behavior

Criticism and Relativism

I’m enrolled in a semester-long leadership development class for work.  The class meets for an entire day every other week. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the class, especially since a lot of it seemed touchy-feely.  My opinion has changed, and I’m really enjoying the content as well as trying to engage with it thoughtfully.  A major part of the class is that we were required to solicit feedback on our leadership performance from our direct reports, supervisor and peers via a 360 degree evaluation. I dutifully asked people to participate, trying to select coworkers who would give me useful, honest feedback.  Out of 12 people (including myself), I had 10 complete the survey.  We received the results last week.

To say I was nervous about the results would be an understatement.  The facilitator made us wait until the end of the day to receive the results of our survey and introduced it with a session on perception vs. reality, how to interpret results and comments, etc.  The more she talked, the higher my anxiety level became and the more my stomach churned in anticipation of my results. I suddenly was certain that the comment sections of my evaluation would be full of “KeAnne sucks” or “KeAnne is an insufferable know-it-all” comments.

The most positive thing I can say about my results is that I am decently self-aware because I correctly anticipated many of my weak areas: defensive, sensitive to criticism, etc.  I was surprised by a series of ratings and comments that I easily identified as coming from one person; one coworker has a depth of frustration and irritation with me that was a huge shock to me.  I consider myself to be a fairly observant person, but that person’s perception of me and my leadership style stunned me. On the other hand, I thought some of the comments were too nice and not honest enough.

Nevertheless, I’m taking all of the feedback and ratings seriously and humbly, vowing to improve the areas that need improving.

I’ve thought a lot about the feedback I received on that evaluation.  Some of it hurt a lot, and I had to hold back tears as I left class.  Partly because it came from coworkers whose opinions I value and partly because some of it seemed so bizarre. Was that really how people see me?

Why do we find it so difficult and downright unpleasant to receive criticism?  The definition of criticism is the practice of finding fault or merit in an articulate way.  Of course, the criticism that stings the most is the negative criticism. I think a lot of my less-than-stellar behaviors stem from my desire to be perfect.  I’ve always wanted to be perfect even though I understand that it is impossible.  I want to do the best job.  I want to be above reproach.  Again, these are all impossible, ridiculous outcomes.  No one is perfect.  We’re always going to be liked by some and disliked by others on factors both within and outside our control. Yet, that desire for perfection, of pleasing remains. And any questioning of me or my thought process makes me defensive.  It also doesn’t help that I can be snarky (who, me?) and a bit aggressive and strident at times.

The older I become, the more I believe that everything and everyone is relative.  We’re all individual galaxies spinning next to each other but ultimately self-contained and doing our own thing.  I don’t like that.  I always believed somewhat Platonically that there were some absolutes governing our world and existence.

Perhaps criticism is poorly received because as an act of evaluation, it reminds us that we aren’t alone, that others are free to observe us, evaluate what we do and say and comment negatively or positively. Criticism ties us to each other and dispels some of the relativism we may feel.

The blogosphere highlights just how much we despise criticism.  We blithely set up blogs to share our lives with the world.  We often refer to our blogs as our little worlds.  We say we want dialogue and interaction with readers, yet recent kerfuffles over GOMI and blow ups in comment sections in several blogs I read demonstrate that most of the time, we have very thin skin.  I’m not talking about comments like “you suck” or “you’re a fat cow who never showers.  I bet you smell.”  Those comments are just mean. I’m talking about comments that dissent or question what we’ve shared.

Psychologists recommend the following for offering criticism:

Respect the individual, focus the criticism on the behaviour that needs changing – on what people actually do or actually say.

The problem is that too often we associate criticism of our behavior or words as an attack on us as individuals. As a result, comment sections are shut down and critical comments are deleted.  What comments remain are either affirming  or the lukewarm, “you have to do what works for you.” We even indignantly reply that those sort of comments are not allowed in our space, in our part of the blogosphere. Relativism is upheld, and our little worlds keep spinning as we create our own truths and never question them.

Anger, Whining, Cuddly Purgatory & the Star Chart

First of all, thank you all SO MUCH for the encouragement and cheers on starting my weight loss goal!  I really appreciate it, and it means so much knowing I have all of you in my corner rooting for me.   I did 36 push-ups last night for the second day of the push-up challenge.  Boy, do I feel it today.  I knew I would, but it’s nice too.  In high school I got really good at doing push-ups, so hopefully some (long dormant) muscle memory is returning.

