Tag Archives: separation

No More Teachers, No More Books!

25 Mar

George doesn’t want to go to school.

Big deal, I hear you say. He is, after all, an eight-year-old kid, and if I got a dollar for every eight-year-old kid who didn’t want to go to school, I’d be signing up to be the next space tourist.

His reluctance to go to school has escalated, though. It started mildly enough about five weeks ago. I was getting him ready for bed one evening when he said, “School is closed.”

“No,” I said. “School is open.”

He went to school without resistance the following day, but this became a nightly ritual. Each evening, the frequency of “School is closed” statements would increase, but as far as I could tell, there was no anxiety associated with it.

Then March break happened and everything changed. Over the course of the week-long break from school, both of the kids were sick. James recovered fairly quickly, but George had a bad cough that lingered, so I got him some natural-remedy cough syrup.

And what has cough syrup got to do with this story? Well, George hates taking cough syrup. In order to give it to him, I have to wrap him up in a blanket and give it to him with a syringe, a tiny bit at a time so he doesn’t spit the whole lot out at me. So when he reached for the cough syrup on Monday morning, indicating that he wanted that rather than school, we knew that this school aversion was serious business.

The following morning it got worse. George woke up very early and for over two hours, he constantly said, “School is closed. No school. School uh-uh.” All the time, his anxiety level was steadily rising. The pinnacle of all of this was George going into the bathroom and trying to force himself to throw up.

Despite all of this, when the school bus arrived, he got onto it without resistance, albeit looking absolutely miserable.

I sent an email to the school describing George’s behaviour and asking if anything was going on at school that I needed to know about. I didn’t think so: this is George’s third year with the same teacher, and she’s been absolutely fantastic for him. But there is, in all likelihood, something behind this and I needed to either rule out or confirm problems at the school.

Because she is so awesome, George’s teacher called me back within an hour of me sending the email. She reassured me that everything was fine, and that she would not have known that George was having a problem if I had not gotten in touch with the school.

Then she said something that was so obvious that I felt stupid for not having thought of it immediately. She said, “Did this start after you returned from your trip?”

Of course! I had been to South Africa for two weeks by myself, leaving husband and kids to hold the fort at home. The last time I had been to South Africa, when my dad died, George was 15 months old and James wasn’t even a gleam in my eye. My absence was a highly unusual state of being for both of the kids, and George, with his autism, must have had a very difficult time processing it.

And within a few days of my return, he started his nightly “School is closed” routine.  The idea that he is working through some separation anxiety makes perfect sense. The break in routine resulting from March break would have exacerbated the problem.

On the one hand, I am relieved to know that everything at school is fine. But on the other hand, I feel guilty about having been away, even though my presence in South Africa was so badly needed at that time.

I can only hope that with a bit more time and many more hugs, George will feel reassured. And if I ever have to go away unexpectedly again, I hope he will know that I am coming back.

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Groundhog Day

27 Oct

Edie sipped her tea while she waited for The Beast to boot up. She hated The Beast. It kept making her download updates that she didn’t understand, and most of the emails that she got were rubbish. Damien had bought it for her when he’d been transferred to Utah, insisting that they would have to communicate daily by email. She supposed that she shouldn’t complain. Other people’s kids moved away and forgot all about them. At least her son wanted to stay in touch, and to her surprise, their daily email exchanges had become a patch of sunshine in her otherwise monotonous days.

Edie’s gaze drifted to the picture of herself and Sammy that had been taken when they were both seven. They had been best friends: when Edie and her family had been rounded up and taken to the concentration camp, they had been thrust into a small, cramped room already occupied by Sammy and his parents. Sammy had taken her under his wing. Somehow he had made her feel less afraid.

The two children had spent hours playing in the tiny room, or on the small square of dirt outside. Whenever he eluded her during tag games, or outwitted her as they played with their makeshift Checkers set, he would smile, tap the side of his head, and say, “You gotta think like a groundhog.” Edie didn’t know what this meant or what a groundhog was, but it made her laugh every time. Despite the life they were living, they were happy in their own way.

