We can’t do this parenting thing on our own. My husband and I have come to rely on family, friends, medical professionals, educators and my moms club, as people to turn to for advice, answers, and sometimes just comfort.
I didn’t realize the extent to which I relied on each group until today, when one was taken away from me. Actually, it chose to not be a part of our lives, for now.
One detail of our lives I have kept off the blog is my daughter’s aggressive behaviors. I have chosen not to blog about this before because really the blog has become my refuge, my place to imagine the possibilities of things I can do with my children and to reflect on both their growth and mine as a parent. I needed this place to be free of that one reality. It is a harsh and difficult reality.
My passionate, kind, intense, inquisitive two year old daughter . . . bites.
Without providing you the detailed history of this long and excruciating challenge, I will say Greysen’s aggressive behaviors started long, long ago. Fast forward to this September after over a year of us reading anything and trying everything, Mike and I were advised that Greysen should participate in a school program – a place where she could have positive experiences with peers, play with interesting things, and be herself without the every watchful eye of . . . well . . . me. With full disclosure about her biting, Greysen started to attend a Waldorf-inspired preschool twice a week for four hours each day.
To say she loves her school is an understatement. She loves herself more for the person she has become, in part because of what she has learned at school. She calls herself a “good helper” when she assists anyone and pretends to be a “teacher” with genuine pride.
This morning, we were asked to leave this sanctuary of play due to Greysen’s biting, without warning. I was crushed. CRUSHED.
What does this mean? Does this community not want my 2 year-old in the company of the other children? Do they not believe she will, with assistance and caring guidance, develop the inhibition and skills necessary to communicate frustration in a different way?
I was angry. This school made a commitment to educate the head, hands, and heart – not just the head, hands and heart of those who do not struggle. I believed they were genuine advocates for all children.
Finally, I felt just plain old rotten. I can imagine how the other parents feel. My heart bottoms out when Moon is the object of intense displays of anger. I have had every emotion possible, from anger to helplessness, and do not blame the parents for their instinct to protect their child.
I struggled all morning with whether or not I should tell Greysen what happened. On one hand, I see her as a 2 (and ¾) year-old who is too young to cope with this type of rejection and will not understand the difference between the behavior and the person. On the other hand, I see her as a 2 year-old, nearly 3, who may learn something from this significant change in her life. Children cope with things differently than adults and aren’t devastated by loss (friends that move, teachers that leave) in the same way adults are.
Torn, I decided to tell her the truth as gently as I could.
As I blinked back tears and with swollen eyes – from the tears I could not hold back all morning – I explained to my Greysen that the school that she loves, the children she calls sisters, and the teachers she admire, are no longer going to be a part of her life. I explained that her biting made others feel worried and that her teachers wanted the other children to not get hurt, so that until she was able to only use words and stop biting that she was not going to school. Greysen responded by saying, “ I won’t bite anymore.” I explained that we still needed to wait a while. With the all the innocence of a two year-old she said, “When I’m older I can go to school.”
And with that, she smiled at me and asked to play. Was it too much to explain? I’m not sure. I am reassured by her confidence that she will stop biting and the hope that seeps from her very being.
Even though I lost this support, my other systems went into overdrive. I spoke to a dozen or so friends who are either moms or educators, and who gave me insight and compassion.
Here she is on her first day at school back in September.
Part of me wants to walk away with a “never let your guard down” kind of attitude. Luckily, I was nudged back over to the hopeful side by understanding and encouraging comments from friends, including many of you who reminded me that
- “not make the issue the center of everything” – Laura Herndon Ling
- “progress, not perfection” – Christi Dean
In the end, I’m the one who chose this school. I chose it for the place it is and the educators within it. While I think there many things that could have been done differently, I also realize that I can not bend the school to meet our needs. I will continue to speak with the director, hope for understanding and work towards partnership. We are welcome to re-evaluate the situation in May.
I’m also sharing my story here, even though it may affect relationships with people within my community, because even though my child may act aggressively, she is part of a family – one that is trying to do what is best for her and one that relies on the expertise and companionship of other families.
I’m not sure when or even if Greysen will start school again. For now, I’m thankful that she can be home where she is surrounded by people who believe that the kind of passion she has has the potential to change the world.