Thursday, September 30, 2010

Goin' In (part 3)

"Hi again," I say to the woman at the front desk.  "I'm checking him out for the day."

"Ohhh," she responds empathetically.  "Is he feeling sick?"

"No."  I feel sheepish having to explain my crazy plan.  I try to see if I can get through it quickly.  I'd like to avoid a lot of questions.  "He has had some behavior issues, so he's going to be home with me for the next couple of days."

Her eyes fly wide open.  "Oh!  Would you like to speak to someone?  The Vice-Principal, perhaps?"

"'re fine..."

"Well, I'm sure he would like to know what is going on.  I'd be happy to get him."  This is said with such crazy energy that it seems she is trying to preempt an angry, raging parent.

"Griffin, could you go over and sit over there for a minute," I direct.  When he is out of earshot I say, "Look, I'm not unhappy at all.  Mrs. Quayle is doing an amazing job with him.  I'm just trying to teach him a lesson about the behavior I expect at school."

With this her eyes narrow a bit and she looks at me quizzically.  "Are you sure you don't want to speak to anyone?  I'm sure the Vice-Principal would like to know what is going on."

And I wonder if she means with me or with Griffin?  I'm leaning more toward me.  She still hasn't handed me the check out sheet yet. "Well, I don't feel like I need to talk to him, but, I mean, it would be fine, I guess."

"Um, he's out of the office right now...but--"

"Oh, that's fine.  Like I said--"

"But I could get the school psychologist.  She would be happy to talk to you--"

"O...kay...sure, that's fine."  It's obvious I'm not getting out of this school without discussing this to someone.

She walks me over to Mrs. Manzatti's* office where I fill her in on Griffin's past behavior and my crack-pot scheme.

We are sitting at her child-size table over which she leans and asks, "Griffin?  What's going on?  Do you not like your classroom?  Are you having problems with Mrs. Quayle?" Mrs. Manzatti spoke in a high voice only reserved for talking with problem children.

"No," Griffin mumbles, his eyes downcast.  "I like Mrs. Quayle."

"Well, it sounds like you are having a hard time, buddy.  What's going on?"

In the silence that follows, I wonder if you had to develop a voice like that to become a school psychologist.

Finally Griffin speaks and begins to cry.  "I just don't think I'm ready."

"Ohhh..." Mrs. Manzetti says nodding her head understandingly.  Then turning to me, she says in her authoritative adult voice, "He may be feeling overwhelmed."  Then, switching back to her child psychologist voice, she says to Griffin, "You know, Griffin, you are going to learn all kinds of things in first grade.  You're going to learn how to read, your going to learn'll learn all of that.  It's okay if you don't know it right now."  Then back to normal voice and to me, she says, "First grade is very different than kindergarten.  There are a lot more expectations academically, a lot more seat work...And Mrs. Quayle--she is a very good teacher--but she does expect a lot of the students."

Now it was my turn to nod understandingly.  I'm not sure we're all on the same page here, Griffin included.  "The thing is," I say, "he's doing all of those things already.  He can already read and he is trying to solve his sister's math problems, so...I'm not sure what he means when he says he not ready."

Then I say in my mommy voice--which isn't all that much different than my adult authoritative voice...well, maybe their exactly the same-- "Griffin.  I don't know what you mean when you say you are not ready, son.  You are doing really well with your school work.  What don't you feel ready for?"

"I don't feel ready to follow the rules," he blurts, wiping his eyes.

Mrs. Manzetti is back to nodding understandingly;  I, however, don't feel as if we've discovered any new territory.  That much was clear to me three weeks ago, but feeling ready or not, what are the options here?  The rules aren't going to change; I know that much, which is what I'm waiting for her to tell him when she says to me, "I just don't want him to get the idea that he can misbehave and then he gets to go home."

