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.