...sounds a little like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and I guess that's apropos, considering how much parenting feels like some sort of martial arts discipline. I try to ground my own actions with my son more in observation than action itself, and watch-and-listen becomes an instrumental tool in finding the best solution for everyone.
Only, sometimes, Mama's not so quick on the uptake. And when the "a-ha!" moment happens, it's as if the answer was so clear as to be right in front of me.
As some of you know, we have a preschool here in our home. Our Kiddo is nearly three now and while he likes to have playmates over to spend the morning, he's really not keen on our Morning Gathering. I know enough to understand what he might not like about it: I think he equates it with my transition from Mama to Teacher. And frankly, he's been a bit overt about letting me know; for days he's been talking about "Don't want to go to Morning Gathering" and all I've been hearing is my own question "How do I help to include him in a positive way?"
If you think I'm not listening to him, well, you're halfway right. As a teacher, my limits are pretty clear; my group is only asked to come together three or four times during the morning: at meals, cleanup, and Morning Gathering. It's safe to say that our activities at the Gathering are more structured, and it's also a chance for the children to have a little community, even if we are only singing about what our friends are wearing. This is the preschool part of preschool, in a way. That's not to say that our remaining times spent in free play and various activities aren't preschool, for they certainly are---all the sharing, self-regulation and skill-building that goes on are indeed work and learning for the children---but Gathering is the most adult-directed part of their day.
And it's also when I am touching base with other children. For my son, that might seem just a bit much on some days, when I've been too busy setting school up to play, or shooing him and his thousand instruments back into his room to clear the space. I imagine he feels a little evicted and demoted, and it's not ideal.
But Kiddo has some lovely qualities, and I guess he just understood that I needed more clarity. He thinks it comes through repetition. Even through last week's bout of croup, he'd randomly tell me "Don't want to go to morning gathering" as if to say "gee, get the message already". For a kid who isn't prone to "don't like" statements, he's been pretty clear.
Last night, I finally got the message. After he was asleep, Joe and I talked about altering our routine so that Kiddo comes to school after Morning Gathering. This isn't the best choice, ideally--I do run on the principle that kids need to follow the teacher's directions at school and coming to gathering is one of them. And I'm also a mom and know that he's going to have plenty of opportunities to do this in the coming years. The separation of school and home is still incredibly abstract for him, whereas the other children would experience this as a more concrete, distinct transition: "I got into my car at home and got out at school". I knew this was going to be a challenge, and all things considered, Kiddo's done well. He's remarkably willing to share the toys and help other kids: in fact, he genuinely likes them. He just is trying to suss out how to enjoy them even as his Mama is paying lots of attention to them and less-than-usual to him.
You might be laughing right now. He's got a pretty cushy life, I know. But if I can be the Listening, Observing, Strategizing Parent, all the better, right? So I'm going to let him lead on this for a week or two and see how it goes. Maybe he'll want to come back for this part of the day, maybe he'll miss it. Or maybe I'll have a different challenge when Joe goes back to work. Who knows? But I believe that I do have the chance to listen to his needs and support them in a positive way, and this usually helps children resolve some of their problems on their own.
So, until it's resolved, I'm going to cross my fingers...and keep listening.