Monday, April 13, 2009


By the time I noticed the conversation, Bub was in what Bridget Jones would call full autowitter: "... and there's Guilmon, and Terriermon, and Renemon! And there's Kabuterimon and Megakabuterimon..." The recipient of this monologue about Digimon (digital monsters) was a girl who looked about nine or ten years old. As soon as she could, she extracted herself from the conversation and joined her brother on the swings, where moments later I heard the two of them trading "mons" back and forth. "That's so retarded!" the girl sneered.

"So, you spend your Saturday afternoons hanging around the park bullying five-year-olds," I said to her. "Wow, you're so cool!"

Actually, I said nothing, but I prepared sarcastic remarks so that I'd have them at the ready if her mockery came within Bub's notice.


We were getting ready to leave church when Anna rushed out. "I have to say goodbye to Bub!" she cried, blonde curls bouncing as she leaned over Pie's carseat to tell him goodbye properly.

Anna is in Bub's class at school, a just-turned-five junior kindergartener, and when her mother asked her the other day about Marshall, another little boy in her class, Anna scornfully replied, "He's not my boyfriend! Bub is my boyfriend!"


At kindergarten pick-up the other day, a little boy came over with a skinned knee. Bub was most solicitous. "Maybe you need a Band-Aid!" he suggested. (Though not addicted to Band-Aids anymore, Bub is still a firm believer in their efficacy.) Devin thought he'd be okay without a Band-Aid.

"Do you know what happens when you hurt your knee?" Bub asked. "It turns into a scab, and then the scab comes off and it's all better!" This is recently acquired knowledge, applicable to many life situations. I'm pleased to see my son tailoring his knowledge-sharing to the needs of the recipient.


"High-five!" Derek hollers, running up to Bub as we exit the school lot. Bub slaps his upraised hand, and as we head toward the car we hear the thudding of running feet behind us. "Another high-five!" Derek shouts again, darting in front of us to get in one last farewell before we go.


All the professionals at Bub's placement meeting agree: he should go on to Grade One. He should be with an E.A. (emphatically), but in a Grade One classroom. I know that he is ready academically, though perhaps not behaviorally or socially. What bothers me is that most of Bub's friendships are with the junior kindergarten kids, who hail him as one of their own. The SK kids are kind, but warier. They notice his quirks, whereas the younger grade is too young and inexperienced to care.

One rationale for moving Bub up a grade is that keeping him back only delays the inevitable: eventually, his peers will all be old enough to notice that he's different. A more optimistic rationale recognizes that Bub is rapidly closing the gap between himself and his peers: it would be senseless to hold him back because of a few mild quirks that he is rapidly overcoming. My concern is that he falls somewhere in between these two interpretations, that he is capable of fitting in but would do so much more easily if he were the oldest kid in the class rather than the youngest.

If I knew that another year of kindergarten were the right thing for Bub I would fight for it, even against the advice of his teacher, principal, and resource worker. But I don't know - so I signed on the dotted line, agreeing to a placement in a Grade One classroom. I even bought the official graduation t-shirt. The propaganda has already started in the classroom - the SKs are being groomed for next year, for the big leap up into the world of desks and worksheets. So far Bub thinks it sounds a lot like camp. I haven't yet told him otherwise.


Mouse said...

We bounce back and forth between Scooter's quirks being very minor and very noticeable. Some of his classmates have asked about his habits of speech and tendency to cry. On the other hand, he's figuring out various social conventions and definitely has friends.

We've decided to move with his academic level and work on the social skills as necessary. We're pushing for explicit social skills training next year--does Bub's school have anything like that.

One of my bigger concerns for Scooter is that the teacher-student ratio requirements change after kindergarten; instead of one teacher and an aide for 20 kids, they'll have the same-sized class with just one adult.

Bea said...

