“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hating Kindergarten

Noah is in kindergarten and he does not enjoy it. Worse, he brings his misery home with him and inflicts it on all of us during homework time. He laments the work itself, but also the teacher, his classmates, the number of hours in the day, all until he comes to the apparently inevitable conclusion that everyone must hate him if they expect him to go to school only to come home and do homework.

I have tried various things to combat all of this, but the problem is as it has always been: Noah is supremely stubborn. Unfortunately, I don't think I can communicate the degree to which this extends in any blog ever. I'll either come off as an inept mother or a terrible exaggerator (and I'm a bit of both, I'm afraid). I try to explain to people how Noah refuses sleep, and they smile smugly, turn up their noses, and say, "Oh, that would never fly in my house." When potty training Noah, it was more about advice. People couldn't seem to accept that he understood the entire concept and was simply going to do things in his own way at his own time. "Buy him toys!" they insisted. "Lock him in the bathroom for two hours!" "Take away his toys!" "Make him be naked!" Goodness. All that advice made me crazy and in the end, it worked out, anyway. It just had to be done Noah style.

Noah has missed a lot of school recently, first because of a terrible ear infection and then because of a family trip. At first it was all fun and games. He was thrilled to be out of school, and as I feared, began to seek new reasons to not have to go back. But upon his return, he discovered the mountain of make-up work that had been piling up. "Take the February break to complete this," his teacher said generously.

That brings us to this week. Every day has been excruciating and painstaking trying to get Noah to do schoolwork, though I know there is simply too much to complete all in one day and the longer he procrastinates the more miserable he will be in the end. So today I said, "Noah, you need to do your homework today. You must do it."

"No! I won't!" he declared. "It's the terriblest, worstest, most awful thing and I won't do it!"

Meanwhile, I intermittently go online and read about kidnappings, murders, child molestation, and terminal illness, but, yes, Noah, homework is the worst.

During a break he and I sat on the steps with his now four-month-old brother Max. The second Noah joined us, Max's face broke into a wide smile, the sort he saves only for his brothers.

"He's smiling at me," Noah pointed out unnecessarily. But it was necessary to him. Making Max smile is a point of pride for him.

"Of course he is," I said. "He loves you very much."


"Because you're his big brother. Little brothers and sisters always love their big brothers. No matter what you ever do, Max will always think you are the greatest thing ever. He will love you no matter what. He'll look at you and say, 'I want to be just like Noah.'"

Noah grinned.

"That's a pretty big responsibility, you know."

"It is?"

"Well, yeah. Max won't always realize you're doing anything wrong. He'll just think whatever it is you're doing is cool, since it's you. So it's your job to make good choices so he learns that being good is cool."

Noah frowned.

I went on. "You know, maybe Max will hate school when he's in kindergarten. Are you going to want to hear him moan and complain and say he's not doing his work? You'll be in fifth grade by then. What would you tell him?"

He didn't hesitate. In his great big voice, he said, "Oh. Well, I would listen to everything he had to say, first of all. THEN, I would say, 'I know. It was hard for me, too.' Because IT IS."

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