Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer camp begins and a busy week

Life moves on at different paces at different times, meandering around leisurely at times, making us wonder what else can we do, rushing past at some others making us rush along to catch our breath and then rush along some more; super cool at times where everything seems so hunky dory, the pieces seem to fall in place; rough at others with several ragged edges again leaving the livers wondering how to smooth out the creases.

Vansh started a summer playground camp this Monday where he goes to a neighborhood park a few miles away for 3 hours in the morning. They do some crafts, play some games, go the park to play on the slides and swings, have a snack and read some story or sing songs. This is his first such experience away from mom for 3 hours. The closest he had gotten was at ECFE where he was one room away from me for an hour in a surrounding he had been familiar with since he turned 18 months and the separation was gradual as we parents stayed with the kids for the first half hour and then moved to an adjoining room for the next hour. I wasn't really expecting it to be a smooth ride initially, considering his recent reaction to new surroundings and new people in India. He took his time to warm up. He held on very tightly physically and figuratively to the handful of people he felt comfortable with and only little by little did he increase that circle of trust he would let more loving aunts and uncles into. However I was fooled for the last 10 days or so looking at his enthusiasm as every morning on waking up, he asked me whether it was the day to start summer camp. A couple of his friends were enrolled in the camp as well and I thought may be just the excitement of being with them in the park was what will actually see him waving a cheery good bye at me and walking off. But that was not to be! He had a tough time letting me go on Monday morning. Though we reached about 10 minutes early to avoid too much of a rush the first day but he refused to get into the park building and looked overwhelmed looking at so many children and the several staff instructors. In an effort to get him in at least, I told him that he didn't want to be standing outside alone as some stranger might just whisk him away. I would like to know how you all feel about this but somehow I would like my children to actually have that fear of being alone away from me or my husband or from their group. Anyways so in he went holding on to my leg all along. After signing in, getting his name tag and putting his bag away he was asked to join the group of 3-5 year olds, 4-5 of which were present at that time with 2 young girls who were their teachers. On being asked by them whether he would like to come play, he responded with a loud and vehement NO! I was there for about 20 minutes with him telling him that he would have fun with other kids, they would go out in the park later in the day to play, noe of which seemed to change his mind. I also talked to the teachers telling them that I was expecting it to be hard for him the first few days. Gradually the place was filling in with more kids and parents and I spotted a couple more who were having a tough time separating. One of them was a girl, about the same age as Vansh, who was sulking and when her mother went out, she started crying, big tears rolling down her face. One of the teachers picked her up and took her for a drink of water after which I lost track. Another boy, slightly older, may be about 4-1/2 was quietly weeping in his mom's arms but after a few minutes did manage a decent good bye. Another teacher (Heather) who looked more experienced stopped by and started talking to him but he just kept saying NO to whatever she said. I told her about his anxiety and distrust of new people and that I was ready to leave him because I knew he wouldn't take a very long time to quiet down once I was gone. She said that would be good and that it was not uncommon for young children to behave that way as she had been dealing with them for the last 5 years. So she just picked him up kicking and arms flailing furiously and I just stepped out from the building. For about a minute, I could hear shrieks but I saw from the window outside that Heather had taken him outside the other side. I waited another half an hour outside, peeping in at about 10 minutes intervals and the first time, I saw him standing close to where Heather was picking up some papers and stuff, forlorn but not crying and then standing close to the group with her and the last time I saw he was sitting close to her while the others were doing soem craft. She saw me from inside and gave me a thumbs up which is when I decided to leave. When I went back to pick him up after the remaining 2 hours, he was standing there with a paper in his hand and his clothes had been changed. Oh darn! Why did I forget to make him go to the bathroom just before coming, I thought to myself. Even though the last night I had gone through the common phrases in English about wanting to go to the restroom, wanting water, wanting more snack if hungry but he had had a rough time coping up. One of his teachers told me that he had had a rough day, was mostly by himself and had had an accident while they were in the park. Dang yet again! I had written that out in his form that he needed to be reminded when playing outside in the park but hadn't mentioned it verbally to the teacher. So I just hugged him and we left with him telling me "Vansh ko accha nahin laga. Summer camp nahin aayega." I didn't want to make too much of it because it was his first day of his first such experience but I did feel a little bad. After having our lunch and settling down Jiya for a nap, I shared my experinece of my school days with him that how even I didn't like it one bit when I started school when I was as young as him, how I gradually started making friends and getting to know my teachers and knowing that they took care of me when my mom and dad were not there and ultimately how much I started loving it and insisted on going there even when I was down with a fever. Some of it I remembered, some of it cooked up (about not liking it in the first place - I have no idea how I reacted the first few days, shall have to ask my parents) but I could tell he felt a little better. Ashwini had a similar talk with him in the evening.

