Friday, July 6, 2012

reading the kid

This is a post I wrote in the beginning of June, right as school was ending. I don't know why it didn't get posted, as it was supposed to appear before the last one. Well, here it is.

June 9, 2012

The thing we worry most about with Frances is that she's pretty controlling. When she plays with Clark or has friends over she announces what the play is going to be and assigns the roles. She's pretty good at it, and the kids mostly go along with it - interestingly. The problem is that when other folks don't want to play the same thing, she gets manipulative. Her teacher talked with us about this at the mid-year conference and we tried to figure out what was going on underneath that made her feel the need to control, but it was beyond me. 

Then, yesterday, after her not being nice to Clark all week, I had a little breakthrough.

The end of school is an emotional time for everyone. Clark's last day was last Friday, and I cried when I gave the director her little sea salt chocolates present, as we've been there three years now (one for Frances and two for Clark) and we're moving on. Clark has been sad, telling me outright that he wants to stay at his current school rather than move to the Waldorf school where Frances has gone for the last two years. There's a post about that to come.

Yesterday was Frances' last day of school. She has been a little off all week, mostly being unkind to Clark. Also, Mitch is out of town at a conference, which was unfortunate timing. Yesterday morning when we hung up from a phone call with him, Frances clawed at Clark because he was the one who got to push the button to turn the tv off. I sat down beside her and said, "I'm thinking you might be feeling a little anxious because school is ending." She immediately teared up. I talked on for a while about how it's okay to be both excited about her school next year (which she is) and also sad to leave this one, and how it's confusing to have different feelings at the same time, etc, etc, and she just sat there listening to me, tears running down her face. Then I said something about how the reason we feel sad when something ends is because we love it and don't want to let it go, and she really started crying then. Poor girl. Afterwards she seemed much calmer and the trek to school was fine. 

I talked with her teacher that afternoon at the school picnic. Her teacher told me that for the past week or two Frances has been playing school during free play time, being the teacher and taking care of the students. She has been (of course) organizing the play, but it's been good, not at all manipulative. But then today during free play time, Frances wanted to be the baby, wanted to have the other girls take care of her. 

So it occurs to me that all this controlling is really her trying to control her own emotions. It's a transfer for some emotion she's trying to suppress. And it shouldn't surprise me - one of my biggest limitations is knowing what I'm feeling when I'm feeling it. She's an awful lot like me, and suppression could be her most logical approach. I hope I can find a way to help her with this. I forget to scan the playing field, forget that it's helpful if I have my eyes open for the trauma coming. I just forget. I'll forget again, but perhaps I can recognize it as it appears. And each time, I suppose, I'll get better at heading it off, at teaching her how to head it off for herself. Onward we go. 

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