At pickup one afternoon this week, my kindergartner’s teacher asked if I could stay and chat a few minutes. I turned my kids loose on the playground, and followed the teacher inside. She talked about how he has been acting out, how he is so easily angered, how he hits and pushes and yells and threatens. How he’s been sent to the principal’s office because his level of disruption was just plain unfair to the other students. She also talked about his sweet side – how he engages with the work, helps her with various things, asks interesting questions, cooperates in joint tasks.
It was clear to me that she really sees the whole child, and wants to work with me to be his advocate. He’s not a problem, she said, but he does have problems, and we are all going to help him. She’s already spoken with his private therapist, and arranged for him to have regular pull-out sessions with the school counselor. She reads books with the class about feelings. She told me she can see that I’m doing all the right things, that this isn’t my fault. And then she looked at me with such gentleness, such concern, and said, “You must be so worried.”
Of course I started crying. Mostly with gratitude – that she understands, that she really sees him, that she’s not writing him off or giving up on him. She suggested trying some approaches that she has used successfully with autistic kids (“not that I’m saying he’s autistic,” she quickly added), some activities that can be calming & therapeutic for kids with sensory issues. She loaned me a book. She described how she would modify some expectations for him in order to build his confidence and let him experience success. I felt so hopeful about the potential for helping him this year, that maybe, even, with love and understanding and help on all sides, he could become a “regular” happy and healthy kid.
And then at back to school night, several parents accosted me with tales of my son acting out. I couldn’t tell if they innocently thought whatever they witnessed was an isolated incident, just a quirky kid getting all up someone’s grill kindergarten-style, a fun and amusing little anecdote. Or if they truly see my kid as That Kid, the jerky, out of control one, and were uncertain how to tell me this directly so instead relied on a lame, jokey delivery. What was clear was that people were noticing he’s outside the bounds of expected, acceptable behavior, even for 5 year olds. I put my best Stepford smile on and thanked each one for letting me know. “Boys,” they all laughed. “What are you gonna do?”
I came home and told my husband, and he reminded me that we have to have faith, that we’re doing everything we can, we have support and professionals on board, and most of all that we love him. He’s right, it’s all true. So why do I feel so sick?