Mortified at Preschool
You know kids always start their stories with the ending, and then through much questioning you get to the beginning? It’s kind of like in Jimmy’s Boa at the Wash. Wouldn’t it be so much simpler to parent them if they could start at the beginning and tell you what happened?
Yesterday I picked Buddy up from school. He hasn’t been sleeping well and is experiencing some major big feelings these days, so when he walked straight to the car instead of playing with his friends I didn’t think much of it. He sat down in his new “big boy seat” (=high-back booster), so far so good. Once I’d sat down in my seat I checked, “you buckled Buddy?” “No, can you help me?” Now one of the stipulations of him riding in the booster in the way back of our minivan is that he buckle himself, or if he needs help he can ask me while I’m still up buckling Sweetpea. After reminding him of this, we both proceeded to sit and wait. And wait. And wait… I was listening to NPR, thankful that it was kid-appropriate, and grateful to have something to help me wait this out.
Twenty minutes later there had been no progress. None. He started losing it and the thought flashed through my mind “I wonder what happened at school? This is unusual.” I told him I’d help him but then we’d install his old seat back into the car. And with that, I had myself a screaming, crying, wailing 5 year old in the car. I buckled him. When he’s like that not much can bring him back.
Once we arrived home, I noticed his socks smelled. And his pants were wet… “oh Buddy, did your pants get wet?” (=pee in your pants?). Still crying and so upset, so I undressed him and hosed him down in the shower. I tried getting him some clothes on but we got stuck picking out underwear. So he and I sat. Him crying, me holding. There were a lot of tears in there, and we talked about how sometimes our bodies just hold the tears in and when they come out they just keep coming and coming. I said the words to I Love You Through and Through and after about 20 minutes he started to calm down. There was just so much… angst in him. And while the tears had stopped coming, he was still fragile and on edge, wanting to do anything but engage with me. So Word World it was.
I finally got the story a couple of hours later. He’d peed at school. On the rug. During circle time. I picture him sitting there, wiggling in his spot, hating the thought of going to the bathroom at school, not sure if he can interrupt his teacher to tell her he has to go. I see him getting up, desperately hoping nobody will notice, avoiding the other kids as everyone lines up at the door. Until Ms. S. asks “why’s your shirt wet?” I know the avoidant stare he must have given her. And I know the mortified, crushed look a minute later when he overheard the assistant teacher say “how did the floor get wet over there?” and both teachers notice the dark spot on his pants.
The rest of the day was one big fallout of this experience. It ended in me gently restraining him, saying “you’re safe here, we’ll keep you safe, I won’t let you get hurt” over and over, as he raged and raged, until a very tired boy finally fell asleep.
Now is this normal in a five year old? Or is this the result of cruel potty-training techniques with a previous family? Or other trauma?