The Missing N
June 10, 2009
Today was the last day of preschool. A stunningly non-momentous occasion, made even more so by the facts that the end-of-year party already happened yesterday, and that our classroom's little fake diplomas had mysteriously gone missing. We were presented with a laminated piece of construction paper with a poem on it instead. I'm sitting here staring at the thing, thinking...well, I guess I'm supposed to keep this, because they LAMINATED it, but...eh, I guess I'll just put it up on the fridge, or something. Or in this nice pile of bills.
The year ended with a whimper and a sensory bang, as Noah whined all the way to school that he didn't waaaaant to go to school for the paaaaarrrrty, he waaaaaanteeeed to goooooo toooo Bennnnnjaaaamiiiinnnn's houuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssse, and we were late and I was annoyed and had left my coffee on the kitchen counter and realized that the baby had horked blueberries onto my boob and was busy trying to adjust the sling to cover the stain when Noah took one look at the brightly-decorated classroom, with paper lanterns and inflatable beach toys hanging from the ceiling, and decided that whining was not enough to express his displeasure and launched into full-on screaming. The fake grass festooned around the doorway had the audacity to TOUCH HIM when I took his hand and tried to encourage him to go in, and he collapsed on the floor and howled while everybody in the room -- teachers and kids and parents and siblings -- turned around to stare at us just in time to watch him kick over a row of tiny adorable chairs.
"I. WANT. TO. GO. HOME." Noah wailed.
So I shrugged, made eye contact with my one friend in the room -- the one who had spent the entire day before decorating the room and icing shark and beach-themed cupcakes -- and mouthed an apology before walking back out.
"Okay. Let's go home." I told him. "Whatever you want. I'm done."
We made it halfway down the school's hallway before Noah started to mayyyyybe reconsider his stance on the party. He looked absolutely miserable -- he didn't like that different room, with all the extra people and the things and the loudness...but. There were cupcakes.
The cupcakes won out, and we returned.
I am always simultaneously encouraged and heartbroken to see firsthand just how much Noah struggles in situations like these. He TRIES! He tries so HARD! I watch him attempt to talk to a classmate and...his words just fail him. The words sort of...fall out of his mouth in a jumble instead of an ordered sentence. ("Hey what you doing down there with the carpet truck tunnel?" instead of something like "Hey, are you making a tunnel for the truck on the carpet?") His peer will generally sort of regard him in confusion for a bit before simply turning away because he's not making any sense to her. And then Noah, apparently used this kind of response, will either try again using something he's memorized from the TV (which makes sense, because at least on TV that line seemed to work in a give-and-take conversation), or simply flit off to a corner to talk to himself, or line up some toys in rainbow order, turning his back on the rest of the world for awhile.
And then he gets up and tries again. And again and again and again.
Today was anti-climatic. Half the class was already off and gone on summer vacations, stuff was rapidly disappearing off the walls and bulletin boards, and I realized I'd neglected to even get a card for Noah's teachers, much less a gift. His teacher hugged me anyway and told me to patient, to fight, that while it might seem dark and scary and sad right now, we'd get there. Someday, we'd get there.
I collected a thick pile of art projects and photos from his cubby and we left for the very last time. For old times sake, I felt just as nauseous and anxious as I have every day since...oh, December, since his teacher threatened to expel him.
I don't usually make a habit of reading my archives -- I regard them for the most part as testaments to what a moron I once was, though the un-moroning of Amy is still a work in progress -- but the other day I happened across of the first entries I wrote about preschool. And I REALLY couldn't read them. My hope and optimism are so fresh and unwounded and downright dripping with sugary sweet naivete. This was going to be okay! This was going to be more than okay! I'm going to just go ahead and stop worrying about anything because we're SO TOTALLY OKAY!
Reading them is like watching a teenage girl in the grips of puppy love throttle towards the inevitable heartbreak while doodling little hearts all over her angst-y mix tapes.
When I got home I started sorting through the pile of art projects -- the first real bounty I've seen in months, since our last progress report noted that "Art is no longer one of Noah's choices." There was a baggie full of small squares featuring letters of the alphabet. I sat on the floor and lined them up.
The kids had done one square a week, as they worked through each letter. Our collection is missing N, and then stops all together at S, marking the point when Noah either stopped participating all together or when the teachers decided to stop fooling us and making squares for him.
I tried to find any evidence of Noah's actual handywork -- I'm pretty sure he did the E, because the three googly eyeballs are lined up to perfectly resemble a traffic light: red, yellow and green. I know he didn't do the G because it's got another kid's initials on it. Several of them give me a clear mental picture of his teacher trying hard, cajoling him, bribing him, pleading with him to just put a prepasted and precut-out figure SOMEWHERE on the paper, look, here, I did part of it for you, before Noah finally maybe obliged and placed a letter halfway on the paper before running off to the corner to line up more toys.
Basically, just like we do at home, over everything, every day of our lives.
Most of 'em, though? Noah totally had nothing to do with. Good thing they're not laminated.
Tonight we're going to a parents' orientation thing at the OT/sensory integration summer camp Noah will start in a couple weeks.
(By the way, does anybody else get as annoyed by the "no children allowed" nature of these things as I do? Hi, I've just handed over half of the contents of my savings account to you, could you maybe think about bringing in some college interns for the night to watch the kids for an hour so I don't have to pay a babysitter with the change I found in my couch cushions?)
I have rearranged my entire life to accomodate taking Noah to this camp, my mornings will be spent camped at a Starbucks or wandering around Not Buying Things At Target and hopefully keeping Ezra somehow entertained and adequately mothered while waiting to pick Noah up -- since the traffic won't allow for driving home and back in time. I have filled out all the paperwork, the case histories, the my child does this never/sometimes/always questionnaires; I have collected the previous evaluations and assessments and the triplicate copies of our IEP. All so we can start over, try again.
I am hopeful. I am optimistic. It is going to be okay.
It's going to be more than okay.