Ever since Matthew practically got himself kicked out of the one hour Ikea daycare, we've been all kinds of worried about him starting preschool.
I couldn't even blog about it.
Because, no joke, I cried the entire way home from the store. I couldn't stop. I was like a starving toddler in need of a nap. Cutting teeth. And running a fever. Every time I tried to compose myself I just started crying again.
"So we had a lot of problems with Matthew," they'd told me. "He was bullying other kids. Several of them complained." Several. Awesome.
"Okay but," I'd started, "when you asked him to stop was he respectful? Did he listen?"
When they simultaneously began looking anywhere but at my face I knew we were in trouble. "Uh. Um. Uh," one of them stammered. "No. He got in my face. He was pretty angry, actually."
I'd swallowed the lump in my throat long enough to get outside.
This little love of my life.
This darling dear that I adore with my whole heart.
He simply doesn't recognize authority. If someone isn't mommy or daddy, it doesn't matter if they're three times as big as he is, he believes he's their equal. And he will not listen. And he disciplines them. "I'm not gonna do that. I'm gonna tell my mom on you. My mom's gonna come yell at you."
That fateful Ikea day we were already headed over to the preschool because we needed to pick up some of Garrett's end of the year stuff. I'd managed to compose myself before we got there. Then I looked into the eyes of the director that I'd known for more than three years and I just came out with it. "I just don't even know what to do with that kid."
We proceeded to talk for a good fifteen minutes. I rambled on about how I parent this little ball of authority challenging chocolate the same way I parent the one who, in three years of preschool, was disciplined a total of three times and two of them were for talking. (Although I didn't actually refer to him as a ball of chocolate.) I told her I was about to just ask for my money back and we'd work really hard with him and maybe try next year. I explained that I am fully aware that my child cannot sit around bullying other kids. He can't tell his teachers that his mom is going to yell at them. He can't put his famous frown on his face and glare through two hours of school twice a week. She asked me not to pull him. She told me we'd partner together to help Matthew recognize authority and to help him channel his emotions. In the end I agreed to try.
I've spent the last month repeating Proverbs 22:6. "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." And by old, please let that verse mean three and a half. We've spent the last month talking up preschool. We've tried specifically telling him who is in charge. "Mommy is leaving. So that means you have to listen to your Sunday school teacher now. She's the boss until I get back." Or whatever. That seems to be working.
Last night was Matthew's orientation. As we drove over to the school I instructed him. "Matthew, you can't hit any other kids."
"I didn't," he told me.
"And you can't kick any kids."
Troy interjected, "And you can't eat other kids for lunch."
After a pause in which Matthew had a very confused look on his face, his brother explained, "Daddy means that you can't bite kids."
"I DIDN'T BITE ANYONE!" Matthew yelled.
We walked in to school. Now mind you, Matthew, despite being a defiant little authority challenger, has always been very excited for school to start. On the day that shall live in infamy, I told Troy that we were getting our money back and Matthew was simply not going to school. He'd started crying softly and whispering over and over, "I'm sorry, Mommy. Please let me go to school."
A minute or two after we arrived last night, Matthew's good buddy walked in and Matthew ran to him. They hugged and trotted into class holding hands.
And my little knee bender was a perfect angel. FOR. THE. ENTIRE. EVENING.
When the orientation was over, I pulled the teachers aside and explained our situation. I told them that the director was aware and that I was hoping we could all partner together to make this a good experience for everyone. I was met with blinking eyes. Clearly these women, who had just witnessed my little angel, thought I was insane. I could almost hear their internal monologue. Truly, I'm a bonafide crazy cake to them.
Because that kid from Ikea, he didn't show up at preschool.
So I walked out and I told the director that I'd talked to the teachers so now we were all in the loop and fully versed on the ways of Matthew. I'd been in another room for most of the night and she replied, "HE DID SO GOOD! He was attentive. He was engaged. He was even one of the leaders. I watched him closely because of our conversation but he was AMAZING!"
I'm just hoping that I'm always the mom who crazily told the teachers that her kid is sometimes an angry mess when clearly he is actually a sweet little slice of sunshine.
I'll take people thinking I'm clinically crazy over my kid being that kid any day.
So here's to hoping it wasn't a fluke. Here's to hoping we've turned the page.
But I'm still not planning any trips to Ikea any time soon.