And then, one day, Edie had come back to the room with her mother to discover that Sammy and his parents were gone. Edie did not need to ask where they were or if she would ever see Sammy again. She had become used to the people around her disappearing. She knew that they went into the big building at the far end of the compound and never came out.

Now, as she looked at the picture, she shed a silent tear for her sweet, funny friend. She wondered if he had been afraid while he was walking to his death. She gently touched his image and whispered, “You gotta think like a groundhog.”

The Beast had finally booted up. Edie opened her email and sighed as her screen filled with messages from people trying to sell things, tell her fortune, or entice her to try online dating. Damien called these messages spam, which Edie didn’t really understand.

In her haste to delete the messages, Edie accidentally opened one of them: an advertisement for Go Get ‘Em Exterminators & Pest Control. As she moved her mouse to the X in the corner of the message, a line of text in the advertisement caught her attention.

To catch the critters… you gotta think like a groundhog.

Edie stared at the screen in shock, her mind starting to race. Could it be possible that two people would come up with the same phrase almost seventy years apart? Or – Edie barely dared to allow herself to think it – could it be possible that Sammy had somehow escaped?

Could Sammy be alive?

With shaking hands, she picked up the phone and dialed the number in the advertisement. Although seventy years had passed, Edie instantly recognized the inflections in the voice that answered.

“Sammy? It’s Edie.”

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Carrie, who gave me this prompt: A spam email that turns out to be more than expected.
I challenged  femmefauxpas with the prompt: Tell us a ghost story. The kind you would tell while sitting around a campfire eating roasted marshmallows.

Jon & Kate: Was TV To Blame?

16 Aug

The news is out: TLC are finally – finally – pulling the plug on Kate Plus 8. The last show will air about a month from now, at the end of the eighth season.

Not a moment too soon.

In the beginning, I had some interest in Jon & Kate Plus 8. I was not an avid fan who had to rush home in time for every episode. But if it happened to be on I’d watch it. Seeing this couple manage all of those kids made me feel alternately better and worse about the struggles I had juggling my two boys.

By the time the first season was over, though, my interest had waned. While I admired Kate’s superhuman organizational skills and Jon’s tolerance levels, it struck me – and probably most of the TV-watching world – just how mean they were to each other. This meanness seemed to escalate with each season, culminating in Kate barely saying a nice word to Jon and Jon running off to have an affair.

When Jon and Kate announced their separation, Kate was subjected to a lot of criticism over the fact that she decided to continue with the show. Phrases like “exploitation of the children” were bandied about a lot, and general consensus was that the pair of them should focus on the children during this difficult time, and not on the show.

While I agree with all of the above, I think the rot started a lot earlier. I don’t know what Jon and Kate were like together in the days before the show, but you have to assume that they were deeply committed to one another. You don’t go through the physical and emotional roller-coaster of fertility treatments with a partner you don’t see yourself going the distance with.

There’s really no way of telling whether the show itself was the cause of the problems between them, but it’s not a far-fetched notion. The dynamic of any relationship could be changed by the presence of cameras and producers who tell you to re-enact arguments to make them more dramatic and over-the-top.

Regardless of where things went wrong for Jon and Kate, I cannot help thinking that perhaps they should have put a stop to the show as soon as the problems began. If their energies had been dedicated to their relationship instead of the TV cameras, maybe things would have been better for them and their kids. Maybe they would have been able to save their marriage. Or at the very least, maybe they would have been able to part with fewer malicious words passed between them.

And of course, the question on the public’s mind is this: What about the children? How have they been impacted by the very public way in which their parents separated?

What will it be like for them when, one day, they look back at old tapes of the show and relive their family disintegrating in the public eye?

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rittysdigiez/2983274366. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)