Meet the teacher night, I used to always thought it sounded so exciting. Like meeting Mary Poppins and stepping into a land of glossy name tags on desks, fresh waxy crayons, the endless possibilities of blank paper. However this year I was more like a weary burned out vet who had been told to report back to duty.
This week we went to meet the teacher night for my sons class. I had already decided that I wasn't going to tell her about last years troubles, about the trips to the office, the depression, the complete dread of school. I knew that my son wouldn't show this side to her right away, he would say hello happily and run off to play with his friends. I decided that I would let her form her own opinion of what kind of kid he was and that maybe with a little luck she would somehow have whatever magic it takes to make him like school enough and not be bored out of his mind that he wouldn't get labeled a bad kid. That was my plan, smile, say hello to the other parents, say things like "lovely to meet you," and get the heck out of there.
So, we walked in and my dear boy blasted past the teacher to tackle hug his friend. They went into some sort of puppy pack of happy boy energy and then eventually he came to say hello to the teacher. He investigated the new charts on the wall, scarfed down some fruit that was out on the table, and then he was out the door with some classmates tumbling on the hill. He looked just like a happy kid who was excited for school to start. It's kinda scary how he can turn it on and fake it so well. Last year the school counselor couldn't believe he was depressed because he was so cheerful and pleasant when she spoke with him. He doesn't like people to know he needs help. Just last week he tried to fool the optometrist about his vision. The conclusion was that he needs glasses, but it took the Dr a long time and lots of tricks and tests before he could be certain. So, last year when the counselor told me he seemed fine and that whatever I was seeing at home was "just a phase" my intuition knew there was more as I watched my son stop liking every single thing that gave him joy. He would mope and say things like "This life is so hard for someone like me."
So as the kids were playing outside his new teacher asked me, "So, is he excited about school starting?" Much to my surprise I heard myself saying, "No, actually he really doesn't like school. He hated it last year and became very depressed, I know that you might not believe that a seven year old can get depressed, but they can and he did." I went on to tell her how we looked into a Sudbury school but couldn't afford it, how we did a week trial of homeschool and that was my backup plan. I went on and on telling her exactly the opposite of everything I had planned. Also I was spilling all of this in front of other parents who slowly backed away from the crazy woman. It was like I could hear myself blurting out all the grimy details of last years war stories but I just couldn't stop myself, and part of me was thinking "shut up already." However, something good did happen, she asked me questions like "what did the previous teacher do to fill his needs for movement in the classroom?" She seemed not terrified of my stories and seemed to be absorbing them with occasional questions to better understand. I also found out she took a class on teaching boys and that she knows that school is not set up for them. She gave me a glimmer of hope that this year could work and my stories didn't seem to shake her one bit. She looked like somebody trying to figure out a puzzle as she listened to me and I think that is exactly what we will need to do. Figure out my sons bag of tricks and help him to make sense of them all.
We drove home and I tried to talk up the teacher to my boy. I said things to my son about how fun it must have been to see all his buddies. He didn't care, he still hates it, still doesn't want to go. He is very much the apathetic teenager stuck in a 7 year old body. He will go anyway, starting on Monday. Maybe if he goes a week without being sent to the office he will start to trust it again to be a good place. Perhaps if he can be given some heavy work for his busy body and some challenging quests for his buzzing brain he may even look forward to going to school. Maybe... I can dream right?