The start of the school year brought much anticipation and hope. All was dashed when, on the second day of kindergarten, Kadin marched out with his arms folded tight and a huge frown on his face. Thinking he was upset because he didn't get to be first in line or some such minor disappointment, I tried to ignore his mood as we stepped aside and waited for Rees.
"I need to talk to you," the teacher said as she looked my way. "He is very stubborn and defiant. I don't know what to do. What do you do at home? We need to nip this in the bud."
I was flabbergasted and didn't know what to say, so basically said as much: "Wow, that comes as a huge surprise to me." I mean, Kadin is stubborn, sure, but he is basically sweet and pliable. (Now that she mentions it, though, if I look back at posts about him, his stubborn streak does stand out…)
"I'll call you later." She said.
Okay, well, there goes the plan of getting into her good graces! I walked home with a very sad and upset child. It was like he was ill, a completely different kid. I felt like I had been kicked in the chest.
Luckily, one of Rees' friends was there. He saw how upset Kadin was and said, "Kadin, are you in Mrs. X's class?" Kadin nodded. "I used to be in her class and it was so bad, I hated it, and I used to get in trouble all the time." Kadin was listening.
So I asked Rees' friend what happened and what he did about it. "I just finally decided to try doing what she said." "What happened then?" I asked. "Oh," he said, "Things got SO much better." "So you were happy with your decision to do what she said?" "Oh yeah,” he said confidently, “It was the right decision."
I was tempted to tell Kadin to shape up and just do what she said, but he seemed so sad and hurt that I decided he just needed to be comforted and then we could talk about what to do later.
At the same time, I was thrown into doubt as I tried to notice whether he was truly stubborn and defiant or if something else was going on. All evening, if I asked him to do something, he would either refuse or say "Okay!" or "Sure!" He didn't want to put his shoes away, so the next time he wanted my help with something I just said, "I'm happy to help you as soon as you put your shoes away." Eventually he put his shoes away.
I racked my brains about what could be going on. He hated kindergarten and he hated his teacher. He was angry and hurt. He was exhausted. Finally we lay down on the bed and had a long discussion about it. He said he didn't want to do what she said. We talked about options including not doing full-day kindergarten, changing to the morning class, changing teachers. (Visions of home schooling bounced in my head, but I remained mute on that subject.) I told him that he was a really good guy and that we would find a way to make kindergarten work for him. Finally, I suggested, "Or you could try what [Rees’ friend] suggested." He agreed this was a something he could try.
The phone never rang. I felt very protective of Kadin and wondered what this witch had done to bring out the worst in him. I also realized that taking that approach with her would get me nowhere. Instead, I rehearsed saying how difficult I knew her job was and how motivated I was to make this work. I remembered how Kadin had told me he liked to watch first before he joined in. Maybe that was it? Maybe he just wanted to watch first? And it brought up all kinds of insecurities. Had I not set enough limits? Would he have any friends if he was labeled the “bad kid”? I had thought he could easily end up being the teacher’s pet. But it looked like he could just as easily be her nemesis as well.
I decided to focus on the positive: his good qualities, my good qualities, and the teacher’s good qualities.
Finally, the next morning at 7:30, I went over to the school. I just had to talk with her. I was tired of second guessing what was going on. Our talk was good. She said she was also distressed. I encouraged her to let him watch first and assured her I didn’t think he would be disruptive. She told me more about what he had (or hadn’t) been doing. She said at the end of the day, she wouldn’t try to talk with me but would give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down to let me know how things had gone. Meanwhile Greg brought Kadin to school and said Kadin had decided to try [Rees' friends'] idea.
I don’t know what happened, but whatever it was, it worked. Maybe they both gave just a little bit so that neither of them had to dig in their heels. At the end of the day, we got the thumbs up. Things have been fine ever since. In fact, more than fine. We just had a glowing parent/teacher conference. They are best buddies. He wants to invite her to his birthday party.