One of the HR people at my old shop used to tell me she thought a dark cloud just followed me around every day – like a depressed version of “Pig Pen” in the Peanuts strips.
This week was when the cloud caught up.
Once it does, it takes twice as long to get ahead of it again. When Noah hurt a little kid in the EDP room this week, in fact, it didn’t just drop a cold mist on my head, I could see the lightning and hear the thunder.
The Forecast Calls for Pain, as the great Robert Cray says.
To begin with, the first indications that there was anything wrong came from Noah’s big sister, Abbi, not the teachers. Understand, now, that I don’t dispute that Noah was wrong, nor do I think any kid deserves to have somebody bigger than them push or hurt them. That’s just not right and I won’t put up with it.
What makes me angry, though, is that the first I’d heard of this was when it was already too late. Noah is like a pressure cooker set too high. It doesn’t take much more pressure to make it go off, so if he’s bothered, even if it’s not meant to be bothersome (in this case, he was dead wrong, Noah should have just held his temper) he reacts. He’d been reacting this way for nearly a week, I think.
I heard about it Tuesday.
Worse yet, I talked with him, and he then goes to school with the promise of behaving. He didn’t. In fact, he moved directly from yelling to hitting, pushing the kid over and pinning him to the ground.
I could see the lightning flashes.
We went through the apology letters and the letter to his Mom, and then one of the teachers, a person I trust and admire had a talk with Noah about his behavior and told him how he needed to find other ways to work out this aggression. She gave him a journal to write in, helped him find ways to work out the anger, everything he needed.
Then the school called because the principal had a talk with him as well. Parents had complained. He was getting a disciplinary form, nothing for his permanent record, in the backpack. Was he getting counselling?
And there was the thunder.
He is a loving, wonderful, funny little boy and smart as a whip. But he likes being the center of attention – not as the class clown but just as a matter of fact. But he has been through this once before. He just needs to be able to control his actions better, which I know is reaaallllly hard at the age of 8. It’s hard at 38. (No, that’s not my age, don’t send me messages, please, I know how old I am, it matched the point I was trying to make.) I know it was wrong, I feel awful that others are having to deal with this too, but he’s also not a kid that can be so much more than the reputation he’ll get.
Now, of course, he can’t even be near trouble when it happens. It’s like the corollary to the “Boy who Cried Wolf!” Someone gets in a fight, Noah’s nearby, he’s part of it. Kid yells at him on the playground, he’s going to be questioned what did he do to start the shouting? Now, as a result of his lack of control he’s going to have to be TWICE as good to avoid getting in trouble – when it’s deserved and when it’s not.
I’m not going for dramatics here, Noah’s not getting suspended, he’s not going to be on anti-psychotics or anything, the principal’s being very nice about it and seems thankful I’ve responded quickly.
But I have to ask this: why is everything about their mother? Here’s the thing nobody took into account: Noah had this problem well before he lost his Mom. We had issues in Kindergarten, even had problems last year. I know that it’s a contributing factor, it’s the 800 pound gorilla standing on top the white elephant in the room every minute of every day in our house. I have no doubt that it helped spark this latest storm front, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not the biggest factor in it all.
I honestly believe that it’s not just my son who used his mother’s death to try and get out of trouble that first day. I think it’s an easy answer to the problem for everyone. If the kid is misbehaving, it’s an easy thing to say it’s because he’s upset about his Mom.
Of course he’s upset, wouldn’t you be? But is it the chief cause, the main determining factor? Are you kidding me?
Believe me, I wish it was that. I wish it was the fact that his Mom passed and that he missed her and had closed down without talking about her, it would be SO much easier. It’s just not right.
Guess what, everybody, he DOES talk about it. He misses his Mom SO very much. My worst example: We were on our way home from Nebraska, just a couple months after Andrea had died. We needed something to eat and in the Denver airport your choices are ice cream or the freaking Clown house. So it was a happy meal. When he read on a McDonald’s Happy Meal box that “Little Ryan (name changed to protect the innocent and because I can’t really remember his name anyway) was gravely ill. Thanks to the Ronald McDonald house, Ryan had his friends and family near him and he was able to get better!”
I watched his face blanch, I really did. His eyes got glassy and watery, his gears were turning – I could see it. He could easily have just sat there, holding it in, but I have told ALL of the kids that we’re in this together. If they need ANYthing at ANY time, call, email, text, or just come up and talk to me. I’ll make the time. If I need to stay home, work be damned, that’s what they mean to me.
He looked up at me and I knew something was wrong. He simply asked “is that why Mommy died, Dad?”
“Is what why, kiddo?”
“The box here – it says that because his family was there with him he lived.” His voice grew a little more frantic . . . his thoughts were getting erratic. He started to stumble to put his thoughts together. “I wasn’t there with Mommy, and that’s why she died. If I had been there, would Mommy still be alive?!” (It’s here that I have to tell you how much I sincerely hate McDonald’s – worse than I ever did before. Not the food, which is horrible for you; not the atmosphere, which is chaotic; it’s that they would write this kind of thing on a Happy Meal box like it’s the ONLY thing that helped a cancer-ridden kid survive. Not the doctors, medication or the little boy’s flat out tenacity and strength. )
Yet Noah talked with me and asked me about it. You may see this as unreasonable or silly, but in the 8-year-old mind of a little boy who saw his Mom on a Tuesday morning and the next time he saw her, she was closed in a casket – that’s not silly. It’s scary. Horrifying.
I told him that it wasn’t his fault, it could never . . . ever . . . be his fault. I looked at Sam and he did what he always does, closed down, his eyes now glassy, too. “Sometimes bad things happen,” I told them. “They aren’t nice, they don’t make sense, and it’s really, really unfair! But I never want you to believe that this was EVER your fault. Mommy got sick, it’s that simple, and no amount of company would have helped that get better. She tried so hard to stop it but her body just couldn’t fight any more.”
I told him that his Mommy would never have left us if she thought we couldn’t do this on our own, something I truly do believe. That, and she wasn’t alone. I was there – the day she went in, the moment she left. She was NEVER alone, and she would never have thought it was his fault.
As much as she wasn’t alone, neither is he. I don’t work for 90 hours a week and I don’t get home insanely late. I don’t come home, expect my daughter to cook or do laundry. I don’t plop on the couch and stare at the TV.
From the moment I got home from the hospital, I had to buckle down and show these kids that they were going to be cared for. I don’t break down in front of them. I keep the routine, I try to get them to activities we wouldn’t have done before, and I make sure that they know they’re not alone and they are supported by me. Sure, the horrible quiet of the evening makes me think about these things, but I’ll be damned if THEY have to face it alone.
I don’t write this in an effort to say I won’t take Noah to counselling nor do I think it’s a bad thing. I’m just saying – to paint this little man, hell all 4 kids, in a corner and say their behavior, let alone their lives are defined by the fact that they lost their mother is so painfully wrong. They’re defined by us both – hopefully getting the best parts of Andrea and me, the pieces of their lives put together by the influence, affection, activity AND events in their lives. It’s that box everyone talks about. The problem is, we don’t fit in it.
Still, it doesn’t change the fact that I can see the cloud following us around – the Forecast Calls for Pain . . . but if I can hear the thunder and see the lightning, maybe we can handle the storm.