Monday, May 28, 2012

Leaving Preschool Behind

 When you have four kids it seems like you are running on the treadmill of life.  One kid leaves preschool, one kids starts.  This was G bears last year of preschool.  Next year she starts the big K at the same school Captain E is at.  Meanwhile Peach will be starting her first year of preschool.  The move will free up a little more time in my day by improving my kid moving commute.  She's excited to be moving over to the big school and about the prospect of possibly seeing her brother during the day.  I am of course terrified.  Is she ready for the rigors of dealing with the school age crowd and the queen bees?  How will she handle school?

Gigi is her own special person.  She was my earliest to walk and my most athletic child, the one who didn't inherit my awkward body.  She is beautiful and has the sweetest disposition.  She is far neater and has much better pencil grip than her older brother.  Her coloring abilities have surpassed his for years.  She lacks his shyness and is confident in her own choices.  I've never worried about her getting into a bad situation just to follow the crowd and she is assertive even with adults, even if sometimes that isn't always a blessing.  But she has her own struggles.

Gigi didn't talk at all until she was three and as she's gotten older Dr. J and I have become more sure that she struggles with a learning disability.  Learning colors was exceptionally difficult for her.  For a long time she couldn't even come up with the names and then when she finally got the words solidified in her mind she still struggled with the associations.  She'd look at a pink shirt and say to me, "It's either pink or purple."  By some miracle of miracles she hasn't had the same struggle with letters, but numbers have proven to be a challenge.  The amount of work required by both of us for her to be proficient, just barely squeaking by is monumental.  With her moving to real school, to real grades I've been filled with anxiety about her school years.

My worry taps into some of the worst parts of my human nature.  FEAR.  Fear that she will be teased by other children. Fear that she will become frustrated with learning and want to give up.  Fear that she will feel bad about herself and as a result be an easy victim to people who would cause her harm.  JEALOUSY.  Jealousy as I watch friend's kids, three and four who are already reading and doing math with ease.  Kids who honestly could just move on to first grade without any trouble and whose very presence in kindergarten will make my daughters difficulties even more evident.  Jealousy because in motherhood you are judged by results rather then by efforts and mine make me feel like a mother fail.  FRUSTRATION.  I think this one is pretty self evident.

Dr. J and I years ago decided to face this challenge head on.  We took advantage of government programs that would give her a leg up.  We put her in the best preschools we could find regardless of cost.  We've worked with her countless hours.  And now even though I hate labels, they scare with me with their finality, we have met with the school and asked them to formally test her for a disability.  When I first talked to the Special Ed teacher, she said to me, "What has your pediatrician recommended, because lots of kids outgrow things as they mature."  And I got to say, "Well her father is a pediatrician and he is concerned."  Here is where being the daughter of a woman who has been teaching for 25 years comes in handy.  I know that I could sit around and wait for the teacher to come to this conclusion on her own and then start the process, but it will take her months to realize this isn't just nerves, shyness, immaturity or anxiety over school.  Then it will take months more for her to go through the hoops to get her tested and by then we might just be at the end of the year and the process will just have to start over again in first grade, all the time all of hoping she'll just outgrow it.  I hope the testing will give us an answer, a place to start, a plan so that I can help her reach her full potential.  I hope G Bear loves school.  I hope she feels confident and makes lots of new friends.  May I always be able to keep in mind that when raising children it's all about helping them be their best, not looking your best in front of other people.


  1. I'm so sorry crys. I know the feelings you're feeling, especially the jealously of other children doing whatbyours "should" be. Gigi is such a special soul. I hope you get some direction will be so good for both of you! Does she have an IEP yet? Funny, but Max's IEP has given me so much comfort that he will be getting exactly what he needs to succeed. Lots of love.

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    2. Kami, thanks for your support! We're having her tested so that she can get an IEP. We just didn't want to wait until the school told us there is a problem. Kami I think about you guys often, wishing you the best of luck. Can't wait to see where you guys end up now that school is ending!

  2. I have some inkling of how you feel. My twins didn't do well learning numbers or letters in preschool. About halfway through kindergarten their teacher and the guidance counselor and eventually the principal, suggested that one twin definitely should have another year of kindergarten and since her sister was barely making the low end of "standard" that they felt it would be best to hold them back.

    I felt guilty, jealous, and the acute embarrassment that somehow I hadn't been able to help them be more ready to learn. I had a lot of sleepless night praying that the twins would "get it," so that I didn't have to make that agonizing decision.

    In the end we not only chose to have them repeat kindergarten, but we moved all of the kids, including my son who had just finished second grade, from a bilingual school to a conventional school. I really thought that an extra year, and paying for the all day option that was available, would solve all of the issues.

    Certainly it has been the right decision. We had all three kids tested for ADHD by a very reputable psychologist, rather than waiting for the school district. (Thank goodness for good health insurance.) My oldest son and one of the twins were diagnosed with not only ADHD but also emotional disregulation. It helped us understand what we could do on our own and what we as parents could not do.

    I wish I could say everything is perfect. After our divorce, their father and I haven't been able to agree about possible medication to help overcome some of the challenges. Both twins are still at the low end of "normal" for the grade, even though they are a year older. My oldest son's grades still suffer because he has a very hard time finishing long term projects.

    I know this isn't a particularly encouraging post. Mostly I want you to know that you aren't alone is trying to do the best thing for your kids, even when it isn't everything we want.

    The very good news is that the twins are happy and excited most of the time, and they are generous friends to everyone in their classes. They love getting to show the "new kids" around their classroom when someone moves in during the school year. I am grateful that I don't worry that they will become mean girls.

  3. Well said. I completely agree.

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  5. Thanks mama. I'm so lucky to have you to turn to whenever I have questions about the kids. PS. I deleted your comment because it had Cheetah's name but I really appreciated your kind words!

  6. This was such a thoughtful, significant post Crystal. I love how you've not only captured your concerns about Gigi, but all of her wonderful, beautiful qualities as well. I think you're really on the right path in following your gut instinct to search out help earlier rather than waiting for someone else to intervene. I also thought your insight about how unjust it is that parenting should be judged by results instead of effort was spot-on. If only we could somehow manage to stop comparing both ourselves and our children...



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