Back in May, I baked a ginormous batch of my most sinful cinnamon rolls, and I packed up a plate of them—still warm—and took them over to the middle school. I opened our meeting there with a quick disclaimer: I will always ask for a lot, at these meetings. I’m there as my child’s advocate, and I want what I want. But, I always bake. I’m not there to make anyone mad. I want us to be a team. I am not averse to greasing the wheels with butter and frosting. Know this about me.
My speech (and my baking) were well-received. Our team from the elementary school came, too, and they were fantastic. On-task, forward-thinking, quick to tell the new team what they’ve learned about how Monkey works and how he’s best supported. They spoke of what a bright and loving kid he is under the right circumstances, and how most of the time he’s a delight. My mama bear heart, squeezed with trepidation at the start of the meeting, swelled with gratitude and pride. And make no mistake, we asked for a lot of things. We laid out what we felt he would need to succeed in middle school.
And they said yes, to everything we asked. So I began to make peace with him being ready to move on.
A little while after school ended, doubt came back to visit me. Still, I know that uncertainty is part of the game, here. I was okay. Monkey was having a good summer, relaxing and enjoying and generally being easygoing. So we were okay.
But then in mid-July I contacted the public school—as we’d agreed I’d do, back when I was taking home an empty, frosting-smeared plate—only to discover that the carefully laid out plan had fallen through a crack roughly the size of the Grand Canyon. Because in the time since our meeting, the special ed coordinator had been replaced. As had the principal. The school was in flux, and no one seemed to remember my Monkey and the promises they’d made back in May.
While I dealt with the polite-but-firm emails about certain dates and tasks and things we’d been promised, Monkey made it clear he was still struggling, and I began to wonder if I was having the wrong fight. Why was I trying to bend the public school to my will when maybe it was totally the wrong place for him?
I started a second track: Alternate school arrangements. But I kept on with the middle school, because they had promised things they weren’t doing.
Today is Wednesday. School starts on Monday (at the public middle school). We have not yet decided where or if Monkey is going.
Because they promised us we’d be paired with his parapro well ahead of the start of school, and that person hasn’t yet been hired. Because they promised us his parapro would receive intensive training on working with autism spectrum disorders, and now they’re saying they’ll do it “as soon as possible.” Because they took notes at the meeting and promised the person hired to work with Monkey would be selected based upon compatibility with his particular needs, and the person doing the hiring wasn’t at that meeting and has never met my son. But at least they’re “terribly sorry” and “really hear and understand my frustration.”
In the next two or three days, we’ll go to open house at the middle school. We’ll go visit what I’ve been referring to as the Crunchy Hippie Alternative School. And Otto, Monkey’s dad and I will continue discussing the various homeschooling permutations and how they might work.
Monkey is tolerating his medication change well; no side effects yet that we can see. But no improvement, really, either. Yet. The right decision for the kid he is today might not be the right one for where he’s at in a month. And if I’m being completely honest, it’s a lot easier to focus on the school district having screwed up than to think about how even if they had delivered down to the letter, I still wouldn’t know what to do.
A few nights ago, Monkey appeared downstairs well after bedtime. “I’m sad,” he said. “You said I could come get you.”
I thanked him for telling me. I laced my arm through his, steered him back upstairs, and tucked him in. Then I laid down next to him, stroking his hair, suggesting he think about something happy. He said he couldn’t think of anything.
“How about when you went caving with Daddy? That was neat, right?”
“Yeah, but kind of creepy, too. I don’t think that’s a good one.”
“Okay. Hmmm. How about eating donuts at Grammie’s? Daddy was there with you, and you got the chocolate kind, and the doggies were milling around, hoping you’d drop a piece.” And then did a terrible imitation of his uncle’s dog, who apparently brays with discontent any time his owner is out of sight. Monkey giggled. Then he exhaled, slowly, like he’d been holding his breath for a long, long time.
“Thank you, Mommy,” he said. He almost never calls me Mommy. “That worked. I think I can sleep, now.” I smoothed his hair one last time, kissed his forehead, and bid him sweet dreams on my way out.
Here’s to at least one more rabbit in my hat. Please.