At the beginning of January, Daniel turned 3 years, 7 months, and I have to say that life with him is never, ever boring.  If you follow me on Twitter,  you’ve seen some of my tweets.  We have good days and bad days, and they seem to alternate.  What amazes me is the anger and the rage he displays.  He knows what he wants, and he will let you know if his will is thwarted.  The anger I can handle.  It’s shocking and a bit distressing, but it’s also rare.  The whining, though, is driving us up the wall.  It is like nails on a chalkboard.

But that’s been our experience with 3.  I wrote about how the candles on his cake had barely cooled before the switch flipped, and he became a cross between Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and a 14-year-old girl going through puberty.  He teases us with weeks of calm, leading us to believe maybe the stage has passed.  Then BAM!  Next thing you know he’s sobbing because he can’t have a granola bar for dinner or wear the pajamas he wants despite them being unavailable because they are in the washing machine.   The other night he was so exhausted and upset that I swear he was speaking in tongues and I wondered briefly if he were possessed.

Faced with this 3-year-old volcano, we walk a tight rope.  The whining raises our hackles, and we attempt to reason with him and use logic, which is ridiculously impossible.  Our goal becomes getting Daniel to stop whining while maintaining control of the situation.  Appeasement is NOT an option.  Of course, later, when you are faced with a sobbing child, you regret every time out and worry you are breaking his spirit and being too “mean” to him.

Over the holidays we instituted a behavior chart.  It was initially to help Daniel earn back his train table which had been removed due to some major infractions.  It’s working well, mostly.  We have 6 “tasks” for him to complete each day; one of them is an easy one so that he always earns one star easily.  The others target behaviors and tasks that are challenging for him AND us.

Daniel has started to understand that refusing some of the tasks like changing clothes, brushing teeth and feeding the cats will result in no stars.  We have seen definite improvement in those areas. The whining one is a LOT more difficult.  He understands, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.  That one is probably our biggest challenge. What genius does a 3-year-old possess that allows them to whine at the perfect frequency to rattle your nerves and piss you off in about 4 seconds?

His Name

The behavior that causes our blood to boil instantaneously is his refusal to be called by his name.  We could really use some advice from more experienced parents on this issue.  In the last few months, Daniel has decided that he does not want to be called Daniel but instead wants to be called something else.  It’s usually Diesel but could be Kevin, Flynn, Thomas or Cranky.

What usually happens is that when we talk to him about a behavior or comment and then call him Daniel, he becomes upset and demands that we call him by the other name because he is NOT Daniel.  This demand is frustrating for us on a few levels.  First of all, the tone.  Daniel gets SO angry about the name issue, insisting he is NOT Daniel.  We don’t respond well because our knee-jerk response is telling him that we named him Daniel and why we love that name. Secondly, he tends to bark this “demand” at us.  Grrrrrr.  At that point, the last thing I want to do is call him by another name.  Finally, Daniel loves the diesel trains on Thomas.  My only issue is that the diesels are portrayed as major asshole bullies.  WHY does he want to be called a name associated with an asshole bully?

What should we do?  Do we accept his request and call him Diesel or Kevin or Flynn or whatever?  Do we insist on him being called by his name?  Do we work with him on how to request politely that he be called by a nickname?  I’ve done some frantic Googling, and I haven’t found much that would.  What would you do?  Should we just get over it, call him what he wants and work on the other issues?

Purgatory

Daniel has a lot of stuffed animals in his room.  We bought many of them for him, but some were gifts as well.  They all lived happily on and around his bed until recently.  Daniel’s new thing is to throw the “cuddlies” he doesn’t want into his closet.  They have been convicted of being nuisances or disruptive according to Daniel.  OK.

It was really sad tonight, though.  He sent a few more stuffed animals to purgatory.  Some of them Jimmy or I had cuddled with as a child, and it was weird seeing them in stuffed animal jail.  Some of them we had bought for Daniel, thinking he’d love XYZ stuffed animal but apparently not.

I felt so bad for those stuffed animals!  Stuffed in a closet!  I kind of want to rescue them and see if we can find them good homes 😦

Three has been very hard.  Very hard.  I’ve never felt so lousy as a parent before.  I think it’s rough because children can do so much at this age but they are also still immature and it catches us off guard.

Feel free to suggest any survival tips you have. 

Not Bending It Like Beckham

Daniel has had three soccer classes, and they have been by turns hysterical, frustrating and mortifying.

Hmm. This grass is interesting!

