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My Monthly Crisis

I’m having my monthly crisis of confidence.
On the one hand, I’ve been trying to pat myself on the back about my son. For every little setback, it seems like there’s a beautiful burst of speed in the right direction. OK, so he does disappear for twenty minutes and when you call and call and finally find him, he’s sitting on the rug, staring at his toes. But isn’t that par for the course when you’re ten?
On the other hand, with my daughter I feel like it’s a step forward and one-and-a-quarter…or perhaps-a-half back. When I picked her up from art class today, her teacher called her, gently and kindly, “my aggressive little painter.” I was feeling in the mood to take that as a positive comment about the energy of her painting style, till it was divulged that she was throwing things at her painting buddies… again.
I remember when I was in elementary school and we were in the enormous, well-stocked art room. (Wow, public school in the seventies…they had ART? What a waste of the taxpayers’ money!) (Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.) In our school, there was an intercom button in each room that called the front office. No, they didn’t expect a child to stomp in with an automatic weapon; it was just for ease of communication. The office would call up and say, “Johnny’s lunch is here!” or the teacher would call up and say, “Can Mr. Mean-Looking Vice Principal come march Johnny to the office? He’s throwing paint again.”
Or something like that.
Anyway, one day I was sitting there, little miss goody-two-shoes, straight-A’s before we even got grades, always has her hand up first. And that button was beckoning me. It was downright calling me.
I was sitting near the button. The kids were bent over their paintings. The teacher had her back to us. The little demon on my shoulder said, “Do it! Just do it once! No one will see you.”
So I did it. Almost immediately the school secretary’s cheerful voice answered, “Office!”
“Who did that?” asked the teacher, turning around, not looking at me, little miss… oh, you know the routine.
“Suki did it!” yelled a chorus of thrilled little voices. Oh, to be able to tattle on little miss you-know-what!
I was mortified. A deep flush burned my cheeks. Tears came to my eyes. I had done wrong. At church they said I’d go to…
You can bet that I never pressed that darn button again.
Back to the present. My daughter has been told not to throw things when she’s doing art projects. In class, she has experienced the anger of classmates, lectures from her teacher, explanations about how it feels to have things thrown at you. At home she has been given time-outs, had consequences, had her art supplies taken away for specified periods of time. All that after we did the nice stuff, the talking about it, the promising, the all that stuff that’s supposed to work before you go on to the not so nice stuff.
And she still throws things in art class.
Your child is probably like most children. They are told not to do things, and usually they try the things they’re not supposed to do, once, twice… maybe more. This is totally normal. Feel OK about it, OK?
Then there are the children like my daughter. When she is having an oh-so-fun tactile experience, no consequence is bad enough to remind her not to do the things she does. No time-out will deter her the next time.
Everyone who has worked with her, from doctor to therapist, says she’s going to grow out of this. And I know she will. I remind myself of the brilliant saying of T. Berry Brazelton: I’ve never known a kindergartener in diapers. To quote our parents, Kids WILL be kids!
Just in case you thought I was writing this blog to show you what a Fantastic Parent I am, here is this reminder. Anyone who thinks about parenting deeply enough has gotta be scared. Am I getting this right? Will my child grow up to be a psychopath? Will she throw erasers during her SAT exam?
It’s that time of the month for me. Take a deep breath. Relax… Oh, wait. Someone’s downstairs screaming, “Mommy!” Gotta go.

Posted in Education, Homeschooling.

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