Friday, June 24, 2016

A Phone Call Like This

It could be the landline. It could be your iPhone. Sometimes it's an email, either through whatever grading portal the school uses, or directly from the teacher. It's never been a text.

It might be the guidance counselor, the school social worker, hell, even the gym teacher has had communication with you.

You are deft. You are a team player. You're there to work with them and that is what you do.

You share strategies. You follow up. You validate them. You call in outside supports. You keep yourself available because there is nothing more important than your kid.

You're good at this now. You keep your sense of humor. Soon, after the situation is under control, you laugh about it with whoever it is you're working with.

Ocassionally, there's a tiny bit of barely perceptible impatience lapping around the edges of things. You hide it from people. It's an irritant.

You have a rhetorical question. You wonder why it is that nobody else can simply manage your child. You have no problems at all handling  this kid. It's not always easy being the most competent person in his world.

But mostly you're all equanimity and confidence. You got this. It's how you roll.

But there's this one time. The situation goes on longer than it should have. By the time you know  about it, it is entrenched.

It has some new features. The first email has you off kilter. You ask for more details. They flood in. By the second email you're alarmed. You're out of your element.

Without pity or anger you make an observation. It is free of investment. Now you are a social scientist.

No one in your extended family has ever received an email like this. Not your niece's parent, your nephew's parent, or your own mother. You have  family members who are too young for school but you can already tell their parents will never receive a communication like this one. Same with the majority of your friends.

You wonder what it is like to never receive the phone call. It's hard to imagine such an uneventful trajectory through school.

You go overboard with your child out of fear, and then apologize a couple of hours later  when you've gained better perspective. You and your kid weather this.  He doesn't need a perfect parent every moment of every day. You are impressed with his resilience and your own.

But you're not fooling around. The next day you show up at school with your binder of materials and soon you are sitting with the guidance counselor, who at that very moment is the wisest person you have ever met and the kindest.

He's already done all of the things you were going to ask him to do. He tosses off insight so crisp and shiny that you'll remember it for the rest of your life.

Raising this kid is a group effort. You meet with one other member of what you call the advisory board because she knows more than you do.

She tells you that you overreacted. There was no reason to feel this shaken up. Concerned, yes. Fearful no.

There are two ways you hear this. She works every day with moms like you and kids like yours. She knows her stuff. So yeah, it's reassuring.

But you highly doubt that a phone call like this has ever come close to her home. Statistically it's not likely. Things aren't perfect for her. They never are. But a scenario like this? Probably not.

You kick yourself for not asking. Because if this expert thinks there is something wrong with your response, then you are going to need more information from the expert.

If the expert is not accustomed to phone calls from school which cause distress, then the expert is not the expert. You are the expert. Your report from the trenches should Interest the expert very much. She should listen like you are the only two people in the world.

There is a chance that the expert has gone through something similar. It's hard to imagine because this is an expert and also a parent. This is an expert-parent.

But maybe you are wrong and she has walked the walk. In that case, here is what you will tell her.
She should pull her chair closer. She has earned her audience of one. You will be all ears and you will hang on her every word.

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