The second I walked into my son Jack’s Pre-K classroom and saw the look on his teacher’s face I knew something was wrong. She shook her head and said, “He had a bad day.”
A bad day.
She went on to tell me that he wouldn’t sit still during nap time, wouldn’t listen when she told him to stop twirling his blanket, didn’t eat his lunch, walked out of the classroom without permission, and ultimately wasn’t allowed to participate in a group activity because of his behavior. He was at the other side of the classroom while she was telling me this, sheepishly glancing up from his book every few seconds. He walked over to me with his head down, knowing exactly what his teacher just told me. I thanked her, and we walked out of the classroom and headed to the car. He and his brother immediately started fighting over a matchbox car and Jack burst into tears (which was not like him). Obviously something was bothering him, so I asked him what happened at school, why he didn’t listen to his teachers, and what was bothering him.
He was silent.
When we got home his behavior was completely unpredictable: one second he was the polite, kind boy I know, the next second he was grabbing a toy out of his brother’s hand and throwing it across the room. I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I want him to know that not listening to, and not respecting the teachers at school is unacceptable. He can’t grab things out of his brother’s hands. He can’t throw toys around the house. I want him to know that is not ok.
But I also want him to know, no matter what he does, I will always be here.
I will always love him, even on his bad days.
So now I was faced with what to do. Should I punish him? Take something away from him? Make him sit in time-out? None of those felt right. So I decided to sit down and talk with him.
My conversation with him went like this:
Hey Love, I know you’re having a tough day today. And that’s ok. We all have tough days once in a while. But even on those tough days, you have to listen to your teachers. You have to listen to Mom and Dad. When they tell you something, you have to do it. You have to be nice to your brother. You have to be kind. But you know what Jack? Tomorrow is a new day. You have a brand new day and another chance. So tomorrow, I want you to have a good day, and I want to get a good report from your teacher. Ok?
He said “ok.” And that was it.
Later that night I was lying down next to him when he was falling asleep and he reached out to me, put his hand on my shoulder and half asleep, he whispered, “Get closer.” I pulled myself closer to him, wrapped my arms around him and he was snoring within a few seconds. I stared at his sweet face for a while wondering what was going on in his 4 year old brain.
I still don’t know why he misbehaved. It doesn’t matter. I don’t know if I handled the situation correctly. That doesn’t matter either.
Tomorrow is a new day.
We’re on this journey together.
We’ll figure it out together.
And no matter what, I will always be here for him, pulling him closer every chance I get.