Friday, August 3, 2012

Toddler Troubles

I know I should probably start this post with an explanation of my more-than-three-month absence (!!)... but I'm not going to.  By the time I got done explaining and apologizing, I'd have already bored you to death.

Things have been good here, with a few rough areas lately.  Nothing major, all little stuff, but it adds up, y'know?

People warn you before you have kids that you will have a whole new world of things to worry about.  They're right.  But of all the things I expected to worry about, there's been one that's sneaked up on me.  It's not a constant worry, but it's more than an occasional one.

I'm terrified of my kid turning out screwed up.  Heh, that sounds absurd even as I type it.  But it's true.

I think this all started because of some problems we've been having at daycare.  First, let me say that I ADORE our daycare.  It's believed by most - myself included - to be the best one in town.  It's really expensive, to the point that it's caused us to make some serious lifestyle changes in order to afford it.  And I wouldn't want to send my kid anywhere else.  Period.

That said, there's a kid in his class, who was also in his infant class, who has been... a problem.  When this other child, who I'll call Cody, started to crawl, he started cruising around the baby room and biting other children on hands, feet, etc.  Anything he could get a hold of.  The teachers would do their best to prevent this, but without the ability to designate one teacher to care for ONLY Cody all day, they can't catch everything before it happens.  They tried to tell his mother what was happening in an effort to get her support with stopping this behavior, but all she does is laugh and say how cute it is.  No matter what he does, it's just cute.  Now, if anyone can understand wanting to believe your child is perfect, it's me, but c'mon.  Let's be realistic here.

Cody has always had very high energy.  I used to playfully (okay, seriously, disguised as playfully) call him spastic.  When we go to drop Aidan off in the morning, Cody is frequently running around in a small circle, head down, as fast as possible, squealing and shrieking for no apparent reason.  He's not a dumb kid, not at all.  He's just... I don't know what he is.  But he's very aggressive, quick to anger, and not very nice a lot of the time.

The teachers have admitted to me that they have to spend more time with Cody than with anyone else.  The lead teacher told me, while fighting tears, that she feels other children in her class, including ours, have suffered because of Cody's issues and Cody's parents' refusal to admit there are any issues.

I originally found out the extent of how bad things have been going when Aidan's teacher started expressing concerns a month or two ago that he isn't talking at school.  The other kids are using two- and three-word phrases, but Aidan is not.  He will label certain things now and then, but mostly he'll just repeat what he's told to repeat.  Which is odd, because at home, he is a total chatterbox.  I've started paying more attention to this both at home and at pickup/dropoff at daycare, and she's right!  I wouldn't say he's withdrawn, but he's quiet and does seem to wander off and do his own thing during free play periods.

Furthermore, he's started mimicking some of Cody's undesirable behaviors like hitting, pinching, etc.  That's when I started really stressing.  When I go pick him up in the evening and his daily sheet says that he was pushing and hitting others on the playground, I have to fight tears.  The last thing I want is for my kid to be a jerk.  I don't care if he's brilliant or not, whether he becomes a doctor or a video store clerk, whether he's gay or straight, whether he has a family or goes it alone his whole life, whether he has tattoos or wears a pocket protector.  But by God, if I have anything to say about it, he's going to be a nice, decent person who treats others with respect and kindness.  On the worst days, I end up leaving daycare afraid I'm raising one of "those" kids.  You know the ones.  Entitled, bratty, full of attitude, rude, inconsiderate.  And the thought kills me.

Just to make absolutely sure that nothing was going on with Aidan developmentally, I contacted a local agency that specializes in this sort of thing.  They told me, based on what I was telling them, that not only did he not need their services, but he wasn't even eligible because they only provide services to children who are at least 50% delayed.  She said that he is either at or above his age level for talking.

So, what to do next?  This whole thing stresses me out.  It's becoming obvious that he doesn't feel comfortable expressing himself verbally at school and is choosing to follow Cody's aggressive lead instead to get his point across.  This is NOT okay with us.  I know that all toddlers do this to an extent, but this is different.  You'll just have to take my word for it.  It's breaking my heart that he knows how to communicate, but either can't or won't in that environment.  The teachers agree with me that Cody's behavior is at least significantly to blame for this problem, but their hands are tied in all sorts of ways.

With Aidan's teacher's permission (encouragement!), I decided to go to observe Aidan's class for my lunch hour yesterday to see if I could identify anything that they weren't seeing, or weren't doing right, or whatever.  What I saw was five toddlers enjoying a free play period, playing nicely for the most part, with baby dolls, bubbles, scarves, trucks, and books.  And then there was Cody.  In my 30-ish minutes peeking through the barely-open door so Aidan wouldn't spot me, I saw Cody throw three different tantrums and demand attention from one or both of the teachers on a nearly consistent basis.  I saw him throw things, hit, pinch, try to bite, cry, scream, throw himself on the floor... and all for what appeared to be no real reason.

I saw two very loving and experienced teachers who have tried everything they can think of to tame this child, integrate him into the class, and who consistently treat him with all the love and respect that they should, even on days when he makes it hard to do so.  I see them becoming tired and frustrated over time and I don't know how much longer they can do it.  They shouldn't have to do it.  It's not fair.

