When Stone started going to daycare 6 weeks ago when the school year started, I was thrilled. As many in the M.O.M. Squad know, he and I have a contentious, abusive, passionate relationship. My son and I love each other dearly, but often clash. He hasn’t yet come to the understanding that the only person whose opinion matters in our relationship is mine. I don’t care whether he wants to take a bath or not, nor do I care if he’s ready for a nap. There are just certain things that are going to happen when I say that they will.
He has never yielded easily, and after a two year battle, I gave up and shipped him off to the pre-k version of military school. I really thought I was doing the right thing. He could color and play with boys his own age and he’d have structure in his daily routine. The girls went to the same daycare 3 years ago and I have a wonderful relationship with the director. I knew he would be safe and happy there; so problem solved, right?
No – not so much.
The daycare has gone through several staff changes in recent years, and most of them have been good. The director told me that Georgia regulations now require all daycare workers have certification in education before they are hired in a childhood development environment. I thought this was wonderful news and was certain that my little Stonie would come out of this experience more academically adept than his sisters ever were. After all, all they did during their tenure was play and sing. Not so with my son! I met briefly with his “teacher” and left him in her capable hands. Two weeks later, I got a phone call from the daycare.
“Mrs. Grant?” said a breathless voice on the end.
“Hi! This is Ms. Dee from DCL, I’m calling you about Stone,” she said darkly. “Are you at work?”
Actually, I was right in the middle of cleaning a shower covered in mildew, so I welcomed the break.
“Yes, I am – but I can talk.”
She objected and said it was no big deal if I was at work. She could call back later. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work. Your child’s school doesn’t just call you out of the blue, and there was no way that I was going to rest easy knowing there was a problem – big or small – with my son. I encouraged her to speak. She seemed to be choosing her words carefully.
“Is Stone potty trained?” she asked warily.
I took a deep breath, because that was a loaded question. His potty aptitude had a lot to do with the weather and what he was doing at the time. If he was riding his bike or eating lunch, then no, he was not potty trained. If he was watching cartoons or helping me put away laundry, then yes, he had the ability to take himself to the toilet without being asked. I asked her why she asked.
“Well, he’s had several accidents this week,” she replied, her voice getting husky with frustration. “If we’re sitting at lunch, he’ll pee on himself. If is he’s on the playground, he’ll just pee on himself. Or if we’re at circle time, he’ll sit there and pee on himself! All he has in his backpack is a pull-up, so I put him in that when he has an accident.”
I understood immediately what was going on. Stone was punking her. He figured out after having an accident one day that he could get a pull-up if he just pissed all over himself. Stone would rather have the comfort of a pull-up than the inconvenience of underwear. I think it’s a boy thing, honestly. I told her what I suspected.
“He’ll have to go to the 2 year old class if he’s not completely potty trained,” she said emphatically. “I can’t stop teaching my class to help him go to the bathroom.”
She made it seem like she was instructing the 3 year olds in nuclear physics. It’s colors and shapes lady. Get a grip! Still, I didn’t gripe with her. I told her I understood and thanked her for calling. Then I called the director.
“Stone cannot go to the 2 year old class,” she informed me. “He and Liya will disrupt each other and that will be a regression for him. I’ve told the teacher to work with him and his bathroom skills.”
I love that woman. I promised her that I wouldn’t send anymore pull-ups to school to tempt him. He hasn’t had an accident since.
Everything went going well at “school” for the next few weeks…that is until assessment time. Suddenly I was being inundated with weekly reports.
Can identify letter N – No
Can identify sound of N – No
Can identify the color purple – No
Can identify the number 2 – No
My heart sank. I knew my son was capable of learning his letters and colors. Where was the disconnect? I looked at Stone, who by the end of the evening had removed his underwear and was absently tugging on his genitals. Oh great, I thought. I have a masturbating 3 year old who can’t identify the color blue.
I smacked his hand away and told him to get ready for dinner.
