Parenting is hard. I think I’ve written that sentence more in this blog than any other sentence… but its true. Kids are wild, they get sick, they are demanding, they don’t sleep, they throw tantrums, etc etc. They’re tiny little terrors and completely worth every bit of crazy they put you through. I love my own kids so much I can’t even attempt to describe it here. They are my life. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that parenting them is difficult. At my best, I feel like I’m only doing an okay job. That feeling is worse when you’re approached by an outsider about their behavior.
Recently my son started his second year of preschool. He was so excited to go back. He loves school. He comes home and tells us about his day and sings the song they teach him. Being that he enjoys it so much, I was pretty shocked when his teacher approached me one afternoon and asked, “does he always flap his hands?” I was caught off guard and said “well, yeah. He always has. He mostly does it when he’s excited or running.” She then continued on to ask me “does he have any other obsessive behaviors?” I was becoming pretty irritated at this point. She was asking me a ton of questions, in the presence of my child, with no context. Long story short, after only having my son in her class for one week… she had determined that something was wrong with him. She was concerned about his “parallel playing, hand flapping, obsessive behavior of closing the bathroom door when other children were in there, not listening, etc.” She recommended having a specialist come in to observe his behavior.
Being the overly paranoid, OCD, stress-case of a mother that I am, I cried all weekend. I’d only ever seen my son as the perfect little 3 year old that he is. His hand flapping, which I had noticed over the years, seemed pretty normal to me. He is growing and learning so much every single day and absorbing everything. Its a coping mechanism. I equated it to my obsessive need to lick my lips the ENTIRE time I am shopping at Target. I don’t know why it happens, but I know that it makes me feel better about being in a crowded store. I’d noticed that my son is cautious. I know that he takes a while to warm up. He will talk to a kid after he gets to know them, in an environment that he feels comfortable. No, I didn’t know that he slams the door every time a child goes to the bathroom… but I do know that we close the door when we go to relieve ourselves and well… most people do. And of course he doesn’t listen. He’s 3 years old. He has been on this Earth for 3 years. There is a whole lot left to learn. He is a CHILD.
Despite knowing these things — I still found myself telling my son to put his hands by his side. I told him not to flap his hands. I tried to MAKE him talk to children… almost feeling depressed/irritated when he wouldn’t. I wanted to scream. In a few ignorant statements, this teacher caused me to go from seeing my son as a bright, beautiful, perfect little 3 year old to a child that was flawed, socially challenged, with a possible real problem. I am not perfect. I had a few moments of confusion and panic, but eventually I realized that I didn’t like the way I felt around my son anymore. I was seeing his personality as a flaw rather than how I’d seen it just days before– which was unique and beautiful. Nothing had changed with him. His mannerisms and behaviors were still the same. So why did I feel this way? I was allowing someone’s quick judgments to cloud my own judgment and perception. I was allowing the joy I felt about and with my child to be taken. I wasn’t going to allow it anymore.
Next week we will have a screening done for my son. He will go to a “special school” to play and professionals will watch and judge him. I will listen to what they have to say but I won’t take it to heart. I know my child. I know his personality. I know he is cautious, a bit anxious, incredibly smart, hilarious, sweet and wild haha. I know he has a one-track mind like his dad did at his age. I know he has trouble approaching groups like I did. I know that no matter what, I will help him, love him and cherish him every step of the way.
As for his teacher, and everyone else for that matter– I think its important to remember that kids should be kids. A 3 year old should be a 3 year old. If they slam a door to get a reaction, this shouldn’t be immediately considered an obsessive behavior. I encourage everyone to stop finding fault in others. I am not naïve to the fact that there are potential disorders that kids could have that need special attention. However, there are also quirks and behaviors that are typical for a 3 year old. We need to have common sense. As for my child, no teacher should have determined that my son had special needs after only knowing him and having him in a classroom for 1 week. If it turns out that he needs special attention, that’s fine. But for now, he needs to be 3. He needs to play, learn social norms, learn how to approach and talk to others. He deserves the time and our patience to figure this world out.