Suspicions

As indicated in my entry “Nature vs. Nurture,” we have a three-year-old boy. When his older sister was born, my wife and I were both working, and my wife returned to work after seven months maternity leave. A local university housed a daycare and preschool for infants through kindergarten, and after touring the facilities, we settled on their location as it was convenient for my wife to pick up and drop off on the way to and from school, it was diverse in its population and faculty, and we just liked it. Why does anyone ultimately settle on their childcare location of choice?

As with any young child in daycare, our daughter was frequently sick. It’s the nature of the beast. By exposing your young child to other children, she’s going to get sick. But when we learned we were expecting Boy coincided with our daughter being hospitalized for pneumonia, and four months later she required nebulizer breathing treatments at home, so we decided it would be a good idea to keep both children home for as long as we could after Boy was born. Dad got to stay home that time. What a delightful year it was, and if you can afford it and your job will permit it, I recommend that dads have the same experience I did.

After my year was up, we returned to the university daycare/preschool. We never really considered anything else. They had proven reliable. If there was an ouch report we got it immediately, and the teacher explained what happened. If there was a fever, we were called to pick up one or the other or both. Big Sister adapted quickly as she’d been there before. Boy had a harder time, but he eventually developed a routine, and he loved the stuffed babies. Our greatest concern occurred when he was about 16 months, and another child scratched his face and drew blood. At three and a half, Boy still has a scar on each cheek. Unfortunate, but either the other kid had huge claws and moved fast, or Boy was too slow, or a teacher wasn’t paying attention (which can easily happen in a room of 10 toddlers moiling around like puppies).

Boy and Big Sister stayed with the program at the university for a year and a half. We ultimately pulled them when my wife gave birth to our youngest daughter in the middle of the school year. After ample recovery from the birth process, our three stayed at home with Mommy, and once Mommy was fully functioning and negotiating getting all three out and about, she was able to enroll Big Sister in our school district’s sponsored preschool program, for by this time she was four and kindergarten eligible come fall.

Our kindergarten program is only half day, and it was important for my wife and I that someone be home to meet and greet the bus both coming and going. We tightened our belts, and she’s been at home full time since the fall of 2007. With Big Sister going to school, and at the time Little Sister still working on sitting up and rolling over, we wanted Boy to have some socialization experience combined with learning. We found an affordable storefront daycare/preschool center, and we enrolled Boy in 2 ½ hours of preschool M-F. My wife’s reasoning was that he’d had a year and a half of socialization in daycare, and we didn’t want him regressing. Our understanding is that boys sometimes need a little more, and we wanted to provide him the tools he would need to succeed in our community’s school system as he is eligible for the community sponsored preschool this coming fall.

I don’t know exactly when it started, but my wife would describe a couple boys that were a real handful for the teacher that happened to be in the same 3-4 class as my son. She explained it appeared this pair took all the teacher’s attention sometimes. We shrugged it off, knowing other children who can be difficult, and our children aren’t necessarily always angels, I mean have you seen me in the grocery store with the older two?

Then, new vocabulary entered our house. Boy talked about “gentle touches.”

“No hits. Gentle touches,” he’d say dragging out the words gentle touches as he’d softly stroke your arm or face with his hand.

“Right, we don’t hit.”

“No, g e n t l e t o u c h e s.”

Boy seemed to be enjoying himself, and then we received the first injury reports. Boy reached for another toy as another boy did and the other grabbed our boy.

“What happened son?”

“O____ hurt my bones.”

“He hurt his bones?” I asked my wife. “When did bones enter his lexicon of things to be injured?”

Then things became more suspect. My wife told me she overheard the following dialogue as she and Boy hung up his coat:

“You shut up.”

“No you shut up.”

“No you shut up.”

“That’s weird,” I said.

“It gets better,” said my wife. “Then it escalated.”

“No you shut up m- – – – r f – – – – r.”

“No you shut up m – – – – r f – – – – r.”

“What? Was anybody around?”

“The teacher was on the other side of the room, but she’s got double hearing aids.”

“What’d you do?”

“I told them to stop. ‘Those aren’t nice words, and I don’t want my son to learn those words.’”

“Did they stop?”

“They seemed surprised that I said anything, but they stopped.”

That night, after I read Boy and Big Sister a story, I turned off the light, and Boy asked, “Mama’s bones hurt?”

“No, mama’s bones don’t hurt, why?”

“My bones hurt.”

That’s when I started to suspect that my son was being bullied at preschool.

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