I’m still of a split mind about B going to school. On the one hand, I think the socialization he’s getting is positive, and I know he’s learning German in a way that’s more accessible to him than it will ever be again in his life. On the other hand, he wants to be at home, and I want him to be here.
I know that he can’t appreciate right now the opportunity he’s getting to learn a new language. He’s not only learning the words in a near-immersion environment, but he’s hearing the pronunciation of native speakers, and his brain is getting valuable experience cross-training with language, all at the most opportune time in his life, developmentally, to be learning language. (He’ll thank me later . . . or not, but I know it’ll serve him well, even if he can’t remember a word of German when he grows up.) His pronunciation is already indistinguishable (to me) from that of a native speaker in the words that he knows.
My hope is that he’ll also gain valuable life experience interacting with the other kids. He’s getting lots of practice sharing — he gets to do that with Liam, too, but the lessons are different when you’re not always the one who is bigger, stronger and more sophisticated at negotiation. He’s learning about being in a group: listening when the teacher is talking; participating in activities — or choosing not to, but not being able to be disruptive; taking turns. He’s learning about boundaries — not everyone always wants to do things his way. He’s learning to make friends. He’s also dealing with the fact that the teachers have different expectations than we do — while we were content to continue to dress him, they make him do his shoes himself, and now we’re amazed at what he is capable of. All of these things have the potential to cause frustration, and watching him be frustrated makes me want to ride in to his rescue and tell him he doesn’t have to go to school anymore. But the challenges he’s facing are reasonable and real. It’s much better to learn about these things when you’re 3 than to be protected from them and forced to face them when you’re older and the consequences are greater.
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. I know he still misses us, and I miss him, too.
There are still days that he says (sometimes tearfully, although that’s pretty rare) that he doesn’t want to go to school. He says he wants to stay home with me and Liam. I understand — it is pretty nice here. But mostly, I think (I hope) he says these things out of habit. When he was out of school for 2 weeks over Christmas, he talked about going back a lot (in an excited way) and told us about the things he was going to do when school started again. When I ask him now, what he thinks about school, he usually says it’s “pretty great”. I’ve asked him, a few times, if he stopped going to school, would he miss it — he always says he would. When Dan drops him off in the morning, and the other kids see that he has arrived, they often run up shouting, “Ben ist da! Ben ist da! (Ben is here!)”. He’s still a little shy when he goes off to class, but it’s nice to know that his friends are glad he’s there. I hope he’s at least a little glad he’s there, too.