Posts Tagged ‘school’

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The phone call

14 février 2010

 

It was only a couple months ago, when a mother made me cry.

It is my last day here, at work. I count trucks, I answer phone calls, I fill in charts. It’s pretty boring, but there is a pay check at the end of the month. 

I’m not really good at keeping a job. Not that I don’t work well. I show up, I do as I’m told. I blend in, I’m invisible. I guess I’m so good at making myself forgotten, people don’t miss me, once I’m gone. The temp agency already called me this morning. I’m to fill in for a maternity leave in a billing department, for a big insurance company. It’s a little closer to home, it’s slightly better paid, I think they did me a favor. No client of theirs ever complained about me. 

Except two months ago, when I cried at work. I cried at work, I cried in the subway, I cried in my car coming back from the supermarket. 

I don’t know how it started. I don’t know why. I have an older daughter, she’s seven, she’s never been a problem. She’s like me I guess, she’s nice and polite and behaved. Her grades are good, her friends are average, her teachers probably forget her from one year to the next.

My son, he’s different, he is smart and beautiful. 

My son, I don’t know what’s wrong with him. 

Until he was three, I never had any complaints. His nanny was a nice woman who looked after him and two little babes. He was the oldest, maybe he ruled over them a little. I guess he didn’t play much with them, they were too little. Maybe her house was his kingdom, and it was normal there, it was normal that he was better than adults at chess and other old board games. When you play on a board, your head is bent down. You don’t have to look at the person facing you.

His first year of school, it was hard. Not a week went by without having to defend him in the headmistress’ office. My son is not a mean child, my son is not violent. He would never hit girls. He would never refuse to cooperate. He would never know how to manipulate other children.

I couldn’t hear it, I refused the words, the way she looked at me with her silents questions and judgements. 

I do not hit my son. I am not hit on by my husband. 

That’s what she insinuated, with her silences and her watery eyes goggling me with annoyance. She started to hate me, and my child, and the problem we created in her school.

I, I was beyond hating her, for the guilt, the pain, for the words.

Slowly, I realized that all her words weren’t lies, and that my son wasn’t the same boy I knew than the one that went in her school. And I got depressed and lost my job, and I started temping.

Yet I hoped things would be better this year. We still wouldn’t take him to see a specialist, but he started karate. He was taught all about honoring his opponents and respecting others.

Then the letters started coming, from different mothers, one, two, three… Every week, a different one, for a different girl. This time, the words weren’t said to my face, they were written to the system, photocopied to me and sent by postal mail. Angry incoherent words read by many eyes, that burned my heart with pain and guilt and shame. 

And the last one came…

The last letter was a work of art. A work of worry, with well chosen phrases as precise as a scalpel. There was no anger, no confusion, just cold worried facts, a reminder of the law and a warning : once more, and we’ll go to the cops. 

It was a letter telling the story of a boy who hit a girl, a boy who put his hands around her neck and squeezed. A boy who manipulated other kids : you hold her like this, and I’ll hurt her. The words told the story of a horrible stranger and yet the stranger was my son. 

Your son needs help, your son must have the help he needs, your son deserves to become a balanced young man who respects girls.

That’s what the mother said, with her chiseled ways.

The system took over. 

Nowadays, every week, he sees a child psychiatrist, a psychomotor specialist, a teacher for « special kids », he’s had his IQ tested and had a whole psych evaluation.

My son is smart, very smart, but until two month ago, my son didn’t know how to play. He didn’t understand how kids in his class played, what were their rules, he felt excluded and he hit them.

Today, my son runs to school and laughs. There is still work that needs to be done, but already he is a changed little boy who know what it is to be carefree and to have friends. Already, he is on the path to freedom and happiness. 

Today, I can breathe, I can relax. And maybe who knows, people from my next job, they’ll see me and remember that I am there. Maybe they’ll want me to stay a while.

 

This mother, she made me cry. I think she saved my boy.

But I will never tell her. She tried to call me just now. I recognized her phone number from her letter, it hurt me so much I know it by heart, and I hung up on her. 

