is pretty traumatic I think. I know it was traumatic for our son, but after about two weeks of kindergarten, he was fine.

    He also turns into a bear every six months or so. It lasts about a week or two, and then he goes back to his mostly sweet self. I think all kids have rough patches like that.

  23. I love your au paire’s theory about him just having all of the meanest people in his life! What bad luck that must be!

  24. I laughed out loud when you said you’d shoot yourself in the foot, seriously. Know. the. feeling.

    All the best with the transition…

  25. Now don’t you worry about anything. Those of us who teach kindergarten do it because we LOVE it. We hold their hearts, their minds and their souls with careful loving hands.

    no worries………..

  26. I know I’ve said this before, but I think you and I may be parenting the same kid.

  27. Pingback: But wait… (part one) « Wheels on the bus

  28. oh, wait, we might be having a cognitive burst over here too! You may have just saved my life! I was just about to go absolutely insane. Henry also has just finished preschool – on Wednesday. The past 10 days have been full of screaming, whining and pitched battles for control. I’ve been blamed for everything under the sun….and none of the good stuff. He managed to yell at me today after I made cookies. WTF?
    Ack, here’s hoping he starts doing calculus tomorrow & we can all go back to normal. I think we have a bumpy summer ahead.