Sunday, October 23, 2011

Socializing with kiddo

And he is quite social. For all his problems/alleged problems/who knows at this point?, he's perfectly willing to chat up whatever other human being happens to be within 20 feet of him. We were at the apple orchard yesterday -- in other words, the only orchard out of three or four farms that still had those suckers on the trees -- and another family was walking down the muddy path in front of us, and kiddo called out to them that there were puddles on the path, and also that we were going apple picking! In case, you know, the total strangers cared.

At dinner last night, he helpfully ordered his own entree (the waiter said kids never do that anymore, just stare at him blankly), then introduced his sister to the man bringing our drinks. (His usual line: "This is my sister. She's a baby. She doesn't do much.")

Later in the meal -- which by the way was excruciating, in that we waited for about a century despite making reservations, waited even longer to get entrees, had to repeatedly request things like silverware and drink refills, and oh yeah, they got my mother's entree wrong and tried to get out of comping us -- kiddo required a potty trip, and since I was dangerously close to throttling the waiter, DH decided it was my turn.

We were in the stall while kiddo did his business, and we could hear the mom and daughter in the stall next to us. Mom was letting Daughter have it over not eating her dinner and then whining about it after. And actually things were getting a little heated. Mom had clearly discovered the fabled last straw.

And then kiddo said, "Excuse me!"

I tried to gently hush him. Daughter complained that she couldn't reach the toilet paper. Kiddo called out, "I can't reach the toilet paper either!"

The other mom and I started giggling. Kiddo continued to announce his progress in his toileting adventure. The other mom began speaking to her daughter again, but there was  laughter in her voice now.

We all exited our stalls at the same time. Mom looked roughly my age; Daughter looked about 6 or 7. "Hi!" Mom said to him, smiling. Then she said, "He made my night. I was about to give this one up for adoption!"

"I know how you feel," I said, though I don't think I've ever quite considered adoption -- seems like a lot of paperwork -- but mom solidarity and all that.

He was still washing his hands after Mom and Daughter left, and doing his usual ABC chant for the soap (which is one recommended way to get them to scrub long enough. Their school taught them. I'm not weird, I swear). Another woman came out of a stall and complimented him on his hand washing skills. He seemed a little thrown by that one. She said to me, "He doesn't talk much to strangers, does he?"

Kiddo, being done, decided he simply could not be in the bathroom any longer and dashed for the door. "That's never stopped him before," I called back to her as I ran after him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'I don't want to alarm you, but ...'

Oh, well, gosh, you didn't then. Mission accomplished.

What my therapist went on to say was, poor handwriting is frequently a sign of ADD.

The red flag was when kiddo's little friend gave me her apple tree drawing. We hang out frequently with the family, and she's apparently decided I'm good people, so when I dropped kiddo off at school the other day, she asked me to spell my name for her and she wrote it on the back of her tree, and gave it to me. Which was 1. the most adorable thing ever and 2. a bit of an etiquette issue -- are you supposed to take other kids' crafts? Aren't parents supposed to hang on to those forever and ever until they disintegrate? (Just me? Oh.) I did alert her mom, who was fine with it, and said she was glad her kids liked us.

But I looked at the handwriting on the apple tree. And it was ... good. Very readable. Straight lines. Very much not what kiddo does.

The only thing the other school ever said to us was, he doesn't press down on the pencil very hard. If they had also said, and by the way, he can't form a single letter properly and this is not up to par with his age group, we might have, oh I don't know, done something about it?

The new school, however, which gives the older kids real school-type homework, did catch on. And asked us if it was all right to hold off on the more advanced stuff with him -- since he seemed a little out of his depth anyway -- and focus on the handwriting. We've also been getting him to do letters with us at home. Which, maybe we should've been doing anyway, but we weren't expecting him to have academic issues at age 4.

At any rate, my therapist -- who's logged time treating ADD/ADHD kids -- also said kiddo is too young to diagnose properly and we should see how he does over the next year. If he's still having handwriting issues in kindergarten, we should alert the district's child study team, or whatever it's called.

But we've noted kiddo's extreme stubbornness. How easily he gets distracted and how bad he is at listening to instructions sometimes. How he still has tantrums on occasion, even though we've never given in to one and throwing a tantrum is going to get his butt thrown into time out. He works himself up into such a fit, isolating him until he calms down is the only option.

Granted, new school/teachers/classmates and no more naptime. So even though he's seemed more emotional than usual this week, that's probably a factor. (He was so tired last night he fell asleep halfway through his bedtime book.)

But. Previous daycare/teacher types have noted the stubbornness as well, the distractedness. He's our oldest kid -- our only other basis for comparison is our other kid. We're not always sure whether what we're looking at is normal.

Are you helping your kid more by assuming he's normal, or by assuming he isn't?

We also did a little homework last night, which he seemed to get the hang of, and then I convinced him to write his name at the top in marker. It did more or less look like his name, except for the backward N. So who knows.

He's a funny, smart, creative kid. It's just tough to figure him out sometimes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You can dance if you want to

Now hey, I'm not the most patient of mommies (as you might have guessed from my handle, there). I am easily annoyed by whining. I give time outs for talking back. My voice rises a little bit every time I have to repeat a request/command/that's an order do it now or go to your room. I'm going to assume this is somewhere in the realm of the normal. Still, I do try to be as calm and non-yelling as possible, mostly because I don't want all my kids' childhood memories of me to be "and she was always mad at me and she hated me!"