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The school didn’t hear her, but her parents did

17 novembre 2009

Figure-7

 

My name is not important. I’m a girl, I’m four.

I’m a four year old girl.

I have long blond hair, fair skin and blue eyes. I’m a princess, I’m queen, I’m a star. I’m really tall for my age, and most people think I’m older, like, 5. That’s old.

My best friend, PrincessZoulou, is the same age I am. We’re the same age, we’re the same height, we both have blue eyes. PrincessZoulou and I are like twin sisters, except that she has short dark hair. We share everything, our toys, our dreams, our songs, and our lipstick.

We started school last year, we were in the same class.

Last year, I was a three year old girl, I was a three year old princess with dreams and friends.

Last year, I met R. He was a boy, the same age as I although even much taller. I don’t really talk to boys, so I didn’t l talk to him. One day, R pushed me from the slides. I fell hard and had dark bruises on my side. It hurt.

I thought it was a joke, I thought it would stop.

It didn’t.

He also pushed and bruised PrincessZoulou, so that made two of us. There was us, and there was the rest of the playground. They watched, in sympathy, but they did nothing. Relentlessly, PrincessZoulou told our teacher, our headmistress, her parents. They punished, they panicked, they growled courteously but firmly. A shield was finally built around us, I was safe.

This year, it’s different. PrincessZoulous is not in my class. And PrincessZoulou is not a victim. Not anymore.

The first week of school, R tried to strangle her. We were at recess, we were all playing. We were all princesses and kings and superheroes, and R tried to strangle my best friend. He put his hand around her neck and he squeezed. She choked, she struggled. She broke free, she broke away and she ran. And the playground watched and did nothing. And the adults there saw nothing. But she told, she accused, she showed the marks. Late that night, her mother cried and swore and used forbidden words. 

The school didn’t hear her, but her parents did. They came to the school, they were angry but they spoke low, they were calm but they were strong.

This year, PrincessZoulou’s mother told her she was allowed to fight back. She had to fight back, she had to hit back. It was a necessity, it was an order. And so she did, again and again (she had a lot of practice with her brothers), and she won.

But no one told me.

This year, PrincessZoulou hit R in the eye and held her ground. This year, there was only one victim left. There was only me left. As the words failed me, as the boy held me in pain, I developed exema, asthma. I stopped being hungry for food or adventures or life, this year my eyes are sad and I get myself sick enough to avoid school.

Today, things are different. Today, PrincessZoulou looked at me in the eyes. « you have to tell your parents« , she said, « you must« . 

And I did. 

Finally, the words came free, and the tears, and the admission that I wasn’t as clumsy as I’d said, that I lied. I never fell down the chair on myself, I never tripped on my shoelaces, these bruises aren’t mine. And today, my parents told me I wasn’t guilty, and I was allright being myself. And I went to sleep, at last, in peace, and as I slept, my mother cried and swore and used forbidden words. 

The school didn’t hear me, but my parents did.

Tonight, my parents called PrincessZoulou’s parents. My best friend kept my secrets, she never told her parents. Well, she never outright told them anything, but they knew enough. They knew enough, and they know enough what to do and who to call. Tonight there were long talks, long phone calls, and hard decisions made by adults. I am unaware of them. I am safe, I am in peace, I am asleep.

Tomorrow, I don’t know if R will be back at school. For the past 14 months, the headmistress has asked his parents to have him consult a special doctor, but they never listened. « Nothing is wrong with our son » they said, « these girls are sissies« .

« Nothing is wrong with our son« , they said, « and nothing is wrong at home. Mind your own business. »

Well, I don’t know what « sissies » means, and I don’t know if R’s older sister and mother are or aren’t this word. I know that R must be hurting somewhere. He must be, or he wouldn’t turn his pain on others. He must, or he wouldn’t know how to exactly hurt me. 

He’s only four years old, as I.

Tomorrow, I will go back to school, and I will learn. Not about pain, not about being a victim. Tomorrow, I will go to school with PrincessZoulou and we will learn school stuff, we will play, we will talk, we will share our lipstick regardless of H1N1.

 

We will be strong.


(PS : MrsZoulou is very proud of her girl and loves her very much)