“I wasn’t very good when I was in Kindergarten.” Catelyn stated very matter of factly, while blankly staring at the TV, “I got on yellow 18 times.”
Yellow. The color change the teacher used as a warning. Not as bad as red – a trip to the principal’s office. But less than green – status quo.
The fork that was headed for my mouth fell to my plate. I looked at Bobby and I saw his dropped jaw mirrored my own.
“Wait…..what? There’s no way.” I flustered and tried to regain my composure. I found my dropped fork and gathered more food onto it for another bite.
“Yes,” Cate continued. “18 times. I had to keep count.”
“Well, surely someone else got on yellow more times than you,” I offered, crossing my fingers under the dinner table. Don’t all kids have A LOT to learn in Kindergarten? Right? I mean, 20 must be the norm.
“Nope. I was the baddest kid in all of Kindergarten.”
Oh no. Really?
My husband returned to the dinner table and I told him the news. Catelyn got on yellow 18 times in Kindergarten.
“What? Catelyn, I can’t believe you got on yellow that many times.”
Catelyn put her fork down and cocked her head to the side.
“I told you guys every time I got on yellow. It is not my fault that you didn’t keep count.”
Touché, Catelyn. Touché
Through the years I have written down funny conversations I have had with the kids. I read through one of my books and found this conversation we had with Cate when she was 6 and in the first grade.
After I read the words I smiled. She was such a hoot – so matter of fact.
And then I started to think back. Oh – hey wait a second…
Hindsight is 20/20.
Cate was in daycare until she was three. My last yearly review about Cate’s progress started with a deep sigh and a, “Welll…..Catelyn is a real handful. She can be really difficult.”
I began the role of a stay at home mom shortly thereafter and she started preschool. That meeting started the same way. Except that teacher – well her eyes could get bigger. I thought it was her super human trait.
But to me, it was simple.
“They don’t like my Catelyn. Well pooh on them.”
Of course, the years never got easier for her. She continued to have behavior problems. She had many color changes. One of the few students sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior.
Knowing now that Cate is on the autism spectrum, I am left to wonder – Was it always bad behavior?
Was she trying to disobey? Did she know she was being bad? Would she have done better if she were supported earlier instead of considered a behavior problem?
I bet the teachers were just as frustrated as I was when they realized discipline doesn’t work for Cate. That message doesn’t resonate with her. She will hand over her beloved device to me as easily as she would give up playground time, I am sure.
I can’t change the past. I am thankful she is getting help now and I can advocate for her to those that work with her.
The best way to get the best out of Cate? Praise her for all she is doing right. Let her know what you expect of her, and praise her every time she succeeds. She will SHINE when praised.
The color change still means nothing to her. Getting sent to the principal’s office is not effective.
“That is AWESOME Cate! Way to go!”
That’s the ticket!