Big Guy’s autumn awfuls
Big Guy’s Best Girl ran up as I got to the preschool this evening, yelling my name. She’s done that daily for the past few weeks – it’s a Big Thing when you’re a kid and learn an adult’s name. Except today, she looked serious.
“Debra,” she said, hands on hips. “He’s weird to me.”
I was afraid to ask, but I did. “How’s he weird?”
“He’s just so goofy! ” she giggled. Right on cue, Big Guy bounced up, doing his favorite new dance, the one that makes him look like Pinocchio without strings.
“I was nice to my friends today!” he whispered.
It wasn’t that way for a while. By mid-September, he'd realized that many 5-year-old friends wouldn’t be back. Preschool resumed, except it now involved sitting and writing, not just painting and crafts. Little Guy also started preschool, invading his turf, and Best Girl had abandoned him in the mornings. A mature, older woman, she’s in kindergarten and comes only in the afternoons.
There were frequent grim reports. Big Guy grabbing things from kids, especially his brother. Big Guy picking a “friend of the day,” playing only with that person and throwing a fit if his friend wanted to play with someone else.
Then came the worst: He’d been flat-out mean to a boy he usually loved to play with, pushing and shoving until he wound up having a one-on-one with the day care director.
Another fall, another problem.
Wait a minute, I thought, reviewing the past few Octobers. Two years ago, his teeth were registered as lethal weapons. Last year, it was the potty-mouth plague.
That’s when I realized I could save for college instead of bail after all. Seems Big Guy merely has a bad case of the Autumn Awfuls, a fleeting but violent syndrome triggered when too much changes too quickly.
How could that be? Big Guy always has been the life of the party, jumping into the middle of any crowd and taking all of five minutes to make friends. So how could something as simple as moving to a new classroom, a room he’d been dying to get to for six months, flummox him so?
Because it’s not that simple when you’re 4.
Remember when you were a kid and it took centuries for Christmas to roll around? When you just assumed that the way things are now are the way they’ll be forever?
Big Guy often assures me that he’s never leaving our house. If he does get a wife, she’ll move into Little Guy’s room, too. And when he’s a pilot, I’ll be the flight attendant on his plane. Sexist piglet.
But his forever changed in a big way shortly after Labor Day, and so did he.
There was a lot less dancing, singing and goofing, and a lot more screaming, grabbing and shoving. And the more I came down on him, the more he escalated. It was bonus points if he could get me to yell or if his antics drew attention from Little Guy.
So I started talking until he was sick to death of hearing my voice. I’d kneel to his level, my hand under his chin so he was forced to look me in the eye. “This is not the way you treat people. You don’t like it when they do it to you, so don’t do it to them.”
Say that often enough and even a rock will get the message. Big Guy is definitely not a rock, though his head can be as hard as one. Finally, we got there.
“Mommy, I was nice to my friends today!”
Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next fall. New school, new friends, total strangers for teachers. That one oughta be a doozy.
Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All righs reserved.