It’s Not His Fault
Yesterday I started talking to Charlie about how he will be going to a new school. He looked at me, blinking a bit. "It's not your fault," I said. My mind ran over the numerous procedural and other errors—some noted in my letter to the Superintendent—that got things to this point. So much, too much.
A few minutes later, I heard the sounds that mean, Charlie's telling us he's upset, confused, sad, puzzled that the pieces of the world as he knows it aren't fitting together so much that it would make anyone's head hurt. I ran to him and stood across from him. Keeping my words minimal and my voice low and loving, I talked about how feeling, well, upset, confused, sad, puzzled is just as he should be feeling. About how we know Charlie did his best in school, tried his hardest. About how much we love him and we're always with him. About how we'll try everything we can to make the new school ok.
Charlie stood straight and tall where he was and cried.
Behind Jim and me doing all that we could to make Charlie's current placement work is our memories of how traumatized Charlie was four years ago when things were falling apart in his public school classroom in another town in New Jersey. We took him out of school then and homeschooled him and, after a few days, he knew this isn't right, I should be in school!, and was very, very upset. Fortunately we were able to find a (private) placement for him in just a few weeks and Charlie became vigilant about being in school, to the point of seeming distressed about vacations and weekends.
Jim and I wondered, did he think he was being punished in November of 2005, that he couldn't go back to school? And is Charlie thinking this now in October of 2009—that his having to leave his current school and go somewhere else is all his fault?
Sunday, once Charlie's crying had become suppressed sniffles, we got into the car and got some groceries (with an eye to what to put in his lunchbox: in the midst of troubles, one must still eat). Charlie dug through some boxes to find one particular brand of brownie mix and asked me to make them soon as we got home. He microwaved himself a plate of fries while the brownies were baking.
Jim had been talking about kayaking and, soon as Charlie had put his plate in the sink and washed his hands, he asked to put on his swimsuit. Jim loaded up the kayak, I got the paddles and seats, and Charlie moved the bikes out of the way. We drove to a local (not too deep) river and Jim launched the kayak while Charlie took off his black shoes and squished his socks inside them. He got himself into the kayak by sitting down on his derrière and shimmying to the edge of a stone wall until both his feet were in the kayak. Jim waved and Charlie kept his eyes on the water.
I skipped down the bank behind some trees to watch them from a point up the river and all the way I could hear Jim singing a phrase from "We Love You Charlie" and the theme song of The Courtship of Eddie's Father.
They kayaked up and down the river, which was only a few inches deep at one point. They came eye to eye with a deer. Jim talked to some other kayakers who told him that they could paddle all the way up to a certain state road (one of those New Jersey highways with only a divider inbetween four lanes of fast-moving traffic and every possible chain store represented at some point or other). The sun shone warm and bright and for the rest of the day we assured Charlie that he's doing good, and that things in the near future will be different, but still all right.
And, that it's all not his fault.