And I wonder how many stupid parents this woman has to deal with.  "Oh, no.  This isn't a 'get to go home' situation," I clarify.  "No.  This is a 'have to go home' situation.  He is not going to have any fun at home."  And this part is mostly for Griffin's benefit.  "No.  If he's going home, then he is going to not only do all of his schoolwork and then some, he is going to have to do all the work that needs to be done during the day as well.  If he doesn't want to do his job here, then he can work at home.  This is not going to be pleasant, and then we will see how good school looks."

"Oh.  Oh, I see."  I'm not sure Mrs. Manzetti is on board the crazy train, but she seems more interested in watching it pull out of the station.

(to be continued...seriously, how long is this story anyway?)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Goin' In (part 2)

author's note:  Still here.  Still without a computer.  Hopefully I'll be back, fully on-line, early in the week.  Don't give up on me.

"Hi."  I greet the woman at the front desk hesitantly.  "I'm Griffin's mom."  She gives no sign of recognition at his name; I take that as a good sign.  "His teacher called, and apparently he has had some behavior issues today?"  Still nothing.  Phew.  "I called back but couldn't get through, so I thought I had better come down."

"Who's his teacher?"

"Mrs. Quayle."

"Okay..." she says, searching her schedule list.  "She is at lunch.  Would you like me to call her?"

Poor Mrs. Quayle can't even get a lunch break.  "Yes.  I suppose I had better visit with her."

When I see her coming down the hall, I rise, sheepishly shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes.  She laughs, and this puts me at ease a little.  "I'm so sorry to interrupt your lunch!"

"Oh, that's no problem.  He's had a tough morning."  Rightly said, it should have been, I have had a tough morning because of him, but Mrs. Quayle is too nice to speak the actual truth.  "Does Griffin know a boy named Eli Jones?" (Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.) 

"Ummm..." I am racking my brain for that name.

"Because that is the little boy he bit at recess.  At first he said he didn't bite him, although three other boys said he did.  When I asked him why three other boys would say that he bit Eli, Griffin said, 'I don't know, but I didn't.'  Finally, though, he gave the reason that he had gone over to Eli's house and Eli had pushed him off a shelf and he had gotten hurt."

What?  I don't even know a...wait a second..."Last Christmas I went over to Eli's mother's house so my mom could buy a necklace that she had made...We were there for like 15 minutes, but I think Griffin did get hurt while they were playing...Nine months ago?  I can't believe Griffin would hold a grudge for nine months, but that is the only time he has been to Eli's house..."

"Well, whatever the circumstances, Griffin felt that gave him reason to bite him.  The other issue was that during carpet time..." 

She continues to tell me about another instance of Griffin neither listening or obeying.  That is old hat around here, but the biting?  That one blows my mind.  I am at a loss, which is what I tell her.  "Mrs. Quayle, I really don't know what to do with this kid right now."  Even as I say it I'm pretty sure that is not an impressive thing to say, but my mind is whirling, trying to come up with some sort of meaningful punishment.  Something that will make a difference.  But what is it?  What? 

"I just think he needs to realize that coming to school is a privilege," I continue.  "...Maybe I need to take him out of school for a couple of days...make him want to come back...maybe..."My mind is still spinning, but there might be something here...possibly.  "I don't know.  I just think he needs something that's going to rock his world a little bit."  I'm hoping here that she will chime in with an opinion; clearly I am a mother grasping at straws.  She doesn't.

So I continue, "What do you think?"

"Well..." she hesitates, and I think maybe I'm crazy.  "In my position I can't tell you to take your child out of school--"

"--No, of course not."  It's official.  I'm crazy.

"--but if you think it will help, it may be worth a try.  Why not?"

And that's where I fell in love with Mrs. Quayle a little bit.  Right there.  Because I don't know what will help.  I really don't, but I'm willing to try anything.  And something in my mother's heart tells me this kid needs a wake up call, something big, something bold, and maybe a little crazy, and if she can get behind crazy, then she's on my team.

"Do you want to get him now?  They are just coming in from recess."