So it gives me some comfort to know that I could be worse. Like the mom I witnessed at a birthday party recently.

It was a dance party, and the kids were having a dance lesson. Her two kids didn't want to go in the studio and join in. Rejected it. Flat out refused. And their mom blew up at them for several minutes. "Go in there now! I said now! You don't want to go in there, fine! You stay there if that's what you want, I'm leaving!" And she huffed off somewhere or other.

Now I have no idea what happened with them before they got to the party. That may have been the last straw poking up out of the Worst Day Ever. But still. If you're going to snap at your kids over something -- and I mean she was yelling -- do you really want to go with my kids aren't dancing? I say this, of course, as someone who had to be physically dragged onto dance floors until I was in college (and then realized no one was laughing at me because they mostly couldn't dance themselves).

By way of a completely unfair comparison, kiddette -- one of the younger kids on the guest list -- didn't want to go dance either. So she hung out with me outside, watching the dancing, periodically swaying to the music. Eventually she went in. And sort of danced, in that she wiggled her butt every couple of minutes in between running around the room. Which actually is more or less what kiddo did. I did get them dancing in a circle with me for about 30 seconds -- the world's smallest hora -- but they each got annoyed about having to share my hands with the other one, and the circle disintegrated.

Ultimately you can't worry about whether your kids will embarrass you by doing X/not doing X/doing too much of X/having no idea what X is. Because they're going to embarrass you. And they won't always play along with something they don't like or don't want, because they don't have those skills yet. Duplicity comes with adulthood.

And now that I've broken the First Rule of Parenting again ("Thou shalt not judge other parents"), I should note that the other mom's kids, whenever I noticed them, seemed to be enjoying themselves at the party. (No idea where the other mom was, though I don't think she actually abandoned them.) I'm not sure they ever got around to dancing, but who cares really?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In transition

So the kids' last day at the old school/day care was Friday. And about time. They've lost so many families -- not to mention teachers, the director and the assistant director -- that walking through there for drop-offs and pickups was like entering a ghost town. I kept looking for tumbleweeds.

Things had been going steadily downhill since new ownership took over early this year. Parents Night Out went away. "Summer camp session" went from a whole bunch of field trips to, oh, maybe three. Parents' accounts started getting audited. The food got worse. As in, corn dogs for lunch, chocolate cake for afternoon snack. (I have nothing in particular against chocolate cake, as long as it's at a birthday party or holiday or something. But if the school serves it as part of its regular snack rotation, that's basically an official entity declaring cake perfectly fine to eat on a regular basis, which no, it's not.) Special events, like the Grandparents Day breakfast, went away. Various discounts started disappearing. Teachers started pulling their own kids out of the school because they couldn't afford tuition anymore. I heard rumors that rainy days had become "plop the kids in front of the TVs" days. And families started leaving.

The capper on the whole thing, which told us we were making the right decision in looking elsewhere, was the letter announcing we owed them $80, after DH had already gone over the records with the front office to make sure we were up to date. He asked for copies of the records and went over them all himself. Turned out we'd been given the 4-year-olds rate a few weeks before kiddo's birthday, so technically we'd been undercharged. But it also turned out that we hadn't been credited for the second-child discount for most of that time, so we'd also been overcharged. Bottom line, we owed about $40.

Once I got the regional whatever-her-title-was on the phone -- which didn't happen until after I sent a screamingly nasty e-mail to her boss -- she agreed that, technically, we owed about $40. And I said, "Since none of this was our error in the first place, and this has all been pretty aggravating, I think we should be credited the full amount." Immediately she agreed. But obviously, she'd been willing to sit back and let us pay the $40, as long as we didn't challenge her on it. Which is a jerk move, and unbecoming of a nationwide business. We gave notice two days later.

Most annoying? She said to thank DH so much for doing the extra work of going through the records. Which he hit the roof over, because that's their job, and doing their work for them took time away from his job.

At any rate, we started at the new school (which now has a waiting list, thanks to all the people fleeing the old school) this week. It's less money, seems nice, convenient location, etc. We have to make their lunches, but you know, I'll happily slap a sandwich and some fruit -- or in tomorrow's case, a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich on wheat and a container of grape tomatoes -- together if it means no more corn dogs. I even got them their own lunch bags, which they decided were actually backpacks and carried around the house until I snagged the bags back to wash them out.

So far kiddo seems more or less fine. He's been a snotty mess to us all week, but no evil reports from school. Although I don't think he's napping at school, so that might explain the hormonal wackadoo-ness. Kiddette, however -- the one I wasn't worried about, because she likes everyone and everyone looooovves her -- is having a freakout. She totally melted down Monday when DH dropped her off. She totally melted down today when we both dropped her off. Tonight, she out of nowhere went on a more or less continuous crying jag until after bedtime. She would stop long enough to notice I was holding her, say happily, "Mama!" and then dissolve into tears again. I resorted to animal crackers to improve everyone's mood. (Yeah, you would too. Judge not.) Really she was under a year old when she started at the other school, so she was there more or less half her life; I guess I should've seen this coming. I hope it doesn't last.

Ultimately I do think this will be a better situation for us. If we can just get through this week.