Little Boo has been having some issues at school lately. Yelling, grabbing, not sharing, knocking over other kids' creations, generally not listening and not being a nice friend. I've written about his behavioural issues before, and we've been working on them. He's been doing a lot better, so this has been a bit of a surprise, and we've been working with his teachers to try to get to the bottom of it.
So many things can set a child off his stride, and we've experienced many in the last month. We disrupted his routine with a vacation, wonderful as it was. We all got sick, which caused stress and time off school. And. most importantly, we lost our precious cat, Jezebel.
It turns out that he was more affected by her death than I had realised. He hasn't wanted to talk about it. He teared up a couple of times around the event, but he hadn't really cried. She wasn't a cuddly cat, and she didn't play with him. So I thought he was ok.
I was wrong.
It has taken a month, but we have gotten him to a place where he was finally ready to talk. His daycare teacher and I have been trying to broach the subject, wondering if the loss was at the root of his recent behaviours. Tuesday night I asked him if he missed her and he said yes. I talked about how crying can help to release bad feelings bottled up inside. I made a point of saying it was not only ok to cry, but good to cry, and I reminded him I had cried too, and it made me feel better.
On Wednesday he got into trouble again for acting out. And then he chose to talk to his teacher. He finally started to cry, though still not full-on sobbing. She asked him if he wanted to write a letter to Jezebel, to tell her how he felt. He agreed, and he dictated a letter to her that broke my heart. I've decided not to post his full letter because it is very personal. But I will share two things we learned from it.
One, he told her he is sorry he didn't have a chance to say good-bye. But here's the thing - he did say good-bye. All of my boys did. But none of them came to the vet with me for the final good-bye. I guess he is too young to really understand his good-bye was going to be the last. I don't think bringing him would have been the right thing to do. But maybe we could have done more to prepare him or help him understand.
And two, he tried to explain to her that when he chased her, he really only wanted to pet her and be friends. But she would run away. This is the part that really destroyed me. He seems to be feeling guilty. He wanted her to know he loved her, and I am sure he wanted her to love him. But he didn't know how to do that. The relationship of a little boy and his pets is very complicated. I had no idea this was an issue for him since her death. But it's been haunting him that he might have hurt or scared her.
We talked about his letter in our nightly bedtime chat. I reassured him that she is watching, and she knows he loves her. Just to be sure she gets his letter we are going to send it up to her by burning it in our first fire of the season.
Since Wednesday, Little Boo's behaviour has improved greatly. Writing the letter seems to have been the turning point. Working out his feelings in that way has definitely helped. I certainly get that, being as I use writing (sometimes just for me) to work through things. But I didn't think of it for him. Maybe I'm still too close to my own sadness to be a good support for him. This has been a big learning experience for us all.