Drake started pre-school this week, and what a big transition for everyone in the family!
He erased part of the sign before I could take the picture…kids
Pre-school in my area is very competitive. Overall I feel that the American school system has changed quite a bit since I was younger, putting a huge amount of undo pressure on children at younger and younger ages. As a child, my parents pushed me far beyond what I think was the norm of children my age, and honestly it broke me in many ways. I simply couldn’t deal with the excessive pressure and relentless hammering of information; I eventually shut down and even now I feel like the ramifications of all that affect me to this day. So when Drake was younger I debated whether I was even going to send him to pre-school. I felt like he was a bright inquisitive little boy that soaked up so much information just from the world around him, that maybe he wouldn’t really need to go to school right away and I could keep him home with me for a little longer.
When Drake was around two and half years old, I started to notice how he didn’t really like to play with other children. At his babysitter’s house, the babysitter’s son was one year older than Drake and she also watched another little boy the same age as Drake. While the babysitter’s son and the other little boy seemed to enjoy each other’s company and engage with one another, I felt like Drake didn’t seem to have the same kind of interest. My babysitter even told me that oftentimes when her son and other child invited Drake to play, he would either ignore them, or at times take a book and sit by them but not actively play with them.
This isn’t to say he never played with them, but as a whole my babysitter commented how Drake would like to read or color often on his own. One time the babysitter’s son even said to her, “How come when I talk to Drake he doesn’t talk back to me?”
I started to pay attention more to Drake’s interactions with other children and it did seem that he didn’t really care for them. When we were out at the playground, he never tried to join other children playing; if we had a play date, he would often wander away to do his own thing. At home and with our family he loved to play, but I realized that our family, extended and immediate, consisted of only adults. Drake had no siblings at the time and no cousins either, so his playmates since birth have always been adults.
It was as if he didn’t really know how to interact with other children. The few times I saw him interact with other children when we were out usually involved pushing and shoving and snatching. I started to get more nervous whenever we were out and when I saw Drake move toward other children. At the park I would try to steer him to use equipment other children were not on, and while I realized this didn’t help Drake learn to interact with other children, I was also worried and scared of him hurting another child and how that child’s parent would react.
I started to think about pre-school again. Perhaps there was more to school than just academics. Peers help all of us learn how to interact, social norms, and proper ways of behaving among one another. I realized that while intelligent, Drake was lacking a lot in social graces. And while the adults in his life tried to help him, it would probably be his peers who would really help him adjust and understand better.
I started the process of looking at some schools in my area, but most of them had a requirement of being potty trained for enrollment. I had tried potty training Drake before Juliet was born but it was unsuccessful, and I had heard that most boys do best after the age of three. Unfortunately for us Drake turned three right as I was going to have Juliet. With the chaos of being nine months pregnant and then bringing home a newborn, I just knew I wouldn’t be able to potty train Drake right away. So I put pre-school back on the back burner for a while, figuring we would have to send him at 4 or maybe 3 1/2 if we could try again after Juliet was born.
Shortly after Juliet was born, Drake attended a one week vacation Bible school camp at my mother’s church. That week was a disaster. Drake’s inability to interact properly with other children as well as adjust to a school setting was epic. For three out of the five days at camp he was removed from the classroom and assigned a helper to stay with him. The remaining two days he was able to stay in the class only with my mother staying with him. Mr Chocolate and I once again had to consider what we would do to help Drake adjust socially.
Over the summer we regularly visited a friend of mine who was a teacher and off for the summer. She had a pool at her home and would sometimes have a friend of hers over with her daughter who was Drake’s age. Her friend’s daughter was the exact opposite of Drake; she was social and loved playing with other children. As we walked up the path to the pool, we could often hear her excited voice squealing for Drake to come play. Their first few play encounters were typical — Drake would snatch and push and be his usual self, but the difference this time was that the little girl simply wanted to play and would put up with Drake’s shenanigans. She would continue to float around him offering him toys or coming up with suggestions to play.
Over time as we continued to visit, Drake did something he never did before: he asked for the little girl. He started to look forward to playing with her. One time when we arrived and the little girl was napping, Drake asked for her over and over and even went wandering into the house to look for her. While he would still snatch and scuffle with her at times, he also learned to share and be gentle and hug when he hurt her. I joked with my friends that she had worn him down with her persistence.
At the end of summer I made a few more phone calls to local pre-schools to see if perhaps anyone would be willing to take him despite his lack of potty training. As luck would have it, the school I liked the most invited us to come to orientation. Drake did his best to undermine my attempts to secure him a school by refusing to listen to the teacher, trying to take the book away from the teacher at story time, trying to color on all the other children’s papers, snatching, and just being his usual savage little self. Despite it all, they accepted him. The teacher and owner of the school assured me that Drake was a typical three year old and that he would benefit from the structure, order, and being around his peers. They even told me that watching his peers use the potty might be the final push he would need to really learn that skill as well.
So within one day of orientation, Drake was enrolled for his first official school. It was a flurry of mixed emotions for me as I didn’t have time to prepare since I wasn’t even sure if he would be going to school this year.
On the first day, as I rushed my little boy into his classroom, my emotions were all over the place. When we entered his classroom, Drake ran off to play with a puzzle. The teacher sat with him and they started to talk about the shapes and animals, and I quietly slipped out of the classroom with Juliet taking a quick backwards glance in. When did my little boy get so big? As I ran errands with Juliet (so much easier with only one child), I kept checking my phone wondering if the school would call me saying they made a mistake.
And then came pick up time and as I walked in there was my little Drake, backpack on waiting at the door for me. The teacher said he had a wonderful day with no tears. A great first day. As we got in the car, Drake said, “I love school.”
I think it’s going to be a good year.
Great first week!