While searching for some documents for Kindergarten (more on that in a later post), I ran into a letter that I wrote to Beth’s first preschool teacher. It was a blast from the past. Thankfully, since I am learning to live in the moment and accept Beth for the wonderful little person she is, I moved on with my day rather quickly after an initial reaction of shock and sadness.
Here is the letter written to Beth’s preschool teacher, Sarah (name changed to protect privacy), when Beth was about 2.5 years old. It was written before diagnosis and before our lives would change in ways we could not comprehend at that time. My thoughts as I read this letter yesterday is shown in italics.
Here is some information that may be helpful for Beth’s transition to preschool:
Previous Caregivers: I stayed home with Beth from birth to 6 months, then I went back to work full time. Beth had a caregiver from age 6 months until about 2 weeks ago. Our relatives from out of town have been covering the gap in care until school starts. In the past 4 days, we believe we are seeing signs of increased stress due to the transition (clingy behavior, sleeping and eating problems, more anxiety in social situations).
So, the anxiety was already showing and we were worried enough about it to write this letter. I had forgotten that it was so obvious, but we tried to accept Beth for who she was and we tried not to worry about it. We were so hopeful that school would help Beth with her anxiety, especially around other children. We also hoped school would help her with flexibility. The school was the best we could find, with acres of grounds, animals to feed, many opportunities for messy play, etc. We had hoped she would adapt after a short transition period. But after 2 weeks, the teacher called us in and said she highly recommended a developmental evaluation. She felt our daughter was in distress at school and could not cope. In her words, “I am very worried about her. Very worried.” We were in shock.
Home Life: We don’t watch TV at all and we go outside as much as possible, so Beth feels most comfortable and happy when she is outside. Beth’s favorite outside activities are the water table, swimming, going to local farms, visiting pet stores and zoos, the swings, and running outside. Her favorite inside activities are books, music, and painting.
I wanted to let the teacher know that we were a different kind of family, so maybe that was why Beth was different (who the heck watches no TV at all…we do watch it now, but we were trying so hard to be perfect parents back then). Also, I wanted the teacher to know how to calm Beth with her favorite activities. I was worried about how Beth would cope, and I hoped that the school and this very experienced caregiver would have the magic touch to help Beth expand and grow. But when I picked up Beth from school, she had a look of desperation on her face and she would scream “Go home, go home, go home!” She looked so very tired, miserable, and sad. I thought she would eventually adapt, but it never happened.
Socialization: Beth is our only child, but we try to expose her to other children whenever possible at informal social gatherings and organized toddler classes. Beth has taken many toddler classes, but she loves music classes and unstructured gym classes the most. Beth barely notices kids her own age, but she loves older kids. Beth often seems stressed in new social situations with kids and/or adults, especially when the new people are many and in close proximity. Recently, her reaction to these new social situations is to run away, or, if indoors, to scream to go outside. This has been a challenge, so we are a little nervous about her transition to school.
Translation: We wanted the teacher to know we had done everything we could think of to socialize Beth. We were out of ideas and we needed help.
Sleep: Beth sleeps about 8-9 hours a night and she very rarely naps. if she naps, it is while riding in the stroller or car in the late afternoon (3-4 pm).
When we had our introductory meeting with the preschool, we told them Beth did not nap. They assured us she would and they had many tricks to make it happen. She never did nap there. Beth would pace back and forth filled with stress while the other kids were sleeping on the floor. I had no idea that sleeping issues would get worse after this and how tired we would all be for so long. But now, as of the last few months, Beth is sleeping 9-11 hours a night and if she wakes she goes on the potty and then puts herself back to sleep. I am so grateful that she has finally figured out how to sleep as much as her body needs and how to put herself back to sleep.
Potty Training: We started potty training about 2 weeks ago. She rarely states she wants to go to the potty, but sometimes goes to the bathroom door when she needs to go. She will only use the small seat that is place on the toilet and would not go on the separate potty. We use chips as a reward. We are open to any approach during the transition to school, including using diapers, and any changes to the approach we have taken.
I put potty training at the end of the letter, because I considered it the least important point. I had no idea that we would be potty training for years. It has been a long, slow process. But we are in the final stretch, and for the first time Beth’s little potty stayed upstairs all last week unused because she used the toilet full time. I feel lucky Beth has just enough body awareness and planning ability to make potty training possible.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above.
Oh yes, she had concerns and she let us know about them 2 weeks after school started. And our lives were never the same again.