The Hysterical

Imagine 32 3-year-olds and six coaches.  It’s like herding cats. They divide them into groups to maximize the potential to focus, but you still usually have 2 or 3 kids in each group running off in opposite directions as the coaches try to organize them into a line or coax them into chasing after the ball.  And the grass and occasional weed on the field often prove to be too tempting.  Why pay attention to the coach when you can pick a flower?  Better yet, pick the flower and offer it to the coach! Each child has his or her own soccer ball and during one activity, the coaches tried to get the kids to run down the field, grab a ball and run the other way.  That plan backfired because the children only wanted their individual ball, and the activity stalled as the children pawed over every ball, oblivious to the shouts of the coaches to pick up any ball.

The fields also have cones marking off certain areas, and those cones are irresistible.  The first week, Daniel wanted to pick them up and move them.  The second week, he and several other children wore them like hats.  The parents are supposed to remain on the sidelines and usually we are doubled over, laughing.  Each session has a carnival-like atmosphere, with coolers, folding chairs and parents, grandparents and siblings watching and chatting.  I am amazed at the patience the coaches have with this age group as they try to teach them a skill or have them go where they need to be (usually without much success).

Who says you can’t use hands?

The Frustrating

Soccer has been very eye-opening for us.  Daniel says he likes it, but he is not doing a good job of paying attention to what is going on around him, acknowledging that he hears or following directions. He delights in doing his own thing, often running off in the other direction or losing interest in the activity after kicking his ball once or twice.  He’ll frequently stop what he’s doing and come running over to us with a big smile on his face.  We urge him repeatedly to return to the circle and sit on his ball, follow the other kids, etc., but it doesn’t help much.    It’s especially frustrating because the majority of the children manage to stay on task and follow directions, so to us, it seems that Daniel’s desire to do his own thing is especially noticeable.

I know. He’s 3.  I know.  This team is for kids who won’t turn 4 before August 1, 2012, so there is a good chance that a many of the kids on his team are closer to turning 4 and that age difference is a lot different developmentally than a child who turned 3 in June.  Maybe they’ve also participated in soccer before because they all seem to know what they are doing.  Maybe our expectations for him are too high.  It’s not like he is the only one who is zigging while everyone else zags.  A couple of kids cling to their parents and watch.  We observed (happily) another child appearing to cast spells with a plastic fork while spinning in circles last night.  We like that he has spirit, energy and personality, but sometimes we wish he’d conform just a little.  It also doesn’t help that soccer is on weeknights after not napping at day care and before he’s eaten.  I don’t think that it’s at the best time for him to be able to focus, but that was the only session they had. And seeing him in group settings makes me wonder whether he’s just socially immature or if there’s something else is going on.

Daniel’s the one lagging behind, focusing on stepping on a cone.

The Mortifying

Daniel in a group setting with other children can be unpredictable right now.  The first session he was fascinated by a bigger girl and kept chasing her and bumping into her until she started to cry.  It was like he stalked her.  Then he turned around and bopped a little boy.  When he sits with the other children, he will invade their space and try to pat them and nudge them.  We spend the hour watching him closely and trying to defuse the situation if he gets too handsy.  It’s exhausting and so embarrassing because our child is not only not following directions but also bothering the other children. Accurately or not, I feel like the other parents are thinking, “their child is a problem child.” I don’t like what we turn into either.  We hiss at him to behave, to leave the other children alone.  We hiss at him, “Do you want to go home?  If not, you need to listen to watch the coach is saying.”  We turn into cold disciplinarians, and I simultaneously wonder if the other parents think we are being too hard on him or not hard enough.  And Daniel will look at us like he’s trying to figure out where these hard-asses came from.

And then yesterday’s session came.  Of course it’s one thing for you to feel frustrated by your child’s behavior but quite another for anyone else to say anything.  Yesterday was picture day.  Daniel did well for his individual picture but the team picture was a bit of a nightmare.  Lining up 32 kids would be.  After what seemed like an eternity, three rows of children were somewhat neatly arranged.  Daniel was in the back row and supposed to be standing but often bobbing up and down.  The photographer was ready to take the picture, and the coaches were trying to keep Daniel standing up and facing the camera.  You know, doing what all the other kids were doing.  Finally, exasperated, the photographer said, “If I had my Ritalin with me, I’d give you some.”

I was so embarrassed that it took me a minute to realize what the photographer had said.  Was he voicing what everyone else was thinking?  That our child was too hyper and needed medicating?  That his poor impulse control is more than being a three-year-old?

