Sunday, March 6, 2011


Jack wanted to go back to school after a week and I had already sent Michael back to daycare.  Since Jack was going, I figured I could go to school too.  I walked into my building a little late after the buses had arrived and there was my principal in the front office.  He was a tall man, handsome, with blue eyes and a mischievous smile.  He saw me open the door of the office and he said in a huge voice, “You’re back!” With wide open arms he leaned over and gave me a big bear hug.  He was wearing his royal blue wind breaker with the name of the school it.  It felt soft against my face.  He took me into his office and we chatted for a few minutes.  He asked me how the boys and I were doing and I got him caught up.

He asked me if I was ready to be at school.  I told him I was going to try it but I would let him know if it was too much.  I went down the hall to my office and took a look around.  I had order a LOT of books and they were boxed and piled high in my room still waiting to be opened and sorted through.  Time seemed to have stopped.  I had been through a war.  I got started on straightening up my room and waved to people as they went by my door.  It was difficult to focus.  I had to get through the first day back and I was going to have to navigate it without losing it every time someone asked how I was doing. People were great; they respected my space.

I started in on the books.  Each title was a set of six books; each box had about 30 titles.  Each one had to be stamped with the school name, leveled with a color-coded dot sticker and banded with a rubber band.  I sat in the middle of the pile of books and just kept on going. 

The hours ticked by and before I knew it, it was almost time to go home.  I was in the office near the end of the day when I got a call from Jack.  “Hi Jack,” I said into the phone.  “Mom?” he was crying. “What’s wrong, Jackie?” I asked.  I was beginning to feel the panic.  “I went to science class and she gave me an interim,” he managed to say in between gasps of crying.  My motherhood went into overdrive.  I was very calm to him.  “Tell me what happened.”I said.  “Well, I went to science class and Miss Avery walked up to me before she started teaching and handed me the interim.  I got a “C,” he was still crying.  “Jack, don’t worry; it’s okay.  I will call and talk to her, just calm down and relax.  I’ll be home soon.  Love you.”

Poor Jack, Rick’s illness had set him on a back burner.  I had been absent as a mother and his father had died.  This was his first day back to school; his emotions were on edge and then this.  I was really hot but I called the school.

When Miss Avery got on the phone, I told her that Jack had just called me to let me know what had happened.  “Mrs. Roszel, Jack’s grade dropped two letter grades and it was my responsibility to inform you,” she said.  “Are you out of your mind?” I asked. "His father died two weeks ago; this is his first day back and you felt that you had to give that to him in front of his peers?”  “Mrs. Roszel, my brother died when I was in my twenties.  I understand grief,” she said.  “I am sure that you cannot begin to understand his grief or you would not have thought it important to give that to him today,” I said in a bit louder voice.   “Mrs. Roszel, it was my responsibility to inform you of his grades,” she said.  “Well, thanks, next time give me a call or mail it!” I hung up on her.

I called the dean of sixth grade.  I had already butt heads with her earlier in the year.  I explained the situation with Mrs. Avery.  “Mrs. Roszel, Mrs. Avery did need to deliver the interim to you to inform you of Jack’s grades.  He had dropped two grades and it is required, she explained.  “Mrs. Woods, Jack went from an A to C; his father has been dying for the past 13 weeks.  Do you think that might have something to do with it?”  I asked.  “Oh, Mrs. Roszel, I understand your pain.  I had a miscarriage while pregnant with twins.  I know how grief can be hard to handle.  I went to a grief group for parents who lost children,” she said.  I was astounded; I could hardly believe these two women had just equated their loss to ours.  I was dealing with two idiots.  I hung up on her too.

When I got home, Jack had calmed down but I wanted to talk with him.  My nerves were shot from everything I had been through.  I was developing TMJ from clenching my teeth at night and I had forgotten how to relax my face.  “I asked him what was going on?” he started crying again.  “Jack, this is not a big deal; we just need to get through the year.  Can you hold on?” I asked.  “I think so, he said.

In the next two weeks, the sh.. hit the fan.  Jack began to bring home reports of missing work from school and I was getting phone calls from all of this teachers.  Now, a saner woman would have stepped back from all of this and said to herself, “Self, this is because your child has been stressed out and you were unavailable for him.”  I was not that wise woman; I kind of went bananas.  Poor Jack, I was flipping out and his school was not being supportive.  He was so behind in his work that he was drowning.  It was not my proudest moment as a mother.  I was freaking out; I could not see the forest for the trees.

We were at Rick’s mom’s house one day when it all came to a head.  I left rather abruptly with the two boys in the van and drove home, screaming at Jack like a wild woman.  When we walked in the door to our house, it hit me.  This is so stupid.  I do NOT need him to suffer anymore.  This is over!  He is going to finish the work and I am pulling him out of school.  This is not about him completing work.  He needs time to grieve.

"Jack, get all your stuff out of your room, and bring your backpack and any of your papers that you can find.  We are going to get this all done today.  We will do this together," I told him.   I figured they wanted the work done, I was going to do it and I did.  We spent several hours completing all the work.  He went to school the next day and didn’t go back.  I called to let the dean know he would not be returning until the fall.

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