The Dreaded Phone Call

Yesterday, I was sitting in my snazzy new office space with an unfamiliar feeling- maybe it was stability or contentment or some amalgamation of the two. I had half-finished a blog post about how great T did at Thanksgiving, how much progress we’re making, how much healing we’re seeing in his trauma-related behaviors (you see where this is going, right?).

And then…the dreaded number lit up the cell phone. The call from school in the middle of the day.

T bit someone. Again. The last time it happened, I marched in there and said, this is not going to happen again; he’s not a danger to other kids; this incident was an anomaly. I’m embarrassed that I was wrong. But mostly, I’m just panicked about what happens now. He’s home today and we have a meeting with the school tomorrow afternoon and I’m having one of those hopeless moments. I find myself thinking- I have been praying and reading and googling and arranging meditation lessons and OT sessions and martial arts and therapy. What now? Where do we go from here?

I deleted the whole Thanksgiving post, but I’m kind of sorry that I did, because that day happened (it did! it was awesome! I was there!) and I could probably benefit from reading my own words about it right now. We have been having so many days lately that end in overwhelming gratitude, as opposed to crushing anxiety. Even in my despairing moments, I try to remember that we’re making progress. Healing rarely happens in a linear way. For him or for us.

Right now I’m vascillating between feeling bad for him (he loves that school) and being so pissed (he knows better than this! wtf are we gonna do now?). I’m semi-successfully trying to not to take my anger out on him. Really, I’m angry at my own helplessness in the face of his hurt and fear. My instinctual reaction is, how could you do this. That’s a pretty sucky reaction. I can do better than that. At the very least, I can tell him, I know we’re all upset, but we’re going to work this through together. It lets him know he’s not alone on this journey.

School Daze

I wanted to post an update on the school saga, because many of you have been following our arduous pre-school journey and I don’t want to deprive you of the big payoff…

Two years, three schools and many tears later, Tariku is ROCKING pre-school, at long last. I’m speculating that a couple of factors are coming into play to make this attempt successful when the others have been disastrous. First, I think he wasn’t ready to be separated from us quite as early as most of his friends. He’s been a bit late developmentally with a lot of things and in spite of all the parenting methodologies we try, he’s just ready when he’s ready. For example, we stood on our heads with the potty training until I was convinced he was going to wind up wearing Depends, until one day he decided he was going in the potty because his friend Dashiell did. That was it. We’ve had maybe three accidents since.

Tariku is enormously social and is now able to understand that certain behaviors of his were making it hard for him to be around other kids for very long. His desire to have friends has been the best motivation for him to work on the hard stuff- impulse control and emotional regulation.

The other big factor is that we found the right school. In our case, finding the best fit for him meant me being willing to be wrong about my initial instincts. I generally gravitate toward the most unorthodox and progressive institutions, but it turns out that in T’s case, he functions much better in a more structured and traditional environment. He feels safer when he knows who is in charge and exactly what is going to happen. Too much self-direction makes him spin out. We found a structured school that is aware of his issues and is committed to working with him rather than jumping to kick him out for the slightest transgression.

It’s not like we’ve seen miracles, but we’ve seen great progress and healing. The smile on his face when we’re climbing the stairs to his classroom makes my whole day. I could cry when we walk in the door and the other kids shout his name and run up to him. My kid had friends! Friends he doesn’t bite! Lots of them!

Best of all, I’m no longer spending my whole morning sure that I’m about to receive a call to come pick him up. He’s settling in to this school thing and so am I. I’m not sure who’s more thrilled about it.