Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Aisha's struggle to adjust at school - and my resultant heartache

It is almost June - almost halfway through the year. By now kids are usually settled into their new schools and routines, have established their friendships and alliances for the year and know who their favourite teachers are.

Last year I remember telling Mo that I wished it was April 2013, because by then, we'd be over the worst. Shakeel (14) would be settled at high school (he started Grade 8 at the beginning of this year) and Aisha (3) would have adjusted to creche/playschool by then. She was of particular concern to me since, until then, she and I had always been at home alone; playing, arguing, crying and laughing. By the beginning of this year she had not established many relationships outside our home - she was even shy of her aunts and uncles whom we see fairly regularly.

Everyone assured me that it would be okay - she'd adjust quickly as children are resilient. Although I have 3 other kids, I had none of my own experiences and memories to draw on, since I was working at the time and, clearly had not been very tuned in to my other kids experiences [I admire moms who are able to do it all]. Either that, or I have just managed to block out some very unpleasant memories.

But, as it turned out, I was right to be concerned. In fact, assuming that she'd be settled by April had been too optimistic an assumption. She still cries most mornings, especially after weekends or holidays. The fact that she is suffering from creche syndrome - getting sick every other week - just makes matters worse, as staying out of school so often makes the adjustment process so much harder.

This happened over the past few days. She was home ill since Friday. This morning (Tuesday) went just as we'd expected - if not worse. She refused to dress at home, so we packed her clothes and bundled her into the car. Upon arriving at the school she started to scream hysterically. Mo put on the car heater and started to warm up her clothes, while I had the unenviable task of dressing a kicking and screaming toddler. Each time I'd put on an item of clothing, she'd pull it back off.

I felt frustrated and sad. My heart broke when, through her tears she kept saying, "Mommy, listen to me - please just listen to me". But what was I supposed to do when all she wanted to tell me was that she really didn't want to go to school. I tried to hug her, but she was hysterical and pushed me away angrily.

I realise that coddling her makes things worse, so - although it breaks my heart to do so - I treat her with firmness. She has this routine where she wants us each to kiss her thrice and then hug her thrice. If it ended there, all would be well, but she then proceeds to ask for more kisses and hugs merely to delay our departure, which seems to irritate her teacher, who is usually holding her by that point.

I am doubting our decision to send her to school. On the one hand, she is okay when I fetch her - in fact last week she was actually upset that I'd come to disturb her drawing and colouring time when I collected her from her after-care class. But, on the whole she really isn't over-enthusiastic about school. When I ask her how her day was, she'll often respond with, "I'll tell you later", which she hardly ever does.

Her sadness breaks my heart

Mo and I discussed the idea of keeping her home, but this doesn't seem to be the right thing to do if I consider how she is when she and I are at home alone. She still refuses to play by herself - she needs me to sit and play by her all the time. Yesterday, she cried each time I left her to do household chores. She wanted me to sit and play with her or read to her all day. She even resisted the idea of us heading outside or to a mall. My concern is not only that I am unable to get anything done with her here (I only made my bed when Mo came home at 17:00 yesterday afternoon), but more the fact that she becomes COMPLETELY dependent on me when she is at home. I am also concerned about the fact that she refuses to go outside with me, preferring to sit indoors and draw, read  or watch movies all day. I often wonder if she is emulating me - since I, too prefer to be indoors than out and about at malls among other people.

Should I leave her be - will it worsen her situation and well - turn her into me? Or should we just power through this? Is this amounting to character development or am I scarring her?

Then, of course, I have to consider whether this school is the right match for her. My other 3 kids loved their time at this school. But perhaps she might benefit from much smaller classes and individual care (there are about 20 - 30 kids in her class), but this might present a strain on our budget. I really don't know.

I am just feeling really sad and despondent this morning. I know that by now she probably is playing contentedly, but the question is - is there something else we could be doing to make her happy?

I just wish I had the answers.


yumnah said...


I am a mom of 3 heavenly planned 20 and 21 months apart little girls ( 9,7,5 yearsol). clearly this was a blessing to me because as i weathered through my eldest develomental phase, i quickly learned that the rest will follow suit. My children are completely differrent in nature and so i was always challenged by what was presented to me, however, it seemed to have a subconscious level of understanding where they were coming from.
I had the advantage of being trained in child dveleopment ( which when i was studying sometimes wished i did not have to study so much matter- even though i saw the sense it helping me oneday- just never thought as part of parenting) when studying Nursing at UCT. I learnt, and i will risk assuming you have come across it as well, that the Erik Erikson stages of development can be very useful at time. i use it as a guideline, especially when i am desperate and very challenged with parenting situations. i would refer back to my child's age and then compare against the develomental phase she is experiencing. This allows me to be understanding to what the possibilities or reason are for her behaviour. often he reccomends ways of dealing with it. however, what i found the most helpful, is just knowing what she is developing at that satge of her growth. it is diffeerent for all children and this guides me , because then i can contexualise it to my child.
i hope you don't mind, i attached something that could be of use to you,in addition it is important to also not forget the sexuallity developmental phases as well. i attached both:



Savouring mommy moments said...

Shukran Yumna. I read the entire attachment you sent - which is not visible here - on Facebook. If you don't mind, I would like to share it as a blog post, as it might benefit other readers.
Shukran so much- this was really useful.

yumnah said...


No problem, go ahead, if others can bennefit, why not.