So here’s what’s weird: No child other than mine has cried or shown any signs of a meltdown in two days of preschool. WTF, toddlerz?? They all are terrifically angelic. I was actually relieved when a little girl hit my child on the head (lightly, to reprimand him for taking her doll). Today was hard. I’m exhausted. Mister Finn was overwhelmed. Wifey came with us, even though the plan was for me to go alone with A. But it was only 8am and I felt like my brain might explode from the stress of it all, and then the dog had diarrhea.
Preschool feels like preemie judgement day, whereby it is made known to us and the world that A. is just like any other two year old, or different, due to his preemieness. There are a host of other two year olds running around to compare him to. There are a host of other parents around to do the comparing. WHY did he have to end up in a class of seasoned, gifted preschoolgoers?
A. is different, due to his preemieness. He has a mild version of Sensory Processing Disorder. This is a disorder that includes many “normal” people and spans all the way to people who can barely function. It is common with preemies; especially ones that had IUGR. Mild cases often go undiagnosed, as A.’s probably would have if he hadn’t been a preemie with many caregivers on the lookout for it. It is something that improves dramatically with therapy, and kids usually grow out of it with or without therapy. A. has been seeing an Occupational Therapist to help with oral aversion issues (not wanting to eat solid foods, brush teeth, etc.) , and other hypersensitivity issues. People with SPD are often either hypersensitive (extra sensitive to their environment) or hyposensitive (not sensitive to their environment, and needing a lot of stimulation in order to have a response). A. has made a lot of progress with his OT. He’ll eat most solid foods, but won’t let us brush his teeth. (This freaks Wifey out.)
Since his version of SPD is still within the range of normal two-year-old behavior, it has been hard to discern what is going on when he has a meltdown or heightened reaction to something. Is this the sensory/preemie stuff?–we ask each other all the time–or normal two-year-old stuff? Or just his personality? Or maybe he just didn’t get enough sleep last night? It’s usually a combination of all of the above, mixed together into a toddler cocktail of distress. SPD and “normal” mix and meld into each other. One could argue that all toddlers have SPD. Meltdowns are frequent, and are caused by things not going the way he would have liked. Some days there are many meltdowns, some days there are none.
So, it was hard to know what to expect from preschool. His OT thought he was ready, and didn’t recommend a special-needs preschool, so we were mostly optimistic. (Cautiously optimistic: the phrase that hovered over the more peaceful days of my pregnancy, and A’s NICU stay.)
Yesterday after preschool, A. talked a lot about Teacher Linda, and all of his new friends, with delight. And he was delighted to be going to preschool again this morning, until we neared the classroom, when he started crying and running back to the car. We managed to coax him inside, and he did some playing and some grabbing of toys, trying to organize them somehow, I think. He greeted Teacher Linda, but did not want his name tag pinned on his shirt. He read some books, then started crying and ran for the door in a panic. Then we coaxed him back, he played with the doll house, where Ingrid hit him. He cried and ran for the door in a panic. We coaxed him back, and we enjoyed Teacher Linda’s puppet show. The puppet show ended, and he cried and ran for the door in a panic. You get the idea. Snack. Meltdown. Books. Meltdown. Music time. Meltdown. Transition = meltdown. There were some nice moments between meltdowns, but it was mostly meltdowns.
But aren’t meltdowns on the first days of preschool for a 2.5 year old to be expected? I might have thought this was all somewhat normal, if it weren’t for the fact that no other kid in the class had a single meltdown. And a few of their moms left them for the whole class! Alone! (as is our plan, and the class’s design) where they fended for themselves just fine, and were guided like ducklings from play to snack to handwashing to music. They fell right into place, while our little guy, with TWO parents present, was overwhelmed and under a lot of stress.
Sigh. This is all just really hard. It does help to write about it, though.