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November 28, 2003 - Friday
Harry failed a test today. It wasn't a test he knew he was taking and maybe he should have. But, it was a test that I didn't expect he'd fail and that made it rather disconcerting, if not humbling.

Harry's best friend, Robert, doesn't come to Preschool on Fridays and, while it may be my imagination, I always think that Harry is a little less sanguine on those days. So, even though Harry will be moving up to Pre-K in January without Robert, or perhaps especially because of that, I've talked with Mary, Jeremy's baby-sitter, about Harry going there on Fridays for a quieter day with his brother. It's no big important strategy, I suppose. The idea started quite casually and there would be no real effect on our time with the kids or money for children, but Jeremy seems very happy with Mary and of all the many nieces, nephews, and friends' children that seem to have spent time with Mary, I don't know of any that aren't happy, gracious, and well-adjusted. Harry learns a lot at school, but it is just not that kind of relaxed environment. With only Jeremy there on Fridays, Mary thought it would be fine and that the two would probably have fun playing together. I'd asked Harry a few times and he's said he likes the idea, too. He's been there before and knows Mary and Mary knows him, so it seemed all but decided. But, shouldn't we try it first? Especially since the school needs 30 days notice to switch or switch back. Mary agreed that the to boys could come over today.

The boys didn't nap today, but that was predictable. We went through having two boys in the same bedroom for a nap for a week this summer at the beach cottage and I'd warned Mary. But, that wasn't the real problem. When I went to get the boys there was this uncharacteristic hustle to get Harry's shoes on and get him ready to leave by an aunt that doesn't usually pay so much attention to the kids there. Then, Mary somehow used the word "awful" in a sentence referencing Harry's behavior and I got this surreal feeling that our boy, who I've always felt to be relatively well-behaved, was somehow a bad seed. Mary said Harry had been grabbing things away from Jeremy all day and that he had been very loud. Ultimately, she did not think his coming there was going to work on a regular basis.

Is Harry a bad kid? Have we not taught him the right things? He's not "awful" at home. What are they teaching him at preschool? Distressed and disappointed both that the Friday plan had fallen apart and that Harry was less than a perfect boy today, I was pretty quiet and short with him when we got into the car and during a short trip to the pharmacy, grocery, and video store. I'd told Harry just once, but in no uncertain terms, that I was very disappointed that he hadn't play nicely at Mary's house. He did not run around as usually in the stores and seemed to understand that he shouldn't try.

But, can Harry really understand about this type of situation? "I'm very disappointed you didn't play nicely at Mary's house." OK, I guess that means something to him, but can his mind really go back and analyze his own behavior through the course of the day and can he possibly think to himself, 'I should have done this better' or 'I shouldn't have grabbed that truck'? Thinking I needed more specifics in order to talk to Harry about the day, I called Mary in the evening to get a better sense of what Harry's failing were. Thankfully, "awful" didn't come up again.

My best understanding of the situation was that Harry was unguarded in his enthusiasm. In a lot of ways, I think, he was probably being a typical 4-year-old and, because of his comfort with his brother and Mary (he sees her every day when we pick up Jeremy), let his excitement carry the day. Being a guest in someone else's house and needing to be well-behaved was not on his mind. I think, too, that Mary, used to quieter kids or at quieter situations, was probably caught off guard by a preschool-attending 4-year-old boy running around so freely, exerting his will on the house. More to the point, Mary's methods are very effective, but more subtle than those of a preschool teacher with a dozen kids to keep in line. Harry, a year older and a year faster than the last time he spent a day there, apparently didn't respond well to Mary's gentler suggestions.

It's disappointing because I think Harry understood that going to Mary's would start happening regularly in a few weeks. I don't think I'll tell him it won't. That would be too much negativity and self-guilt. It's disappointing that Harry is not a perfect child. It's disappointing that we're not perfect parents. It's disappointing that Harry won't have a day away from a preschool environment that he probably needs but one that begets more rowdy behavior than to discourages. It's disappointing, mostly, because I think Harry really does "get it" as much as a four-year-old can and generally tries hard to be good. Maybe if I had reminded him to be on his best behavior he would have tried more. Instead, it was just a day of new things to play with and a relatively new place to run around.

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