This is a name I will NEVER forget. Carter is a 4 yr old little boy that I have had the privilege of spending my days with.
He is beautiful, sweet, SUPER INTELLIGENT, and happy.
He is also complicated, irritating, frustrating, and humbling.
Last week I had to tell his parents that I think he shows signs of a social delay and that they should have him evaluated. Last week was perhaps one of the hardest weeks ever. I agonized over the situation. I cried and worried they would be angry with me. I wondered if I would loose them as customers. I was sick from the whole thing. Do you see a pattern there? There are a lot I's in that passage.
Why was I so concerned about myself? (because everything is about me, doncha know??)
I knew there was something off about Carter when I first met him a year and a half ago. He has strange speech patterns and seemed to imitate other people's tone and inflection. More often than not, he just repeated what you said. He has very little conversation skills and does not play well with others. WHY don't his parents see this?? I would complain to my family and friends. There is OBVIOUSLY a problem. Surely they realize?? Right? I mean, they are TEACHERS!! they see this all the time, don't they?
Maybe he is just immature, I thought. So, I gave him time to adjust to me as his new sitter, then I gave him more time because his mommy had a baby...and that can screw up even the most normal of kids. Since his parents are teachers, I didn't see him at all last summer. When he came back...I rationalized that he just needed time to get reacquainted with the group again. When that didn't work, I thought that maybe he just needs a little extra attention from me. I came up with every excuse I could for him.
I complained that he just didn't get it. I told his parents that he won't play with others....I told them that he refuses to color, instead just lining the crayons up in row on the table. I complained about his preoccupation with light switches, then cars, then trains. I assumed that would be enough to get them thinking about his social skills. But it didn't. They thought the little quirky things he says are funny. (and they are a lot of the time) They thought that the fact that he has a photographic memory is cool but normal. They thought that because he taught himself to read and operates a computer better than most grade school kids, he just won't need preschool. Why didn't they see that he is an exceptional child??? I felt like beating my head against the wall....
I grew weary of the SAME fights everyday. Constantly switching the lights on and off, constantly throwing food on the floor, constantly hitting the dogs, constantly putting his head on people, constantly spinning in circles. I gave up and finally just started keeping him separate from the other kids. It was the easiest way to save my sanity.
However, last week...I had enough. Carter spent three whole days acting out, he had numerous time outs and I often had to keep him separate so that the other kids could play in peace. By Thursday, my nerves were shot, his nerves were shot. He cried more than he laughed. On that day, when the other kids were watching a movie....Carter had to be separated from them as usual. After about 30 times of me reminding him that the other kids don't want him to lay on them or hit them or sing nonsense words really loud...I put him the other room...kicking and screaming.
"WHY I SO BAD I CAN'T WATCH DA MOVIE, MS. TRISTA!!!" He cried. "I WANNA BE GOOD. I AM A BIG BOY. I FOUR YEARS OLD!" He screamed as I sat on the couch next to him. I tried to hold him, rock him..ANYTHING to get him to calm down. I just looked at him and burst into tears. That did the trick.
"why you cry, ms. Trista"
"because I love you so much, Carter"
I was crushed. Crushed because he doesn't understand no matter how much I try to explain it. Crushed because he was so sad and I was the cause of it. Crushed because I knew that I couldn't love him enough to make this go away. and Crushed because I knew I'd really have to have a heart to heart with his parents. And it would be hard. HARD. Perhaps the hardest thing I ever would have to do as a childcare provider....
I had to face facts that up until last week, I had been doing what was best for me, not Carter. Making excuses for him wasn't doing any good. Ignoring his autistic-like tendencies was hurting him. Hoping that he will just grow out of it was probably not the best course of action. So, I told his parents that he needs to be evaluated. It was hard, uncomfortable and made his dad upset. I could see it in their face that they knew...knew that this was a possibility and, like me, had been hoping that he would outgrow his quirkiness. Like me, they hoped that they could love him enough to make it go away. Like me, they had been doing what was best for them...not Carter. It is easier to ignore the problems, easier to assume there is nothing wrong than face that fact that you might have a less than perfect child. Denial is a much more comfortable place to live than reality.
Like me, they failed Carter.
They weren't angry at all. Nor do they plan on yanking their children out of my care. But they were crushed and rightly so. They have already started investigating what can be done for Carter..right now the plan is to put him in a summer preschool with "REAL" teachers....ones who are trained to see if there are issues that need to be addressed and know how to address them. Hopefully, they will see what I see...and know how to help him improve socially. Hopefully, a classroom setting is all he needs to catch up. OR if he does need more help, hopefully they will be honest with his parents and suggest it.
Hopefully......Carter will forgive me for thinking about myself instead taking care of him...