My son started kindergarten a few months ago. With the start of school came a strange new habit. He refuses to talk to grownups at school. Now, Gabe isn’t shy. When he was one, he made friends with parents at his big sister’s preschool, waving and calling “Hi!” down the hallway like a movie star in a fourth of July parade. At home, he is verbal and emotionally aware. He fills me in on every detail of his day. He sings. He is a chatterbox with his friends’ parents.
Then kindergarten began and he won’t speak a word to any adult at school. When a grownup asks him a question, he freezes and his eyes glaze over. It’s disturbing bordering on frightening. And worse, nothing helps him snap out of it, not a joke, a hug, nothing.
He spent one recess period in the principal’s office, coloring, because he wouldn’t tell the recess helper where he left his sweatshirt. He had an accident a few weeks ago, his first since he was two, because he wouldn’t ask to use the bathroom. When he spilled his juice at snack time, he took his teacher by the hand and led her over to his desk to show her. Great, he’s adapting.
I won’t lie, I am concerned. I want Gabe to be respectful of adults. I don’t want him to turn into the weird kid at school. But his teacher asked me to stay positive, to make a big deal about his good behavior and not say too much about his silence. So I’m trying to stay calm. I’m no helicopter. And I like that he’s picking up new ways to communicate. I feel a little guilty about never teaching him sign language as a baby. Man, I am such a slacker.
It’s all cool. I want him to learn to how to function in the world on his own. I know it’s not easy out there. He’s making up his own rules. And at least if he refuses to speak to adults, he’ll never end up on some therapist’s couch, complaining about how his mom never forced him to use his words.