His NEW preschool that he attended for two weeks over the summer as part of an introductory session and that introductory session went very well, even though his teacher suggested on the last day that we might need to have Child Find come in to the class to work with him because ... well, it's too early to say but he's on every one's radar. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing because I'd rather have him be ON the radar than totally OFF the radar and potentially floating away in to some behavioral/developmental sea of oblivion.
Henry will be attending his NEW preschool three days a week for the next ten months, and then potentially, five days a week beginning next Fall as a segue for the full day kindergarten that we suspect he'll begin in the Fall of 2013. Of course that scenario will only come to fruition if we continue on this path of traditional living as opposed to the one in which we sell everything off and begin a new life in some remote location as goat herding homeschoolers. (If Charlie wasn't so level headed and "responsible", you know I'd totally execute that game plan. Just think, I could be your one stop-shop for goat milk soap and mohair sweaters!)
Henry loves his NEW preschool and as far as traditional living goes, I love it because it is extremely play-based and when the Director told us to be sure we do not put our children in fancy clothes because there is an excellent chance they WILL get messy, I wiped a tear from my eye. This NEW preschool is such a far cry from his preschool last year where the majority of class time was spent "readying" them for the academic side of kindergarten.
They're little for such a short period of time.
What's the big rush on making them grow up so fast?
Speaking of which, I unintentionally ignited a very lively discussion with some of the mothers at the NEW preschool yesterday. Charlie had a dentist appointment to complete a root canal (although, eight weeks and counting and the root canal is still not completed; tomorrow's blog post topic, "Is it Possible To Obtain A Dental License From A Cracker Jack Box? Me Thinks YES!"), so I had the excitement of dropping Henry off and attending the preschool orientation.
Following the orientation, we had about 15-minutes to spare before school was dismissed and I was introducing myself to other parents. One of the women has a son in our triplet's first grade class and we've known the family for almost a year. We were talking about what we'd done this past weekend and she indicated that she had attended a memorial service at the Pentagon with her family to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. When they returned home, they spent the rest of the day watching footage of the attacks.
Her children are approximately the same age as ours, so I asked, "How did the kids do with all of that?" She replied, "Well, it was difficult because they were very upset and confused, but with my husband in the military, I felt like it was important that they saw and understood what had happened to our country, why people are crying and why Daddy is gone so much."
Personally, I wouldn't have exposed our children to ALL of that. I probably would've told them that Daddy is gone so much because he has the very important job of keeping our country safe and is trying to promote peace in the world.
But you know how it is ... everyone's got an opinion and rather than present my 180 degree opposite philosophy, I decided to broach the subject of birthday parties because we've got one coming up a month from tomorrow (Let the Great Dog Countdown Begin!!) and I really need some ideas.
Alas, before I could even launch in to "What are some good party spots in the area?", one of the other mothers nearby piped up, "You let your four-year-old watch coverage of 9/11? Didn't that give him NIGHTMARES?!"
Now I'm sure it wasn't her intent to put the first mother on the defensive but within a matter of seconds, parents started congregating and joining the discussion and they are either violently shaking their heads in opposition or eagerly nodding their heads in agreement about just how much "news" should be disclosed with our children.
As the conversation quickly grew in intensity, because everyone felt compelled to share their opinions on the matter, I stepped away for a snack (anyone want this last chocolate glazed donut? Going once ... going twice ... ) because meh, joining that discussion was going to take way too much energy and I really didn't think I'd be able to articulate the thoughts in my head.
Also? Mmmm, chocolate glazed donuts!
Nonetheless, I've been thinking a lot about the "discussion" for the past day, particularly that component of just how much is too much to tell a child? At our house, we toe the line of "Too Much Information" very carefully. We share, but we shelter and there's a good reason...
Ignorance really is bliss!
When I was circa six-years-old, there was a house on the way in to town that had a horrible fire. Inside the house there had been a young mother with her small children. Apparently, she liked to sleep in the buff and when the downstairs had caught on fire, she was trapped upstairs. The fire department arrived on the scene and told her to JUMP out the window. Now I don't know if it was because she was nude and modest, or overcome by smoke and losing consciousness, but for whatever reason, she didn't jump. Nor did she throw her children to safety.
So she and her children perished in an inferno.
I've seen many horrific things in my lifetime, but my young memory of that house probably takes the cake and haunts me to this day. The front door, windows and portions of roof were gone and there was black soot coating every inch of the exterior. You could still see the remnants of curtains, flapping in the breeze and burned out furniture on the inside. I know it was my imagination, but every time we went past, I could see figures standing in the upstairs window.
Honestly, I wish my family hadn't told me the story of what had happened there. I wish that at six-years-old, I never knew that something like that could happen. Chances are, I never would have even noticed the burned out house whenever we drove past and thereby wouldn't have had my mind filled with such terrifying images. Moreover, I wouldn't lie awake in bed worrying that something like that was going to happen to ME and to MY family and maybe I should just keep my eyes open all night... and ... what's that smell?
IS THAT SMOKE?
As a mother, it's my instinct to keep our children safe. Therefore, I tell them what I believe to be enough information that is: 1) beneficial and 2) suitable for them to process at their young ages.
For example, last week, a local 12-year old boy drowned in a creek due to the torrential rains. We pulled up a picture of the boy on our computer - said a prayer for his family - and then I reminded the children, "You are not allowed to go down to our creek without your father or I with you." I showed them the pictures that I took with Henry the other day and how quickly the water rose. We talked about our trips to the beach and how the waves could toss us around like rag dolls. If enough rain falls, our creek could quickly turn in to raging river with currents similarly strong.
