This past fall found us in a fairly dark place again with our son. The joy over a committed and engaged teacher in a new school had faded to paranoia, bitterness, and uncertainty. The shame that we thought we had left behind with last year was back in full force. Sometimes I feel like I literally see the chains that still bind his soul in ways that I just cannot fully comprehend. We had a lot of theories about why all of it hit at the time that it did. We had a lot of theories on how to best deal with it. We had some disagreements with the school over what to do, and then after the fact, whether what we did was appropriate at all. It was painful and confusing for us, and it was a terrible thing to watch our child in so much pain.
We made some hard choices. We took initiative, under the guidance of his therapist and with his approval, to share hard things with the teacher and principal during the parent-teacher conference. We later got an email from the principal about ‘keeping home stuff at home’ and being ‘concerned’ about how much we shared in front of our son. As if he isn’t aware of his own past. As if a seven-year-old is capable of separating his schooling from all the stuff happening inside him. I get it. I get that they don’t understand why a kid doesn’t feel safe in a safe place. It’s hard to explain to some people that just because something isn’t factual doesn’t mean it’s not true.
We started driving him to and from school. This probably doesn’t sound like that big of a deal to those of you who take your kids every day, but we’re school bus people. Our district is semi-rural and because of the organization of our district, our kids go to three different schools. Driving him is a sacrifice. I pick him up during naptime. Which means there is never naptime for the littlest. It’s a big deal for us, and it’s been a hard thing.
All of it though? Worth it. Since that terrible, no-good, awful, very-bad meeting with the principal and teacher, since we started driving him to school – no more ‘bad’ days. Night and day difference. We can see it. The teachers can see it. He walks cheerier, he stands taller. Those chains? They may not be gone. They may never be gone, honestly. But for right now? That overwhelming heaviness is exchanged for a lightness of spirit.
Two weeks ago, we had another conference. Every report was glowing. I found it hard to hold back the tears during that meeting. That same day, I signed a permission slip for a school video that he was invited to participate in. A few of the teachers were asked to nominate one child to film a welcome video for the school as well as a video that highlights their positive behavior system. He came home practically skipping to tell me that the teachers were going to act out the inappropriate behaviors, and he gets to the one that is the good example. Maybe ten or fifteen kids in the whole school are in this video, and my son got to be one of them. From a kid who was the worst behaved in his class to the kid who got picked to highlight what good behavior looks like. This is redemption, and I am humbled to get to bear witness.