"Sure.  Yeah."  I try to sound more confident than I feel.  "If you could send home his work from the rest of today and for tomorrow, I will see that he gets it done.  I just want to make sure I'm not making things harder for you..."  And then I realize Griffin will be out of her class for a day and a half.  I laugh, "Actually things will probably be a little easier, huh?"

She laughs with me, but doesn't totally disagree.  I respect that.

When Griffin sees me standing next to his teacher as he comes in from recess, his face lights up.  He smiles and waves excitedly.  Inside I shake my head at his complete oblivion.  Outside I narrow my eyes and beckon him with my pointer finger.  His smile quickly fades and he walks over reluctantly.

"I am not happy about being here right now," I seethe quietly.  "Do you know why I am here?"

"Because I got in trouble."

"That's right.  And now you have to come home with me.  Let's go get your things."

While the rest of the class finishes their bathroom break, Mrs. Quayle accompanies us to her room.  While she gathers his papers, I lecture.  "Now, you look at Mrs. Quayle.  She is your teacher.  She is not your babysitter, or your mother.  She is your teacher, and she should not have to spend all of her time dealing with your misbehaviour when she has 25 other students in the room to look after.  You need to say you are sorry for not listening and obeying."

"Sorry," he mumbles humbly. 

Griffin," I continue, "school is a privilege.  There are lots of kids that do not get to go to school.  You should feel very lucky to be here, but if you can not behave, then you can not be here.  Now, Mrs. Quayle loves you, and she wants you to be able to come back, but if I can not trust you to behave correctly when you are out of my sight, then I will not allow you to come back to school.  You will just have to stay at home and do all your work with me where I can keep my eyes on you.  We are going to see how it goes the next couple of days, and you are going to have to prove to me that you want to come back.  Do you understand?"

He nodded yes.

"Here are your papers from today, and the rest of the work we will be doing this afternoon," Mrs. Quayle says, and then in a move that is akin to jumping up behind me and spurring the crazy horse on, she takes his little face in her hands, looks in his eyes, and with the severest gravity says, "I hope you can come back, Griffin."

Me?  More in love with Mrs. Quayle than ever!  She's on board and, though we don't know exactly where we're going, we're riding this train all the way to the station--or at least the the front office, 'cause that's where I run into a little trouble.

(to be continued...)

Friday, September 17, 2010

What's Up

So, my computer crashed.  And it's pretty hard to write part two when my computer won't even turn on!  Argh!  But hubby has his laptop home this weekend, so I will write.  And post.

I miss my computer...but boy is my house sparkly!  :0)

Monday, September 6, 2010


Just a few things:

1.  Nothing gives Griffin more pleasure right now than popping his own microwave popcorn.  He's got the big bags down just right.  However, popping an individual size popcorn bag for three minutes will leave my house smelling like burned popcorn for two days--at least that is how long it has been despite my candle-burning-bowls-of-vinegar-on-the-counter-attempts.  Pee-u.

2.  I much preferred the faint odor of maple syrup that hung around for two days after baby Lincoln covered himself and much of the kitchen in it.  Messy, yes, but much better for the nose.

3.  This morning I discovered the load of laundry I forgot to take out of the washer on Saturday.  It is being re-washed as we speak, which means I am now officially behind in laundry.

4.  I will not be able to finish my "to be continued" story today because we are taking the kids to the Diamondbacks game.  I love baseball in person.  On the TV?  Not so much.

5.  Happy Labor Day.  Here's to all the laborers out there!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Goin' In (part 1)

"Hello.  Mrs. Wicke?  This is Mrs. Quayle, Griffin's teacher?  I just wanted to call to let you know that I had to take away both of his hand sanitizers because they were quite distracting to him..."

It is only the second day of school, and already I'm getting a call from his first grade teacher.  I'd focus more on the embarrassment of that situation if I could think anything other than, "Hand sanitizers?  Both?  What?"

