December 17th, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Today was the last day of school before the holiday break. It also happened to be my son’s last day at the school he’s gone to for the past year and a half. In anticipation of today, I had this idea that walking into the school for the last time to collect my child would provide some cathartic relief…that I’d feel this tremendous weight lifted from my shoulders knowing I’d never have see the fake smiles of one particular unhelpful administrator or my son’s first grade teacher ever again, and that my son would no longer have to spend the greater part of his day getting the message from his teachers and peers that he is different…a problem…disruptive…bad.
My son? He feels relief. He is visibly lighter…has been ever since we told him the news this past weekend that he wouldn’t be returning to his school come January. Sure…he is sad to say goodbye to some friends, especially the one delightful little boy my son bonded with this fall. He also noted his disappointment with the realization that his new school doesn’t have a computer lab, nor do they throw an annual festival featuring bouncy houses and carnival games. But beyond that? He’s good to go. In fact, he’s better than good. He’s practically euphoric at the thought of not having to deal with a teacher who was, in his words, “so judgmental.” So that’s him.
Me? I’ve had a harder go of it. One of my dear friends who has been supporting me and our family throughout this whole ordeal can’t imagine why I would feel sad about leaving the school. “Fuck them!” she said. “There’s nothing to be sad about. You should feel great about it because you’re taking care of your son!”
And I hear her. But still, this week has been tough. And I’m not exactly sure why. I do have some theories though, so here goes. For starters, I think I’m still hurt. I’m hurt about the way our family was treated and essentially bullied out of the school. People weren’t honest with us. People weren’t respectful to us. People didn’t treat us in a decent, compassionate way. And I just don’t get that. Of course, as thought leader Byron Katie says so eloquently, “When you argue against reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.” Clearly, me thinking the school should have treated us better is one big old case of arguing against reality. I suppose that means it’s time to let it go.
Another reason I think I’m struggling is a little more convoluted, but I’ll do the best I can to explain it. I think that in some way, knowing my son had been accepted into and was attending what is known to be one of the best private schools around meant something to me. It wasn’t a status thing…I could care less about that. But, to me, the fact that he attended this school somehow put my son’s “behavior,” or rather, his quirks and oddities and often unusual way of being, into context. So when other people would find his habit of blurting things out, flying into a rage at the slightest inconvenience, and being oblivious of other people’s personal space inappropriate or, worse, jump to the conclusion that his behavior was a reflection of my bad mothering, I would pull out the school card. As if to say, No, he’s not an out-of-control, badly behaved kid…he’s just gifted. Get it? After all…this school wanted him. That counts for something. I think in many ways, I used his acceptance into this school as proof that he was actually normal, at least in a super-smart-kid-normal kind of way. But, as has become abundantly clear, especially in the past two months, my son isn’t “typical.” And his way of being in the classroom, even on a good day, is probably outside the norm. I knew this, but yet, I guess I wanted to believe otherwise. And so, once again, I suppose that means it’s time to let it go.
And then there was today. A day of lasts. Last morning drop off. Last spelling test. Last experiment of the week. Last recess. Last time sitting with his classmates. My heart went out to my son, as I imagined how difficult today must have been for him…the anticipation of saying goodbye, the hugs from classmates, the heart-shaped goodbye notes from others, the special hug from his beloved Kindergarten teacher. It was all I could do to hold it together for him.
But as it turns out, he didn’t need me to hold it together at all. He is fine. And not just fine in a he-must-be-in-denial way, but in a genuine way. That’s who he is. He is hopeful. He’s optimistic. And he trusts us that our decision to switch schools was the best thing for him.
I was thinking about this as I went for a run today, hoping I could shed the baggage from the past two months in the course of a 4-mile run. And as I was running, I remembered something author Martha Beck once said when talking to another mom who was having a hard time dealing with something painful her child had experienced. Martha said, “It didn’t happen to you…this is your daughter’s raw material for the life she’s going to create. It’s her journey. Your job isn’t to feel her pain for her. It’s to say ‘are you troubled? Then stay with me, for I am not.'”
And that’s when it struck me. This is my son’s raw material. His journey. My job isn’t to project my own emotions on him…it’s to stay with him. It’s to support him. It’s to love him. And that I can do.