A friend invited me to a talk in her town about the "art of raising boys" (more or less). It was interesting, to say the least. The speaker covered some of the topics I'd heard before, such as the higher rate of psychiatric diagnoses in boys, especially things like autism or ADHD. He also covered what he viewed as the causes- larger classrooms, less outdoor time, more time expected of boys to sit still, overmedicalization of childhood, etc., in addition to what we can do to ease the stress and strain on our sons.
It was a timely talk for me, because I've been in preschool interviewing hell. The town to which we are moving has a much more competitive preschool process (can you see me cringing as I write that?), and we are wayyyy behind on the ball for next year. We are so far behind, most of the places I have called already have their classes full for 2010-2011, and usually have several people on the waiting lists.
I have found myself swiftly and surely falling into the anxiety trap over this whole preschool situation, and I'm stressing about finding a school that is good for Gabe, that doesn't cost a fortune (the norm is around $7,000/year-ouch), and that will even consider us for next year since they already have so many applicants. There are many schools in the area, so that is the good news, but the problem is the ideology is all over the place. Play-based vs. more disciplined, parent involvement vs. not, lots of outdoor play vs. not, religious vs. secular.
I heard from one preschool director that many of the mothers in the town apply to several preschools at once, wait to hear if they got in to their top choice, and when January or March comes around, release tons of spots at other schools so people will get in off of the waiting list, but who knows how many, and the thought of letting this go until March gives me hives. I just want to know Gabe is going to get into one school, and then when March comes around I'll do a little dance if we have options.
The preschool I visited today requires both parents to attend without kids, so we hired a babysitter, Josh took the morning off from work, and we both attended. Can you even believe this? It is like college! Anyway, it was gorgeous. Beautiful gardens for the kids, amazingly large spacious classrooms, high teacher ratio, great toys and activities and philosophy. Except... the director went on and on about how they don't say "no" or "don't". The teachers and staff try not to feature it in their vocabulary, so everything is an "I prefer if you did..." or "how about..." or "let's try..." rather than clearly telling them not to do something or other.
Umm, I'm not sure that will work for my kid. Gabe is lovely and sweet and compliant, sometimes, but he is also busy and active and a little nutty. He loves to run, and he loves to make his friends laugh, and that can be a dangerous combination. When he gets in one of his moods, it can be difficult to rein him in. I also feel that when he is in the midst of some unwanted behavior, my best bet is to simply remove him from the situation for a while, rather than try to talk to him about it right then and there. He'll look at me if I ask him to, he'll appear to be listening to the words coming out of my mouth, he'll even give me a sing-songy "ooooookay", but two seconds later he's doing it all over again. Frustrating, to say the least.
Tonight's talk made it clear that Gabe's behavior is typical. I spoke to the speaker after the talk and he rolled his eyes when I told him my dilemma, and agreed my best bet would be to continue to discipline Gabe in the way I thought best. He said that in his experience, all the talking didn't really work with most boys, because it simply isn't the way they learn. Boys do best with clear boundaries and expectations. Most of that unwanted behavior, they just outgrow.
I felt better, a little less stressed after hearing the whole talk, and I will definitely try a little less "no" and a little more positivity, but at the same time I won't feel badly about having to give a strong "NO" when Gabe shoves his sister out of the way or chases the dogs. He's an amazing little lunatic, and I need all the help I can get. I can't believe these are only the toddler years! Someone send me a drink when he turns 13.