"I tried to tell him that he was only to use them when he sneezed, or blew his nose, or...but he kept playing with it under his desk, so I took the one away, and then the next time I looked he had another..."

I still can't get past "hand sanitizers."  I'm not a hand sanitizer kind of mom, as my friends will tell you.  They are the germaphobes; I'm the mom who considers dirt a form of inoculation.  Besides, trying to keep Griffin clean is like trying to hold back the tide.  And now I have a teacher who can only surmise that I am the most germ-conscious mother in the room, for not only do I send one hand sanitizer but a back up--just in case!

"Anyway, I just wanted to let you know in case Griffin came home and said that I..."

"Mrs. Quayle, I'm so sorry.  I don't know where he got those in the first place.  I certainly didn't pack them for him.  And secondly, please feel free to take anything of his away from him at any time and keep it as long as you want."  In my estimation, Griffin's teacher needs free range...obviously.

The next time we talk, she informs me that Griffin is not finishing his work because he isn't staying on task, and I tell her that she is preaching to the choir; well, not in those words exactly.  "You know, Mrs. Quayle, we are dealing with these same issues at home.  He's not a bad kid, he just seems to be in a bad pocket right now."

"Oh, no," she quickly agrees, winning my heart.  "He's not mean or malicious about anything.  He just seems impulsive and highly social."

Impulsive and highly social.  It's a good description of my boy.  "Well, I appreciate that you can see the goodness in him, and I just want you know that you have our total support here at home.  We are working really hard on this end, too, and we're willing to do whatever you need."

I initiate the third conversation with a request that she do a daily behavior report for Griffin.  As a firm believer in bribery, I have a plan:  With good behavior at school he could earn points toward getting a lizard.  Crazy pets in exchange for compliance?  Any day of the week.  Especially when she further reports that she has a small collection of toys that he has smuggled into school.  I tell you, if it's not one thing it's another with this kid.

But the fourth conversation--oh, the fourth conversation!--is the worst.  I come home at noon to discover a message on my machine.  "Hi, Mrs. Wicke; this is Mrs. Quayle again.  We've had a couple of issues with Griffin today.  Uh, he bit a child at recess.  He denied it, but three other children said that he did.  I did look at the other child, and there were bite marks.  It didn't seem like a really hard bite, but it did draw blood.  Then when we were doing calendar time, I noticed he was playing with a pencil and when I asked him to please put it away he--" Beeeeeep.

The machine cuts her off, and I stand there in stunned silence.  Biting?  He has never bitten another kid in his life.  Even his sister, and, out of anyone, he should have bitten her a couple of times.  This is a whole new low.  And what was the rest of the story?  What horror could he inflict with a pencil?  Take the whole classroom hostage?  And what was I supposed to do?  Go get him?  Are they holding the little vampire in the office?  What?

I try to call the school back only to get a busy signal.  I wait.  I call again. Still busy.  Never one to exhibit much patience, I determine that I'm going to have to just go down there.  I call a friend who generously comes over to sit with baby while I head out the door.  As I drive the short distance to the school, I realize that I don't know what to expect, nor do I know what I'm going to do. 

All I know is that I have to do something.  I might be "the" mom of "that" child right now, but I am THE MOM.  I stand between him and the cliff he seems determined to throw himself off of.  But what's my next move?

That I don't know.  So I phone a friend:  I pray asking that I will know what to say or do to get through to this child.  Then I take a deep breath and suit up. 

'Cause I'm going in. 

(to be continued...)

p.s.  While I finished writing this this morning my baby covered himself and the kitchen table in maple syrup.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here We Go Again

School here in Mesa started August 11th.  On August 13th I got a call from Griffin's teacher.  For those of you who are math challenged like me, I'll interpret:  GRIFFIN'S TEACHER HAD TO CALL ME ON THE SECOND DAY OF SCHOOL!  Oh, boy.  I'm that mother again? 

It appears so.  The last three weeks have been a bumpy ride, so strap in, because if I get the chance today I'm gonna' tell you all about it.