We’ve recently been having a lot of trouble with Law’s daycare. Probably for the last 6 months or so. At first it was just little things here and there that I noticed – Law clinging to my leg, crying, not wanting to go to “school”. Law getting notes home saying that he was “uncooperative”. Getting stopped by Law’s teacher when I would go to pick him up to be told “he will not sit and listen” with an eye roll. Law being scared to get out of the car. Walking in on his teacher talking to another teacher, saying “These kids are bad. They’re the worst kids I’ve ever had. And their parents just don’t care.”
We should have pulled him long ago, but every time we almost withdrew him, things were promised to get better. The kid who Law followed around and imitated was moving to a different daycare, or a new director was coming to the school, or Law was being moved to a different classroom. Only things didn’t get better. They’ve gotten worse. We get call after call after call about Law “not listening” or “not cooperating”. We have gotten called the past 3 days in a row. We’ve disciplined Law to the best of our ability, but here’s the thing: he doesn’t do these things at home. And I hate to even say that, because I’m a Child & Adolescent Therapist and I work with kids with behavioral issues every day. I’ve heard all the excuses. But I’m here to tell you that the child that these teachers and the director describe to me does not exist at our house. Is Law stubborn at times? Sure. Does he have to be redirected? Many, many times a day. Is he an asshole sometimes? Debatable (…yes). But does he just refuse to listen? No. Does he get up out of time out when we put him there? No. Does he run away from us when we tell him to do something? No.
So where is the rub? What’s the difference between home and school that produces such different behavior in a child? I truly, truly think that it’s how Law is viewed. At school, he’s the “bad kid”. At home, he is loved unconditionally and relentlessly. At school, Law is fussed at. Constantly. At home, he is firmly redirected and told why he isn’t allowed to stick his fingers in an electrical outlet. Not just told “NO” with a finger point and an eyeroll. At school, Law is expected to sit down and be quiet often during the day. At home, he is expected to sit at the table, but we encourage him to run around outside and to play. That’s how he learns. That’s how his brain grows. How we view our children, what we speak over our children…. I’m telling y’all that they listen. Even at 3 years old, he knows. He acts different around adults who love him than adults who tolerate him. He can sense tension and the annoyance just as well as he can sense love and compassion. Studies have proven this over and over.
So why does he act so different at this daycare?
They see my 3-year-old son as:
- A discipline issue
- A child who doesn’t listen and doesn’t cooperate
- Disrespectful and disruptive
- 1 of 300 kids in the facility
- 1 of 10 kids in his class
- A number
- A burden
- A disruption
- A nuisance
What they haven’t seen – what maybe they could see if they took the time – is the love that brought him into his world. They don’t know that his mom and dad were together for 7 years before they decided to have a child. They never saw the fear that was experienced throughout the pregnancy – from the moment those 2 blue lines appeared to the moment that he was placed on my chest. They didn’t see the countless tears that were shed when I was told that I had polyhydramnios and that it could result in stillbirth. They don’t know the countless times I have approached the throne of God on behalf of my son. That he would survive. That he would grow in wisdom and in grace. That he would live a long and healthy life. That he would protect the weak and vulnerable. That he would be safe. That he would be an amazing husband someday. That he would know Jesus. That he would exude joy and mercy. That he wouldn’t struggle with anxiety the way his mama has. That he would have his dad’s temperament. They never saw the struggle after he was born. The breastfeeding complications. The anxiety. The depression. The tears.
They never saw when he first started smiling, and how he would smile at everyone. They never saw how his face would light up when he saw his mama and daddy. They never saw the naps he would take on his daddy’s chest or the way he would gently place his hands on mama’s cheek when he was nursing. They never saw how proud he was of himself when he first rolled over, or when he first sat up unassisted, or when he first started crawling, or when he took his first steps. They never saw that he was the happiest baby and was constantly smiling and laughing. They never saw how he thrived when he was in the classrooms of teachers who loved him.
They see my son as a troublemaker. A behavior problem. A pain in their ass.
What they don’t see is:
- How much he loves hugs, especially hugs from his mama
- How much he loves singing
- The way he says hello to the moon
- That he sleeps with 5 stuffed animals and will say night night to each one
- How he won’t leave the house without saying goodbye to our dogs. “Bye bye, Jasper! Bye bye, Clary! Bye bye, Lily! Love you! Have a good day!”
- The excitement on his face when I tell him we’re going to see his Nae Nae and Frank, or T-Ma and Papa, or KK and Uncle Mas, or Pawpaw and Gigi, or Lulu and Weston and Baby Whitley, or Coco and Benee. How much he loves all of them so, so much
- How freaking happy he is to see his mama and dada
- The way he says, “Go, Lily!” when he’s eating and she’s eyeing his food
- How he says, “‘scuse me” when he burps or when he bumps into someone
- How much he loves dinosaurs and puzzles and Christmas and monster trucks
- The way he says, “Hey!” to everyone and how he’s never met a stranger
- How he says, “Hold you, mama!” when he wants me to pick him up
- The way he says, “Play for me!” or “Sit for me!” when he wants you to play with him or sit with him
- When we ask him to do something and he says, “Yooouuuuu got it!” and gives a thumbs up
- His imagination and the way he acts it out in his own little world
- How he’ll say, “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!” when he gets super jazzed about something
- The way he kisses me and says “iss okay, mama” if he accidentally bumps my head
- How much he loves to say the blessing before meals
- His hysterical laugh when he’s tickled by his Dada or Papa or Uncle Mas
But most of all, I regret that they’ll never see the amazing, smart, caring, and kind soul that he is. I’m disappointed that they’ll never know how easily he’s redirected and how mild-mannered he is when he’s in a place where he knows that he is loved, cherished, and seen as a real person with real feelings. They’ll never want the best for him as a human being and not what’s best for them as a nice, orderly daycare center. They’ve already labeled him as a bad kid, so we’re going somewhere that doesn’t measure the worth of a child by their ability to sit down and shut up.
When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.
– Alexander Den Meijer