So after one glorious week of “SCHOOL IS AWESOME!” and “THIS IS THE GREATEST SCHOOL EVER!” I had finally begun to unclench, a little.

Turns out that the honeymoon ended this week, though. On Monday, Monkey came home a little less excited than the previous week, and suddenly he was listing various transgressions he felt had been committed against him, and noting that “some of these kids really seem to have some problems,” which, you know, Pot, is terribly interesting about Kettle and all, but….

And then yesterday I got a phone call. As soon as I realized it was school, I’m pretty sure every muscle in my body just seized.

“We are only calling because Monkey really wanted to, and I hope that’s okay,” the voice on the other end of the line told me, as I could hear Monkey sputtering with rage in the background.

“Okay?” I said. Oh dear lord, I was thinking, what did he DO?

“And we are handling things here, it’s not a problem,” she continued. “But we were playing with the duct tape swords and Monkey got hit by accident—”


I swallowed back a small giggle that somehow turned into a sob.

“Okay, Monkey, I understand that you are feeling that way right now,” she said to him. “I am just telling your mom, same as I told you, that I don’t think it was on purpose. And I also think we can work this out without a problem. Do you want to talk to her?”

Monkey got on the phone, all bluster and tears, demanding that I come to get him right now. When I said I wasn’t going to do that, he said “Then I’ll just find a map and WALK.” I told him that there would be serious consequences if he did that. Did he understand? He said he did. But then he broke down and started ranting about how, “I always get hurt here, I hate everyone, I don’t want to be here anymore.”

“It’s not true that you hate everyone there,” I said, grasping the one statement I felt I could most easily refute. “You have friends there.”

“NO I DON’T!” he yelled at me. “I HATE THEM ALL!”

“What about Mario?” I said. “Mario is your friend.”

“No he ISN’T!” he snarled. A pause. And then, “I got mad at him this morning and told him I didn’t want to be his friend anymore. I just want to stay home with you, Mom. I can’t do school.”

He sounded about five. And I wanted to go pick him up. I wanted to grab him up in a fierce hug and tell him that I would protect him and he could stay home with me forever. Except I can’t protect him and he can’t.

So instead I told him that his job at school right now is to figure out how to have disagreements and move on from them instead of getting stuck. And I told him that I wasn’t going to come get him. And then I asked to talk to the teacher again.

“Is it okay?” I asked. “I mean, is he okay? I’ll get him if you want me to, if you need him to leave, I mean.”

“We’re fine,” she said. (I heard, “NO WE’RE NOT!” in the background, and this time I did laugh, a little.) “We’re handling it. I called because he wanted to talk to you. Tell you what—why don’t you call back in 20 minutes? See how he’s doing. I think he’ll be okay by then. How does that sound?” I said okay, and Monkey said something about how he’d still want to leave.

I thanked her for her patience. I hung up.

20 minutes later I called back. She asked him if he still wanted to go home, and he said he guessed not. She told me he was okay.

By the time he got home that afternoon, he was somber, but okay. He and Mario had made up. The kid who got him with the sword had apologized (and Monkey had apologized for running up and hitting him after being struck). He said he wasn’t sure why he’s always getting hurt. And then he went to blow his nose.

“Hey Monkey?” I called, as he stood in the bathroom, honking away. “That’s a pretty bad stuffy nose you’ve got going there. Do you think maybe you’re just not feeling very good?” He allowed as to how maybe that was true, in the fine continuing tradition of Monkey Gets Sick And Acts Like A Jerk And That’s Our Only Clue.

The teacher called last night, and we talked some more, and she’s incredible, and patient, and kind, and I managed to stop short of regaling her with my whole sordid tale of my having PTSD when it comes to Monkey and his issues, but did manage to say that I realize it’s my own baggage, feeling like I’m waiting for them to throw him out of school. She assured me that’s not going to happen. That he’s fine. They’re working things out. Not to worry.

This morning I gave Monkey some Sudafed and an Advil along with his morning pills, and by the time he and Otto left, he was cheering, “I can breathe from both nostrils! HOORAY!” Dream big, buddy.

This afternoon when he arrived home, I asked him how school was. “Great!” he said, slinging his backpack to the floor, and pouncing on Licorice.

“What’d you do today?” I continued, wondering if there had been any carryover from yesterday’s problems.

“I made a duct tape shield,” he said. I looked at him. He looked at me. We both burst out laughing. “Gotta have protection,” he added. I was still laughing when he finished wrestling the dog and asked if he could go play on the computer.

Inch by inch, right? Maybe he can make me a shield, too.


  1. Leandra

    Can I print this out and keep it in my pocket and every time I feel like rescuing Punkin I can print it out and read it? Or every time I feel like this latest transgression is going to be her path to juvie and rack and ruin I can read it and remind myself that she’s just turned 6 and we’re all probably going to be okay. Do you think Monkey would make a shield for ME? ‘Cause sometimes I think I need one.

