Thursday, August 30, 2012

Preschool Prayers

I recently made a list of the "things I wish I had time to do" since I feel like I just don't have enough hours in the day to do it all. The list looks something like this:
  • Exercise (and lose this baby weight)
  • Blog — capture, in writing, all the thoughts that flood my head every day (maybe I should journal?)
  • Read — stacks of books and magazines I hope to get to someday
  • Study the Bible / daily devotion time
  • Spend quality time with Ryan — date nights?
  • Small household projects — kitchen valance, growth chart (more on that later!), organize closets, basement, etc.
There's more, but you get the idea. So, all this is to say that I appreciate those who still check in on my little blog here from time to time. I realize that since I post so sporadically, it's likely that most of my followers (do I have any of those?) have given up on me, but I assure you, I think about stuff I want to share on here ALLTHETIME! Unfortunately, sitting down to do so doesn't happen nearly as often.

SOOOOO, I have a ton of things I want to talk about, but think that I will focus this post on what is currently banging around in my head (and heart) — Owen's first experience with preschool this week.

All summer long, I've fretted mostly about how Owen will manage to use the toilets at school without any assistance (he still struggles to pull his pants back up after the job is done). And I also thought a little about how he doesn't like to sit still or pay attention to most things for very long, but that is one of the major reasons why I decided to enroll him in the 3-year-old program — in hopes that he will get better about that. Mostly, though, I was just excited about getting a few hours twice a week to myself! And that's pretty much where my concerns ended, until three days ago.

We attended the open house at Owen's school, held the evening before his first day, this past Monday. The idea was just to introduce the kids to their classroom and (I thought) their teacher, too. The school we chose just hired a new 3-year-old preschool teacher only a couple weeks ago, so she is new. (New to this school, but not new to teaching preschool.) I will not use this platform to spread negativity about any individual, but let's just say, I was completely underwhelmed by our first meeting with her.

That night, I sat down with the paperwork that was sent home with us and tried to fill out the "getting to know you" form that asked questions such as, "what are your child's strengths/weaknesses?" and "what do you hope your child will learn this year academically/socially?" I had a tough time filling out that form. As I read through it initially, my head flooded with examples of Owen's weaknesses. But when I put pen to paper, I stopped to really think about how I wanted to answer that question. It was important to me that I listed just as many strengths as weaknesses. I didn't want my negativity to show through on this form and end up influencing his teacher's opinion of him right off the bat. So I enlisted Ryan's help. In the end, I shared that Owen has tremendous language skills, he learns new concepts quickly, asks great questions, plays well with others (keep this one in mind for later), is sweet and very funny, and loves music. However, I also explained that he struggles with focus, can be quite wild at times, tends to be a "copycat" of other kids, and is often difficult to discipline. That all seemed accurate and fair. And the night only ended in a few tears. (I'm telling you, that form was extremely hard for me to complete! Why in the world did they give that to us the night before his first day???)

So, Tuesday morning, I dropped Owen off with excitement and optimism. He seemed in good spirits and he smiled for all my pictures, so things were going well, I thought.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at home while Nora napped and I baked banana bread and read from my book (one of my checklist items above! Woo hoo!) And I prayed for him while he was away. I prayed that he would be good and that God would guard his little heart (from fear, from embarrassment, from getting hurt).

When I picked him up, I casually asked his teacher how he did, not really having given any thought at all to what her answer would be. In hindsight, I think I just assumed I would get the same report I usually get when I pick him up from Sunday school or other nursery programs like MOPS — "he did fine." Instead, I heard something like this: "Well, he had some struggles today." Oh, like what? "Well, there was some hitting." As in, he was hitting? "Yes." Oh. "But it's just the first day." Yes, I suppose so. Was there more than that? "Well, yes. He didn't really do very well following directions either." Ok. And in the chaos of all the other parents waiting to sign out their own kids, that was pretty much the abrupt end of our conversation. I felt like an inflated balloon that had been pricked by a pin and all the air rushed out at once until I was a wrinkled, broken mess on the floor. That's how I felt. The huddled mess on the floor didn't actually come until later that day.

The more I thought about what happened, the more upset I got. I certainly don't deny that any of what the teacher said was true. (I'm well aware of my son's poor behavioral tendencies.) I think I let myself get hung up, instead, on his teacher's defeated tone of voice and unhappy facial expressions as she shared her report — which, incidentally, didn't include one single positive thing about Owen's three hours with her. I started to question whether this teacher was a good fit for Owen. Should I enroll him instead in the other preschool that I had my eye on last spring? Would they have teachers that were more enthusiastic and optimistic about kids with poor behavior on the first day?

I still actually don't know the answer to that. I'm considering the other school. But I wanted to give him (and his teacher) another try. So, today was day two of Owen's school career. Unfortunately, when I dropped him off, I discovered that his teacher was out today due to a family illness and he had a substitute. So, I wasn't able to reassess the attitude of his teacher or talk to her anymore about what happened on Tuesday. That was disappointing.

When I picked him up today and asked again how he did, the teacher's aid said, "he did better today." She also went on to say, though, that he scratched a little girl on the playground because she was headed up the ladder and he wanted to go up ahead of her. Ok, so that's better? He only scratched someone today? And that's better? Just how bad was he the other day??? A friend of mine was there to pick up her son right after me and I overheard the aid report, "he did great!" about little C. And my heart shriveled up. Right there, I felt immense jealousy that my friend's son has received two good reports and Owen has received two bad ones. In fact, all the other reports I overheard were positive. Is my kid the only troublemaker in class? How did all these other parents do such a great job prepping their 3-year-olds for the classroom and how (oh, HOW!) did I fail so miserably?

More questions flood my head today. Is Owen not ready for school yet? Does he need another year at home to mature? But would keeping him home help him with his socialization issues or would being in a classroom with other kids help him more? Should we try this other school? Is that really going to be any better? Can I honestly blame my concerns on the teacher's less-than-enthusiastic attitude? Isn't it really that I'm worried Owen is the only one in the class that causes his teachers (and classmates) headaches? And that they'll label him the "problem child?" And truly — if I'm really honest with myself — aren't I actually worried that either, A.) I am doing a horrible job parenting (and disciplining) this child, or B.) there might be something wrong with him? High functioning autism? ADHD?

Worry. Fear. Anxiety. What does God say about these things? This...this, is what he says:

"When anxiety was great within me, your consultation brought joy to my soul." (Psalm 94:19)

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

"He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." (Psalm 112:7)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)

"When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid." (Psalm 56:3-4)

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." (Psalm 34:4)

And one of my personal favorite verses: "Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." (Psalm 25:4-5)

So I'm praying now. I'm praying hard for the Lord to reveal to me some answers. Praying that he will continue to hold Owen in his loving care and help me decipher the right paths for him here on earth. Praying for wisdom to know how to parent and discipline this child and for the strength and real faith to place my full trust in Him.

I don't know yet what the future holds for Owen or where (or IF!) he will be attending school next week. But I'm confident that God will reveal the right choices in time, so long as I seek Him.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.