Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Pumpkin Launcher

Can we talk? Today I'm going to set aside my usual pseudo-philosophical waxing about middle class family life and my insightful social observations so I can vent a little. I'd like to tell you something that kept me up last night: a pumpkin launcher.

Yesterday, Jane and I met with Jorgen's kindergarten teacher. It's never a good a sign when the teacher leads off with, "I wish I had more good news for you than bad..." She proceeded to tell us about how he is having trouble making friends in his new class. How he sometimes will not listen or do the required work. How he has received the occassional time-out. How he likes to be alone sometimes. In other words, he's a little too much like his dad.

His teacher is a nice young lady. I believe she means well. She has a tough job, with twenty five kids ages five to six to teach. But the way she approached the subject of my boy put me on the defensive. Pissed me off, really.

I pressed her on certain facts, trying to gain some perspective, and she did admit that he was not the worst kid in the class, that there are others she struggles with even more. She admitted that he is a very intelligent kid who scored very high on tests he had been given. The problem is engaging his cooperation and attention.

To illustrate her point, she unveiled a crayon drawing that he had made. For lack of a better description, it was a drawing of a pumpkin launcher, assumably capable of launching pumpkins great distances. It was a pretty cool idea my boy had, and not such a weird one actually. On the top of the frame was the launcher, and at the bottom were a dozen or so pumpkins that he told his teacher been blasted out of the launcher. In case you're wondering, this was not a picture of bloody pumpkin destruction and mayhem, suggesting violence and deeper psychological problems. It was not the kind of picture that I suspect Jeffrey Dahmer might have drawn as a kid. No indeed. I'm happy to say that all of my boys pumpkins appeared to have landed safely on the ground. The kid loves pumpkins, what can I say.

"Hey, that's pretty good. He's in kindergarten and he's designed a pumpkin launcher!" I said. "I remember when a college engineering class did that..."

"Yes, its 'good.'" she interrupted, slightly annoyed. "BUT, the problem is that he was supposed to draw a picture of himself doing something. He's not following directions."

Jorgen is a great kid, very popular in his daycare class, even if not so popular among the kindergarten set. He is capable of great generosity, and when he is interested in a subject, he goes deep. He's very creative. If he's not making friends in her class, if he's not joining in, there is obviously something wrong. He's clearly not engaged. Whether this is due to his own emotional maturity or that of a stressed out teacher, I haven't yet decided.

So this morning, my son and I went to Quality Bakery, our favorite doughnut shop. We sat at our usual table, and through the window we watched three big trains rumble by (he just loves trains - see my Oct. 17 post). Gently, I brought up the topic of school. And through mouths stuffed with chocolate covered doughnuts, and we talked. The first of many discussions I want to have with him over the next few weeks about he importance of cooperating and listening.

No closure to today's story. Just a lesson learned: be your child's advocate, and listen even when what you are hearing doesn't seem to make sense.

2 comments:

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nartz said...

hi. i was blog surfing (using that handy little NEXT! button up in that littl corner) when i came across your blog. it warms my heart to see the amount of dedication you have for your kids and i definitely would like to come back to read more if its alright w you. :) all the best!