  2. Dsilkotch

    Oh, my goodness, I’ve gotten those exact phone calls. “NO WE ARE NOT OKAY!! EVERYONE HERE IS TRYING TO KILL ME!!” Sounds so much like my Luke. I wish I had a groovy hippy school to send him to, where someone would assure me that they were handling it fine and not to worry. Monkey’s going to thrive so wonderfully in that school, what an amazingly lucky find!

  3. liz

    It really really really sounds like that school is the right place for him!

  4. Kim

    You have an incredible son. And you are an incredible mom!

  5. Lucinda

    And the healing begins. It sounds like you and Monkey have found a soft place to land. Continuing to pray for you all.

  6. Karen

    I giggled out loud at the shield. What a great and inventive idea. I am so glad that you have this school. It sounds like they get him and truly care to help him. He is an amazing kid.

  7. Katie in MA

    Whoa. Duct tape really CAN fix everything. :)

    Celebrating your huge step forward. Saying prayers of thanks for that nice teacher lady. And counting my own blessings, too. Now THAT’S a great post.

  8. Daddy Scratches

    Good read.
    I’ve never experienced the *exact* situation you described above, yet I can relate to every single thing you wrote.
    Parenting: The Universal Language.

  9. Andrea

    Ouch, that “I just want to stay home with you, Mom” hurts my heart. I can only imagine what yours feels like! Sounds like Monkey has a great place that’s full of not only competence, but also compassion. AWESOME! And unfortunately all too rare. Rooting for you guys. You’re doing an amazing job.

  10. Karen R.

    Yay Monkey! Wouldn’t this same situation last year have resulted in a multi-hour tantrum and injuries? He was settled down in under 30 minutes, and came up with an excellent solution. I hope things continue to improve.

  11. addy

    Congrats Mir – you made it through the first call! Happy Days are here.

  12. Tracy B

    I really think you’ve found the right school this time! I think it’s so awesome how they connect one-on-one with the kids and every situation is handled so personally, like calling Mom. I know that doesn’t make your day any better but surely you have got to feel relieved knowing that if anything “heavy” comes up, they won’t hestiate calling you. I know I would feel comfort in that fact. Something funny about duct tape, I grew up being told that duct tape fixes everything! And Monkey just proved it to me again! ;o)

  13. RuthWells

    Oh honey. It’s so wonderful to see the beginning of the turning of the corner. (Gotta go get something out of my eye, now.)

  14. sue {laundry for six}

    I have a big smile that is also sort of a sob. Does this school take boarders? I love this. And could you adopt me? (I’m older than you, but it’s ok with me if it’s ok with you.)

  15. Beth R

    Deep breath in, deep breath out… FROM BOTH NOSTRILS!

    This school seems to be made of fairy dust and unicorn farts! How wonderful that the teacher didn’t seem phased by the situation and had a good enough read on it that she knew in 20 minutes things wouldn’t seem so bad.

    And good on you for remembering that the only sign of a sick Monkey is a jerky Monkey (which sounds like a really bad 60’s dance craze).

    Wish I could reach through the intertubes and give you a hug. You’re doing a great job and it sounds like Monkey is in exactly the right place for him.

    Don’t forget to take care of yourself, young lady!

  16. Sheila

    I’ll be keeping my eyes open for duct tape deals on Want Not.

  17. anonymouse

    I needed to read just that today. Thanks for being so brave.

  18. Varda (SquashedMom)

    Hey, you may have found the perfect cottage industry: duct tape shields. Because I don’t know a single Special Needs parent that doesn’t need one. I sure could use one right now.

    So sorry the honeymoon ended, but that’s when the real relationship begins, anyhow. It looks like this school is one with staying powers, that understands there will be ups and downs. Glad everyone is feeling better today.

  19. Lisse

    Oh, I love this and I want to cry!

    I so love when it clicks for them – even if it’s only an inch at a time.

  20. Aimee

    Here is what I know:

    1. You are awesome.
    2. Monkey is awesome.
    3. Hippie school is awesome.
    4. Duct tape shields = AWESOME!

  21. Jessica

    I love, love, love the last bit there about the shield. I feel as though you are both growing and learning how to deal with all of this right before our eyes as we read along. I also love how the school handled this: no huge, big deal of a phone call with DANGER and DESPAIR in it, but just a call because Monkey wanted to talk even though they thought he’d be good. That is a good sign for the school. (I’m back working at a school myself. Today was our first day of school, which went fairly well considering it was the first day. :) )

  22. Sassy Apple

    I love all of this, but most of all I love the fact that Monkey instigated the phone call. They were going to handle it without even contacting you. Last year….well, you know how it would have played out. Here’s to even more cautious optimism!

  23. Jodie

    Hooray! Also, I’m pretty sure you’ve been Monkey’s duct tape shield for awhile now. Hugs (that just auto corrected to Jugs, which, funny!!)

  24. Rita

    Mir – I’ve read your site for a little while now and have SO loved this tale of “the hippie school” for your boy. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us.

    I have a similarly tempered child (also a boy) and have just this fall changed *his* school. This is only our second week and I’m DREADING the “honeymoon is over” period.


