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37. Sick

February 4, 2012

nurse's office, school nurse, weirdo, geek, autism, cafeteriaGot a call from the school nurse today. Again. It is rapidly becoming a weekly, if not daily event. Most mornings, Thinks-He’s-Justin-Bieber (THJB) complains that he feels sick. He has no fever, he has no congestion. If he realizes it’s a weekend, his energy level rises dramatically. But I have no doubt that he’s sick. It’s not the kind of sick that keeps you home from school, but its sick nonetheless. He has two parents who love him desperately, and can’t show up for him like he needs right now. And it feels like this has been going on for a long time. No wonder he feels sick.

The divorce is probably the main driver of these sick days, but there’s other stuff too. THJB has a hard time socially. It may be diagnosable; he may be just an eensy-weensy bit on the autism spectrum.  He may have some sensory processing issues. We don’t know yet. What we do know is that he is the oddball in class, the kid who drives everyone else crazy, the one who doesn’t really know how to play the social games.

This is so hard for me. In part, this is because I just hate hate hate to see him sad and lonely. In part, its because I was that kid too, and I know what its like.

Just like him, it got hard for me in third grade. Before then, all the kids were kind of spastic and kind of tolerant of difference. Something changes for lots of kids in third grade – only it didn’t change for me. At recess, I still wandered the playground singing and playing Penguin Family. All the other girls, though, suddenly spent recess trading puffy stickers. I had no idea what a puffy sticker even was – yet every other girl in my class had a whole album of them. Googly-eyes, changies, flats: they had mastered a whole language while I wrestled with subtraction. That was also the year I got called “Ching Chong.” I told my parents, who told my teacher. It ended quickly – but it didn’t make me any friends.

Just like him, I spent a lot of time in the nurse’s office, afflicted with mysterious illnesses. From the second floor window, I would watch all the kids line up for lunch in the cafeteria. I was relieved I wasn’t with them. I was also  ashamed. Ashamed for not being down there. Ashamed of being weird. Ashamed for running away. I still remember the time I went up to the office, and the nurse, with heart-numbing scorn said, “oh you’re here again.

Just now, THJB’s school nurse told me that she was sending him back to his classroom, “to tough it out.” Which made me weep (and prompted this blog post). I didn’t have the wherewithal to argue and I don’t think picking him up right now is the best move. But I also don’t think that “toughing it out” is the solution either. Some ideas? Certainly, more help and support for him. He’s already in therapy, and has a social skills group. Now I’ve got a call into an occupational therapist and I’m going to read more books and and and. Mostly, I don’t know the answer. I’m going to pray on that. For today, I think the best thing I can do is keep loving my little boy. While I’m at it, I’ll send some love back across the years to that little girl staring down at that line– still snaking, endlessly, into the cafeteria. Maybe someday I’ll join it. Or maybe it’s time to start singing and playing Penguin Family again.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Wendy permalink
    February 4, 2012 10:21 pm

    Beautifully written and a bit tough to read. You are a brave woman and I am grateful to be getting to know you (at long last).

    • February 5, 2012 10:49 pm

      Thats very sweet and thank you. Ummm.. . just curious – is this my cousin Wendy?

  2. February 5, 2012 11:11 pm

    My son was the same way when he was that age. He just hated going to school. He felt overwhelmed by every one and every thing. He also complained a lot about not feeling well, or getting the school nurse to call me. It did get better when he was diagnosed with OCD and anxiety disorder, but only because we knew then what his issues were and could address them directly. I hope OT and other doctors can find a way to help your son. Good luck to you both.

    • February 6, 2012 12:15 am

      I do think a diagnosis would help. But of course, then comes all the other questions….and I’m reminded too that often the kids who didn’t quite fit in become exactly the adults I want to hang out with. Thanks for the support

  3. February 6, 2012 5:16 pm

    Great post, which I definitely relate to. I used to be sick all the time in junior high school. I always thought it was to get out of being around the mean phys ed teachers, but really it was about needing nurturing and a quiet place to hide out.

    I think it was about feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how to say that. I needed someone to tell me the intensity of my feelings were okay. I was okay and I would be okay. There was a lot of changes going on in my family then and I didn’t know it would get better at some point. Time moves so much more slowly as a kid; a bad day is like 5 bad days.

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