When Stephen started preschool, he got rave reviews from the teachers, much to my surprise. He was thick in his terrible tantrums phase, to the extent that I kept the windows shut for fear the neighbors would call the police because he was always screaming.
When I picked him up from preschool, the teacher said, “He’s doing so great! He’s such a good listener, follows directions, and I never have to discipline him.”
I looked at her in surprise. “No, no,” I said. “I’m Stephen’s mom. That one.” I pointed at him.
She looked and laughed. “I know! Stephen! He’s wonderful in class!”
“Really? Because I put him in time out all day long.”
“Oh. Well, he’s great for us.”
He has continued to have excellent reports from school, even earning the coveted “good citizen award” in both Kindergarten and first grade (yes, shameless mommy bragging moment, I know…)
Once, when he was especially wild at home, he abruptly stopped and looked at me seriously. “Don’t worry, I’m not like this at school. At school I have my brain on, but when I get home I’m crazy. Crazy, crazy, craaaazy, aaaaahhhh!” And he resumed running around in circles singing.
Tonight, Stephen had open house at his school. I took him and Adrian to visit the classroom. Adrian spent the teacher’s brief talk terrorizing Stephen’s desk and trying to lift up my skirt. When I slapped his hands away from my skirt for the 10th time, he dropped to the floor and crawled between my legs, looking up with curious expression. Since I was surrounded by other parents, I refrained from kicking him and kept my “polite mommy” parenting in tact: “SWEETIE,” I hissed, “STOP doing that! Get up!”
He popped up and resumed picking things out of Stephen’s desk for the sheer pleasure of watching Stephen steam (Adrian also gets rave reviews in preschool).
After the talk, I asked Stephen’s teacher about his behavior.
“So he’s doing ok in class?” I asked.
“Oh he’s fantastic!” She beamed. “I’m so impressed with how far along he is!”
“Great,” I said, and turned just in time to see Stephen hurtling through the air and slamming into Adrian, knocking him to the floor, his head narrowly missing the desk. They rolled around on the floor, punching each other.
“Don’t worry, Mom!” The teacher graciously said, “I don’t think he hit his head!”
My outside words: “Oh, good! I was so worried…”
My inside words: “Oh, they’ll hit their heads when I slam them together!”
“Boys,” I snarled through clenched teeth (but trying to use my sweet-mommy tone for the onlookers) “No wrestling in school! GET UP!”
We finished our tour of the school, maintaining a minimum of fighting, and returned home, where the crazy resumed. Because apparently good, calm behavior is reserved for the classroom (but only during school hours).