I’ve had Joey at a private preschool this year in order to get him prepped to enter Kindergarten next year. He attended The Learning Cottage last year for two days a week and both he and I loved it but since we moved I had to find a different one for him to attend this year. After asking around to my mom friends, reading reviews, etc. we settled on one that is housed in one of our larger churches in the area. As my in-laws really wanted Joey to be exposed to their Christian views I thought this would serve our purposes in more ways than one. Boy was I wrong.
My son entered this school with a love of learning and a high level of self-esteem and left it feeling “stupid” and that he was a “bad boy”, neither of which did we teach him. He was getting more and more reluctant to go and I thought it was just separation anxiety since he and I are so close and it is a big step to go from two days a week to five. After only 4 months though it became a daily struggle to get him to let me go at the class room door, not to mention the emotional breakdowns he was experiencing in the 3 hours a day that he was there. The teachers told me I was contributing to the problem by trying to soothe him and that I needed to be consistent or what would I do next year when he threw the same kinds of fits.
Several times over the last few months I’ve wanted to pull him out, find some place different, or take him home and teach him myself but I allowed myself to be swayed by the Director of the program and his teachers. I allowed them to manipulate me into thinking they knew better than I did what was best for my child. Boy was I wrong.
Meanwhile they’d begun to label him as learning disabled, talked about his lack of focus, that he more than likely had some measure of ADD along with sensory issues. I started to buy into it because his behavior was so drastically altered and after all they were the ones with years of educational experience. Not only was he emotional at school, but at home as well which is something that was a rare occurrence previously. He began getting angry if we didn’t understand what he was trying to convey. He no longer wanted to do ABC puzzles with me, or play counting games. He was to “stupid” to get it even though we’d been doing them for over a year and doing them successfully. His words, not mine as I think he’s simply brilliant. I didn’t know what to do so I scheduled an appointment with his doctor to have him and the situation assessed by someone I trusted to be a more objective than I could at the time.
Susan, his doctor, gave him a thorough check up, asked him and us a lot of questions and came to the conclusion that he was just fine. She didn’t think he had ADD or was challenged in any way. She gave us some questionnaires that we and his teachers were to fill out and said she’d schedule us to talk with a mental health specialist whose study was ADD and sensory issues if we wanted to learn more. I told her we’d think about it, had her schedule an appointment just in case we decided to go that route, and took the questionnaire home to review. I had his teachers complete it and none of their answers aligned with what they’d been telling me. I was thoroughly confused. And by the way I did have the doctor do a thorough physical exam to rule out any physical abuse that may have occurred and she discussed safe touching with him again. Meanwhile I still had one very unhappy boy.
Last Friday I dropped him off and he began to tear up. His teacher, Miss Pat, told me “Mom hurry up and say good-bye and Joey your going to have to self-regulate your emotions today.” I looked at her, fighting back my own tears and thought to myself – Okay Malana, don’t be an enabler. I left my son standing there looking at me, tears in his eyes, breathing hard with the effort to not let them run down his face. Boy was I ever wrong.
I walked out and immediately called my husband. I told him I can’t stand this. It’s breaking my heart. As I talked to him I could see my son through the classroom window. I’d made him a heart to take to school that said I loved him, I missed him, and I would see him soon. I’d drawn pictures of our family on it so that when he got sad at school he would know that we loved him. As I watched him through the window my heart broke even more. He was standing in front of the student cubbies holding that heart against his, crying for all he was worth and both his teachers were ignoring him. I guess that’s their view of making sure he self-regulates his emotions. I was about to go in when Jenny, a mom’s whose son is in Joey’s class, came in and immediately saw the situation and automatically went to soothe him. She will never know just what that meant for me that day.
I drove home and immediately went to vent my concerns to my very good friend and neighbor Jessica. She just let me get it all out which felt great since Larry and I haven’t been on the same page on this. He thinks I’m to soft and I think he’s to hard, though together we make a pretty good parenting team but on this we couldn’t come together. After I’d been there about 45 minutes he called me to say that Jenny had come by just to reassure me that Joey was okay when she’d left. I think that may have helped to move him a little closer to my side of the issue. When I returned home a few minutes later and he saw my tear-stained face he told me to do what I thought was best if it was going to continue to take this kind of emotional toll on both Joey and I. This is why I love this man.
That was the last day Joey attended that school. On Monday I began teaching him at home. He has not cried since. He’s staying focused and on task 95% of the time and when his attention wavers I’m able to get him back on point pretty quickly. Learning disability? I don’t think so, I think that’s just your typical 5-year old behavior. He’s starting to believe he’s smart again after only a few days and he’s having fun learning. On Friday we will go back so that he can say a proper goodbye to his school friends and to pick up his work from the past several months.
In hindsight all I can say is that I will never again doubt my instincts as a mother. Never again will I walk away while my sons heart is breaking because some so-called expert tells me to. Never again will I let someone trample on my sons spirit. Never again.