This is how we've been spending our mornings during "home school."
A quintessential winter's day in San Diego.
In the afternoons, we have some kind of activity. Today, it was gymnastics.
Charlie happened to be with me today, so together, we took the children to their class. William is in a boys-only tumbling class and the girls are in a girls-only tumbling class that meet at the same time, on opposite sides of the gym.
While Charlie and I were standing outside with Henry, I could see that William, along with his four-year-old peers, were bouncing all over the place. Because the parents are separated from the students by a large plate glass window, I couldn't hear what the instructor was saying, but it appeared as though he was becoming frustrated with his young class.
When he was trying to get them to stand on the line to do somersaults, and they all took off running for the trampoline, he had to chase after them. And when they left the bars to go jump on the beam, he held up his fingers and started to count.
After about 10 minutes, I handed Henry to Charlie and walked in to the gym and right up to William. I squatted down at his eye level and gave him a stern warning. "William, there is a time to play and a time to pay attention. Now is the time to pay attention. You need to LISTEN to your teacher and FOLLOW instructions. Do you understand?"
In a bout of silliness he nodded yes and then said something that sounded like, "Oooga Jugaaa Looga Mooga! HEE HEE HEE!!!"
I could tell that what my message wasn't sinking in, so I held his arm firmly and repeated, "William, you need to PAY attention. PLEASE."
I let him go to rejoin his class and he barrel rolled in to the group.
Instead of joining Charlie in the lobby, I stood off to the side of the gym keeping my eyes focused on my son's class and hoping that he would settle down. But instead, things seemed to get even more rowdy. It was evident that late afternoon energy stores were at an all-time high as the boys chased each other around, knocked each other down and wrestled across the ground.
I recognized that they were feeding off of each other's craziness, but I stood wondering at what point "typical four-year-old behavior" becomes "down-right-bratty." I didn't want to disturb the class (again), but I also didn't want for my child to act like a tyrant. Even if several of the other children were acting up, just as much.
After watching William take off for the pommel horse for the second time in less than two minutes - when the teacher was clearly trying to keep them on the mats, I stepped in again. Walking briskly towards William, I harshly whispered, "William! Follow me."
I took him in to a private office just off the gym and giving him a quick swat on the rear I said, "LISTEN. If I tell you to pay attention to a teacher, YOU PAY ATTENTION. You are acting naughty out there and I do not like it. Now you will go out there and you will LISTEN to what your teacher asks you to do and you will stop acting like a wild child. Are we clear?"
Instead of responding, he dissolved in to tears.
Sobbing, embarrassed tears.
For the next five minutes, I tried to get him to rejoin his class, but he wouldn't stop crying. Soon, Charlie came in to the gym looking for us and when he saw William, he shot me a look of disbelief. How could I get angry with a four-year-old who was acting his age?
Maybe I need to lighten up a bit?
Although he didn't say either of these things, I know he was thinking it.
So I asked, "Don't you think it's important that a parent steps in when they can clearly see that their offspring is defying authority? Or do you think I should just sit back and watch a teacher struggle?? Would you rather have a child that is respectful and has manners? Or would you rather have a child that behaves as though he was raised by a pack of wolves??"
Considering tonight when we came home from gymnastics, it was dark and our children stood outside of the house and howled at the magnificent moon, I'm worried I might be fighting against the tide on this one.