Life is back to normal. After a month of yodelay-hee-hoo-ing and wig installment, I’m back to all things normal and mundane, including visits to the gym. It’s even good to see the likes of bleak Stairmasters and back issues of People magazine.
What’s not back to normal is Drew.
In the two weeks since school started, I have received two notes home from his teachers, one call from the preschool director, and one “chat” from his Sunday school teacher, all of which were to the effect of “Drew has trouble listening.”
Miss Dimples, his preschool teacher, writes little note grenades with the date in the top and her name at the bottom. She sends them home in his backpack to detonate when I discover them with the half-eaten sandwich.
They are to the point:
Julie and Gordon,
Drew had to sit out today for not picking up toys.
- Miss D
Julie and Gordon,
Drew had to sit out twice for throwing wood chips.
- Miss D
The notes are written on plain white paper with a black sharpie. They are not folded or otherwise packaged, just shoved down into the backpack cavern like a parking ticket.
I was at the mall last Friday with Thing Two when I received the call from his preschool director. I was up on the second level of the mall, pushing her stroller towards Stride Rite when I saw the preschool’s name in the window of my phone. A moment of adrenaline, of heart pounding, and then suddenly I was answering and suddenly she was talking.
“First of all, it’s not an emergency,” she said. A breath of oxygen. “Drew had to sit out of the soccer game this morning because he wasn’t following instructions. The coach had to physically pick him up and bring him over to the circle and he still didn’t participate.”
Thud. There went my heart again, down into the spleen-y region.
“I’m so…sorry,” I said, feeling the exquisite unfairness of bearing the shame for someone else’s behavior.
“Please don’t be upset about this,” she continued. “This is what preschool is for, to learn how to follow instructions. And that’s our job. We’ll figure out what works for him and keep you in the loop.”
I knew she meant it in the most positive sense, but all I heard was, “Since you seem incapable of teaching your child obedience, we will take it from here.”
We talked for about 10 more minutes as I pushed Madeline up and down the length of Hulen Mall’s upper level. I kept handing down bits of Clif bar for her grubby hands to snatch.
When I finally got off the phone and had both hands on the stroller, a strange and epic feeling crept up to my shoulders, a sense of having been selected — a mantel of exclusivity, of extraordinary otherness. I was the only woman in the United States who had received a call that day. That even amongst indigenous tribes of Aborigine, there wasn’t a single four-year-old in September of 2011 who “had trouble listening.” God in his wisdom saw fit that I, the Lewis and Clark of preschooler malfeasance, carry this dark and unique weight. The black pleasure of martyrdom bubbled in my chest for a moment and then evaporated.
I was hungry. The Clif bar had run out.
“He’s not going to grow up to be a delinquent,” Gordon said later. “She said she knew he wasn’t being defiant or willful, just that he didn’t have that skill yet.”
“But he NEVER used to get in trouble this summer, or last year,” I corrected. “What changed?”
Or maybe the better question is, who changed?
And which is worse: that my child (probably) has attention deficit disorder like his father — something I’ve been suspecting for a while now — or that he is just a little brat?
Maybe I’m the one who needs a time-out.
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