The first day of school in our district this year was September sixth, the day after Labor Day. We knew there would be wrinkles to iron out and were all apprehensive about what those things would be.
First thing, traffic was terrible. We would have walked, but I had a bag full of additional supplies to take to BamBam’s teacher and I didn’t want to carry them all the way to school. Had I remembered how full the parking lot gets between the parents staying for the First Morning Coffee and the ones who have no clue about drop off procedures, I would have either sucked it up and carried the supplies or put them off for another day.
But I didn’t remember and we were stuck trying to pull in to the parking lot a few minutes before the first bell. So Sparky stayed in the car while the boys and I ran for it. Not fun for all the neurotypical kids, so you can imagine how it was for us. BamBam said he was fine taking the supplies to class on his own, so Zookeeper and I headed to the office on our own.
Once we got through the front door, the first wrinkle hit. Zookeeper, a little ahead of me, walked right past the office and was headed outside when I stopped him. Even though we had discussed it the night before, he didn’t want to go to class through the office. He insisted that he would be fine waiting in the line with his classmates.
I knew we were both already overloaded and frantic, so I did my best to remain calm as I reminded him of the trouble he’d had with bullies in the morning line-up the previous year. I told him again that the plan was to go through the office, just so they could see his pass, and continue upstairs to his classroom where he would get his schedule and maybe sharpen a few pencils before going with his teacher to bring in the rest of the class.
frog-marched walked him back to the office, showed the secretary his pass, and watched him walk through the office hall toward the stairs leading to his classroom. Sparky appeared as I was figuratively dusting my hands off from the effort.
After which I went to the parents’ coffee, where I was somehow talked into becoming the special needs liaison for our school’s PTSA (Parent-Teacher-Student Association). A position I’ve been turning down for a little over two years now. I agreed with the precept that expectations would be kept very low.
I waited with much anticipation to pick the boys up and hear about their days. BamBam had a terrific day, as I knew he would. Zookeeper’s day, however, was, “Meh.”
When asked what that meant, he said, “Well, you know Lamb is in my class.”
Lamb is a boy who has plagued Zookeeper since first grade. I’m calling him Lamb here in the same way Southerners often say, “Bless your heart.”* Lamb was in Zookeeper’s class last year, but wasn’t a problem for him because there were so many other negative things going on.
“He sits right next to me. He took pencils away and threw paperclips at me in class. Coming in from recess, he stuck his hand in my pocket to steal some of my rocks,” Zookeeper told me. He said everything else was fine, but you could tell this had squelched any hope he had for a better year.
I thanked him for telling me and being so open about it, then told him I would write an email to his teacher and have them separated.
His teacher emailed me back saying she had noticed the dynamic between them and planned to move their desks the next morning. She had also had a talk with Lamb about the rocks and planned to reinforce the rules the next day. I am so thrilled with her communication and the fact that she noticed, and acted, right away. It restored my hope, and I think Zookeeper’s, for a much better year.
Next week, I’ll tell you about how things are going with Lamb. Because, unfortunately, there is more to tell. But everything else at school is pretty good and that has our whole family smiling again.
*My mother has always said, “Bless your bones.” I never really thought about how the two phrases differ, but I like the explanation that heart is more superficial because getting into the bones is deeper, more like getting to the core of your being.