It was Thursday morning of last week - the day after my previous post detailing Squeakles' major resistance to preschool and, well, everything.
At 7:40 I went into his room to wake him up - ten minutes later than I'd intended to, and about half an hour later than I really should have if I'd remembered that I had to get both kids ready and out the door by myself. (J needed to leave early for work and we knew that the whole family would never be able to get moving even earlier than usual.) I reached into Squeakles' crib and held his hand for a minute while he continued sleeping. Then I gently rubbed his arm and asked him if he'd like to get up and cuddle. He quietly said "yes" and stood right up, letting me pick him up and then nestling his face into my neck and shoulder. I brought him out to the rocking chair in the living room and sat with him for a few minutes, warm underneath a down blanket.
As we chatted a little bit, I brought up school, mentioning that the kids in his class would be wearing green today, which he agreed would look very funny. Just as I heard Weeble stirring in the bedroom, Squeakles asked to play with his firetruck and firehouse, so I easily moved him to the floor and let him play for a little bit. The rest of the morning he was willing to do almost everything I directed him to do and we enjoyed being silly together (for example, wondering whether there might be a tree in the toilet, like in the story "Wacky Wednesday" that we've been reading for the past few nights, and peeking around the corner into the bathroom to check out the situation).
It wasn't until I was actually putting him in the stroller that he said he didn't want to go to school today. "Why not?" I asked. "Is it because you're sad when we leave?" He said yes, and so I offered to stay for a few minutes before leaving him. "Would that be better?" I asked him. He said that it would. This was a surprise - in the past few days he hasn't been willing to accept any compromise or comfort.
"I'm going to be good today" he suddenly announced. "I'm not going to cry."
Double-check, is this Squeakles here, or did someone switch out my child for another who looked suspiciously like him?!
Well, okay then, good for you, I told him. Out the door we went. On the way down in the elevator, I asked Squeakles, "Is there anything I can do to make it easier for you?" "Hmmmm," he thought. "I think maybe... kisses." I was already swooning. Now I melted. My sweet child! I could hardly bend over backwards any further as I asked, "Would you like a kiss now?" Yes, he would, and so I planted one right on his face.
Off we went to school without further complaint. As we arrived at the elevator outside of school (there's an "outside" elevator that you can take from the bridge we arrive on down to the street level below), I let him push the button to open the door. Usually at this point he has resumed complaining about going to school, but this time, nothing! We went down the elevator, followed the sidewalk, and into the school, still with no hint of whining.
I parked the stroller outside of Weeble's classroom and offered Squeakles a non-choice (i.e., an option whereby he gets to make a choice, hopefully giving him sense of control, even though the choice is fairly obvious). "Would you like to go into your classroom by yourself while I take Weeble into her room, or would you like to wait here while I bring Weeble to her room and then I'll come back and get you." Naturally, he chose the latter.
After I dropped off Weeble, I came back to find Squeakles waiting patiently in the stroller. "I think I'm a little bit sad," he said. "Okay, well, would a kiss help?" I answered, as if this were a totally solvable problem. "Yes." I asked where he wanted it, he told me his cheek, I gave him a little peck, and he pronounced himself better. I helped him out of the stroller, handed him his lunch box, and he walked right into the classroom all by himself.
I could see that the teachers were aware of our presence when we entered the room, but they waited off to the side as they have been doing, ready to intervene if necessary. Squeakles, however, needed no intervention. He brought the lunchbox over to the refrigerator and unloaded the things into the refrigerator himself. Then while I signed him in, he took off his own coat and hung it up. He willingly went to the bathroom with me to wash his hands (required of all the kids when they arrive), and then asked me to tell him "it's time to go out" (the other kids were gathering together for circle time). The second those words were out of my mouth he was ready to run off, and I had to stop him for a kiss good bye which he gave me rather hurriedly and then ran off to join in the circle.
The teachers looked at me with astonishment, and all I could do was shrug. I almost cried again that day, but this time out of sheer relief.
Since that morning, Squeakles has been remarkably improved. He went to school with no problem on Friday as well, and this morning too. When we ask him if he's going to scream and yell when he goes to school he says "nooooo" in this knowing voice, as if to say, of course not, he knows he's not supposed to do that. I've asked him why not, and he says "because I know you are going to come back for me!" Is that what the problem was? I don't really know if that's a post-hoc explanation he's come up with - one that maybe we gave him - or whether it is truly something he was worried about and has learned that indeed, we come back for him every night.
At times he still announces that he's going to scream and yell, but he hardly actually does it. He continues to threaten to eat various things - lately his fingers, and occasionally the crib - but when he call his bluff he doesn't do it. The same goes for his other threats - that he's going to pee in his pants or not eat his food. When we say, okay if that's what you want to do, he says "but then my pants would be wet" or "but then I would be hungry" and we say yes, that's true.
I appreciate everyone's emails, comments, and texts offering shared stories and parental comfort. It really, really helped me to hear stories about your own wonderful children having similar kinds of stumbling blocks and meltdowns - it put Squeakles' behavior in perspective and reminded me that we're not the only parents distraught over how to deal with this.
Next up: how a tiny baby tooth caused all of us to lose a week's worth of sleep.