As I mentioned in my previous post about Theo, we had parent/teacher conferences at the boys’ pre-school just before vacation. I was most worried about Dexter’s conference because of his potty-training regression since beginning school in August. This summer he was diaper-free, wearing underwear even at night. He had been doing great and I had no doubt in my mind that he was “ready” for pre-school.
Developmentally, he is right on target and has expressed interest in several areas. He is especially drawn to the water tasks, such as squeezing water from a sponge into a bowl, re-absorbing it, and repeating. His teachers said if there is a water “job” out, that is what Dexter chooses. The Montessori classroom is organized into areas and right now Dexter spends most of his time in the Practical Life area, which is typical for his age. His teachers said that some days he is not interested in doing any work, but will instead watch his peers for long periods of time. He isn’t particularly drawn to any of his peers, but gets along well with everyone and prefers to sit by his teacher during circle time. He is working with early math and language concepts.
My biggest concern was his potty-training. After 8 weeks in school, he had only gone 1 week (and he only goes 3 days a week) with no accidents and most weeks he was having multiple accidents. Usually just pee, but not always. Gross. I felt terrible that they were having to deal with this over and over and over. It made me sad for Dexter, because to me, that meant either that he was nervous, anxious, or not feeling comfortable asking a teacher for help. It made me feel terrible for the teachers that they were having to clean up his messes. How could a teacher not resent a kid that was crapping his pants once or twice a week? How could a teacher not resent the parents of a kid who swore he was potty-trained and “ready” for pre-school, who apparently was not. I was spending way too much time worrying about it while at work and feeling apprehensive every time I pulled up to the school to pick them up, cringing from the inside out every time I saw a bag (or two. or three.) of wet / soiled clothing in his cubby.
I apologized profusely in emails to his teacher, to which she replied that it was not a problem and that they were still working on learning his cues. I still couldn’t help feeling sick about it because I truly feared that any day they would kindly pull me aside and tell me that Dexter just wasn’t able to return until he was potty-trained. So what would that mean? Putting him back in diapers? No, but if he had to go back to the sitter 5 days a week for having too many accidents at school, wouldn’t the sitter WANT him in a pull-up or diaper? It was just starting to look like we were going down a path I didn’t want to travel. After asking many questions about Dexter’s classroom behavior and discussing his progression, I brought up the potty training issue.
His sweet teacher so calmly expressed that Dexter is doing FINE. That I didn’t need to worry about it. That for every 1-2 bags of wet clothes I see, he is going to the bathroom and making it there on his own at least 4 or 5 times. They don’t prompt the kids to go to the bathroom unless they notice them squirming. Sometimes they miss his cues. They said that him having accidents and having to change his clothes provides a great learning moment in independence for him. If he pees on his clothes, he is responsible for changing and he is capable of doing that all on his own. Sometimes it takes him 20 minutes but that’s okay.
She really put it into perspective for me by saying that he is only 3. Three. It’s only been a little over 3 years since he was inside my belly, completely incapable of doing anything independently. What was I doing three years ago (besides caring for a tiny baby)? Pretty much all the same things I am doing today. Dexter, on the other hand, has learned to walk, talk, feed himself, dress himself, go to the bathroom, and so much more. He has learned more in three years than an adult could hope to learn in the next 20. He will continue to learn at a very fast rate for the next few years. It’s hard to do so many new things all day every day. So with that in mind, Dexter is doing FINE.
True. It’s all about perspective. He only had a handful of accidents on vacation. Even less the week after we returned. I am not going to let myself worry about it anymore because my little boy is doing everything he is supposed to be doing. He will figure it all out. He’s just having a little adjustment period.
More post-vacation insight has come to me since we’ve been home, this time about Dexter. During vacation, Dexter became very attached to his tennis shoes and a blue satin cape that he calls his Batman cape. He wears it at home a lot but it has never caused any problems. The tennis shoes we bought a couple of months ago are black with royal blue and yellow trim and he also refers to them as his “bat” shoes. He didn’t want to take his shoes off in the car. He didn’t want to take them off for bed. He didn’t want to take off the cape to go into stores or to go to bed. Or the pool. Or the beach. He threw some hairy tantrums over those items; it was as if we told him his puppy just died. It was bad!! He also got mad if we didn’t have a Batman shirt for him to wear – thank goodness we were able to do laundry there. He finally accepted that he could wear the cape in the car and condo but nowhere else and that he had to leave his shoes under the bed at night. It was the first thing he thought about when he woke up – the cape and shoes went right back on. Ryan and I started looking at each other with concern, thinking WHY is he so rigid about these things all of the sudden? We optimistically and tentatively decided it’s just a phase.
As soon as we got home, the preoccupation with his shoes and cape was all but forgotten. OK, that might be a stretch – he hasn’t forgotten but it’s gone back to the way it was before vacation. He doesn’t cry when it’s time to take them off. He doesn’t have to have them close at bedtime. He doesn’t try to wear the cape out of the house. Upon noticing this a few days after we got home, I recalled another time when Dexter became extremely attached to another item.
When Theo started Pre-school last year, it was the first time that the boys had ever been apart for any length of time. Along with this change, they had started at a new babysitter just a month earlier. Dexter started asking to take one of Theo’s old stuffed animals (that Theo never played with a ton) to the babysitter. We let him. After a couple of weeks, the babysitter asked that he stop bringing it because it was causing problems. We agreed but there were some really, really terrible drop offs in the morning for the next week or two, with Dexter desperately begging for the puppy, bawling as I walked away, and me crying all the way to work. It was hard.
We had been home from vacation for a week before I realized the similarities. Although he was with us, we were away from home. For a long time. He’s only 3; a week might as well be a month. It just never crossed my mind during vacation that he was trying to adjust or find comfort in this new situation. There’s something sweet and fascinating and well, comforting, to me about the whole thing – him self-soothing when feeling out of sorts, me figuring things out as we go, and knowing that we’ve got a long way to go on this journey, but that we’ll continue learning together.
Dexter. My bubbly, never-too-serious, blonde, blue-eyed, funny boy. Sensitive and sweet. Learning by leaps and bounds and little by little, all at the same time. He likes to pretend. One minute he’s Batman and I’m Wonder Woman. Then next minute he’s Baby and I’m Sissy. He’s got a vivid imagination and a love for Legos to rival his big brother’s. He’s kind and forgiving. Passionate yet silly. What would I do without him? He keeps us on our toes and makes our lives so interesting.