Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Adjustment Period

Allie's adjustment to preschool continues to be slower than I had expected. She seems to like it, but when I ask her who she has played with, she answers, "Nobody. I just played by myself."

She still pins her feet to the floor right outside the classroom each day, turning her body rigid. She clings to me once we cross the threshold. She reluctantly hangs her backpack up. She'll take the teacher's hand as the teacher guides her to an activity, and at that point I cross my fingers and leave the room. The other day, I looked in the window after leaving. There was Allie, standing on the edge of group of kids, not joining in, looking at the floor.

My heart broke, a little.

Her teacher asked me today how Allie liked school. I'm not sure if Allie seems unhappy during school itself, or if the teacher was trying to elicit what Allie had told me about her playing independently most of the time. The teacher said she knows that some girls have bonded right away, and seem to have formed little unbreakable duos. But other children are free radicals, so to speak -- friendly and open to making a buddy. The teacher is going to encourage Allie to play with one of those kids.

This conversation was rushed because I had to get back to Sean's school for a writing workshop.

(Picking up this post later in the day...)

We discussed this at greater length after I picked Allie up today. The teacher smoothed the way by telling me the good stuff first: Allie is well behaved, does well one-on-one with the teacher and aide, is cooperative and a good listener (MY child? Really? But whatever. Not the point right now.)

Then came the anvils. Allie really does seem to keep to herself, and she appears to be sad at school sometimes. Even when the teacher tried involving her with the other kids today, Allie pulled back. The teacher also mentioned that some of the girls are really cliquey (an unpleasant elaboration on the "bond" she mentioned earlier today). Seriously, in preschool? I never saw this with Sean and the boys in his preschool class, and I guess I thought that this "mean girl" nonsense wouldn't start till kindergarten.

When we got home I asked Allie about some of the other girls in her class.

"Are there any girls you want to play with but feel a little shy about approaching?"


"What happens when you try to play with them?"

"They walk away from me."

My heart broke, a lot this time.

It was all I could do to keep my own tears at bay. According to Allie, all the kids, boys and girls, walk away from her.

I wonder if that's completely accurate -- I have seen her playing with the children on the playground at school, and she has told me about some girls she's played with. What I can envision, though, is this: Allie might have been rebuffed, or excluded, by a group of girls, and decided that she wasn't going to try again. In addition to being a bit shy and reserved, she also possesses a steely will and strong stubborn streak.

I'm not sure what to do now. I don't know any of the other parents in the class; because I am always late dropping Allie off and picking her up, I don't get to mingle in the hallway with everyone else right before the class is dismissed. I might try finagling our schedule so that I can do that at least once a week. Perhaps that way I could get comfortable enough with a parent to arrange a playdate. Another tactic I was considering is organizing an informal class playdate at a park. That might give me a chance to get to know some of the other parents better and a chance to see Allie interact with the other kids.

Mostly, I want to fold her into my arms and tell her that everything will be okay, just by my saying so.

Has anyone else experienced a similar situation? Suggestions and advice are most welcome!