The team picture finally taken, everyone left.  Daniel, sundowning from no nap, started to cry because he didn’t want to leave.  He wanted to stay and play soccer.  We strapped in our poor little boy and then Jimmy went to talk to the photographer about his comment.  We drove home, Daniel crying and me wondering if we were expecting too much and hating that I felt so disappointed and frustrated with our sweet boy.

Maybe soccer’s not his sport.  Maybe we should look into hockey; he could be an enforcer.

The infamous team picture; note the head coach holding Daniel’s arms.

An Open Letter to the Age of Three

Dear Age of 3,
When Daniel was approaching his 3rd birthday, his father and I congratulated ourselves on making it out of the Terrible Twos relatively unscathed.  Oh, we’d certainly had a tantrum here or there, but all in all, his 2 wasn’t that bad.  We thought that we were in the clear.  After all, while the “Terrible Twos” have almost become a cliche, I had never heard of a “Threatening Three,” “Fearsome Four” or “Frightful Five” (I could go on and on making horrifying alliterative names for each year, but I’ll spare you).

Then, Daniel turned 3 and the candles from his birthday cake had barely cooled before he went through a behavior and personality shift that was so dramatic it had me consider the following explanations:

  • he had developed a multiple personality so intense it made Sibyl look like Pollyanna
  • he had suffered a frontal lobe brain injury I didn’t know about (probably while somersaulting off his bed)
  • or he was a changeling, meaning fairies live in the woods (along with the deer that eat my roses and some ginormous carpet beetle queen) behind my house.

As always when I have a burning issue or question, I turned to Twitter and posted about his new behavior.  And the replies startled me.  Moms of boys started telling me that it all sounded normal and that 3 was much worse than 2 for them, and it tended to be that way for boys.

Well damn.  That’s when I realized, Age of 3, that you were the Verbal Kint of developmental phases.  You had convinced us all that ages 2 or 11 or 13 were the Keyser Sozes of child development; they were the ages to fear and dread.  Meanwhile, you were able to creep up undetected and unprepared for.

Age of 3, I’d like to thank you for the delightful changes we have experienced in our child:

Perfect Pitch

You have perfect pitch, Age of 3.  I know, because as the amount of whining has increased exponentially, the tone in which the whining is done effortlessly assaults my ears and grates on my nerves, making me grit me teeth and choke back the urge to scream, “SHUT UP.”  Which I would never do of course because how can you not enjoy a 30-minute sing-song performance of “MommyMommyMommy” at 7am?

Mommy Love

I had always wanted to be the center of someone’s world, and that wish has been granted.  In spades.  Oh Age of 3, how you love your mommy!  Daniel follows me around everywhere.  If I’m in the bathroom, I have company.  If I close the door, he bangs on it.  He follows me into the closet too and enjoys moving my shoes around as well as using the hangers as an instrument. He wants me to pick him up and it must be while standing; sitting and holding him is to be tolerated only in extreme emergencies.  If he clung to my leg, I feel certain I could walk around the house, dragging him behind.

He makes his preference for me painfully clear by telling Jimmy, “Go away, Daddy” or “I not love you, Daddy.”  As you can imagine, Age of 3, those comments are well-received and do not hurt one tiny bit.  Not one tiny bit.  Happily, we’re ruthlessly exploiting Daniel’s empathy and desire for everyone to be happy by telling him that it makes Mommy and Daddy unhappy when he says those things.  The downside is that he now knows those comments bother Jimmy and you can see the impish look in his eye when he deliberately says something hurtful.

Advanced Speech

You speak in sentences, Age of 3!   That’s wonderful because it’s fun to hear sentences with subject-verb-object.  Fun to hear Daniel command, “Mommy, go buy some Nutella” when I tell him we don’t have any.  Enormously satisfying to hear him say imperiously, “Mommy, come here.”  I swear I can hear the implied finger snap (maybe that will come with Age of 4). I do admit to giggling when he says, “Mommy, I need to go poop.”

The only problem with the sentences, Age of 3, is that it lulls me into forgetting that Daniel’s comprehension doesn’t quite match his speech.  He can say something like “I want to eat that” in reference to the booger he just pulled out of his nose, and we fruitlessly try to argue with him, to reason with him about why he should not eat the booger on his finger.  We forget that reason and logic just aren’t quite there yet. So he eats the booger, and we throw up our hands, frustrated and disgusted.  Or when he misses the grapes I oh-so-carefully pointed out on our commute to and from day care and he tells me over and over, “I want to see the grapes” while I explain (over and over) that we missed them and we’ll see them again tomorrow, and I’m sure there’s a hysterical note in my voice and a vein throbbing in my forehead. Also, see “Perfect Pitch” above.