Bub will - knock wood - have the extra body in the class, which everyone seems to agree is essential, especially for compliance issues. His speech therapist visits every couple of weeks and suggests strategies for social communication. The E.A. he had at the beginning of the year had a lot of experience working with kids with autism, and she was very good at nudging Bub in the right direction. She, predictably, got a better job and left in November. The E.A. he has now is not nearly as clued in to those issues - I get the sense that she focuses mostly on making sure that Bub is physically where he needs to be and doing what he needs to be doing.

HarryJack's Mom said...

Ah, is there anything sweeter than a mother's heart - thank you for sharing! My quirkier boy has quite the love for a little girl who's the sister of his classmate...very sweet. And I signed all Kindergarten papers today and pray that mine are ready, too :-) Best of luck!

Mimi said...

Oh, this really makes me feel as though I'm right there. But what to do? The decision is made, and surely it is for the best, but hey, second-guessing is like the second opinion of the soul, right?

It sounds, in any case, like Bub is making real progress. A girlfriend!

Andrea said...

Frances already has worksheets in her s/k class (and the teacher apologized at the last meeting because there weren't more). She'd tell Bub pretty quick that they're not so special.

I worry about Frances in grade one too, for different reasons. I wonder if there are any mothers who don't?

Bea said...

Andrea - Bub has worksheets, too, though not as often as he will in Grade One. Let's just say that he's deeply opposed to the whole concept. The leap from kindergarten to grade one is just so huge - it boggles my mind.

buttercup said...

Not sure if I've commented before...but I've been lurking for ages. When I was in elementary school they had something called pre-first for kids who weren't quite ready for first grade yet. I was totally ready academically for first grade but the whole "sitting still and paying attention" thing was still pretty tough for me. I ended up being one of the oldest in my class, but I also liked the class I was in a lot better.

I wish they still had that option, because I think it's a really great stepping stone for kids with all sorts of different issues, academic, social, behavioral, etc. However, in my school district they got rid of it because it "hurts kids' self esteem..."

Good luck with everything, it sounds like he'll do just fine first grade with the plans they've put in place!

Beck said...

My Boy is the oldest one in his class - thanks to his January birthday - and he TOWERS over the rest of them, being tall in the first place. He is a HEAD taller than the next tallest kid!

There are several autistic kids in my Girl's class, and sensitive teachers have really helped the group be more accepting and kinder then children might otherwise be.

Stimey said...

I'm worried about 1st grade too for my Jack. Fingers crossed for both of us!

Also, I wish you'd said that to the girl in your first story. But I'm glad you were ready in case she came closer.

Swistle said...

Oh, this kind of thing worries me so much. My quirky fourth grader---I STILL worry about him every year, and wonder if different choices would have been better or worse.

No Mother Earth said...

Grade One is a huge adjustment for all kids, so I would probably agree that taking the leap is the right move. The kids with the big hearts (as Bub so obviously has) always end up okay.

wheelsonthebus said...

We went through a lot of the same anxiety with Z starting kindergarten this coming year. I think that these quirky kids could go either way. For him, we weren't necessarily sure whether being among the oldest or being among the youngest was a better spot. We finally went with our gut. We'll see how it works out.

Merle said...

I have to agree that delaying the inevitable may not be the best choice. But I completely understand your fears. But you have the knowledge and the resources to manage whatever comes. Always remember that.

Kyla said...

I hate these sorts of decisions. So much worrying, even after they are made.

Anon said...

Oh,first grade. "The dreaded lunch" we call it in the states because for the first time the kids face the cafeteria.

I agree that your son has a big heart. I have commented before that our oldest was similar to the way you describe your son, and "grew out of it" or the world adapted to him...not sure which.

Mothers worry, that's what we do.

(Your) Anon

Nicki said...

It sounds like he's at least enjoying kindergarten now... but will he still be able to play with his junior-kindergarten friends next year, when they are in regular kindergarten and he is a first grader?

Bea said...

Anon - Cafeteria? Yikes. Here they just eat their lunch at their desks until grade seven or so.

Nicki - His best friend and "girlfriend" (Anna) both go to our church and I'm friends with their moms, so they'll still see each other.