07 Mar Whose Child is this Anyway? Part 1
Backing out of the driveway, Jensen handed her son James a little red box. When he touched it, a robotic voice said, “Two and two are ___?” James dropped it on the floor.
Jensen said, “Two and two are ___?”
No answer. James was clearly thinking of something else.
“James, tossing Number Master down will never help you.” James didn’t respond.
Jensen fumed silently. “I was a math major at Harvard. I was a management consultant until a month before I had you. Your father breathes numbers. What’s wrong with you?”
Their nursery school was having a parent teacher conference day. Jensen’s appointment was in the late afternoon. Her husband Ted was coming home early to attend. In the meantime she was running a few errands.
They held hands as they walked to pick out some towels at a small department store. James loved looking at all the cars along the way. “Mommy, a Mini-Cooper! I love them. They are like big toys.”
“James, I’m looking for more of the white towels with the navy blue stripe. Stand right near me, please. No wandering. Look, you can count the stack of yellow towels. I’ll ask you how many in a minute.”
While his mother found her towels and paid, James pulled a little blue car from his pocket. Soon he was making revving sounds, and then screeching brake sounds.
Finished with her purchase, Jensen asked, “Did you count? How many?” James looked at the towels. “Sixty-eleven?” Jensen just shook her head.
The car ride home was fun for James. He saw a fire truck, two garbage trucks and another Mini Cooper. “Two Mini Coopers in one day, Mommy!”
In the house, Jensen got out a stack of paper and pencils. “Time for a few letters before lunch, James. Let’s try to write your name. J is an easy letter. No cars right now, okay?”
James put the cars down on the small table, took a pencil and made a perfect oval.
“There is no o in your name. Eyes on my J, please. Please write a J.”
“Mommy where does garbage go? The green truck we saw was my favorite. The man is so nice to clean up the whole town.”
“It goes to the dump. I wish you would think about letters instead of garbage. Come on, write the J and we will have lunch.” To herself, she said, “How hard are letters anyway? Whose kid are you?”
After lunch and a nap, James was again full of energy. Car sounds were audible from all over the house. Jensen looked over a brochure for enrichment classes and considered enrolling James. When Ted arrived at 4:00 o’clock, James was surprised and excited. “Daddy, want to set up the race track? Or look for stuff outside?”
Jenny, their favorite babysitter arrived. James ran to her and gave her a hug. She had a striped bag full of books. “Can’t wait to read these to you, James.”
As Jensen and Ted drove to the school, Jensen unleashed her frustration about James. “He’s just not interested in anything! He won’t count, or write his name, or do rhyming words. I’m dreading this conference. What can they possibly tell us that’s good?”
Surprising Jensen, the teachers were very enthusiastic as they shared all that James offered his classmates. “James’ interest in cars and trucks is mind-boggling. He has taught his classmates all about hydraulic brakes and the sound they make. His imitations are flawless,” said Mrs. Smith.
“And he is a great player,” added Miss Peters. “He can build wonderful structures. He gets along well with everyone, and all the children welcome his ideas both in building and in dramatic play. We love having him in our class. He is a very expressive boy.”
Ted nodded. “Nice to hear, but what about the important stuff? Letters? Number work? Reading? Any progress you can tell us about?”
The teachers were surprised. “We are happiest with James’ enthusiasm for learning. He has a great foundation of information. He is curious and is always learning new things. Writing will be a snap for James once he wants to do it. He is very smart and has so much going for him. Please don’t make him do letters and numbers. He isn’t interested yet.”
They drove home in silence. James, in fire truck pajamas, was sitting on Jenny’s lap as she read Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. “Please don’t go yet, Jenny,” he begged.
Ted and Jensen got the powerful message and accepted it at the same time. They slipped into the kitchen and poured themselves some wine.
Finally Jensen said, “Wow, how did I get it so wrong? He really is a great boy.”
Ted agreed. “What a shock! We were so off base about our own child.”
Jenny went home. Jensen put her letter papers away and threw Number Master in the garbage. Ted recycled the flash cards, except for the C for car and the T for truck.
Then they hugged and kissed James and put him to bed.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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