First: A health update! Thank you so much to everyone who had such kind words and thoughts for my sweet mother-in-law; once again, she fooled us all. She’s out of the ICU and doing much better. This is good news because we love her, but excellent news because I don’t think Otto could’ve taken it if things had gone differently. (Although I didn’t mention this in the last post, while waiting on updates on my mother-in-law, we unfortunately lost two other magnificent folks—their deaths weren’t unexpected, but were still way too soon. “They” say bad things come in threes, and for once I was VERY VERY GLAD that they are dirty stinking liars.)
So. What could POSSIBLY be better than sickness and death? I MEAN REALLY? We started off the year with a real bang in the stressors department, and by any measure of stress and “life challenges” one would probably think this was enough, no? I certainly would’ve checked the “FULL UP ON ANGST, THANKS” box, had I been polled on the matter.
[Sidebar: I WAS NOT POLLED. Still bitter, frankly.]
Well, death and sickness was not to be the entire story for this, my VERY FAVORITE January. Nope! I picked Monkey and Mario up from Hippie School one day and Teresa asked me to call her “when I had a sec” after I got home.
Naturally, my face registered the utter panic I felt, and she laid a reassuring hand on my arm and said, “Oh! It’s nothing bad! Just… don’t think about it! We’ll talk in a little bit!”
I drove home as fast as was marginally safe, threw some snack food at the boys and encouraged them to go play, and called Teresa to ask what was up. I was trying really hard to remind myself that it was “nothing bad.” I even continued to believe it, I think, right up until the part where she started to cry.
So. Teresa is moving away this summer.
There was that moment, you know, when she said it, and I felt like the floor had dropped out from under me. But it was only a moment, because we are all pretty much a family at Hippie School, and as a family we have all been aware of, and worried about, the fact that Teresa’s youngest child decided to go live with Dad this year (out of state). The good news is that the move has been a positive one for her child; the bad news is that she’s not with her kid. And that’s gotten harder and harder, and so over the holiday break she made the same choice any of us would’ve made, I think. She needs to be with her baby. Even I—wrapped up in “what does this mean for MY baby??”—couldn’t fault her for that.
But… what does this mean for Hippie School? What does it mean for Monkey?
The good news is that Merry, the assistant teacher, is going to take over the school. Hippie School will continue, and it will continue in the same manner, with the same vision and principles, as it exists right now. Merry is fantastic and brilliant and we all love her, and I think she’ll be amazing.
The bad news is that Teresa has decades of experience with kids with special needs, and Merry… finished her Masters last year (and her special needs experience consists of her year working with Teresa). In figuring out how things may best be continued for the majority at Hippie School, together they went through the current students and discussed each of them. Then they sorted them into two lists: Those who could come back next year, and those who would not be invited back.
“And then there’s Monkey,” Teresa said. I held my breath. He hadn’t made the cut. Of course he hadn’t, because his needs are… extensive. And Teresa meets most of them. Surely Merry didn’t feel she could handle him. Still I couldn’t breathe, and I waited for Teresa to just say it. “Merry wants you to know how much she loves Monkey, and that she wants him to be able to come back. But…” I tried to exhale. “She’s not sure yet what that would need to look like, for it to work. We need to meet and talk about it.” Finally, I exhaled. But a tear slipped down my cheek, too.
We knew before the official announcement was made. So we had to just sit with it and mark time until we had the big all-school meeting where everyone was filled in. And then wait a little bit longer until our conference. The night of the big meeting, I sat there and teared up three or four times, but mostly in a good way—we’re all going to miss Teresa so much, but this community is so committed to the ways of Hippie School (insert woo-woo sounds and tie-dye here) and each other. It really reinforced our belief that we’ve found a wonderful place, and also that it can and will continue to flourish under Merry’s direction. Also, Merry pulled me aside before we left and said, “Don’t worry. I want Monkey here. We’ll figure it out.”
Otto and I drove home that night and he asked me how I felt. “Better,” I said, without hesitation. “It’s going to be okay, I think.”
But then a few days later we walked into our conference, and were presented with a list of “possible requirements” for Monkey to continue as a student there next year. “None of this is set in stone, and we don’t have to decide anything now,” Merry assured us, and Teresa concurred. I nodded, then looked at the list.
And my heart sank.
You know, I think about a month ago Monkey turned a huge corner. I can’t tell you how or why or exactly when, but he’s in a good patch. He seems so much happier and more capable and even-keeled right now than he’s been in… I dunno, EVER, that I forget that “super duper” for Monkey is still “putting the SPECIAL in special needs” for, oh, the rest of the world.
So… they love him. (Of course they do; he’s a pretty lovable kid!) They want him to be able to continue. But Merry has (real and legitimate) concerns about balancing his needs and the needs of the other students. We should be grateful he wasn’t immediately relegated to the “needs too great for the revamped, Teresa-less school” list. We ARE grateful he wasn’t put on that list.
But. Some of the suggestions on the list are things we can’t do. (Hire a parapro? Sure thing! A private parapro should only cost us… oh… three times what we pay for tuition at Hippie School.) Some of the suggestions on the list are things we don’t want to do. (Have him drop down to just two or three days a week? Sure, if you feel like spending those two or three days listening to him freak out about what he missed on the days he wasn’t there.) Some of the suggestions put me back at the sacrifices I’d be making to plain ol’ homeschool him, and if I’m going to torpedo my career to give him what he needs, so be it, but I should maybe just go ahead and homeschool, then, rather than spending tuition money that I’ll no longer be earning.
“We’ll figure it out,” they both kept saying.
Maybe we will. He’s changed so much in five months; maybe in another five, the picture will be different.
We told him about Teresa yesterday morning, before we made pancakes. I took a few cues from things said by other parents at the big meeting, and brightly told him that GUESS WHAT, you know all those meetings we’ve been having? Something REALLY EXCITING is happening! It turns out that Merry is taking over Hippie School next year, isn’t that cool?
“Yes!” he agreed. “But… where’s Teresa going?” I took a deep breath and asked him if Teresa is sad very often, and he said no, and I said that’s right, but when she IS sad, why is she sad? And he knew, then, right away. “Oh, we can’t be sad about her moving, then,” he said, “she will be so much happier. Kids need their moms. And we will email her. And besides, she’s not leaving for MONTHS!”
I couldn’t believe how well he was taking it, proving once again that I am absolutely terrible at predicting… anything. And we kept talking, and I was reassuring him that many things would NOT be changing (same building! most of the same kids!), and his face clouded over; in a very small voice he asked, “But… will they still go all through middle school? Will Merry let us stay through 8th grade?”
I may have said, “OH YES THEY ARE STILL GOING THROUGH MIDDLE SCHOOL!” a little louder than I meant to.
And then I tried to talk to him a little more, make sure he was okay, and finally Monkey turned to me in exasperation and said, “Okay! Let’s not talk about it any more because I think I might get upset!” And he wiped his eyes and said, “Can we please just have pancakes now?” So we made pancakes. Maple syrup is very healing.
Now I have five months to find a miracle or two. Believe you me, we won’t be letting go of Hippie School without a fight, but damn. Damn it damn it damn it.