I wouldn’t want the Goose to feel like I’m picking on her or that I don’t love her as much, though (and I wouldn’t want the Beetle to think I love him less because I don’t write about him), so I’ll tattle on him a little.
When the Beetle was 3 years old, I decided to put him in preschool. He would only go 2 days a week, but it would be a great chance for him to experience a group setting. I can’t say it was a chance for me to have a break, because I felt absolutely alone when he was gone. I counted the moments until I could pick him up from school.
The Beetle had a severe speech problem. I didn’t realize it at this time, but he did. I had asked the doctor if his speech was okay, and the doctor incorrectly told me that as long as he was developing, he was fine. That is true for vocabulary; however, that is not true for speech. So, if you have a 3 1/2 year old child that no one can understand, it might be time to seek expert help.
The Beetle was born strong willed. I have a video of him when he was 3 days old, scooting across the basinet on his back. He was so angry that he was pushing his way across the bed. At that point, I should have known I was in trouble.
By the time he was 3, he was so stinking cute. He had barely any hair. What was there was so white that you really couldn’t see it. He would get mad and turn bright red. He was my first born, and he was absolutely precious. I took him to school and left him there, and I felt sick to my stomach the whole time he was gone.
On the eighth day of school, the Beetle got mad and hit his teacher. I had never allowed this behavior, but he was 3, and he was mad. He got sent home from school for hitting her. (I won’t even go into my feelings on this subject. I will say though that he didn’t attack her with a knife, and it was the eighth day of school. ‘Nuff said.)
So, on the ninth day of school, the Beetle had learned, “Hey, cool. If I hit the teacher, I get to go home!” I had begged the principal of the school not to send him home. I told her to call me and I would come spank his little butt and send him back to class. The principal and I did not see eye to eye on this, and on the ninth day, she not only sent him home but suspended him for a day. We got an official letter of suspension from the school. I put it in his baby book, because I knew someday we would think it was funny. I was right…now it’s pretty funny.
At the time, I thought my world was ending. I was being told that my perfect baby was not perfect. I really was devastated. Now, in retrospect, I realize that this was the beginning of my desire to homeschool, which was the best decision I ever made. So, for that reason, I actually owe that principal a “thank you.” Her actions made me realize that no one loved my child like I did and no one had a vested interest in his well-being like I did.
I was so convinced that there was something wrong with the Beetle, that, before he was 4 years old, I took him to a counselor. The counselor met with us once before he summed up the problem for me. After observing the Beetle for about 30 minutes, he said, “Let me tell you something. What you have here is a very intelligent, VERY strong willed little boy. If you get him channeled in the right direction, he will do amazing things in his life.” I asked him what happened if we didn’t get him channeled in the right direction. He said we didn’t want to think about that. So much for reassurance.
I tried preschool once more for the Beetle, but by the ninth day, he started crying. This was a child who never cried. Yet, every day he had to go to school, he would sob. He was going to a preschool called “Llamas and Learning” 3 days a week, and he was going to USF (University of South Florida) for intensive speech therapy 2 days a week. On the Llamas days, he would beg me all the way there, “Pease. Pease. Don’t take me to Yamas and Yearnin’. Take me to UFS. Don’t take me to Yamas and Yearnin’. Pease Mama.” I never could figure out exactly what was wrong at that school, but he wasn’t okay, so I wasn’t okay. I think part of it was that they made the kids eat fruit, and the Beetle didn’t *do* fruit. (Some things never change.)
I don’t know how long he made it there, but it was not long. I pulled him out and began homeschooling him. He was so stubborn that he would not let me sing the months of the year song to him. He hated it, and he refused to hear it. To this day, the child has to think about what month comes next. I like to remind him that if he had let me sing, he would know. I’ve said many times that the fact that the Beetle can read is a true testimony to my inner strength. We battled for years to make that happen.
By 7th grade, the battles over school had reached an all-time high. I couldn’t take it anymore. Over Christmas break, I drew up a contract for the Beetle and the Goose to sign. If they signed it, stating that they would behave and listen and cooperate, I would let them stay home. Otherwise, they could go to school. The Beetle, being the Beetle, refused to sign it. I told him this meant he would go to school. He agreed and said that was fine with him.
So, after Christmas break, I took him to a school in Tampa. This was a charter school, so it was a little kinder, friendlier and gentler than a public school would have been. The school itself looked great to me. They played music instead of ringing bells between classes. Each class had an exercise period at the beginning to get some of the energy out. What more could a kid ask for? A lot, apparently.
On the ninth day of school, the Beetle started begging me from the time we left home. “Please, mama. Please don’t make me go to school. I’ll sign the contract. I’ll be good. I’ll read and write and do math. Just please don’t make me go.” I reminded him that we had agreed to give school a 3 month trial period before making any decisions, and he said he had already decided. I reminded him that it wasn’t his decision to make, and he began begging me again. As we got to school, we saw a gathering of students near the parking lot. They were taking turns jumping onto a Velcro wall. This is just what it sounds like: a wall with Velcro on it. You wear a special vest so you stick to the wall when you jump at it. I pointed this activity out to the Beetle, and he said he didn’t care. He still didn’t want to stay. He said he hated school. I pointed out that I found it hard to believe that a school with a Velcro wall could be that bad. He said I didn’t know how bad it was.
We drove around to the front of car line, and a safety patrol came and opened the door. The Beetle sat and stared straight ahead. This was when I started realizing I was in trouble. The safety patrol looked at me with a question on his face. I told him to close the door and that we would take a few moments. I pulled up and out of the way. I said, “Don’t do this.” The Beetle said, “I’m not going.” I said he was, and he said he wasn’t. I started naming items that I would take away. The Beetle turned and looked me in the eyes. He said, “Mama. You can take away anything you want to, but I am not getting out of this car.” Uh-oh.
Since the Beetle was apparently not getting out of the car, and since by this age, he was already too big for me to pick him up and carry him, I got out of the car. I called Mr. E and explained the situation. He said, “Just bring him home.” I told him I couldn’t do that because the Beetle would win the battle. (One thing I had learned through years of dealing with a strong willed child was that I picked my battles. However, if I fought, I won. Always.) Mr. E said, “I’m pretty sure he’s already won this one.” I said I could get the deputy to come get him out of the car, and Mr. E said, “At what cost?” I then waved the white flag.
The Beetle and I headed home. He signed the contract, and for a while, he behaved. Slowly, we slipped right back into the same old habits.
We have a joke in our family that the Beetle has an issue with the ninth day. He didn’t make it through the ninth of 3 year old kindergarten or 7th grade. He started crying on the ninth day of 4 year old kindergarten. Sometimes I wonder how college or technical school or whatever he chooses to do is going to work out for him. I wonder if I’ll hold my breath on the ninth day to see if he can make it through. Do you think his first boss will be mad if I accompany the Beetle on his ninth day of work? -Al