The cold isn’t bothering me. The ice, however, is. I find it frustrating to drive on icy, rutted roads, and I’m particularly tired of walking gingerly on icy sidewalks.
It occurs to me that walking on the ice is a metaphor for how I’m feeling right now: like I might fall down at any moment.
On Friday Cherry didn’t come to school for the fourth time that week, so I called Mom. It turns out Cherry didn’t feel like coming to school, so her mother kept her at the daycare center where they live. (Cherry goes there before and after she’s in my class.)
I had to tell Cherry’s mother that those are unexcused absences, and too many of those will mean that Cherry has to leave so that a child on the waiting list can get in, and I really don’t want that to happen. I pointed out how bright Cherry is, and how she’s on the verge of reading and writing for real, and that she won’t get much academic stimulation at her daycare. Her mother agreed, and said she’d send her on Monday. I told her that she should put her foot down and put Cherry on the bus, even if she throws a tantrum. I told her that as a mother, my message to my children is, if we agreed to commit to something, we’re seeing it through. I’ve taken my son to swimming even though he’s really mad and says he hates swimming, and then seen him relax and have fun once he’s in the pool, time and time again. After we hung up I questioned myself and wondered if I was pushing Cherry’s mother too hard, and if I had put her on the defensive.
But really, who doesn’t send their child to school for four days because the child says, “I don’t want to go”??
Then at the end of the morning, a girl we’ll call Raspberry threw a fit and refused to go outside to the bus. I came back in with Zucchini, whose bus was late, and saw Raspberry lying on the floor in the middle of the hall, and Miss Slinger looking hassled. I told Miss Slinger to go take her lunch break, told Raspberry to get up several times (and was refused several times), so then I picked her up and carried her into the office. As I was lifting her, I was thinking, I probably shouldn’t be doing this. But there was no one else to watch her, and I had to take Zucchini back outside for his bus.
Later, when Zucchini was on his way home, and Raspberry had run out of the office several times, told me “I hate you” and stuck her tongue out at me, and run to the water fountain to stick her mittened hand in the water, I got a chance to talk to Raspberry’s mother, who was running late to a doctor’s appointment, and was looking hassled herself. Later I thought, did I handle this right? Poor woman, she comes to pick up her child and her child is throwing a fit and the teacher wants to arrange a conference to talk about her daughter’s behavior….
I went home doubting myself.
Then on Sunday one son had a friend over, and I chatted with the friend’s mother briefly. Her family is having all sorts of troubles, with depression and social isolation among the issues, and after she left I felt like I was a sponge, and I’d soaked up all her stress. I went upstairs to check my work email, and found copies of letters that a group of angry parents had written about how poorly things are going for their children, and how they all want to abandon our school (more on this later — these parents actually have reason to be angry), and that really made me tense. I associate myself and my professionalism with the place I work, and I hate to have our school under attack, even if I have to admit it is deserved.
I spent the rest of Sunday feeling wound-up, anxious, and unhappy. Now it’s Monday and I think I will try to go in early, fortified with coffee, and try to forge through. I’m also going to try really hard not to let other people’s problems feel like they are my problems.