My son’s first day of pre-school was the 1st of May 2015. Five months later, the 1st of September 2015 was still just his fifth day! Yep, he just won’t go to school.
The first day we proposed to take him to pre-school, he was more than excited. He had been excited the whole week before really. He’d watch older kids stream in and out of the bus, from the kitchen window, and sometimes even start sulking that the bus didn’t take him. So I was happy as a clam, thinking I will have no problems at all sending my kid to school.
Well the ‘No problem’ part wasn’t happening!
He hated his pre-school. Still hates it. And it’s not just the kind of hate where kids cry, refuse to go in, sulk and protest, throw a tantrum, cry some more, then just whine, but finally give in. That’s not my boy. He’s way stronger than that. He’d never give in. Never. 😉
He cried the first day, the second day and the third day. Then came an extended weekend and we’d now had more off days than school days in a row. He didn’t feel like going after the weekend and I knew forcing wouldn’t work. Summer vacations were close so I thought, we’ll see about it once the vacations are up.
During the following months, time and again we tried. He would agree to go, even get excited at the prospect of packing the bag and dressing up for school. He would get in the car happily and come along. Sometimes he wouldn’t step inside the classroom, sometime he would go in, try to settle down, but would come out crying minutes later. Crying bitterly might I add.
And that’s what happened on the 1st of September. He went in, settled down and stayed in for about twenty minutes. I remained in the waiting area, literally holding my breath, hoping this would be a good day.
Soon the sharp cry drafted through the corridors and I knew we were hit. I really wanted to scream mayday! Instead, I kept my calm, scooped him up, seated him in my lap and tried talking to him but he wouldn’t stop. He was frantic, fitful, and another f-word that I won’t use 😉 He cried and cried wanting to be taken out of that place. It was as if he’d seen a ghost. He was genuinely upset. I called my husband and he was on his way. The crying went on for about an hour. The father came in, the crying eased a little and we were finally able to talk.
In his defence, that pre-school is really lousy. Just that it’s our only option, others involve a fifty minute bus ride on UP roads, No thankyou. And my boy is, you know, ‘that boy’. The one who cries all the time, is impossible to placate and doesn’t talk to anyone. He takes time to warm up to new people, new places, even new toys. Sometimes he doesn’t warm up at all.
He doesn’t do it on purpose just to throw a tantrum. It’s just the way he is. Each kid is different, and it took me another painful labor and a whole other baby to realize that. My younger son is a breeze.
But just because the firstborn is shy and panicky doesn’t mean he’s a washout. He’s a rather brilliant child. How do I know that? Well I’m his mom, but there’s also this little example he showed us that day in school-
So, back to the crying in pre-school episode. He had his mind made up. He wouldn’t go back to the class. We tried hard to persuade him but he wouldn’t budge. After we ran out of creative analogies and tempting incentives, I began asking him the clichéd questions-
“But how will you become a big man if you don’t go to school. Don’t you want to grow up to be like papa”?
A flat-out no. That was his answer. I can swear papa blushed a little, but smirked it off.
“Don’t you wanna grow up like mamma”? asked the father, who too was out of better arguments.
The husband and I looked at each other, disappointed and tickled at the same time. Our son didn’t wanna be anything like us. We contemplated for a moment what to say next, but he put us out of our misery. He said, and I quote –
“Keyush ko toh Keyush Ban’na hai”
(That translates to “I just wanna become me”, and Keyush is what we call him at home.)
He just wanted to be himself when he grew up. Not like mamma, not like papa, not like anyone else. Just him. And I swear, no one ever taught him something like this. It was his most natural, most impromptu response.
We got up, took his hand, walked out of the wretched school and drove home right away.
My son is no dummy. He’s not missing out much not going to pre-school. Yes he is missing making friends and socializing, but there’s plenty of time for that. He learnt two thirds of the alphabet all by himself, just with the help of a made in china talking laptop. He learnt all the shapes, from a single youtube rhyme. I taught him colors but it took just one packet of Cadbury Gems and all of 14 minutes before he got them straight. All this when he was just turning two. And now, at three, he knows he wants to grow up as his own self, and not like someone else.
So what if he’s scared of strangers and new places. Truth be told, most of us are. We just fake our way.
So what if he doesn’t wanna go to pre-school yet, so be it. He’ll go when he’s ready. I won’t force him, I won’t traumatize him. I don’t think there’s a ‘I-am-ready’ switch that goes on when a kid turns a certain age say 3 or 4. Planned schooling and curriculums are there for a reason but there may be some kids who are born to rebel.
So on an upbeat morning, we’ll ask him again if he wants to go to school. If he says yes, we’ll go. If he cries miserably to be taken out of the classroom, I will try my best to persuade and engage him, but eventually, I will comply. We will go back home. Next morning, we’ll ask him again if he wants to go to school, and if he says no, we’ll leave it at that.
One day, he won’t cry. One day, he will be ready.
I will stand by his side. I will protect him from demons. Even if they are only in his head. I won’t make him bottle them up and go on anyway. One day, he will kill those demons, and they’ll never come back.