We were driving home from preschool when my 4-year-old mumbled something almost inaudible from the back seat.
“Am I bad?”
My spine tingled. I thought I heard him but I needed to be sure.
“What was that, honey?”
“Am I bad?” he repeated, his tone was defeated.
A 4-year-old doesn’t just come to the abstract understanding that he is bad. That gets fed to him. I had never felt so mama bear than in that instant.
Who said that to him? How dare they! Whose head do I get to rip off?
Oh, I was furious.
My son had been showing some aggression at preschool. This wasn’t terribly uncommon for a 4-year-old, from my research and from what the school told me, but the school was working with us hand-in-hand and keeping the communication open and constant, as was I.
I became aware early on that no one was going to fight for my son except his father and me. His teachers at the school were supportive, but obviously had the school’s best interest in mind. And same went for the other kids’ parents in the classroom.
And I get it. I would do the exact same thing. We need to do what’s in the best interest of our children. But someone was calling my kid “bad” and that terrified me. And infuriated me.
My son was not bad. My son was four years old. My son was learning how to communicate and learning what is OK and what is not OK in a society that doesn’t seem to accept mistakes from kids. Four-year-old kids, at that.
And in the back of our minds, my husband and I wondered . . . is he just testing limits, is his brain still developing impulse control, or is it ADHD?
As a mom, it didn’t really matter to me. I would stand by him no matter what, obviously. But it became immediately clear that for everyone else, these questions DID matter. The school, the other parents, and even friends and family wanted to know the big question: WHY?
We went to a specialist and got some testing done. In the end it was determined he was too young to diagnose. But everyone was satisfied with our efforts to better understands the behavior. We live in a society that wants answers. And action.
I don’t know if my kid has ADHD and it really doesn’t matter at this point in time for him, for us, for the school, and everyone else. But I can say with confidence that by doing something about his behavior, and by taking it seriously, seeking outside assistance and not chalking it up to kids will be kids, or even worse, “boys will be boys” I helped fight for my child. I helped keep him in his school. I helped appease some of the other parents.
I can’t control what other kids will say to my son, or what other parents will say to their kids—which is sometimes worse. But I can and I will fight for my son. Every damn day.
Because he is a good kid. And he needs to know that, too.
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