Now, I have a new routine. When I pick up J.J. in the afternoon, I attempt to sneak out of the classroom before any of his teachers can talk to me. I mean, they see me, but the important thing is not letting them pull me aside. So, ideally, they're conversing with a dad about his kid's food allergy. Or trying to find somebody's blanket that needs washing. Or something.
This new routine is due to the fact that J.J. has become quite the tough hombre since he started preschool. Now that he's comfortable in his new school, he's partaking freely in his favorite passtime: roughhousing.
"J.J. knocked over four kids at one time today," his assistant teacher told me the other day.
Another day, she said, "Whenever somebody falls down or even bends down to tie their shoe, J.J. dives on top of them. Like a dogpile."
And, another day, "I've been telling J.J. he needs to be a leader, not a follower. He's been hanging out with some boys who've been acting wild, and he's copying them."
"Oh, don't kid yourself," I wanted to say. "If he was the leader of that pack, things would be a lot worse." But I'm not going to sell out my own kid like that, so instead I said, "Yes, I'll talk to him about that."
J.J.'s assistant teacher is so nice that she always tells me J.J. means no malice; he seems to be playing.
Which is why I told him, "J.J., when you want to play with your friends, say, 'Hi, how are you? Let's play.' Don't piledrive them!"
And: "When someone ties his shoe, that's not your invitation to dive on top of him."
You know, tips and pointers that, for grownups, totally go without saying. But since he's a three-year-old boy who loves to wrestle, I have to say it.
He looks at me and says, "Uh huh. Uh huh. Kay!" But for all I know he's agreeing that jelly beans should, indeed, be our next president. I mean, he seems to have no idea what I'm telling him.
I've tried everything to stop this rough housing. I've even banned wrestling and tackling in our home, which nearly killed me because where else are my sons going to learn the fundamentals of football prior to the fifth grade season?
So far, nothing has worked. Then, this morning, while J.J. put together a puzzle, I saw the assistant teacher pull another parent aside. Of course, I eavesdropped because this father's son is like the quietest, nicest boy ever. So I thought, "Oh, what'd he do, not participate in the classroom discussion?"
But she whispered, "He's been hitting. Not a lot, and he's certainly not the only one. There's about four others..."
So we're not alone...I thought with relief. Even Quiet McShy's been in on the game. It doesn't excuse J.J., but at least it puts things into perspective. He's a boy. Boy's tackle. I'll try and try to teach him that there's a time and a place. But until it clicks, I'll continue to count on other parents to run defense for me, having nice long conversations with the teachers, while I wave and walk J.J. out the door.