Oh, Age of 3.  We truly have experienced many delights in the 2 months Daniel has been 3.  Thank you, Age of 3.  Thank you.  I can’t wait to see what joys the next 10 months have in store for us.

Love,

Daniel’s Mommy

It’s Not You, It’s Me

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who commented on the Beyond the PAIL post.  I’m still working through the comments, but it’s clear that many of us do identify as “other.”  More to come on that as I have volunteered to host one of the “Healing Salons” that Mel suggested for helping the ALI community heal and work through some of the questions that were raised.

We removed Daniel from his preschool at the end of February.  It wasn’t a difficult decision; it began to seem like the only thing we could do.  As you might recall, we had some issues with our preschool.

A week after I filled out the forms for Project Enlightenment to evaluate him, his teachers told me that Project Enlightenment couldn’t evaluate him because it is a county-based service, and we live in a neighboring county.  They quickly looked up our county and gave me the name of a similar service although when I went to the website, I discovered the service was located in Kansas and not in NC.  Oops.  More Googling, and I couldn’t find the service for my county.

In retrospect, I’m really glad that his teachers made that mistake because otherwise I might have agreed once again to have Daniel evaluated, and I think the roadblock helped me start to see the situation more clearly.  A few days after Jimmy’s grandmother died, Jimmy and I attended the mid-year parent-teacher conference.  We looked pretty rough: I was sporting third-day hair, little make up and whatever I had thrown on that was clean that day.  Jimmy had on a hat and several days of stubble.  We probably gave off a feral vibe to the teachers and frankly, weren’t in the greatest moods, especially since we had the super-fun task of going shopping for funeral clothes for us and Daniel afterwards.

The teachers didn’t have much to say to us, and it was an awkward meeting.  They kept pushing to have him evaluated, saying “there’s no harm.”  They told us nothing had really changed behavior-wise since December.  They handed us developmental milestones for two-year-olds and three-year-olds, and I pointed out that he was doing all the things on both lists.  I tried to tell them how well Daniel moves and how surprised I was that they thought he had poor motor skills.  We reiterated how the Daniel they see is very different from the Daniel we see every day. Finally, very frustrated, I asked them if there was anything positive they could say about my child because all I had heard for 2 months were his “problems.”

When we left the conference, I knew we were at a stalemate with his teachers.  It’s like they had checked a box labelled “Problem” next to Daniel’s name and moved on.

A few weeks later, I took Daniel to the pediatrician for his 2.5 year well-baby visit (2 months late).  I told the pediatrician everything and after she observed Daniel shyly interacting with her, she agreed that it sounded like his school wasn’t a good fit and we should find something else.   People, when your child will interact with the doctor who has given him shots that make him cry every visit but not with his teachers, you know there’s a problem with the school.

At that point, we were already thinking about taking him out of school at the end of February, and I had started researching other preschools.  I thought that a school a little more lesson-based might be better for my curious little boy.  We had just received the monthly calendar from his teachers and I noticed that there was a little note telling us that one of the little boys had left the class.  I knew this little boy’s mother had been having trouble with the teachers too, so I emailed her, and she confirmed that they had wanted her to get him evaluated as well and that every specialist she took him to agreed that there was no problem with her child except the school. She also told me she had observed one of the teachers restraining Daniel during recess so that he couldn’t leave the playground area (it’s fenced in, so he couldn’t leave the area, but he liked to run in the grass around the playground equipment).  She admitted that she didn’t know the back story and could be misinterpreting what she saw, and I know that a disgruntled parent isn’t the most reliable source, but still.  Her story pretty much sealed it for us, but due to previously-made appointments, we had to keep him there a few more weeks.

On his last day, at pick up, the teacher reported he had opened the door to his class and ran down the hall. She commented, “it was a challenging day” and shook her head.  I emailed the school that afternoon to tell them we were withdrawing him.  I had spent a lot of time since December scrutinizing Daniel and worrying, Googling behaviors incessantly, stressing every Tuesday and Thursday (preschool days), and hearing Daniel say, “Not go to school” and what I realized was this:

There was absolutely nothing wrong with my child.

