The first two and a half terms of this school year have gone fairly smoothly, as far as the actual school work goes. Sure we have had meltdowns trying to get dressed, drama over the fancy dress ball and a few mornings we didn’t think we’d get there at all.
At our parent teacher interview at the end of term one A’s teacher was full of praise for him, she had no concerns. He had mastered the art of bottling up his frustrations until I picked him up in the afternoons. Term two came and went, A was doing so well the teacher didn’t even request an interview. Come term three and we start “have a go writing.” A is in Prep, for kids turning 5 by 30 June of the school year. For most kids it is their first year at school. For A it is the second as he did kindy last year.
“Have a go writing” is where the children are asked to have a go at writing a sentence. They have learned about 40 sight words and are now learning to sound out words. The task is to write a sentence about whatever they like, or sometimes the teacher gives them a topic…. Like “My favourite colour is…” When they get to a word they don’t know they are just expected to have a go at writing it. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong. As long as the sentence makes sense and they can read it back to the teacher that’s fine.
Sounds simple enough? Not for A. His teacher pulled me aside one morning as I took A into his classroom. She was concerened about his anxiety level, and how stressed he was getting. A has suffered from anxiety his whole life. But this was the first time it was causing an academic issue. He was getting so worked up that his fingers were shaking from gripping the pencil so tightly and his shoulders were tense and hunched over.
A has a terrible fear of failure. If he doesn’t think he will do something absolutely perfectly he wont try. He wont cross out if he makes an error. He needs to start all over again, on a brand new page. To think of a 5 year old so worked up over something so small, makes my heart break. The teacher asked us to practice the task at home. For the first couple of days it went okay, with me coaching A along, helping him sound out the words. Then a few days a go we hit a hurdle. He just flat out refused to even try, crying out to me “it’s too hard, I can’t do it….”
The next day he came home from school and I managed over the course of a painstaking hour to get through his sight word practice and sentence writing. He went off to play and after a while I went looking for him as he had gone quiet. I found him huddled in a corner of his bedroom, sobbing his little heart out. I went and sat with him on the floor and asked him what was the matter. Through his gut wrenching sobs and heaving shoulders he managed to tell me “all the other kids do everything faster than me, they are all smarter than me… the work is so hard and I can’t do it…”
All I could do was hold him, tell him it would be okay. “No Mum, it’s no use, no one can help me…”
The following weeks have been tear filled, with exhausting battles of will to get the homework done, get the sentences down. Some days we make it, other days I just look at A and think, today is not the day, and send him outside to jump on the trampoline instead.
In a few days we see the developmental specialist again… and hope for some more answers, some more insight into what might help our little guy with his anxiety and lessen the stress for him. I have read lots of quotes about parenting since I first had A….one of the ones that stays with me is something like, “A parent’s job is to fill a child’s bucket so full of self confidence that no matter how many holes the world makes in it it will never run dry..”, so what do you do when at 5 years old, the bucket is almost empty already?