Brace yourselves. Unpopular parenting opinion, coming right up.
George will be four in January. He’s a bright, very verbal and articulate kid. He never has a problem making himself understood, either to me or to other adults, and hasn’t for quite some time.
He has been home with me every day of his life.
I have always heard and been told that attachment parented children are more secure and independent as they grow older. All three of my kids had my close attention for the first year; breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cuddling, the works. George was born into the dayhome; I took one week off and then was back to work. Out of necessity, I wore him in a wrap or sling pretty well all day long. He breastfed the longest, had more nights tucked into the big bed with me because I needed the sleep, sleep, SLEEEEEEP AT ANY COST, please keep kicking me in the kidneys, I love it, no really.
In September he started preschool. He is very familiar with the school, as we dropped kids off there twice a week for George’s entire life. He knows the teachers. He was keen to be big enough to go himself.
It’s now a third of the way through November, and every single time I drop him off, he screams like a howler monkey. Or possible a gibbon. He just screams NOOOOOOO!!!!! way down in his throat, and one of the teachers always has to carry him into the classroom while I walk away.
As soon as I’m out of sight, he stops and has a great time. And every day at pickup, he chatters away about his friends, and the new song they learned, and what they had for snack. He never, ever shows the least concern or upset at pickup time, or – the teachers assure me, and I believe them – during class.
Then there’s swimming lessons, which at his age involves splashing around in the shallow end of the pool with two other little girls and his teacher. The first four lessons were fine. Walked right into the water, did everything the teacher asked of him, chattered and laughed and had fun. The fifth lesson he spent half of it on the pool deck, wrapped around my legs and screaming that he was “too tired” to swim. The lesson supervisor told me that if I didn’t mind hearing him scream, that the best thing would be to let them take him in the water anyway – that most kids adjust, given time and regular exposure.
Last night was lesson six.
He went with the teacher without a problem. He walked along the pool deck with the other kids. Everything seemed fine. I got out my book. I read one sentence before Michael nudged me and said “he won’t go in the pool”.
There then followed a half-hour of screaming. He only screams two words: “NO!” and “MOM!” The supervisor carried him around, him screaming in her ear, for the entire half hour. Whenever they went around to the deep end of the pool and he couldn’t see me, the screaming pretty much stopped (and she told me that he was starting to relax his body, although he still wouldn’t do any of the activities). As soon as they came back around the corner and he saw me, he went rigid and started screaming again.
I am firmly convinced that none of this is actually fear-based anymore; maybe it started that way, but now it’s a bad habit. And here’s where I have my unpopular opinion – he’s doing it on purpose to see if he can manipulate me.
Here’s the thing. A couple of times when he’s done the screaming thing at preschool, he’s looked up to see if I notice – and when he does, he smiles. While screaming. Michael was sitting right next to me at the pool last night, but did he scream for dad? Nope. Just me. This morning when he was getting dressed for school, he was chattering away about how today was a gym day, and how he hoped they had the water table out again; he asked who was bringing the snack and said “she’s my friend!” when I told him the little girl’s name…
“So, you’re going to have fun today!”
“Yes, I like gym day.”
“We going to have a good drop off, do you think?”
“Probably not!” smile, cheerful tone
And then I put my head through the drywall.
Now, I’m lucky, because all of these various teachers in his life are perfectly willing to help me with pushing through this. They keep telling me that he’s not the only one. I’m firm in my belief that he needs to just… get through it, and they agree.
But man oh man, do I hate getting screamed at!