More and more assessments of this sort came home in his backpack. Cannot identify the number 6. Cannot identify what color shirt he’s wearing. On, and on, and on. And then there was the homework he was assigned every night – homework that we never got to because my grade-schoolers had for real homework that needed completion. I was beginning to get stressed out. By the time I got an email from Ms. Dee requesting a parent – teacher conference, I had a full blown panic attack. Marshall wasn’t willing to make the drive from work to meet with her over what he was sure was nothing, and I didn’t have time to come into the school and talk because of my cleaning schedule. She agreed that we could chat over the phone. She immediately launched into a derision of my son’s capabilities.
“Good morning Mrs.Grant,” she began. “I just want to give you an overview of what’s going on in my class as far as Stone is concerned.”
“First of all, I have a very difficult time understanding Stone. His speech isn’t clear at all.”
This is true. Stone tries to mimic Nadjah’s speech patter which is very fast and articulate. He hasn’t mastered the use of his mouth at this stage, and so most of his words come out jumbled. However, if you pick through them and pluck out key phrases, you can get a sense of what he wants or what he’s trying to convey. That’s usually the case with most 3 year olds, but I’m open to discovering that I’m wrong.
“Also, you have seen from the reports that I’ve sent home that he has a hard time retaining information. I have a milestone chart that 3 year olds should hit at this stage, and Stone doesn’t hit any of them.”
I could tell she was trying to be sweet, but her disdain was obvious. I nodded over the phone, offering a weak “mmhmmm” to let her know I was still there. “
“And I don’t know if he does this at home, but he always chooses activities that he can do by himself,” she continued. “I have centers set up in the classroom, and he never participates with the other kids. Even at circle time, he’d rather be by himself.”
I stopped her there.
“That’s not a concern for me at all,” I replied. “Stone has 3 sisters and friends across the street that he plays with. He’s always around somebody. Those few minutes in that center may be the only time that he gets alone in the day.”
I was not going to let her label my son as learning disabled AND anti-socail.
“Well, I just have one last concern I’d like to bring up,” said Ms. Dee. “I took the kids on a nature hike around the daycare grounds, and I noticed that Stone stuck his fingers in his ears a lot. He seems to be very sensitive to loud noises. One of the things we’re trained to look for are signs like these, and sticking fingers in ears is a sign of sensory integration disorder.”
“That’s true,” I admitted. “He doesn’t like loud noises – like motor cycles and leaf blowers…but his pediatrician has never mentioned anything about a disorder.”
She encouraged me to ask about it, and I said I would. She was about to end the call when I stopped her.
“Ms. Dee…is there anything that Stone does well?”
“Oh. Oh, yes!” she said brightly. “Stone is very well liked by all his friends and plays well with them…when he DOES play with them, that is. He never causes any disruptions in my class and he’s very sweet. I wish I had more kids with his attitude.”
I thanked her for her time and hung up the phone with mixed feelings. Did this slhore basically call to tell me that my son – my beautiful boy and only male fruit of my loins – was an anti-social, learning disabled, autistic, albeit sweet, kid who is so far challenged that he can’t hit basic milestones according to her funky little sheet?! Given that Stone his just discovered the use of his genitals and is given to touching them often, I supposed it’s a good thing he’s never ‘fondled’ himself in class. Then he’d be labeled a sexual deviant as well.
During the call I admitted that Stone has never had instruction in “classic” education…letters and numbers and so forth…but he knows the difference between a stegosaurus and pterodactyl because we visit the Fernbank frequently. He can solve problems on a iPad after being shown how to do them once. He understands his place in the world and how other people relate to him. He loves to sing and can remember lyrics. Damn it, he’s THREE. I decided that I’d say to hell with her milestones and labels and would pull him out of school…I mean, DAYCARE.
My mother-in-law tried to persuade me not to.
“Work with him every night and prove her wrong,” she said adamantly. “You invested a lot of time in Nadjah and Aya, and you need to do the same for Stone. But don’t pull him out of the daycare. Show her that he’s capable.”
But why should I? Who is this woman to me, besides someone who has caused me added stress? Bah!
So what do you think MOM Squad? Would you pull your kid out, or try to prove the teacher wrong? Is it worth the $200 a week I’m spending to impress someone I don’t even know? What would you do?