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—”
“IT WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT!” Monkey bellowed, in the background. “HE DID IT ON PURPOSE! THE KIDS HERE ARE MEAN! I’M LEAVING AND I’M NEVER COMING BACK!”
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.