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first report card

With the end of the year rapidly approaching and FSI gearing up for its holiday break, S went to her first parent/teacher conference at Munchkin’s daycare last week.

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Munchkin has largely kicked his daycare doldrums, though he still gets a little upset when S drops him off. He no longer breaks out into tears when she sets him down, but he still whimpers when she turns to leave and calls out, “Mama, mama” in the most pathetic voice he can muster to try to convince her to stay. His teacher says he stops whining almost as soon as she is out the door. The one time D dropped him off last week, Munchkin seemed completely unfazed to be left at daycare, which pretty much mirrors his behavior at home. He is a completely different child when S is around, and even when he is in a good mood and occupied with something, he frequently starts whimpering if she steps out of sight.

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Kids behave differently around their parents than when they are under the care of another adult, and in some respects it was difficult to recognize our son in the teacher’s description. “He loves vegetables! He eats all the salad we can give him. In fact, we have a problem because as soon as he sees us start preparing lunch he wants to come over and eat it before it’s ready.” Really?! It’s hard to square that mental image with the child we know, who seems only interested in eating fruit and snacks, and whom we sometimes have to chase around the house at mealtime because he refuses to be fed.

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In other respects, however, the description matched him to a tee. “He likes art and painting, but above all else he wants to play with trucks, buses, and cars. We’re working on getting him to participate in circle time, but he just wanders off to play by himself.” Yup, that’s our son — fiercely independent and really keen on vehicles. Munchkin is the youngest in his class and it shows; 7-8 months is a huge age difference when many of the kids in his class are two-and-a-half while he is still several months shy of his second birthday. So whereas the other kids at daycare seem genuinely interested in him, Munchkin just wants to do his own thing. The teacher said he sometimes lets some of the older girls hold his hand and lead him around, but not always.

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She also wondered if Munchkin’s inability to follow directions owed to a lack of English, but that strikes us a dubious hypothesis. For one, S has always spoken to him in English, and he seems to understand it perfectly fine. Also, he has no difficulty communicating what he wants when he wants it, and even has a few signs [more, all done] S had taught him for good measure. The issue is not comprehension, but rather volition. Though it sometimes drives us nuts as well, we see nothing wrong with Munchkin being strong-willed.

To be fair, he certainly has an easier time communicating with us than with others. For one, we are attuned to the mix of truncated Russian and fuzzy English that comprises his vocabulary. Also, there is such a large gulf between the way he pronounces many of his words and their correct pronunciation that even a bilingual Russian/English speaker would have difficulty identifying his words.

Now that he has spent a month or so at daycare, however, we are finding ourselves on the other side of the fence. He has picked up several new words that we have yet to puzzle out, partly because we don’t know which language they are in. Munchkin’s teacher uses some Spanish vocabulary with the class, so it is entirely possible that some of his new words are an attempt at Spanish. One we know is for sure — “boosi, boosi” he says when giving us kisses, a corruption of the Spanish beso.

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