His only “problem” was that he was miserable at preschool.  What I think happened is that his teachers convicted of him of being 2 and a half: not sitting still, having difficulty transitioning between activities, hitting, running, knocking stuff over.  I think that when he started to hit the other children, a very normal stage for toddlers according to my frantic Internet searches, his teachers overreacted and maybe they scared him and he shut down.  Whatever the cause, he was unhappy there.

His last school artwork is still on our refrigerator, and it makes me sad when I see it.  I hoped he would meet and make friends with other children with whom we could have play dates.  I looked forward to picture day and enjoyed helping at the parties.  Most importantly, I wanted him to have fun and he didn’t.  When we use the word “school” now, he says, “No” very firmly, and that makes me sad.  I loved school and I can’t believe that he has already had a bad experience with school before he is 3.

I’m saddest of all, though, that I didn’t realize his unhappiness sooner and that we left him in a situation for months that made him miserable.  It breaks my heart to think he may have felt disliked by his teachers or at least that it wasn’t a safe, nurturing place for him.

And I’m angry at the school and myself because I was so caught up in the evaluation drama and my worry that I allowed it to color – however briefly – how I saw Daniel.  I felt like I couldn’t take him out in public or out with friends because he would be judged; we would be judged. He would embarrass us. I am angry that I kept trying to put him in some box and diagnose him.  I’m angry at myself for not realizing that when he ran on the playground or out of his classroom, he was literally trying to run away from them. I wish I had just trusted my mommy instincts from the beginning and replied, “I don’t think so” when they brought up having him evaluated.

So maybe it wasn’t me; it was you.

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to discount or belittle the experience of anyone who is dealing with special needs.  If I thought Daniel needed to be evaluated, I would do so in a heartbeat.  These posts reflect my frustration with our former preschool and how they perceived and treated him.

An Open Letter to My Son’s Preschool Teachers

Dear preschool teachers,

My son is many things:

  • tall
  • sweet
  • funny
  • shy
  • smart
  • sensitive

One thing he is not:

  • a problem

Yet, I believe you consider him to be a problem.  The problem child in the class.  The one who zigs while everyone else obediently zags. The one who needs help and training on how to transition because he’s never been in a structured environment before.  The one that wants to climb and run and play. The one that doesn’t want to mimic the gestures or routines in music class. The boy who knows his shapes and colors already.

Yesterday you handed me the forms for me to sign to have him evaluated by Project Enlightenment, and I had the chance to read the report you had prepared.  Nine boxes detailing issues of concern, and you had checked almost all of them.  Defiant behavior. Aggression. Motor issues. Attention issues. And then I read the comments.  The only positive one was that my son is good with puzzles.  Thank you for reducing my 2.5 year old little boy’s only strength to being good with puzzles.  And you think he has low muscle tone?  By that point, I was in disbelief.  Of all the items in your report, that one was the  most ludicrous.  This child has been climbing up and down stairs well and fearlessly for months.  This child loves doing somersaults on our bed.

Again, I wondered who was this child you had described. I must have looked shocked because you hastened to reassure me that these weren’t observations made in one day but over the course of the last 3 months.

I left, went to Barnes & Noble and bought Daniel a new book because that’s what I do after one of these increasingly horrific preschool encounters.

When I walked in at pick-up time, he was sitting a little separate from the rest of the class (whether that was by design due to how you want to separate him to manage any hitting or by accident I don’t know).  He looked up at me and smiled.  You commented, “what a nice smile!” as if you hadn’t seen him smile before.  I thought that was so strange. Is my child smiling at school such a rare occurrence?  You told me his behavior during the first half of class had been good like he had been at drop-off but not as good the second part of the day.

It was then I realized that you do not know my child.  You see, what I saw at drop-off was a child who had shut down.  He had no expression on his face and looked overwhelmed.  He looked at the floor as he sat there, and he looked miserable. That’s not my Daniel, and if that’s what you consider to be good, desirable behavior then we have a problem.  No wonder you were so shocked to see him smile.

I have no doubt that based on the Daniel you see at school, the person from Project Enlightenment will say he he has a problem.  And we will pursue further testing and evaluation to get him any help he needs.  I really am glad that you, his teachers, are bringing your concerns to our attention, but what really bothers me is how you seem to have written him off.  It’s like we’re all just biding our time until the evaluation happens and you can kick him out.  And that we never hear anything positive about him.

He’s not an automaton.  He’s a little boy and that you seem to have forgotten that…THAT’s the problem.