  25. Nancy R

    So, you’ve started making plans for the butt-ton of appreciation baking you’ll want to heap on them at Christmas time, right? Because that sort of brilliance? Calls for extra sugary goodness.

  26. Bill

    So funny and so true. I am glad I found this blog. And if you think the kids freak out about school, you should be married to a teacher!

  27. Samantha

    Hooray you for not ‘rescuing’ Monkey and hooray Hippie School for starting out the phone call by letting you know that everything was fine and that they were handling it!

  28. Lynda M O

    Right on, Mir. Monkey’s teacher sounds like a keeper… happiness abounds.

  29. EmmaC

    Love. It.

    And I totally get the PTSD situation. Unclenching is hard, especially when every little thing or even the POTENTIAL of a little thing sends you right back to that edge. It’s totally an inch-by-inch kind of thing, and you’re not alone in feeling that way.

    I recommend lots of hugs in the meantime.

  30. Chris

    Can Monkey make me a duck tape shield as well? :)

  31. Jen

    I am just so happy for you and Monkey, you have no idea. It’s what I hope is waiting for us someday.

  32. parodie

    Oh gosh. That sounds so heart-wrenching! Kudos to you for staying strong and trusting the school – and to them, for handling it. Hooray!!

  33. Lisa

    That must have been so hard for you, keeping yourself from running right to Hippie School! If only our kids understood that while we’re forcing them to do these things that will help them grow, we’re painfully forcing ourselves not to rush in and make things better. You are strong and brave…and PRETTY too! :)

  34. Lara

    This new school sounds too good to be true! So happy for you all :) And still chuckling over the shield!

  35. Kathy

    Hello friend! I’ve been on vaca for a couple weeks, mostly with NO tecno-connection to the outside world. When I got home … I cuddled up in my own bed with my trusty laptop and read through two weeks of your life. It was an amazing two weeks of ups and downs, laughter and tears … it was amazing!

    Happy Birthday, friend! What a wonderful time of celebration you had. What fun it was to “read all about it”!

    Okay … now to today’s post … I’m again in the comfy bed, but this time the hubs is here with me. I was crying and “oooh”ing and “aaaah”ing. And then I had to share with him. (But first I had to explain my crazy stalker-ish mamablog obsessions …. awkward!). The paragraph about Monkey being sick and that being the big CLUE brought back such memories for both of us! We would always have a particularly crazy day …. followed by a fever or a cold. It seemed like every time, though, we’d forget about the clue!

    I am so happy for Monkey that he’s got that great school. And so happy for YOU that there is a wonderful, caring, marvelous, caring, FAIRY-GOD TEACHER who is so understanding and caring! What a treasure she is! I can’t wait to hear more success stories!


  36. Starling

    How cool that he knew he wanted to hear your voice, and then afterwards was able to work it through on his own, with the help of the lovely sounding school personnel. It sounds like he is just where he needs to be. He’s growing, but always with the knowledge that you are the #1 soldier on his side of the field.

  37. meredith

    That school and especially that teacher are wonderful. And the duct tape shield made me smile, I’ll carry around a virtual image of it with me to ward off anyone trying to push my buttons today :)

  38. Megan


    And I love Beth R’s Jerky Monkey 60’s craze dance. I wish I’d had that to whisper to myself when mine were being particularly snotty teens (‘aw, look at them doin’ the jerky turkey!’ – mine were definitely turkeys at the time!)

  39. Brigitte

    Also, as Monkey probably secretly knows, I would think the whole point of duct tape swords IS to hit each other on purpose. Maybe he was mad he didn’t get to do it first! OK, maybe not. :-)

  40. Ladybug Crossing

    My #1 is off to a military college. The first 9 days are pure torture. After that, things calm down and classes start. On the morning of the 9th day, we received a voicemail from #1. He was upset. He wasn’t sure he could make it. It’s just as well we weren’t home because telling him to pull up his big girl panties and deal was definitely not what he would have wanted to hear. We worried. We fretted. We knew he’d be fine/

  41. Ladybug Crossing

    Let me finish… my computer is acting up…
    And later that night, he was fine.
    So — this is just to say — they always call home, but they know darned right well that we aren’t going to go get them when we know they are absolutely capable.
    Hang in!!

  42. Jackie

    WOW that is an awesome school. I think all of you handeled the situation perfectly. I know it has to be hard for you and for him. I’m sorry but so happy that all turned out well in the end. He is such a funny little guy. I love that he is making a sheild. Classic!

  43. Liza

    Wow. Wow. Wow. Kudos to everyone involved. And to breathing through both nostrils.

  44. Cindy

    Since I don’t really know you and monkey, I guess I love love. My eyes are tingly and my throat is lumped.

  45. Stacy Q

    How wise of little Monkey to realize you need a duct tape shield to get through life… :-)

  46. Mom101

    Being a good mom isn’t about how you act when things are great, but how you act when they suck.

    You are such a good, good mom Mir. I want to pick you up and hug you too.

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