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04/06/2011

The bus

I've been perseverating on this for what feels like a week now but has only been two days, wearing away at it like the metal-gnawing rodents we discussed at breakfast this morning.  (Rodents came after monkeys; monkeys came after horses.  "I like to eat horses," Ben cheerfully said.  Hush and finish your Wilbur.)

I've told everyone I normally talk to, and when I ran out of people I unloaded on the cat.  (He eyed the flecks of spittle in the corners of my mouth, judged my mood to a nicety, and backed away slowly from my crazy-eyed self.)  Having talked all my friends into catatonia, I still need to say it some more.  It's all I can think about so I'll post it here: Charlie's been banned from the school bus.

About three weeks ago, we were called to pick him up from school.  He'd had some classroom outbursts and hit a couple of other kids.  (Oh, the sinking in my stomach as I type that — not only that he did it, but at what it means to say on the Internet, Sometimes my kid hits.)  As a bonus, apparently there'd been an issue with a kid on the bus.

So we picked him up, brought him home, and attempted to talk it all out.  The classroom behavior was of much greater concern, particularly since he was in agreement that things had gone badly there.  The bus incident, on the other hand, seemed to be a question of roughhousing gone too far.  "M. and I like to sit together and punch ourselves" — not each other — "and pretend to knock ourselves out."  M., it seems, amid this play had hit her head on the window pretty hard.

With larger matters to worry about — oh, God, sometimes my kid hits — we resolved the bus situation, we thought, by warning Charlie that he needed to avoid the appearance of violence as well as the violence itself, that that kind of play was likely to lead to trouble, and that he shouldn't sit with M. anymore. 

This Monday, a few weeks later now, Paul took a call from the principal.  Something had happened on the bus.  M.'s mother had gone to the school, incensed.  The upshot was that Charlie was not to ride the bus anymore "until we work out a solution."

On hearing this after school hours, I had a million questions: Did something new happen that we didn't know about?  What?  Why was this the first solution the school proposed?  Did it occur to the school to simply separate the kids, have them sit in different seats?  Did no one ask Charlie his side of the story?

Sort of seems like not.

Without telling Charlie what was up, I asked him casually about the bus.  He seemed entirely unaware that anything alarming might have happened; his only perception that something was out of the ordinary was that when he tried to sit with M. on Monday morning, she told him, "My mom will get mad if I sit with you."  As far as he understands it, M. is his friend and they like to goof around together.

For a variety of reasons I believe him, that he didn't do anything mean-spirited or out of anger.  He is always perfectly willing to cop to it when that's been the case, "I didn't mean to" being his version of an iron-clad defense, like, whoa, there, Clarence Darrow, your legal kung fu confounds me.  I acknowledge Charlie's difficulties in that area, but I think this is a different matter entirely: this is pretty much the definition of everything being all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

(Oh, God, y'all, no: she still has both of her eyes.)

Now, one thing I need you to know about the principal is that at our last meeting, I really felt he heard our concern that Charlie's enthusiasm for school is fast diminishing.  He instructed the team — the classroom teacher, the counselor, the support specialist, the occupational therapist — to do what they could to set him up for success, to make school fun for him.  He didn't come right out and say, "Go easy on him," but he might as well have, as that was the implication.  He did say, "Let's make it our project to keep that light shining."

So the most urgent question I had for the principal was whether it had occurred to anyone to attempt a resolution that didn't summarily take away one of the very few things my kid enjoys about his school experience.

I left a message for the principal at 8:30 yesterday morning.  I left another at 1:30.  And when I went to pick Charlie up yesterday afternoon, I found him on the steps of the school, presiding over pickup.  "I'll call you," he said.

And…nothing.

So this is me, perseverating.  I cannot let this go.  I'm anxious and furious and, on and off, kind of teary. I'm a little twitchy right now, truth be told, keyed up and angry and all too ready to say things I'll surely regret.  (As mad as I am that no one has called, I wouldn't want to talk to me, either.  I appreciate that the school's first priority is to guarantee the safety of students.  But having acknowledged that, I'm still feeling pretty snarly.)

It's only a bus, I tell myself.  (The cat agrees from his hiding place, wishing I'd stop hyperventilating. It's harshing his nut-licking mellow.)  But it's also something more.  It's the suggestion that my kid may be seen as a problem to be solved instead of a child to be understood and met where he is right now. It's the worry that, huh, maybe the school isn't going to go to bat for him when he needs it. And it's the dawning awareness that there may be lots of battles just like this one, simultaneously small and big, to be fought and, God help me, won.

...

Awkward to tack this on, I know, but I wanted to let you know that among about 60 donors, you gave $2130 for relief efforts in Japan.  That's…a lot of money, y'all.  The winner of the quilt is Susan, from comment number 33. Susan, it's on its way.

It feels weird to thank you, because I know you didn't do it for me — you do so much for me already, just by being here — but I do want to let you know how grateful I am to you for being part of something big with me.  Thank you.

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