So I ran into school today a few minutes before carpool got underway because I had to use the bathroom. That’s one of the lovely post-natal symptoms that has yet to go away since my back-to-back deliveries. My bladder will be fine one minute, and moments later I’ll feel like it’s going to burst. Good times. Anyway, I had just been buzzed into the front door and was walking to the adult restroom when I heard a teacher raising her voice sternly saying, “You need to sit right there and not talk or move, D.” Red flag! Red Flag! One thought instantly ran through my mind: there are two kids in her class with the same name…so the odds were 50/50 that she was reprimanding my child. I looked down the hallway and sure enough, there was my 3 year-old daughter sitting in the doorway of her classroom pouting and angry, clearly in some kind of designated “time-out” spot. The rest of the students were busy putting on their jackets and zipping up their backpacks preparing for carpool while my child remained on the floor stewing with hostility.
Note to all poopies: if you ever encounter this particular scenario unfolding in real time as I did today, WALK AWAY! DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD SEE YOU AND DO NOT INTERFERE!!!!
Oy. Before D saw me, she was definitely pissed, but her anger was contained and the teachers had it under control. I should’ve let her ride out her punishment for the few minutes it lasted and hear about the problem after she was in the car. But my curiosity and my immediate desire to console my daughter got the better of me. I skipped going pee despite my nagging bladder and ran over to her. This did not go well. She started crying and refused to talk and before I knew it, she was backing out of her spot and getting even more worked-up. Of course I inquired about what had happened to bring her to this state, and both of her teachers told me something no mother ever wants to hear about their own child: “D swung her backpack at another kid and threatened to poke another kid’s eye out.” Shit. We’ve had such a nice streak so far in preschool, 4 years in and there hasn’t been anything major to deal with between the two of them. A made it all the way to pre-k without any incident of this sort. I’ve never received a phone call at home about bad behavior and I’ve never had to “sign my kid out” for any kind of physical encounter with another kid. And believe me, I’ve heard of plenty of such incidents from other moms. I guess for awhile there I thought we might get through our entire preschool era with our record untarnished. Wrong.
Today our clean record came to a screeching halt. And then came the words from today’s blog title. Her teacher very kindly and empathetically said to me, “D just had a rough day.” A rough day? A rough day? She’s three and a half, what could be so rough? It breaks my heart just thinking about my little child being so upset that she’s having a rough day. Geez. I though rough days were for grown-ups in the real world with real problems, but apparently, preschool ain’t so easy all the time either. Her teacher very sweetly reassured me that all the kids in class need to work on their patience and taking turns and that D certainly isn’t always like this. So why today? I thought. Why today? As a parent, I felt this insistent need to investigate, to get to the bottom of things…anything concrete reason I could find to justify my child being the “bad” one in class today. Finding some tangible reason makes it easier to excuse…makes it less likely that me and Poopie Daddy are somehow to blame, that we aren’t failing somehow in our child-rearing.
I asked the teachers if they had felt her forehead. D sometimes acts-out when she doesn’t feel well. She isn’t good about communicating symptoms when she doesn’t feel good, instead she can just go a little bezerk before we realize that she’s sick. And last night, she did feel alittle warm before bed and actually konked-out earlier than usual. Maybe that was it…she’s coming down with something and her behavior was off because of it. The teachers said she didn’t complain about not feeling well and when I felt her she was a little warm. But, I took her temperature when we got home and she’s totally normal. Soooo, the illness theory won’t fly. What else could’ve possibly prompted my daughter to act so naughtily and even violently at school today? Is it all the repressed aggression she feels because big sis bosses her around so much? Is it anger over the fact the A got so much attention last week because it was her birthday? Is she hostile because she hungry and didn’t eat enough lunch or breakfast? Are Poopie Daddy and I not reinforcing good behavior often enough? Are we not disciplining strictly enough? Have we not led well enough by example? I mean, listen to me poopies, I sound like the biggest a-hole on the planet, don’t I? It’s ok, you can answer in the affirmative. I am literally racking my brain for reasons why my three year-old behaved badly at school today.
And then the a-ha moment arrived…the thing I’d been in denial about since the moment I saw her in that doorway looking so disgruntled. She’s three!!!!! Hello!!! It’s not freaking rocket science. Sometimes despite all your best efforts or explanations, kids just don’t behave. Instead of fixating on one “rough day,” I should realize how lucky I am that we haven’t had more of these bad reports at school and feel fortunate that this was, and will hopefully be, an isolated incident. I have to remember how hard it is being such a small person in this world, trying every single day to learn and develop when things are still new and challenging and difficult to understand. I’m not saying D shouldn’t have known better. Of course she does. We’re often telling the girls that there is never ever an excuse to harm someone physically. We are constantly reinforcing that you should always keep your hands to yourselves and if there is a problem you need to either handle it by talking it out or walk away until you can calm down and be patient when dealing with the situation. Even at 36, I know how hard this can be. Not that I would ever in a million years lay a finger on anyone, but my temper can definitely get the better of me and I’ve found myself yelling plenty of times since becoming a mother. It’s hard to remember to walk away sometimes. Imagine if you’re three…it would definitely be harder, right?
D and I had a long talk after school and she owned-up to her bad behavior and has promised me should would make better choices from here on out and would apologize tomorrow to the two friends whom she hurt. And I could tell how sincere and embarrassed she was because she begged me not to tell Daddy. Tears welled-up in her eyes again when I made her tell him what happened at school. I did this not to make her feel worse, but to reiterate the point that when you make other people feel badly it actually ends-up making you feel even worse – which she definitely does.
What can I tell ya, poops? I guess it pretty much happens to every parent at some point – having the kid who got in trouble at school. It’s actually been really helpful to me to write about it this afternoon. Lord knows I would never ever pretend to be one of those moms who keeps it all inside and refuses to believe that flaws don’t exist within my children or our household in general. I think it’s the flaws that make us more human and teach us how to grow. My aim in starting this blog was always to make you all feel as though you’re not alone – that your kid isn’t the only kid acting out and your mistakes from time to time aren’t just your mistakes either. We’re all doing the best we can and we need to tell each other more often that our best is good enough.
Do I feel bad about how D acted at school? Sure. Do I think her behavior is a reflection of bad parenting on our part? Nope. And I’m not going to beat myself up over this or rake D over the coals either. Sometimes kids are just kids and there’s no rhyme or reason as to why they may have a “rough day.” At this very moment, I can hear D and her sis laughing in the other room trying to give the dog a style make-over (poor guy, they’re trying to get him to wear a ruffled skirt). She is already back to her usual, giggly self and today’s events will hopefully be a distant memory very soon. I’m not diminishing the hurt she caused her fellow students or implying that all should be forgotten, but she should be forgiven and allowed the chance to learn from it and get things right tomorrow. And that’s the last thing I said to D’s teacher when I walked out of school today. Instead of being mortified or profusely apologizing on behalf of my child, I scooped her up while she was crying and I said, “well, there’s always tomorrow.”