Is it me, or do kids start acting a bit nutty at the end of the school year?
Lately, my kids have been acting…well, not like my kids. In the past two weeks, my usually sunny, younger son has come home from school in tears…twice. Meanwhile, my older son has been (atypically) wallowing around in a pool of insecurity and self-doubt. Honestly, it’s just not like either one of them! Are they just feeling stir-crazy and ready for summer break? Or is there something more complex going on in the dark recesses of their developing minds?
The first bout of aforementioned tears--which caught me completely off guard--turned out to be over a book. As I pulled into the “parent pickup” lane after school, I saw my son’s teacher consoling him. He was clearly distressed, angry tears spilled down his cheeks and the furious look on his face was almost comical (emphasis on the almost.)
“What happened?” I asked, as he climbed into the car.
“Mommmm,” he moaned. “I have to read a book about u-ni-corns!”
Oh horrors, not unicorns! Wait…what? That’s what all the fuss was about…a unicorn book? Since when did he dislike unicorns so much anyway?
Not to worry though, we all managed to recover from The Great Unicorn Debacle by the end of that day. I chalked the whole thing up to simple hunger or fatigue (my favorite fallback explanations for just about any perplexing child behavior.) All was well in the world for the next few days…and then it was déjà vu all over again.
Haven’t I already seen this episode? I thought, pulling up to see the same tears, the same expression of sheer outrage, and the same consoling teacher. What is it this time, rainbows?
“Mommmm! My science fair project was due today!”
Science fair project? Did he mean the one he’d been fretting over, planning, and plotting for the past six weeks? That science fair project? How could he have forgotten the due date? Again, this was so unlike my super organized child. (Note: I am only referring to one of my children here. Keen organization skills do not necessarily run in all of my family members.) We decided late was better than never and my son completed his project. In the end, I was proud of his hard work and self-motivated effort--even if it was a bit behind schedule.
Now let’s look at my older son, whose confidence-crisis was triggered by the impending terror of school field day. Yes, you read that right…field day. This was difficult for me to understand as I remember field day as something fun. I had to remind myself to respect my child’s individuality. As Maria Montessori taught us:
“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking: it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to times in which they live.”
As much as kids look forward to summer break, the end of the school year is still a transition.
Right, so what was going on with my kid? The more I probed, the clearer it became that he was anxious about the dreaded-unknown. This was his first year at this particular school and, therefore, his first field day at this particular school. Firsts can be stressful for anyone. His fears and self-doubt had become so overwhelming for him, that he actually begged me not to make him go. I admit that I was briefly tempted to give in to his pitiful pleas. I'm glad I watched Age of Montessori’s webinar regarding transitions in the lives of students (which you can watch here by the way.) The webinar confirmed my initial gut reaction: avoidance was not the solution. I needed to help my child find comfort with change, not avoid it. He'd just have to go. However, I ended up volunteering to help at field day (another suggestion from the webinar.) My plan was to show support for my child, and to get a firsthand idea of what the day really had in store for him. Happily, it turned out to be a big, fun (and chaotic) day, and nothing to be afraid of after all. My son actually had a great time, and--as a nice side effect--slept really well that night.
That same webinar also helped me understand some of the other baffling behaviors I'd witnessed. As much as kids look forward to summer break, the end of the school year is still a transition. Perhaps they will be attending new summer camps or activities. Some may be going to different schools the following year. For sensitive types, just a change in daily routine can cause anxiety levels to spike.
This was an "ah ha moment" for me. Here I was, preoccupied with my own summertime quandaries: what to do with restless kids all summer, how to minimize the academic summer- slide, what should change or stay the same for the next school year? I wasn't aware that my children were experiencing their own uncertainties. It is good to be reminded of the importance of our children's individuality, they are their own beings...
"e must respect religiously, reverently, these first indications of individuality." ~Maria Montessori