Thursday, November 08, 2007

Parent Teacher Conferences

My son's nursery school teachers are 3 young women between the ages of 20 and 26. Lovely girls who adore their work and treat each child like the precious gift that they are. They are patient, affectionate and grounded, frum in every way--religiously, spiritually and educationally serious--and filled with menschlichkeit.

But oy, that parent teacher conference....

We were the first to have our 15 minute slot. He's such a sweet boy, they said, all nodding their heads. He's so gentle, so kind. He loves to make "shabbat kugel" when he plays in the kitchen in the loft. He sometimes speaks so softly that it's hard to hear him. He loves to play, he is friendly, and is getting used to how the classroom works. On and on about what a nice boy. When he saw a little classmate with bandaids on her arms (we call them vanity bandages), he went to her and stroked them and asked if she was OK.


You know, they said, he doesn't really play with the other kids. Hmmm, we respond. Hmmm. What the heck are we supposed to say? I tell them he plays nicely with his friends, but I admit freely that he doesn't have a lot of playdates with us because my husband and I both work and are in school. He plays with a lot of different kids not very frequently...but does play. Maybe its still parallel play? Is he a loner? My mind goes bonkers with the questions.

Then they say, he doesn't really answer questions, he gives irrelevant answers. Hmmmmmmm, we respond. The hmmms are getting longer. What does that mean, we ask. They don't have great examples, most are drawn from circle time, when sometimes he sits backwards and has to be asked to turn around.

He goes to school 9 hours a week. He started in September. There are 15 kids in the class. How well do they know him? Are they right? Are they wrong? Does it matter?

He's not even 3 yet. At home, he answers nearly everything, except the questions that he finds annoying or just wants to ignore (he's pretty stubborn). He can recite Madeline nearly word for word. He is articulate (for a 3 year old) and says please and thank you without prompting. He shakes hands and wishes people a Shabbat shalom at shul. In music class, he hands out instruments without being asked to kids and adults who don't have. We have fabulous conversations in which he is on the ball 100% but he has the attention span of a 3 year old. Oh wait....he is an (almost) 3 year old. Right...

And I am now hypersensitive that my son has "issues."

I clearly need to take a step back. This is the first step in the bursting of my bubble, and I acknowledge freely that it is OK. I think it's tough to confront the notion that ANY child could be anything less than perfect....especially mine. But then I look at myself in the mirror, and jeez, I am faaaaaaaaaaar from perfect. And what is perfection anyway? There really isn't such a thing, or better, it is what I define for myself as just perfectly out of reach.

The worst thing I can do for my son is to expect perfection. The worst thing I can do for myself is the same. It is fine that he doesn't yet play well with others--and all of it can be learned. Taking it one day at a time is the best way to do it and I'll just have to ignore their advice and see if it is the same in a few months when we meet again. It is never too late, and we should never stop trying to reach higher, but most of all, let's be realistic.

The next school day after the conference I took my son to school. I wanted to say something but luckily the cat got my tongue and I didn't say a thing. Better that way. Let's see how it turns out...


mother in israel said...

If I weren't Jewish I would swear to you on a stack of bibles that your child's social issues, if he has any (and I sincerely doubt he has) have nothing to do with a lack of playdates. Your child is different. The teachers are noticing that. You don't notice because you don't see him with children his own age. Maybe he beats to the tune of a different drummer. I can't tell you for sure that he doesn't have some kind of developmental issue. If he does it's not your fault.
Accept what the teachers tell you as information about how he acts in preschool. You can ignore it, you could pull him out of p/s (maybe he's not ready), or run what they said by an expert in childhood development. It has nothing to do with your mothering, except in how you deal with it and how you help your son deal with it.

Maya said...

It seems rather alarmist to think that if an activity isn't to your son's liking, your son has a problem. Especially if he ALWAYS reacts the same way to it. Maybe he just doesn't like circle time.

Here are some irrelevant responses for you. I substitute taught 3rd grade for a week once, and the session on slugs when like this:
M: A slug doesn't have a shell, like a snail does. Can anyone tell me what a slug does to be safe?
Answers: 1. I know! One time, my brother put some salt on a slug and he bubbled up and died.
2. Yeah! Slugs are really slippery and slimey.
M: you're right, we'll talk about what makes them slimey in just a minute. Anyone know what they do to be safe?
3. Slugs are yucky!

It's wonderful that your teachers pay such attention to your son that they can describe his activities in such detail. It's heartening that he has such a strong sense of self that he can act like an individual, and it speaks volumes for you as a mother than your child is so attentive to the needs of others.

Ima Shalom said...

Don't worry, you're doing great. I think everyone develops at a different speed. And some kids relate better to adults than to other kids. But what you describe sounds more like personality than pathology. And this school thing is still VERY new.

Gluckel of Manhattan said...

Thanks, all. I think that we've decided to CHILL out and wait till he's a little older (read, the next parent teacher conference) to assess. Lucky for me, I have a stellar little boy who I love very much. All else is irrelevant.