Yesterday was Evan’s last day of summer school. Putting him in summer school for a five week session turned out to be an idea of sheer brilliance. Because he is changing schools, the opportunity to become familiar with the building and meet some of the students in a relaxed camp-like setting seems like a perfect opportunity. It also solved my need to constantly try to juggle everyone’s schedule in order to find a caregiver for Ev while I was working. Win-win!!!
Last year was a wonderful year of learning for Ev. His teacher, Mrs. Scott adored him even though he was the reason for the bald patches on her head. Well, ok, maybe not literally since she was beautiful and kind, but I can only imagine he did cause her to want to pull her hair out on more than one occasion.
Evan is precocious and quick witted–quicker on a pun than some linear thinking adults. He is the youngest in a family of adults and consequently not only has the vocabulary of a much older child but also has the classclownneedtomakeeveryonelaugh tendencies that seem to go along with it. Mrs. Scott used to tell me that the problem was Evan was truly funny and even she couldn’t help laughing at his antics.
On more than one occasion, he landed in the principal’s office for some offense. They system they had of smiley faces did not help. Evan began every day with a smiley face but each type of offense changed the color. Our language at home changed around this system and the words “have a smiley face day” took on tones of religious fervor by the end of the year.
I hated it.
Absolutely, unequivocally hated it.
Here I had parented three other grown children and never had a micro spec of issues with behavior when I went anywhere with them. But by the end of the year, if the school’s number appeared in my caller id, I panicked. I had that sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
At one point, the principal decided Evan should be “suspended” from school for a day because he hit another child in a private area. At first I was stunned. I couldn’t imagine Ev doing this as it seemed totally out of character for him. But as the event was recalled, it came to light that the hitting had happened due to Evan swinging his arms in line (yes, probably when he should have been standing still). Yes, it was inadvertent, the principal agreed, but Evan was…so….so…(he was searching for words)…so nonchalant about it all. Why Evan wasn’t even afraid of the principal. Imagine it?!!! Horror of horrors!!!! So he was leaving the suspension in place.
Oh and by the way, the principal added, I should probably consider using some stronger methods of child rearing to curb his behavior. His kids behave in school, he proudly told me, because they are more afraid of what will happen to them at home if they don’t. At which point I made a hasty exit with hand over my mouth lest my response be as profane as his suggestion.
I regret that. The leaving without a word, part.
I should have blown up with outrage.
I should have let him have it–pow bang zoom to the moon!
But that’s not my style.
Instead, when I got home I googled “kindergarten suspension” and “my child has been suspended from kindergarten”. I was shocked at the number of stories! Is this the new thing–suspension from kindergarten? Have we no other recourse? I felt the whole world had gone mad.
Immediately, I contacted a few good people I know in counseling and social work to see if somehow there was a solution for this seeming impulsive aggression in Evan. I rarely witnessed outbursts at home, and he was never a problem in other places like church Sunday school. The problem only seemed to be present in school.
I tried everything. Some things worked well and other things we filed in our nevertobetriedagain/thatwassuchabadidea file. Somehow we managed to get through the rest of the year with no more suspensions, but we rarely managed more than two smiley face days in a row. Ev was always devastated when he didn’t get a smiley face. He lived his life for the smiley face.
I started school shopping in January of last year and found a hidden gem. Right in my own neighborhood there was a Montessori school that runs as a charter school. My excitement ran high as the woman I spoke with told me they had openings for Evan in the fall. After a visit where I was completely impressed with their program and Ev was completely delighted with his classroom visit, and after lots and lots of paperwork, Evan was accepted into the school.
Woo hoo! God smiled and the Angels applauded!
The transition–even to thinking about going to a new school–hasn’t been perfectly smooth. Evan was anxious and wondering. I was anxious and wondering, too. One day, I noticed the information on the summer school program had been clipped to my fridge since Evan was accepted into the school. Almost impulsively, I called.
Why yes we have openings. In fact a new session begins next week. Why yes, we would love to have Evan.
Well, I thought to myself, it is now or never. Sink or swim. Either Evan is going to have issues in school his whole life or we are breaking this cycle now.
After the fifth day, Evan said, “Mom, that is the first time ever I have had five super good, smiley face days in a row. Seriously, mom. It’s the first time ever. I really like this new school.”
There was one day during the five week session where Evan came home a bit dejected and said he got in trouble for breaking something another kid had built. We talked about it. I asked him why he always asked his grammy to not wreck one of his building creations whenever we have to leave her house before he is finished.
“Well mom, I want her to save it because I like it just the way it is, and if I have to try and rebuild it, I may not be able to build it exactly the same.”
“Do you think maybe your friend might be sad because now that you knocked over his building, even though he can rebuild it, he won’t be able do it in exactly the same way?”
He thought for a moment and looked at me with true regret in his eyes. “I feel bad mom. I shouldn’t have done that.”
The next day when I took Evan to school I said something to his teacher about Evan’s “rough day yesterday”. She looked at me puzzled, and I told her the story.
She actually laughed out loud.
“That’s not a bad day,” she said, “that’s just kids! Trust me, if there is ever something really bad that happens I will be communicating with you directly. But I can’t imagine it. Evan is a delightful student. ”
A delightful student.
Those words sang in my heart through the next few days.
Of course, I knew he was delightful, but now someone else saw it, too. A teacher no less.
The grace of that teacher washed over my parched soul like a refreshing rain. Meghan Trainor may croon it’s all about that bass, but for me, it’s really all about that grace. We are just broken bits–full of heartaches and mistakes and failures. Everyone breathing is broken. But grace speaks of restoration of bringing wholeness to the broken. There is no hesitation in grace–just a swift completeness.
Yesterday was Ev’s last day of summer school. He can hardly wait to start a new year with some of the new friends he made while attending. He is happy and calm and full of positivity.
There isn’t a price tag for the kind of peace that brings me as a mama.
My heart is bursting with joy.
I wanted to do something special for the teachers as a thank you. They will never know the significance of this summer school experience to us. I wanted to give each one involved a special gift–something useful but wrapped beautifully. After scouring Pinterest and the Internet and consulting my not so large pocketbook, I decided to give bright colored thin tipped sharpie pens including a couple of highlighters in a reusable mason jar with a drinking lid. The tag read “Thanks for being the HIGHLIGHT of our summer.” Evan signed the back of each with his name and…a great, big smiley face, of course.
Honestly, the staff has no idea what five weeks of smiley face days can do for one mom and her very special and a bit out of the ordinary boy. A little bit of kindness and love goes a long way, but grace….
Grace covers it all.