I’ve been through the ringer this last couple weeks. I had to beg, borrow and coordinate picking up sick children from school. I’ve fought a fever at work while re-writing scripts and shooting follow-up stories to investigations. I’ve had to drive an hour away from my house to drop off, then pick up one son in order to make sure I could work at least my full 8-9 hours. (which was more like 9-10, but it’s not a complaint, just reality)
I should have seen this coming.
Today I was at work, in the middle of a meeting, when the phone rang with a familiar number. Sadly, after all the sick calls and child pickups during the middle of the day I now know the school phone number on sight and it was ringing not long into the work day. By the time I’d gotten into the hallway to answer the phone it had gone to voicemail so I waited for the phone to give me that signal that the message was there, fully prepared to hear “_______ is in the office and needs to go home.”
I would have been happy if it had been that, in hindsight. Instead, it was my son, Noah, in the principal’s office.
Noah had done a decent enough job of controlling things since my last episode. If you haven’t read it, you might consider going back and looking. Noah had an issue with a couple boys that followed him around the extended day room and he just lost it and started lashing out. I had to have him write letters to the kids, their parents, and then to his Mom, and we delivered it to the cemetery so she could get it as well.
(Here’s the link to that story, if you want to read it)
Noah was on the playground at recess playing kickball. He was out, the kids, as they always will, shouted their catcalls, poking fun that he struck out, and Noah lost his temper and threw the ball, hitting a kid in the face. Another boy went to tell a teacher and Noah threw a piece of playground bark. He lost his temper, couldn’t calm down, and then he spiraled out of control. It took a parent volunteer, who also happens to know our family well, to pull him aside from the class line and calm him down. He didn’t want to get into trouble, he was in a panic, he was so angry nothing would calm him down, and he was angrier that nobody would listen to him.
I didn’t have to be there to see it to know that’s what happened. It’s just like his Mom. When Andrea would get into a panic or have her anger spark too brightly, there was no debating or arguing with her. The only thing that would alleviate the situation was to let her calm, give her a hug, tell her I loved her. Then we could finish what we were trying to discuss and go from there.
But Andrea didn’t do this at school and she didn’t do this in front of others. It also, I’m sure, wasn’t the kickball game. I know for a fact, and I should have seen this coming.
Noah is a sweet boy, he really is. He loves his family more than anything. When Andrea died, he was the most sympathetic, loving, sweet little person in the world. He saw me upset and told me that I should not be sad because “Mommy is in your heart, she has to be because she loved you so much.” When Andrea’s best friend was sad he told us all that “Moms are important because without them there would be no people so they get the biggest parts of our hearts.” Where we wanted to falter and cry he was philosophical and caring. When we wanted to be angry he was loving. When we wanted to be loving he was empathetic.
He is smart as a whip.
So when he gets in trouble again, I feel my heart break. He cannot do these kinds of things, he has to control his temper, he has to control his impulses. But I also know what did this.
Noah felt alone.
I have spent the last couple weeks dealing with his oldest sister’s school play, Sam’s illness and staying at his Aunt’s house, his middle sister sick, the school, work taking me extra hours . . . he got literally no attention. I didn’t see it but should have seen it coming. Abbi would tell me he was a pill, that he was acting out, that he was angry, and I was sick with the flu so I put them to bed and fell asleep myself. I should have seen that he was asking for me to just pay a little attention to him.
He just wanted a few minutes with me. I didn’t give it to him.
Now, this poor little guy, with a reputation that is now bigger than what he initially did because of the past transgressions, is paying the price for my ignorance. He sent signals. He gave signs and I ignored them. I let him sit next to me last night while we sat on the couch. I had to talk with him about what happened at school. I had to tell him that if he didn’t control his anger they might very well kick him out of the school. He looked up at me, his eyes welling up, and he knew. He told me so. He didn’t deny any of it, he didn’t even argue, which I was hoping he would do.
He only said “I’m sorry Daddy.”
I could have handled anything but that. The “I’m sorry” pushed me over the edge. I gave him a hug, not letting him off the hook, mind you, but telling him he has to be twice as good now. Otherwise he’ll get into trouble immediately whether he’s the instigator or not. They will immediately look to him as the one who started it all if he’s even in the vicinity.
This is where I failed. I got sick, sure, but it’s no excuse. He needed me there and the days of selfishly looking at myself and saying “woe is me” are gone. These four kids – all four of them – need me. I cannot afford to let one slip or down the hole they fall. I am working on getting him counselling, but I also know what he wanted, he tried to tell me. He just wanted a little bit of time.
I need to go back and do it again, but I can’t. It’s not that I would give him more attention than the other 3, it’s that he got no attention from me in the last few days in particular. All he needed was a game of cards, a silly few minutes of Madlibs, even a game on the Wii. Hell, he just wanted a hug here and there.
It’s hard to know you’ve failed so spectacularly. It’s harder to know that the consequences are his and not mine.