I wasn’t sure why Ethan’s teacher wanted to talk to me, but I suspected it wasn’t to tell me that my son was student of the month.
Ethan and I walked into her classroom after school. She immediately sent Ethan to the office to wait for us.
Two more teachers (the reading teacher and the music teacher) came in.
She told me a story about Ethan telling a kid that his artwork was bad. It was apparently five minutes of Ethan shouting at the kid that his shark picture sucked. He later told the teacher that he thought the kid was showing off. The teacher told Ethan he was jealous. She said that he threatened to rip the picture up in art class.
(OK, that’s rude and this was the first I heard of it. There’s no reason to do that to a kid – and this particular boy is a REALLY good artist. This will be addressed with Ethan. But, I wondered, was that enough to call me in and have two other teachers in the room?)
“And I’ve been really disturbed by something you mentioned last week. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, actually,” E’s teacher began as the other teachers pulled up tiny chairs to sit on either side of me. I felt trapped and ganged up on. I didn’t realize this was a three-on-one situation. I wasn’t comfortable with this at all.
“You said he wasn’t in counseling. He needs it,” she said.
(Fucking brilliant, that woman.)
The other two women nodded their heads, staring at me.
“As I mentioned, Ethan’s former counselor wasn’t used to kids as young as he is, nor was he versed in child grief,” I said calmly. “I think I found a good counselor who works with young children. We’re meeting on Tuesday. She and I. So I can vet her a final time before introducing her to Ethan.”
“How soon will Ethan start with her?” the teacher asked. “He needs to talk to someone at least weekly effective immediately. I reviewed his records from his previous school and he had issues there, too. I’m not sure this is grief, since it started before his father died. You need to be open to the possibility that it’s more.”
That’s when I lost it. And unfortunately, when I lose it, my eyes leak. It’s not tears. It’s more like a flood of pissed offishness.
“Are you remotely aware of how a child grieves? When you’re sad or full of emotion, what do you do? Take a walk? Surf the Internet? Call or email a friend? A kid doesn’t have those resources. If Ethan gets emotional – and I’m not even sure he has the maturity to know what his emotions are on this issue – he’s still expected to sit quietly, face forward, pay attention, do his work, keep quiet. He doesn’t have an outlet!” my voice quivered.
“He can always tell me if he wants to go to the office to calm down,” the teacher said. “And this started well before you moved here and his dad died,” she continued.
“You don’t have a baseline for his behavior! He lost his grandfather before he started kindergarten! He had that loss. He saw the troubles in my marriage at the same time. Then I moved him here. Then Mike died. That’s a lot of stuff to happen to a kid in a couple of years. He’s only seven years old!”
“Still, the behavior was going on before Mike died.”
“HE HAS NEVER BEEN IN SCHOOL WITHOUT HAVING GONE THROUGH A LOSS! THE KID IS GRIEVING AND I CANNOT HAVE OTHER ISSUES ADDRESSED UNTIL HE CAN DEAL WITH THE MAJOR LOSSES HE’S SUFFERED!” My voice was louder now (and my eyes continued to leak, soaking every inch of the tissue I was holding).
The teachers went on about how Ethan has outbursts in class. Surprisingly, this time they’re saying that the wiggliness and getting up isn’t an issue and they really don’t mind it (that’s news to me, as his “motion” is usually the subject of these meetings).
I’m not opposed to having Ethan diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, but I also know from extensive research and conversations with experts (and other parents) that kid grief can “look like” other behavior issues, especially at school.
We left the conversation with me telling his teacher that she needs to communicate with me better (like letting me know there’s a problem, not waiting days/weeks to address it.
Damn, I can’t wait until he’s done with this teacher.
Right now, I just need a drink.
Yes, yes, you do need a drink. And hugs, to you and your son. It’s hard enought to grieve on your own, as an adult, I can’t imagine also having to navigate grief for a child. Hang in there.
Ugh. In this case, I’m pretty sure mom knows best. No matter what his old school records show. E has had it harder than most kids. Surely they would have some compassion? Can’t believe they ganged up on you too. How infuriating.
I am SO sorry about this. How thoughtful of them to have this little “intervention” without proper warning. As if piling more stress and blame on you is going to help your son. Ugh! I think having an alcoholic, mentally absent father would be enough to engender large behavioral problems. I’d think a big move away from everything previously known (including the physical presence of a father) would cause anger (due to feelings of lack of control if nothing else.) I’d think the loss of a grandfather and a grieving mother and grandmother would by itself cause jealousy of others and lashing out. And the separation of parents? The death of a father? The lack of support from one set of grandparents?! I could go on, but you know it all. Even new therapists can be a stress. Providence put you on this path. You didn’t choose it. You’ve done the best you can and made sacrifices. You will be given the grace to work through it. This life is just not easy or perfect. I can’t believe these specialists in children have such little knowledge of how kids deal with stress and so little forethought for how such an encounter would make you feel. My kids get out of hand with sleep interruptions, too long between meals, when they’re constipated, or when visitors stay too long, and other seemingly small things. You have been holding everyone together with strength and grace. Just the sheer amount of decisions you have faced is overwhelming. You are doing a good job. You made the right choice about his therapists. And they are not workers of magic in any case. Drugs and other diagnoses will only postpone or prohibit his grieving process and his dealing with all this in a healthy way. Having him behave “normally” at this stage would be more disturbing, I think, than the way he is handling things. He SHOULD be acting out. All the emotion has to get out somehow. And other children should be taught sympathy, understanding and forgiveness. If the other kid is good in art, he’s already getting positive feedback from others in that area and should be able to understand that your son is only hurting if a teacher takes him aside and explains things, etc. Anyway, I’m rambling. Just know that this is not your fault. You’re doing as well as you can be. Your son is doing the best he can and deserves support and understanding. I hope that his teachers can find more compassion work on how THEY can address things in a positive way without assigning blame to you. I’ll be praying.