Tuesday was more or less the same. He was more vocal in expressing "I want not to go to teacher. I want not to go to summer camp. I want to go to papa." His cute little English sentences made me want to laugh, the feelings behind those made me want to cry. "He stayed by himself, didn't want to join in the activities or play with other kids" is what his teacher had to say that day. He hadn't wanted to use the restroom today. (I had also remembered to make him go just before leaving in the morning). Incidentally another friend of mine and her daughter Ashley, whom Vansh has met a few times before have also been going with us to the same camp. Tuesday afternoon saw him flashing a shy smile when she waved good bye to him while getting off the car.

Wednesday morning was worse because even Ashley didn't want to go to summer camp today. I couldn't even convince him to come inside with me. I asked my friend to hold Jiya for me and I picked up Vansh trying to comfort him. Heather came out after a while. And he literally yanked my hair when she took him forcefully from my lap. But I knew no other way would work with him either. At earlier occasions, I have tried talking to him gently, reassuring him but this doesn't work when its actually THE time to do something. The report at pick up time was slightly more encouraging as today after an initial rough phase, he had played in the park and had been spotted talking back and forth with Ashley in Hindi and had been playing with her at the water fountain when I went in. I had an idea that evening that might just do the trick I thought. Off late, Vansh loves to pretend that he is dad and proclaims several times "Vansh papa ban gaya" as he uses his toy keys to open the main door and come in and say "Hellliyo" , Or when he asks Jiya "Gudiya kya kar rahi hai?" or he sits on the sofa and pretends he is driving the car to downtown to his office, all typical Ashwini style. I told him that we are going to pretend that Vansh is papa and he is going to take his bag, give mom and Jiya a hug and kiss and say "Bye! Take care, have a nice day" just as papa does which he did with much enthusiasm and amidst many giggles as he saw mom making such a fuss about it. I told him we shall play the same game tomorrow morning when we drop him off for camp. And that really did the trick.

It was unbelievable when on Thursday, he actually walked in the door with me, took his name tag, put aside his backpack and then said "Bye!" with a happy smile followed by a giggle because he was shy to do the rest. But hey, who's complaining. I told him I was so happy with what he had done and kissed him as I said goodbye. The teachers confirmed he had a wonderful day today, played at the park, shouted in glee while running around. I was happy that he had adjusted so well and was back to being himself and having fun. And now both he and Ashely seem like the best of buddies as they share their snacks on the way back home, shout and wave big bye's at each other and tell us that they played with each other all along!

As we pulled out from the parking lot today, we heard another kid yell out at them from his car "I am going to be there next week too! Are you?" to which both of them yelled out together "Yeah!" and then excited Yay's and claps! I and my friend and the other boy's mom exchanged pleasant and triumphant smiles :)

As for me, I have been trying hard to fit to yet another new schedule as I drive him to summer camp everyday (the next week is going to be good I think as my friend is going to do the pick up/drop off), to his Karate class on three evenings (after exactly one month of going there and fooling around in the waiting area, driving me to the verge of giving up for the time being, he started going in and joining the other kids for the class this very week) and getting up early in the mornings to be ready by the time when we ought to leave. Its been a busy and exhausting week, rushing along, smoothing out those creases, but I am so glad to be happy and content at the end of it just looking at my son grow up some more and take those steps towards independence and forming friendships.


noon said...

Wow congratulations Neera! This is a huge step for both of have gotten through the rough first few days. I am dreading it for KB. I am taking him to mommy and me at the same school that he will start in Sep. Except it is going to be hard - only 6 classes but 2 hrs each and I have to somehow manage kutti girl in the class at the same time...that too her morning nap will get totally's going to be crazy!

PG said...

Neera, Congratulations! I consider this as a big step. I think, I know what you are going through right now. I rememeber, how hard I found it too in the beginning to see every morning a crying child who just would not want to go to his day care, wheatever I woulsd try to tell him. But then all of a sudden things start working. I guess, they need some time to realise that mom is coming back every day to pick him up after a few hours and to get used to the feeling of being without mom, somthing the have never experienced. seeing that, i feel we can only be so proud of them. Good job Vansh!

Preethi said...

Congratulations!!! to both of you.. and loads of hugs!!

ddmom said...

Congrats to mom and son to getting through it.
Any change from normal routine is hard for most kids the first few days, I think maybe because they don't know what to expect. Am glad it worked out.

Neera said...

noon : Oh boy! I find it very hard too if I have to manage both the kids especially when they are cranky because of disturbed naps or some such thing. What time does the class start? Could you wake up KG super early like 6 and then lay her for a half hour snooze at 8 so that she gets at least some rest before goign for the class (I am assuming class starts at 9) I try that with jiya at times.

pg : You have summed it up very nicely. They need concrete assurance that mom comes back and others also care abt us while we r there. Thanks for ur wishes. I too am proud that he coped up pretty fast.

Preethi : Thanks so much :)

ddmom : Thanks for the wishes. I am so glad too that the phase didn't last too long.

dipali said...

Such a huge milestone, Neera. I'm glad you could handle it so well, and that Vansh has settled in so nicely:)

Neera said...

dipali: How much we parents take pride when our kids overcome these hurdles. "Bache khush to hum khush" - oft repeated and so true.