Calder had orientation for his kindergarten today. While the rest of his buddies undoubtedly couldn’t wait to bounce off the big-kid walls and slide down the big-kid slide, ol’ lightning rod here woke up chattering about how important it was for him to show me that the school bus — which he had taken a “practice” ride on during the last days of pre-school — didn’t have any seatbelts. “Mom, can you believe it?” he yelled to me from one of the little half-windows, “we’re totally DANGEROUS in here.”
Calder’s a cautious kid.
I remember when he was 6 months old or so, lots of other moms I knew who had kids his age were starting to stock up on cabinet latches, outlet covers, foam corner bumpers, toilet-seat locks (which are so flipping impossible to get open that they, in turn, necessitate mom and dad stocking up on Depends), door alarms…if there’s the slightest potential that your child could eat it, stick something in it, bonk his or her head on it, open it, close it, fall down it, smear it on the walls, or so much as touch it, there’s a flimsy plastic item for $9.99 at Babies-R-Us that will make parents feel safe for the whole 20 minutes it takes for junior to figure out how to operate, break, or gnaw the thing apart. The One Step Ahead catalog is like crack for new parents who can’t afford the Hammacher Schlemmer Invisababy Force Field. (No, really, I read about it in SkyMall once). Matt and I never really needed any of that stuff. Sure, we plugged the outlets and turned on the baby monitor, but for the most part, the stuff we declared off-limits to Calder, he left alone. Good boy.
Now that Calder is almost five, his cautiousness is still very much a part of him. He’s shy. He doesn’t warm up to people very quickly. He never ventures out into the street without waiting for me to hold his hand. If I start the car and his seatbelt isn’t yet fastened, he makes sure I know. If he’s told to wait a few minutes until his dinner cools off, it’s time for bed before he dares to take a bite. Most of the time I think this is totally charming and sweet, and I am grateful for fewer trips to the emergency room than most of my friends. Recently, however, his hesitance has made me a little sad for him. He has tons of good friends, but lately when we go to the playground, he feels left out because the other kids can all climb to the top of the monkey bars and he’s afraid to try. When we go to the pool or the beach, he gets frantic if water gets in his face, or if I leave his side. I took him out on the basketball court the other day to goof around, and when I gave him the ball and asked him to take a shot, he got upset and said he didn’t even want to try because he was afraid he would miss. It broke my heart. Not because he might not ever be good at basketball, but because I fear that much of his reticence is due to the mess his parents are in.
The only remaining issue on the table right now is where Calder will go to Kindergarten. There are two options:
1) He can go in the town where he has lived his whole life. He will be among friends. He has been to the school, has met the teachers, and knows his way around. He will have access to excellent occupational therapy, which has been recommended for him. He will live in a town that is familiar to him. The parent he will live with has job flexibility that will allow them to put Calder on the bus in the morning, and meet him off the bus in the afternoon. There are many friends and family in the town that can be counted on in an emergency.
2) He can go to school in a new town. He won’t know anyone and will have to make new friends. He doesn’t yet know where he will live in that town, the parent he will live with hasn’t yet established residency in that town (but intends to). It will be new and unfamiliar. His parent in that town will be able to put him on the bus in the morning, but will not meet the bus in the afternoon; instead, Calder will either be met by a babysitter or will attend a day-care until that parent gets home from work. There are family members in the area who can be counted on in an emergency.
Both schools are excellent. Both towns are safe and clean and full of families with children. The only real difference is stability for Calder; whether it’s better for him, in this year of enormous transition, where both parents have moved away from their homes and into new spaces, to keep as much of his life the same as it was before, with familiar faces and places, or whether it is better to start completely over in a brand-new place. I know what I think. I know what Matt thinks. I know what the child psychology textbooks say. I know what Child Services thinks. The judge won’t tell us what he thinks.
I know whatever happens, we will make the best of it, but for now, it’s all up in the air. And that seems like the unkindest thing of all.
Cautious kids — is it better to shake them up until they snap out of it, or is it better to give them a solid place where they can feel safe until the tempest is over?
Would you tell me what you think?