Sunday, January 20, 2013

How about we all take a break from judgments, m'kay?

You wouldn't know it to look at him--his size 4 clothes are still roomy, although the pants legs are finally almost about right. And yet here we are: Jorge is turning 6 a week from today.

I have several friends with big-for-their-age kids.  When all of our 2 or 3 year olds would get together, theirs would be a full head above the others and could knock three of the littler ones down if they turned around too fast.  These friends would talk about the trouble they had finding toddler-friendly clothes in the 5T range and size 12 shoes for their 2 year old.  Most often, though, they talked about how hard it was to deal with the judgmental looks of other parents when their 3 year old acted like a 3 year old but, to all outward appearances, appeared to be a 5 or 6 year old.  People would assume "something was wrong" with their kid who struggled to articulate their thoughts or had a melt-down about something or really wanted a "baby" toy and didn't seem to click with the other "big kids".  When the situation ended in a tantrum or needing to carry the child out, they felt judged.

We're on the other side.  Jorge is nearly 6 and perfectly capable of handling many situations if he chooses.  He can read reasonably well.  He can write fairly legibly.  He can ride a bike without training wheels, use a small saw, and bake amazing French creme puffs.  According to his teachers, he's able to focus intently for 30-40 minutes at a time on his works and take full responsibility for setting them up and cleaning up afterwards.  And (at school) he's very aware of other people's works and bodies and avoids crashing into other kids and their projects.  If you've seen a Montessori classroom, this means he navigates an ever-changing obstacle course of kids working on rugs, small tables, big tables, and at standing-stations, all while carrying a tray full of materials.

So when he started acting like a mumbling, clowning, incompetent, and rude 3 year old at church this morning, I hissed at him to straighten up and knock it off or he'd be going straight to bed when we got home.  A few minutes later, when he yanked the kneeler down and crushed my toe, I yelped and then snapped at him to be careful and demanded an apology.  A man behind me tried to lighten the mood and made some comment about "He's so little.  They grow out of it.  Give him a break.  What is he?  About 4?"    Nope, just acts that way, sometimes.  But there I was, realizing what a shrew I look like to others.  Snapping at my "4 year old" to be quiet and read his book to himself or do the word search without bothering me or Katie (both tasks he's perfectly capable of doing; he was just tired of sitting and was instead shifting around in the seat and kicking the kneeler and flopping around in mock-agony asking how much longer) (RIGHT?  Totally unacceptable behavior from a 6 year old who just got glowing reviews from his teachers about how mature and focused he is at school and how well he reads and does his detailed projects.  Maybe if there truly had been nothing else to do, but he had a kids' bulletin which comes with kid-friendly puzzles, stories, and activities.  He very intentionally chose to ignore those and instead writhe around like a dying fish.) (I'm often tempted to snarl "why you little----!" a la Homer Simpson.)  Right, so I look like an unreasonable mother who's torturing her preschooler.  Fun.

So, next time you see someone being overly demanding or harsh to her pre-schooler or are tempted to say "well, he certainly seems too big for that kind of behavior"....remember that kids come in all shapes and sizes.  My friend's son at two would have stood at least 3" taller than Jorge does now at nearly-6.  Expectations do not come based on pants size.

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