Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Charlie And The Playground Part 2

Well, my wife and I met with Charlie's teacher and the head of his nursery school a few days ago. It was good to see that they had their hearts in the right place and my perspective has changed a bit since then.

After talking to the folks running Charlie's school I have a better appreciation for their intentions: which is to prep our son as best as possible for his entrance into next year's public school. Certainly, these teachers care and want our son to succeed in life. Their Montesoori-style school is designed to teach kids as much as possible so that they have a leg up in grade school.

That, by the way, was why Charlie missed the playground that day. Since there are two teachers to a class, one could take care of the others while the other spent some 'extra time' helping Charlie with his work. While I strongly believe that kids need to have his time in the playground as much as in-class work, the extra attention afforded to my son is appreciated. (Perhaps if it had been presented this way, I may not have felt as strongly as I had.)

While I wish our culture wasn't so results-oriented, I do see the value in this training. Charlie is able to write his own name - something he previously couldn't do. That's a good thing. What's still troubling, I suppose, is that kids these days just allowed to be kids enough or themselves enough, frankly.

"We understand that your son is never going to be your typical kid," the head of the nursery school said at a certain point, "and we're certainly not trying to make everyone into sheep, but we do want Charlie to be able to fit into society as best as he can."

The worry is that Charlie will become 'labeled' badly by the other kids and the greater concern by the school is that if Charlie doesn't bend a bit more to the rules of this school and be less 'high maintenance', he'll basically be ejected within a couple of months - a hard pill to swallow for any parent.

My wife wants to have Charlie tested and evaluated - not so much that there is something direly wrong with him -- there certainly isn't -- but if there's anything we can do in terms of giving him better tools to get along better with others, we should do it. I'm willing to go along with this within reason.

The deeper truth is that when it comes down to it, Charlie is very, very much like me. Of course, he's not exactly me and there plenty of differences between us but his thought processes certainly mirror myself in more ways than one. For example, this weekend, Charlie and I went apple picking with his great aunts and it was a special time. It was also interesting how many times my two wonderful aunts looked to each other and commented about how uncanny it was being around Charlie because he reminded them so much of me when I was his age.

Charlie is more often than not caught up in his own imagination. On Sunday night, my son wanted to shoot some fireworks into the air. This was his solution: he took a pump rocket toy and taped some thin lightsticks to its side. Then, my mom, Charlie and I went out to the field of my elementary school and shot them into the sky. This is the kind of stuff my son does with his time.

Does he sometimes miss social cues because he gets caught up in his own thoughts or have a hard time controlling his impulses? Definitely. Is he easily distractable at times when not focused? Certainly, but so what? Does he have a hard time listening to instructions, especially when he is bored or not getting enough physical activity? Absolutely!

Is there something wrong with this kid? Of course not!

I look at myself and all the trials and tribulations I had with schooling. I was kicked out of a nursery school. I was suspended for three days from Kindergarten. My visits to the principal's office by Third Grade became almost daily. In Fifth Grade my Hebrew School teacher would have told you that I would eventually go to prison for all the shennigans I put her through. I also struggled with making good friends and felt for most of my schooling that I was completely alone, whether it was riding alone on the bus to school field trips to being the last kid picked for a team in gym class. Fitting in, being accepted, these are things I still struggle with to this day.

It pains me that my elder son is showing signs of the same kind of struggles that I have had in my life; but then again, I know that I'm a fairly well-adjusted person with a loving family, good friends and know deep in my heart that my son is going to be okay as well. We'll do all that we can, as my family has done for me, to make sure he'll be okay. My God, I love my son so much. I love both boys so. I really am so lucky to have them. Thank you, God. Thank you.


Amy said...

I would never have suspected you as a troublemaker in elementary school! Today, you are thoughtful, wise and brave. You're right - Charlie will be just fine, and someday thankful just like you. He's got a terrific role model!

Nick's Dad said...

I'm glad things went so well.

It's great that you are so willing to see the similiarities you have with your son as he develops. As he grows, you will be able to share your experiences with him and make his childhood easier for him.

Let's face it, we all have our own personalities and idiosyncracies. I don't beleive that anyone is really 'normal'. I also believe that the most successful adults are those who are most comfortable with themselves. Whatever challenges our kids face as they grow older, they are much better equipped to deal with them if they have a solid sense of self and confidence that they are 'ok'.

Dana said...

Thanks, Amy and Nick. I really appreciate your responses. I wrote about these things because I know there are so many people who have experienced difficulty 'fitting in' and it's always good to talk about it. We live in a culture that is so 'success obsessed' that more often than not our kids become casualties in the drive. I hope there's someway to create a little more balance in all of this.

Hope you and your families are well.