I had a really wonderful conversation with another mom from Jack’s co-op preschool class the other day. At the end of the Valentine’s Day party she asked me if I had decided where I was going to send him to kindergarten.
Thinking she was asking because of his behavioral issues, I said, “We’re really strongly considering keeping him in preschool for the next year.”
She looked surprised and said, “Oh. I was asking because he is so smart and advanced. Sometimes moms can’t see it in their own kids, but he is head and shoulders ahead of these other kids.”
Now I’m not here to debate who’s advanced and who’s not, and there are some terrifically smart kids in Jack’s class. I’m not sure I agree with the “head and shoulders ahead of” part of that. Yes, he reads. Yes, he does math. Yes, he’s weirdly clever about certain things.
But I almost burst into tears when she said that because it was so good to hear a purely positive thing about him from another parent. To hear a compliment about Jack that didn’t start with the word “but.” (“But he’s a sweet kid,” after a statement about one of his problems. I do it too.)
To see that this other mom saw a wonderful part of Jack and shared it with me meant so much. Especially after a very well-meaning and lovely mother (and I mean that genuinely) asked if she could give me some advice about Jack that morning.
“Since he’s been in his afternoon preschool, his symptoms have been worse,” she said. “My guess is that they’re trying to teach him a lot of practical things and that instead he might need more time to just be himself.” There was more of this and then she told me not to let the school district push me around.
All of this was kindly meant. And I happily accept advice because every perspective is valuable and gives me something to think about.
Maybe he acts out more than he did last year. But all of the kids do. He just acts out in a different way than they do. And frankly, maybe he’s developed a stronger will in refusing to follow directions, but, oh my God, he’s turned a corner in so many other ways.
His ability and willingness to hold a conversation has increased in leaps and bounds in the last few months. His recognition of socially appropriate behavior (doctor licking aside) has increased. He’s learning what the proper responses to other people are. And this is just what I want him to learn. Because I don’t want to change him. I just want to help teach him how to live in the world.
But the best of all his progress is that which he’s made in paying attention to other kids. At the beginning of the year he could not or would not tell me the names of anyone in his classes. Now those names come up on a semi-regular basis. He’s learned to walk up to a classmate and say, “Hey, Classmate, let’s play.” He wants to invite a friend over for a playdate. There are certain children he seems to crave a connection with. Last year I don’t know if he even noticed Valentine’s Day. This year he was excited to pick out his Star Wars valentines, and even though he lost interest after writing his name on three, he very specifically chose his three closest allies and carefully wrote their names down.
All of which is a long way to say: It feels so good to have someone see something unabashedly good about your child. And not have to preface it with “but.”