Present: I am sitting across from his preschool teachers, nervous. They are young, eager, compassionate, well intentioned to the nth degree.
We are gathered here to have a follow up meeting, a post incident check in.
Part I: The Back Story
The incident: Sam pours bucket of dirt and sand in it’s entirety over his friend’s head.
Their conclusion: Child is withdrawn, needs help expressing feelings.
Their Suggestion: Sticker chart for rewarding verbal expression of emotions vs. withdrawing and acting out.
Observation: Boys at school are excluding each other from play.
Feelings are getting hurt.
My conclusion: Child is adopted, feeling excluded, stuffing loss deep down into body. It came out in a bucket.
My suggestion: No sticker chart. Encourage all children to play together. Adults chart who is playing with whom, and what the groups are doing to exclude and include. Redirect all children, don’t pathologize one.
Observation: How often is this (black, adopted, from a single parent family) child going to be singled out for behavior( shared by a group)?
Part II: Mama Speaks
In the awkward silence with the three chairs nestled in the small, windowless office/store room piled high with toys on industrial hand made pine board shelves I offer to begin.
As an adoptee, Sam begins his story with loss, and adornment. After nine months getting to know the only person he think exists in the world, he was taken away from her when he was thirty-six hours old. Her smell, her voice, her heart beat, her laughter, all gone.
I look at them, and see tears welling up.
This loss informs him in ways no one can predict or understand. I know that it can make transitions very hard. I mean think about his first transition from womb to world–and the outcome there?
At this point they join in. Explaining how helpful that is to hear. Asking me questions about his story, what he knows, what they can talk about.
I feel like I have gone over all of this. Then I realize, that doesn’t matter. This matters.
I model for them how I handle when he says;
My first mom doesn’t love me.
She wouldn’t have given me to you, if she loved me.
I remind them that he is the only child in the room that has all these three descriptors; black, adopted, from a single parent home. I remind them that children notice difference, even if they don’t tell you they do. Some children are taught not to talk about difference. So, they figure it out on their own.
I know they need to get on the playground soon.
Enough from me, what are you noticing?
to be continued…
Great post. My son is 18. He was a 24-week preemie. He spent 5 months in the hospital and a year on oxygen. He was below the 0 percentile on the growth chart until he turned 14. He has a sequencing disorder, a short-term memory deficit and some ADD. He has many strengths that often serve to mask his weaknesses, resulting in labels like “lazy”, “inattentive”, “unfocused”, “unmotivated”. When I tell his story, the professionals often say “thank you” or “that makes sense” or “what do you recommend.”
He is 18 years old. I am still telling his story. I am still serving as his advocate.
Maybe I should have it tatooed on me somewhere.
Susan–thank you for this post! 24 weeks!!! Dag!!! So yes, you totally GET IT. and now I totally get that it is life long. Right on. It is what we signed on for huh?! Great to hear from you.
I am often a woman of many words rather than few. In this case I would say, Yep. You sure got that right! Lucky for that group of teachers/ workers to have a you in there to teach them. There are days I’d like to bring you with me to a parent conference– can we all do that for each other? Trade sometimes and tell each other’s stories.
Thank you! And what a great idea that is. All parents have “the thing” they want to make sure the teachers know probably. This piece just feels like it is so layered and multifaceted to me. To you. To so many…
It warms my heart to read this post. As a therapist for very young children (0-5), I often have to try and help PARENTS understand why their children are doing what they are doing. To read a parent understanding and then educating teachers, well, that is just amazing! I don’t get to see that often in my world, so thank you for reminding me of all the AMAZING parents out there!