One of the hardest part about sending Gavin to school was adjusting to the schedule and rearranging his sleep cycle. The other part is the fact that he now spends a considerable portion of time away from me where I don’t know what is happening except for what I hear from the teachers and a sometimes garbled version of events from Gavin.
Sometime back I wrote an article about the importance of being the primary caregiver to a child if you want to bond with him. The main benefit of being the primary caregiver lies in the fact that you can learn so much more about your child just by spending most of the time with him. It’s like working on a jigsaw puzzle and being able to see the whole picture as opposed to working on a part of the jigsaw puzzle without any idea what the whole picture looks like.
By being the one who always did everything for him, I learned to have a feel for what he likes and doesn’t like even without him telling me. I understand the little intricacies of his behaviour that would otherwise be meaningless to me.
For instance, I know that if I want him to drink his Pediasure, I have to make it one teaspoon of Milo, three scoops of Pediasure and mix it with half water and half Dutch Lady full cream milk up to 300ml. Any deviation from this mix and there’s no guarantee he will drink it. I know that he will eat chicken Wan Tan Mee but not mince beef Wan Tan Mee.
I know that anything made with a base of chicken stock is usually favoured by Gavin and that “the noodles with fork and the spoon” means Maggi mee cup noodles. “Purple” refers to the grape flavoured Vitagen but it can also mean other things that are coloured purple. “Strawberry” can be strawberry jam on bread or it can be strawberry yoghurt or strawberry ice cream. I knew that “Ack” meant “Ah Kong” and “Ahm” was “Ah Mah” back in the days when he was into abbreviating everything.
All these little idiosyncrasies are things I learned because I was the person that spent the most time with Gavin.
Since Gavin started going to school, it feels as if I can only see part of the picture. Suddenly, there are changes in my son that I can’t understand. They catch me off-guard because I’m suddenly confounded by what it all means. I need to listen more carefully to the things that Gavin says and try to decipher the meaning as he tumbles over his words in his excitement to tell me what happened.
Recently, Gavin got hit at school. When I picked him up from school, he had a red mark on his eyebrow. Before I could say anything, he launched into an enthusiastic explanation of what happened at school. As far as I could decipher, his cousin hit him and he had to put ice on his head and lie down. As to why she hit him, he said it was because he had “disturbed” her.
My initial thought was to assume it had all been some accident and his cousin had hit him by mistake. These things are common when children play. In their excitement, they are often unaware of where their limbs are flailing. I found out the next day after asking one of the adults at school what really happened.
Gavin adores his cousin and often tries to hug her. Being the older and bigger child who is unaware of his strength, he has a tendency to bowl her over. She grew tired of always falling over when Gavin tried to express affection and, not having the words to tell him she didn’t like it, she hit him.
I have realised how important it is to get the story right so that I can tell Gavin the right things. Had I assumed it had been an accident, I would have told him that his cousin hadn’t meant to hit him and that it was all just an accident. That would have done nothing to correct his behaviour around her. Knowing what really happened, helped me explain to him why she hit him and how he should behave around her in future to avoid future conflict.
One thing that I did notice after the incident at school was that Gavin “went off” school for a bit. After his terrific adjustment back to school post-holidays, he began his protests about going to school again.
It is inevitable that a child will eventually have to go to school and there will be a lot of things will happen that we, as parents, won’t know about. Some of your child’s experiences at school will be good and some will be bad. I believe that having developed a strong bond with your child from birth helps you to manage such difficult situations and help your child cope with these experiences.
When your child trusts you, he will talk to you about the things that upsets him rather than bottling it up or speaking to the “wrong” people about it. That is exactly the kind of relationship I am working to build with my son. I might not always be able to detect that there is a problem but if he trusts me enough, he will come to me with his problems before I have to ask him about it.