While I thought our conversation was general enough, the kids were terribly frightened. William was up no less than four times during the night, worried about the boy - worried about his family - worried about himself washing down the swollen creek. Just as I imagined that it was my house that burned down, William now imagines that the 12-year old boy could have been him. Did I share too much information - or just enough?
It is my belief (and hope) that I shared just enough to empower our children with the realization that accidents can and do happen but in certain circumstances, they possess the ability to keep themselves safe by thinking through their actions and behaving in a safe manner. As parents, we are trying to instill in our children the knowledge that they are ultimately responsible for their own well being.
This summer, I read that an eight-year-old boy in New York who was abducted on the way home from day camp. I was already opposed to letting our children walk around our neighborhood unattended and this story validated precisely why. So I shared with our children that a little boy had been taken by a stranger off the street. He was lost and had asked for directions and .... that was the end of the little boy. He would no longer see the sunshine or play in the rain and his family are very sad. The kids looked at me with wide eyes and asked, "Will the Mom and Dad of the little boy be sad for more than 1,000 weeks?"
Yes. They'll be sad for the rest of their lives.
The children asked for more information and all that I divulged was that he died because of a very bad man whom the little boy had thought was a good man who would help him. We worked through various scenarios of what would the children do if they were in a situation where they couldn't find their mother or father?
Who would they talk to for help?
Since that time, the kids WILL NOT go in our front yard without a whistle. Little surprise, William (aka: Mr. Cautious) insists on wearing it and he keeps his eyes peeled for any unusual cars that drive down the road. And believe it or not, that bit of safety consciousness comes without me telling the children that the bad man had drugged the boy before smothering him. Sure, I could have provided "all the details" but I didn't feel compelled to tell the children that when the police found the remains of the child, the psychopath had severed his feet and disposed of his body in various garbage bins around town.
In my humble opinion, that would be classified as TMI for a child to process so instead, I signed them up for Tae Kwon Do and will be buying them all nun-chucks for their birthday.
A few weeks later, in addition to praying for the family of the boy in New York, we also started praying for families in Norway. "Why?" the children asked. I don't even remember what I told them, but I certainly didn't tell them that yet another psychopath set off a bomb in one location and then dressed up as a policeman and shot innocent children as they tried to escape in the water. I didn't tell them that children used other children's bodies to hide beneath and that children who ran up to the "policeman" for help were shot dead.
Whenever news would come on covering the story, we'd quickly turn the channel. Because how could they glean anything of value from that? What could OUR children do to avoid a situation like that in the future? Not go to camp? Not approach a policeman for help?
Or, more likely, stay up all night worrying about something happening to them?
We don't shelter our children from everything. They know about cancer and drownings and vague details surrounding kidnappings. But there are A LOT of things our children don't know about. Heck, most days, I wish I didn't know as much as I did .... which is a large part of the reason we really don't watch much "news."
If the news covered stories about elementary school children spreading cheer by visiting the elderly in nursing homes, or the record number of volunteers that showed up to help out at the homeless shelter, I'd tune in every day. But those aren't the stories that make the headlines and quite frankly, I'd rather not know about another homicide, rape, senseless beating, insert the evil of mankind's ways here ________________ that vividly highlights just how DANGEROUS and TWISTED of a world we live in.
Our children don't know that the reason we lock their bedroom windows every night is because of a little girl named Polly Klaas and another little girl named Danielle van Dam both of who lived only a few miles from us when they disappeared. To tell a six-year-old that someone snuck in to their homes and abducted them while they were sleeping before raping and murdering them, is information our children don't need to know. One was a stranger to the child, the other a neighbor and yes, those horrors actually happened and because those unthinkable crimes happened in the towns where I lived, I know ALL about them, but why should our young children? For the same reason, do they need to know that the reason we insist either their father or I accompany them in to a public restroom is because of little Matthew Cecchi?
All too soon, there will come a time when our children will know a lot more than they know right now. They will be reading proficiently and will probably pick up the newspaper and devour the headlines before we do. But there are certain things that at this juncture, I'm not prepared for them to learn about. There are certain things that are so horrific for me, I don't believe that I am capable of digesting the information and transferring it to them in a way that is appropriate for their age. Which takes me back to the discussion at Henry's NEW preschool...
I don't want our children watching planes crashing in to buildings or people jumping to their deaths because they are trapped. I'm not ready to "share" that information with them just yet. Maybe I'm over protective and stunting their development in some way. But I suspect that when they are older they will be more capable of handling the gravity of that information much better than they are now. Although at 40, I can barely handle it myself.
To me, the best part of childhood (outside of fantastic skin, lightening fast metabolism and flexibility) is a certain naivety to the cold hard truths of the world. There is a very small window of pure innocence that exists wherein a child believes that they are completely safe and thoroughly loved by everyone. There will come a time when our children no longer believe in the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny or leprechauns. There will come a time when they will realize that Mom and Dad were the ones that chowed down the cookies on Christmas Eve.
Why would I allow those awesome fairytales to exist while also exposing them to gruesome under belly of humanity? Sadly, there will also come a day in the not too far off future when our children will be fully cognizant that the person sitting next to them on an airplane might very well be linked to a terrorist network that would rejoice in their death simply because they are an American.
Thankfully, today isn't that day and I'm going to keep that day at bay for as long as possible.