Sometimes an old emotion that you had packed away neatly finds its way out of the dusty bin and settles once again in your heart. When that happens, it doesn’t feel like a long-lost friend. It feels like an intruder; one you don’t care for but have to accommodate nonetheless. It’s an intruder that you know well, so even though you don’t want them there, you don’t freak out when they show up, you just do what needs to be done so they can be sent away again.
The morning started off like most other mornings. Alarms go off. People get themselves ready for the day. For some it’s school; others work. There’s a little chit-chat. Well, less “chit-chat” and more “requests” – Can I have money for the book fair? Do I really need to go to choir practice? Can you make me some tea please? Can I sit in the front seat?
No. Yes. No and no.
Things took a turn when Jay and I got to the door of his school and he realized he had left his glasses at home. For the first time in a long time I saw the swirling torrent of a melt-down heading our way. I tried to get ahead of it. I spoke calmly. I offered to bring his glasses for him at lunch time. He would not hear any of it. His mind had already gone to a place that blocks out reason. A before-care staff member came and tried to assist. At this point we are blocking the door. Through stiff, clipped words and with his entire body shaking, Jay told him that he couldn’t go inside because the other kids would make fun of him. (I’m not sure why he thought that). The staff member said all the right things. “I’m sure that won’t happen. But if it does, you come to me and I’ll deal with it.” None of that appeared to register with Jay.
Just then, a teacher, who I didn’t know, but who obviously knew Jay came in. She suggested that he go to see Ms F and take a minute in her room to calm himself. (Ms F is the autism resource teacher who was our lifeline during his transition to this school 3 years ago and who Jay loves but no longer really gets to spend much time with since he’s fully mainstreamed now).
The teacher sent me on my way, told me that everything would be fine and assured me that they would call if necessary.
We hadn’t had a school drop off like that in YEARS. I got to work still a little raw from it. Mostly I was worried that this rough start to the day would mean a rough ALL DAY for Jay and by extension, all the other students and teachers he had to interact with. Throughout the day, I kept expecting my phone to ring.
I didn’t have much appetite and it took a lot of energy to focus on my actual work.
When I picked him up, he came bounding up to me with a big smile. I asked him how his day had been and he said it was great. Gingerly, I asked him about the morning. Specifically, I asked him what happened when he went to Ms F’s classroom.
I don’t know how they do it, but special education teachers are magical. At least, the ones we’ve had. I cannot overstate how much they have taught me or how much I respect them.
Ms F apparently gave him a quiet spot to sit for a minute. Then she asked him what was making him so upset. Then she took her glasses off and put them in a bag and told him that they would be the “no glasses for a day” team.
That’s all it took. He went to his own class and proceeded to have a great day.
Where earlier my heart had been full of worry; in that moment, it was full of wonder and appreciation.
Goodbye old companion – All day anxiety caused by meltdowns. Your visit was short and not sweet. This wasn’t even a bad storm. A drizzle really. But man, it’s in these moments that I am forced to remember and truly appreciate just how far we are now from the years when meltdown hurricanes were a nearly daily occurrence.