That should be the mantra for all parent interactions. Say, for example, that you are a school representative about to deliver bad news about a child’s behavior. You might just have this line running through your mind. Kind of like – the customer is always right. Don’t mess with Mama Bear.
Apparently the meeting with the principal 10 days ago was to let me know that Super Tall Guy needed to “transition” out of the environment in which he no longer “fit.” From the principal’s perspective, they had done all they could in adjusting his environment but it wasn’t helping and things were getting worse. Super Tall Guy was more disruptive and more disrespectful and beginning to require “in school suspensions” sitting in the principal’s office.
I could see this was the end of our grace period, but I am also absolutely convinced that an 8-year-old boy does not need to be expelled from school. That while trying to figure out what’s going on inside the head, we need to support and keep alive a desire to learn and succeed. We can’t let very young children develop a sense of failure. We need a smooth transition to the next arrangement. In that vein, I offered to take him out of school at lunch time since it was clear that he was consistently falling apart in the afternoons.
It was certainly an emotionally charged meeting – Mama Bear was in high protective mode, while also trying to acknowledge and understand their point of view. Disruptive children do not fit into the beautiful “orchestra” of small private schools.
As often happens, though, emotions cloud discussions and we never wrapped up the details. However, when I arrived to pick up Super Tall Guy the next day – Friday – I was distressed to find that he had been sitting in the office of the Head of School all afternoon – having a “nice time looking up insects on the iPad….as we were expecting you to pick him up at lunch.” “Oh,” I replied. “I didn’t know that was starting today. For I had no details. For example, do you know what time his lunch is? Do you know when I was expected to be here?” Don’t mess with Mama Bear – because she’s holding herself together pretty darn well right now given that Baby Bear is staring at us! Because, you see – you just made Baby Bear miss out on the combined second grade class holiday party?!?!?
The calm before the storm was a bit eerie. Why wasn’t Super Tall Guy more upset about missing his party? It took 24 hours for the waves to swell and the gale-force winds to build ….when he realized his behavior at Grandma’s had just led to missing “movie night” of the next Star Wars film. And then it all unleashed. The anger. The pain. The disappointment. The fear. The frustration. The teeth on my arm. The kicking feet. The refusal to try any calming tactics suggested by the therapist. The storm, it seems, just has to settle itself out…and then the tears flow about how unfair the world is. How sad it is to miss a party that you had been looking forward to.
His pain pierced Mama Bear’s heart.
My sister, bless her, kicked into active drive, spending hours on the internet looking for a new school district and a place to live. I, however, spent a couple days with my heart wrapped up. Distraught by the realization that my eldest must have some “problem” clearly severe enough to disrupt schooling and result in the whole family moving. Saddened by the way he has struggled for months. Disappointed in myself for not recognizing all this sooner. Frustrated by the crumbling of our current status quo. Overwhelmed by the thought of moving and packing and transitioning boys to a new school – much less trying to decide “which” new school.
And yet hopeful – that we might find a school that will honor my son. One that will meet his needs and build on his strengths. A place that will not try to “break the strong willed boy” but will seek to understand his struggles and help instill healthy coping strategies and skills. A place where he is not judged as “bad” but will rejoice in the small steps of progress.
For Mama Bears have pretty high expectations. Don’t mess with them.
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