Today’s post is the continuation of Brayden’s story, started here. The year that Brayden started in my room he came to me for half-days, beginning in March. By April, we knew that he was not emotionally equipped to handle a transition to first grade, and the unanimous decision was that he would re-enroll in kindergarten, and would be in my class full-time the following year. My feelings about children repeating kindergarten are very complicated, but then… Brayden was (and probably still is) a complicated kid.
I wrote this post in mid-October of the year I had Brayden full time. His first 6 weeks of school had been rocky, but promising. And then… and then.
Oh, Internet, I swear I never wanted this to be a place where I just pour out all my woes, but…
Brayden? My laundry-list child, who started transitioning into my classroom in March of last year? Who hugs me with a ferocity that makes me cry, and who melts down in loud, noisy tears, on a regular basis, over the smallest of slights? Who spends an inordinate portion of his life on timeout, who has to push every single adult in his world to the very brink before he trusts that they (we) will set the limits he so desperately needs? Who, when he is done melting down, curls up in my lap and buries his face in my neck, and whispers: “I love you, Miss. Night”?
Yes, Brayden. Brayden, who I love with a protectiveness that frightens me.
Brayden, whose mom, just 3 weeks ago, accepted a corporate transfer to another city. A city 3 hours away from here. A transfer that is effective January 1st.
The last 3 weeks, since Brayden learned of this upcoming move, have been horrific The words have been said, and can’t be unsaid. He knows. He has gone from being a child in need, a child at risk, to being a child in crisis. Make that A Child In Crisis. Every day, every single day, there has been a meltdown to the point of him being carried, wailing and thrashing, from the classroom. Every interaction, every single interaction, with him, begins with “no! I will not do what you say!” He is oppositional and defiant and aggressive and angry and out of control and scared.
So very, very, terribly, scared.
I have bruises on my shins from his heels furiously flying as I carry him to the office. Tracy (my boss) has not completed a single meeting without a Brayden-related interruption, in 2 weeks. (And the one morning she was gone for an off-campus workshop was too difficult and exhausting and painful — for me, Brayden, my aide — to even begin to describe.) Every time I hear a loudspeaker announcement calling Tracy to the office at a time when my class is not with me, my heart sinks. It is Brayden. It is always Brayden. On Friday, in what would prove to be the final straw, our yoga teacher (who is also an early intervention specialist, thank the sweet baby Jesus) got punched in the mouth while trying to restrain a struggling Brayden. His mom was called, he went home, and he will not return to our classroom until we have found a full-time aide, just for him.
Every single scrap of time and energy I have had for the last 3 weeks have been consumed by him, and when I am not with him, I am recovering from being with him. It is not okay, or healthy, not for me and not for the other 19 children in my class. For them, I feel I have been a mediocre teacher. I have also, I suspect, been a mediocre and inaccessible leader to my team of colleagues. I have definitely been a completely absent blogger, and have become, quite possibly, the world’s most boring conversationalist, to everyone except my own mother (who might, quite possibly, love Brayden as much as it is possible to love someone you have never actually met.) When I am at my most exhausted, I resent the intrusion of this one small boy into my head and heart and world, and I wish for my life and time and energy and classroom back. At my darkest moments, January starts to seem like a beacon of hope and harmony…
But the rest of the time… My heart breaks, both for Brayden and for myself. I am scared of what will happen to him at his new school. Will his new teacher love him? Will she know that he CAN’T stop wiggling during circle, and that the safest thing for all concerned to to strategically seat him where he has enough room to roll around without kicking anyone? Will she allow him to push his own physical limits, even when it seems too dangerous, because PUSHING is what he most needs to do? Will she let him crawl into her lap and bury his face in her neck? Will she hold his hand even when inside she is shaking in frustration? Will she help him name his feelings, learn to control her own breathing, tell him she loves him even in his most unlovable moments? Will she praise his successes, however tiny they may seem? Will she set limits and stick to them, even when he has been laying on the floor, howling, for 30 minutes? Will his new school have an administrator like Tracy, who has turned her office into a safe haven for kids who need a place to get it together? Who will walk out of any meeting to carry a sobbing Brayden down the hallway so his classmates can eat lunch in peace? Will the other kids see the humour and enthusiasm and affection that hide beneath his nervous tics and pushy body language? Will he find a friend? Please, God, let him find a friend…
Brayden is taking next week off — it is only a 3-day week anyway — and staying home from school to allow all of us a break and some time to strategize, not to mention to find the angel-in-disguise that we will need to be his aide for the next 2 months. Just contemplating 3 days without him makes my whole body relax. I know I need it, and I know the other children deserve to get to know their teacher again.
But the thing is… I will miss him.
And if I know right now that I will miss him like crazycakes for just 3 days… what am I going to do in January?
*God’s Will, Martina McBride. Of course.