It gets late early out there.
Sometime last year, my son abandoned the idea of getting to school on time. Myself, I need to be punctual. But ever since he started talking, Nick has presented this need of mine with challenges.
When he was around three or four, getting him out of the house for an appointment was never a sure bet. Nora and I dreaded making plans. Airline tickets were out of the question.
Socks were a big problem. We could never get them on exactly right.
“Too bumpy,” Nick would say.
“The stocks have bumps in them?”
There was a ridge over where the toes were supposed to go. Nick would have me pull hard, squishing his toes, so that the ridge ended up in the middle of his foot. Sometimes I’d spend half an hour pulling to just the right level of tightness, only to have Nick suddenly rip the socks off in frustration.
Then we’d begin the process again.
It was hard to tell what was going on. Was his skin truly that sensitive? Was it the socks? Was this his way of showing his disapproval of the plan? Was he asserting independence? Did he like annoying us? Was there a deeper problem?
All we knew for sure was that the socks were not right. And we were going to be late again.
In the car, we had the seat belt problem. No matter how I adjusted it, the seat belt was never right.
“Do it again!” Nick would say.
I would do it again, trying for the perfect level of tightness.
“Too loose, dada!”
And so on.
Getting into a power struggle by making demands never helped. Patience was called for. And empathy. Infinite patience and empathy. We got used to being late.
Things have gotten better over time. Along the way, we discovered Italian socks (the gift of a relative on her return from a month in Assisi) which have no ridges. What kid wears Italian socks?
Recently I had this conversation with Nick:
“Do you remember how hard it used to be to get your socks on?”
“Oh my God, that was a problem!”
“If you had a little brother who had that problem—or a seat belt problem—what would you say to him now?”
“Just do it yourself, you big ape!”
So when the late-to-school problem began last year, I felt a familiar tightening in my stomach. Nick was seven, in the Fern Hill equivalent of second grade.
In the morning, he would traipse around the house in his PJs.
“Time to get dressed, Nick.”
Nick would not get dressed. His school clothes were wrong. They didn’t fit. They were stupid. They made him itch.
“But these are the same clothes you’ve always worn.”
“They’re not good anymore.”
We tried different clothes. We tried itching creams. Nothing worked. Every day, the delay grew longer. He would arrive late to morning meeting at Fern Hill. Then he started missing morning meeting entirely.
“I want to go,” said Nick. “I just can’t.”
Each day after breakfast, Nora and I watched the clock with mounting despair. How long would it take today? What would happen when Nick got to middle school in a few years? High school? Forget college, would he ever be able to hold down a job?
One day I turned to Nora. “This calls for something drastic,” I said.
. . .
Just for fun:
School used to be so simple. Schoolhouse Rock on the Preamble. (There will be a quiz later in the week):
. . .
Childrens’ art credit: Little Leaf’s Painting, Crayon, by Leaf, Age 4. Shongdong, China. ©2011 The Natural Child Project. Used by permission. The Natural Child Project provides resources on unschooling and empathetic parenting.
Express yourself! Any thoughts? Ever had a problem being late? I’d love you to add your comment below. I always respond here.