After I observed for a little while, I got to chat with the lead teacher, whom I adore, and while I cried to her (yes, literally, how embarrassing, but I'm just so frustrated)... she validated everything I feel and, once again, made it clear to me that she is committed to continuing to try to make this better.  I asked her if she would mind if I talked to the director of the center.  She lit up like a Christmas tree and told me that would probably be a really good idea.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the director was in a meeting, so we made an appointment to meet with her after work.  (I say maybe fortunately because this way, hubby would be there, and I really wanted that anyway.)

I was a nervous wreck going into that meeting, mostly because I don't like to rock the boat, but dangit, this is my kid, and I am his mother, and my job is to be his advocate no matter what.  So if I have to rock the boat - heck, if I have to SINK the boat - that's what I'll do for my boy.

Thankfully, the director is an awesome person.  She's friendly and kind, yet fair and firm when needed.  She knows Aidan from when she was a teacher in the class next to his and she loves him.  She has been in constant communication with the lead teacher about how things are going with Cody and the ripple effect he's been having.  She's had multiple meetings with Cody's mother about the issues.  She continues to deny anything is wrong.  To try to prove it to her, the center even brought in a local agency to observe for a day.  Of course, Cody was a total angel that day, so the observer's report says there's nothing wrong.  And, of course, Cody's mother is hanging her entire mindset on this report and insisting to the daycare that they are just being cruel to her baby.  Uggghhhhh.

The director has been diligently documenting everything in preparation to ask Cody's mother to take him out of the center.  She fully expects fireworks - and not the good kind - when it happens.  She has her head completely in the sand and won't even listen anymore when they try to discuss things that have happened that day at school when she comes to pick him up.  She laughs about it, and sometimes she reminds them that he's basically allowed to do anything he wants.  They have stopped trying to tell her.  And that's how things have been going the last couple of weeks.

We received a lot of compliments that I didn't expect during this meeting.  I hate being that parent who's a pain in the butt and thinks their kid can do no wrong.  I was quick to tell her that I know my son has his own issues and isn't perfect.  But at least we listen to his teachers when they tell us about anything that's going on and we do our best to respond in a quick, responsible and fair manner.  I've never doubted that they look out for him and his best interests, and would have no reason to fib to me.  The director told me, kind of with a giggle, that she and the lead teacher were just talking the other day about what "phenomenal parents" we are.  She thanked us for being so understanding and for communicating with them and having reasonable expectations.  She told us that Aidan is a wonderful child and that he is lucky to have us.  It made me feel so good.  And hopeful.  And like things aren't as bad as they sometimes seem.

By the time the meeting with the director was over, we had a plan for the next few months including Aidan's transition to the next classroom, and a guarantee that he will NOT be going to the same room as Cody, if Cody's even still there by then.  She was planning to call Cody's mother in for yet another discussion, and this time to let her know that other parents are complaining, and try to get her attention to let them bring some outside resources in to figure out what's going on with him.  I really do fear that if she doesn't remove her head from the cavern where she's currently keeping it, that he is going to do very bad things later on.

WHEW.  I needed to unload that.  I hate coming here and whining, but it's nice to get it out.  If you're still reading this, mail me a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I will send you a homemade cookie or twelve!

Aside from all that drama, things are well on the kid front.  He is still adorable as ever, sweet as ever (most of the time) and growing like crazy.  At 22 months, he is wearing 2T pants and 3T shirts; 4T in some of the Old Navy ones!  The other day I noticed him watching out the screen door while Daddy mowed the lawn, and as soon as I snapped a picture, I realized I had taken an almost-identical one last year.  I put them together and....

WOW!!  Hard to believe the difference a year can make.  For one thing, I'm thrilled to report that my child now has a neck!  Ha!  I know I made all that daycare stuff seem catastrophic, but it really is such a small part of our lives with this little boy.  Still, almost two years later, almost every day I am caught off guard again by how blessed we are and how much I love this little creature.  I know I'm not a perfect mom, but I do my best, and when I do make mistakes, I tell him that I'm sorry and I try not to do it again.  That's the best thing I can model for him, after all.

There's so much else going on - like my epic battle with the IRS and my mother cracking her head open - but I'm all typed out for now.  Til next time!


Heather said...

Well the daycare situation totally sucks. I have no experience with daycare, either working in one our sending DS to one, but why would they continue to allow Cody to attend? Surely your son isn't the only one suffering the consequences for him. I guess I'd question why they are willing to possibly lose other customers for the sake of him. Either way it sucks for you and Aiden. Hopefully you'll see improvement in his new class.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

I am so happy that you took the step to talk to the director of the daycare. Your concerns will be important when it comes time for them to deal with Cody's parents. You have been an incredible advocate for not just Aiden, but for all the other little ones in his class, including the troublemaker himself. Hooray you!

Hoping that it all gets handled definitively and quickly.

Karen said...

I think you did great with that whole situation!

As I read this, I'm realizing more and more how much more advanced Aidan is than my grandson. I believe its because no one has worked with him like you have with Aidan, and honestly, even though all moms want to stay at home with their babies, I think daycare once they reach about six months is a great thing. With the right daycare of course. Of course, I could never say any of this to my DIL. And I know not all little ones are like my grandson. He's not as bad as Cody, but he's definitely not talking much and does not know how to handle frustration.