I don’t know if you know this, but it is hugely inconvenient to have more than one child to care for when you have a sick kid. Who knew, right? Extremely poor planning on my part, to be sure.
Having the stress of trying to take care of one sick kid while making sure the well one doesn’t end up sad and neglected is like a special Suckage Bonus Prize. There were points at which I was honestly more worried about Monkey than Chickadee; once she was in the hospital, at least I knew she was safe and being taken care of, whereas with Monkey, he was worried and weepy and to top it off, we kept having to leave him to go be with her. (Hey, did you know that in many critical care settings hospitals don’t allow visitors under the age of 16? Because keeping your little sibling from coming and giving you a hug is just GOOD MEDICINE.) (Related: I’m a little bitter, yes.)
So: I was worried about how hard this was going to be on Monkey. But Monkey pretty much ended up being the superstar of this entire fiasco, and that’s due in no small part to Hippie School.
For starters, Teresa and Merry knew what was going on, and let me just make the difference between Regular School and Hippie School crystal clear, here: Although all of Chickadee’s teachers knew she was in the hospital, I heard from only two of her eight teachers (and only a couple of times). In contrast, Teresa and Merry—who aren’t even her teachers—kept checking in with me, helping Monkey work through his sad and worried feelings, and just generally being wonderful. Teresa even started bringing Star back to school, and I don’t know if that was for Monkey’s benefit or just a coincidence, but it helped. A lot.
Outside of school, we had a number of friends selflessly step up to help us make sure Monkey had places to go when we couldn’t be here, and once the initial shock and concern wore off for him, I’m pretty sure he saw Chickie’s hospitalization as one awesome excuse to have constant playdates with Mario and Lemur.
And you know what else? Parents I don’t even know all that well from Hippie School were offering to help, too. Made me cry, every time.
The one wrench (one! HA!) during this time period was that Monkey has to be accompanied by a parent on all field trips, and he missed one because I was at the hospital and Otto was teaching, and there was just no rearranging it. He spent the day hanging out in Otto’s office, then home with me, later, and he was a VERY good sport about the whole thing. So when the next field trip came up the next week, I just decided we had to go.
They take part in a kind of Outward Bound thing, at Hippie School, and every so often we join up with a couple of guides and just go tromp through the woods for the day. Here I was, kid in the hospital, barely sleeping, stressed to the gills, and… I packed up a couple of lunches and took my baby out for a day in the woods.
“I hope today will be a good distraction for you,” Teresa whispered, as we set out. She squeezed my arm as I nodded back, hand constantly turning over the cell phone in my pocket, just in case.
We hiked and we talked and we played games and Monkey had a great day. So did I. It WAS a good distraction, especially when one of the guides invited Mario to lick a large slug they’d just found.
“Wait. WHAT? Did you just tell him to lick a SLUG?” I asked, incredulous.
“Yeah, they excrete a numbing agent. It’ll make your tongue feel all tingly.” And then the kids all TOOK TURNS LICKING A SLUG while I quietly dry-retched behind my hands. (Monkey declined to lick it, which was the only reason I didn’t actually hurl.)
You guys, Hippie School is TEACHING SLUG LICKING. I couldn’t stop laughing at all the kids who’d done it, their tongues hanging halfway out of their mouths. “Ith all tingg-ee!” they kept saying. Indeed, slug-lickers. Indeed.
A few days later, we came into school for Monkey’s “Portfolio Presentation,” sort of a halfway-through-the-year progress report. He made a Powerpoint for us, and we all talked about the things he’s studied and what he liked the best. We all agreed he was quite marvelous.
When Chickadee was finally discharged, on Monday, I didn’t tell Monkey before he left for school, because I wasn’t entirely sure it was going to happen. But it did, and Chickadee was here waiting for him when Mario’s mom dropped him off that afternoon. He came in and put his backpack down, and Chickie jumped out from behind the door. I thought his face was going to split open. He hugged her so hard he nearly knocked her over. Their matching grins made me cry all over again.
I was doing a little work this morning before taking Chickadee out to today’s appointments, and I got an email from Monkey at school: “Waluigi brought a 1 day old baby goat to school today!”
I mailed back in my usual super adult way: “NO WAY! Is it the cutest thing ever??”
A minute later he responded: “It is. It is a female and they are thinking of naming it silky. She is all black except for the kiss of god under her chin. I’ll have Teresa send you some pics.”
I replied: “You pretty much go to the greatest school ever, huh?”
And he answered, simply: “Yes.”