My middle child has always looked up to his big sister. He has imitated and tried to re-create every single move she makes. Since she started preschool at four he has had his own backpack and lunch box. He regularly pulls out school supplies that he asks me purchase at back-to-school sales so he can be “big” like her. Every year he gets her hand me down workbooks and he does “homework” while she does hers.
This year he started preschool as well. The first week or so he was beyond ecstatic. He could not get into his classroom, toss his stuff in a cubby, and sit in circle time quick enough. Then things started to change. Suddenly he did not want to go to school anymore. I feared what every other parent fears, that perhaps he was being bullied. The thing is, he has a pretty strong personality and I’ve never really worried about how he would fit in with other kids. He has a strong sense of self and is very likable. Everything I’ve noticed about his classroom says that he fits in well to me. But maybe I just can’t see it? Maybe it is because of his personality that he is having problems? I asked him over and over again what was going on and never got a good response.
A little background about his school that you should know at this point: it is a Catholic school. We are not Catholic. The school is down the street from us and has a good reputation. We chose to send him there for a very practical reasons. We wanted him to be close because we were having car trouble at the time and it was possible that I would be able to just walk up there for drop off and pick up if I needed to. Also, he’s got a bit of a wild streak and I thought that a more structured environment might be good for him. We do not attend church regularly in our home. Though we have explained faith to our children we prefer that they come by it honestly and truly. Not that we don’t encourage guidance. That was another factor in sending him there. In this school even has the little ones attend mass on Wednesday mornings before class. It’s not required, but it sort of is.
It was on Wednesdays that I started to notice he got more and more anxious before school. The other days or mild, but Wednesday was full of tears and clinging. He kept saying he didn’t like going to mass, but I thought it was simply because he didn’t want to sit still. One day, I decided to attend with him in hopes of easing the transition that morning. I sat in the back and watched as he sat there staring at one spot hardly moving at all. He wasn’t fidgety. He was still, quiet, and maybe a little bit… afraid?
That’s when I saw it. That’s what all of the pieces of the puzzle suddenly made sense. It was Jesus. He had a statue of “Buddy Christ” from the movie Dogma that he carried around for years as a toy. He would say this is my buddy, Jesus! He was familiar with him in the basics of religion, so it never dawned on me that the giant crucified statue of Jesus hanging from the ceiling in the cathedral would be the issue. But sure enough, he could not stop staring at it.
Later that day I had a quiet moment to ask him about it. He asked me why there was a man hanging from the ceiling at church. I told him that it was a statue of Jesus hanging on the cross the day he was crucified. He looked shocked and horrified.
“That was Jesus?!”
“Why was he naked?”
“He wasn’t naked. What do you mean?”
“Well he wasn’t naked-naked, but he was wearing a diaper.”
“Oh! He wasn’t wearing a diaper, it was a piece of cloth to cover him up while he was being crucified.”
He asked me what crucified meant. I told him that they nailed his hands and his feet to the cross and he hung there until he died.
Crap. “Yes baby, he did. But three days later he rose from the dead.”
He sat there a minute. Then he said, “Why would they have a statue of Jesus dead wearing a diaper right before he became a zombie?”. At that point I realize that I was not going to win any part of this.
He’s stopped being afraid of going to school. Now every Wednesday we sit outside while everyone is inside the church at mass. He sits and asked me questions and I do my best to answer them. We don’t go back inside anymore. Occasionally he goes in to bring a non-perishable food item for the food pantry. Then he comes right back out to sit with me.
Totally winning at parenting, right?!