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Monday, March 26, 2012

The Second Agent of Socialization.

Last week I went with Kiedis on a field trip with his preschool class. It was to a community center not far from his school that I didn't even know existed inside the city limits. It's a super-nice, modern facility run in conjunction with The Salvation Army, so it doesn't take much to decipher the heavy religious current that runs under everything they do. Still, we were eligible for a free membership and they have a gym and a nice playground and summer camp programs for toddlers so we signed up because, well, why not.

This was my first time seeing Kiedis with his new teachers and classmates in action -- and apparently, it was the first time his teacher saw one of his full-out meltdowns. I don't know what triggered it, if it was the unfamiliar place or the confusion of me and his teacher being in the same space for an extended period of time or just his inability to be patient and follow directions, but the majority of the field trip was spent with him sobbing or screaming or both. He wasn't the only one -- there was another little boy (whose dad looked like he walked straight off of the Warped Tour circa 2000, so I felt simultaneously connected to him through subculture and wild sons) who also couldn't handle anything, and we moved around our kids with the stoicism that comes with special needs parenting in public. Eventually, Kiedis settled once food was involved, but it was an interesting experience for everyone involved, I think.

I noticed that some parents seemed to kind of seek me out, introduce themselves, talk about their kids and my kid and I suppose what might be normal preschool parent banter, but for sure there was curiosity about the new kid and the new mom who didn't so much fit in with the others. There's tremendous diversity in his class -- it's half inclusion, so there are other kids like him in there, but there's also a high Turkish immigrant population as well as African-American and Hispanic along with working class people, much like our neighborhood. But that kind of meant that people grouped themselves off nearly along segregation lines -- and there I stood with the dad with gauges in his ears and our wild kids, not really obviously belonging to any group that existed in front of me.

Sidebar -- Kiedis is learning not only the English words for things, but the Spanish and Turkish words in school as well, which I can't see as a bad thing other than I don't know Turkish for a lick. Kyle has some Turkish kids in his class, though, so if it comes down to it we can probably  figure out the basics like colors and shapes and animals. I learned that the word for "frog" in Turkish sounds a lot like the sound a frog makes. I overheard it on the fieldtrip and I was intrigued. So I guess I could recognize one word in Turkish. It's a start.

But it filled me with an interesting calm about his schooling and our neighborhood right now. Kiedis is getting exposure to all different kinds of diversity and cultures that I never really got until I was a teenager in the suburbs. He has kind teachers who obviously care for him and try hard to both understand him and help him grow into a better child, even though the public schools have a bad reputation around here. And we have at our disposal some great resources and opportunities for our entire family that would surely be at a premium cost in the suburbs -- hell, we don't even pay for preschool as it's part of the public school system's curriculum offerings, never mind free membership to a rec center.

It wasn't all sunshine and roses, though.

Of course, though, watching Kiedis with other kids, both "normal" and "special" gave me some perspective on my own child. At home, he's pretty rough with Tova, something we've been told comes with being a very active little boy and the fact that his vocabulary is limited, so he acts out his feelings since he can't say them. I had hoped he was better at school, with more kids, bigger kids, around him -- but instead I was faced with a sort of sobering reality.

When you see him with other kids, you can tell he's different. There's something about the way he carries himself, the play he tries to initiate, his reactions to other kids being in the same space as him -- it's like he hovers between his own world and the world in front of him, and I'm not sure how much of that is within his control. He often seeks out an adult as a reference point, running around to only run up and hug legs roughly and run away again. He approaches other kids fervently but stops short and becomes instantly timid, running away again before any sort of cooperative play happens. He also is equally rough with other kids, shoving and hitting and screaming, like he does at home with Tova, but apparently indiscriminately, like he just wants to see what happens without much concern for the other kids.

All of this worries me, because it feels like the perfect storm for the makings of a bully.

And that weighs heavy on my heart. Not only that he can be picked out in a group of kids for indeterminate differences, but that those differences appear to be laying the groundwork for a bigger problem, another hurdle to try and head off before we have to jump it.

I'm told that Kiedis should be "normal" someday, that he will hopefully grow out of a great deal of his issues and I know how fortunate we are that this is the case. But it's hard to consistently get past one milestone to be greeted with another roadblock, another unanticipated complication that feels like a step sideways instead of forward.

Everything happens for a reason. We aren't given more than we can handle. If you're going through hell, keep going.

These appear to be the mantras of my parenthood.

that's my name