Read Part One here
So there we were - Ben was starting school. For a September baby, who wasn’t really even potty trained before he started, he was amazing. For three hours a day, five days a week, he played, did art projects and sang songs. He was charming, smart and capable. We loved his preschool teachers, and he found friends among the kids in his class.
Things were going well.
Around mid-year, we took Ben to an orthopedist, because we had noticed that he was still falling down. A lot. Whenever the kid would run, his knees would go all over the place, and before long he would trip on his own feet and tumble over. “I’M OK!!” was a common refrain. But, according to the doctor, he was a little double jointed, and either he would grow out of it, or he’d be good at gymnastics or track and field in the future.
During all of this, my mother-in-law (a trained pediatric occupational therapist) was taking her own notes and letting us know what was going on. She noticed that he sat with his legs in a “W” rather than the more common “criss-cross applesauce.” But he remained cheerful, happy-go-lucky BenBen and life was good.
Finally, prekindergarten started. He had just turned four, and the school year started well. He had a nice class, was making friends. He started in a half-day program, and did reasonably well. His teachers said that he was bright and friendly, but I noticed little things. By and by, I saw that other kids were starting to write their names, or draw more detailed pictures. Nothing fancy, but I noticed things. Half-way through the year, the school launched a pilot program, and extended the PreK day to five hours.
Slowly things started to change. It was much harder to get Ben to go to school, and several times, the teachers came to me at pickup time, telling me that he hadn’t been paying attention for some part of the lesson. Still, nothing was outside the expectations of what a “normal” kid would be capable of at that age, or if there were problems they could be chalked up to his being relatively young for his class. (In New York City, the age cutoff for school ages is December 31.)
At home, things were changing as well. While Ben would be as well-behaved as any four year-old could manage while out in the world, he was starting to have other problems at home. He had tantrums, throwing himself to the floor and screaming when things did not go his way. He would threaten to hit. Sometimes he *would* hit, in fact. He was getting pickier about food, about clothing, only wanting to eat carbs or wear certain styles of shirt. He once complained to me that the sheets on his bed were “too bright.”
My mother-in-law was helpful, and suggested that we take him to a developmental pediatrician. In retrospect, I should have done it. I wonder now how much would have changed for Ben and how much sooner, if we had taken her advice at face value.
But, at the end of the year, Ben had done well, and was ready for kindergarten.