Monday, September 24, 2012

Eye of the Storm

I would tell you in detail about the hard time that Mihiretu is having in school but that’s his story.  Maybe if you catch him in twenty years he’ll lay it on you.

Suffice it to say, he’s struggling.  He’s acting out at school, he’s acting out at home.  He’s suffering.  As are the rest of us.

I’m on the phone.  With the principal, with neuro-psychologists, with behavioral pediatricians.

Ben is out of town, this week when the shit has really hit the fan.  He’s doing what he can from afar but, between phone calls, it’s up to me to calm myself down.  It was this time last year that I dove deep into depression. There are lots of triggers for me as summer turns to fall; ancient wounds from my childhood, fresher ones from adulthood.  I know that as the light grows golden, as the sun slants lower, I’m in dangerous territory.  Add to this the additional worry of Mihiretu’s school situation and I know I need to tread very carefully.  I take care of myself to take care of him.  The lower my cortisol levels, the lower his will be.

I have a number of tricks to ease my anxiety.  When I pry Mihiretu off me in the morning at school and sprint out the door before he can catch me, I just keep running.  I’m up to seven miles in this effort to quiet my mind.  At this rate, I’ll be marathoning by Christmas.  Or inducing a heart attack.

We acquired a couple of magic kitties a month or so ago – a pair of blue-grey kittens that look almost exactly alike.  They are Lucy and Ethel; Lucy thin and higher-strung, Ethel wider and mellower, with a penchant for flatuence.  They are incredibly tolerant and brave with the kids, particularly the currently shrieky Mihiretu.  In times of extreme tension, after a particularly tough phone call, I pull one – or better both – of these kitties on to my lap.  They purr, I breathe.

My latest crafty endeavor is rescuing old unfinished quilts at flea markets and completing them.  So if I’m really upset you’ll find me cradling kitties and hand-stitching a seventy-year-old quilt all at the same time.

There is my love affair with my cup of coffee in the morning and the glass of Sauvignon Blanc at night.  There is the 8:30 bedtime (yes, for me) and the ten solid hours of sleep (only interrupted to get into bed with Mihiretu once or twice when he stirs).

We will get through this, I suppose.  We will find the right situation for this boy, he will thrive.  I will be able to put down the phone and the kittens and the quilt and join the larger world.  In the meantime, Mihiretu, me, Ben and the girls, we must find our comfort, find our ease, in whatever corner we can.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brave or Stupid

Mihiretu started kindergarten two weeks ago.  While it's been something I've been looking forward to for, oh, the last three years, it’s been a bit of a rough road.

On the first day of school, there were nineteen five-year-olds on their bottoms in a circle, sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce (no more "Indian-style", I'm afraid), thirty-eight eyes on the teacher, who was reading a book about the first day of school (kind of like a mirror in a mirror).  There was one child, one brown child, the only brown child, alternately clinging to his parents and wandering around the room saying "I see some-ting!"  

Finally, we had to go get the principal to hold Mihiretu so Ben and I could escape, to keep him from chasing us all the way home.  This was witnessed by a group of newbie kindergarten parents who were watching it all through the window (hadn't they read the back-to-school hand-out, god damn it?  No looking through the window?).  As Ben and I fled, they shot us comforting looks, reached out hands.  I wanted to slap them down, these people I’m sure I’ll know and love by the end of the year.  This isn't my first fucking rodeo and you have no idea what you're looking at. 

Over the last couple of days it's become clear that Mihiretu is, essentially, bullying his best friend in class.  He loves this boy; he's known him since the day he came to the United States, this boy's family is, for all intents and purposes, part of our family.  He wants this boy close, this boy is his transitional object.  And yet, like with every other person he loves, he tests him.  He wraps an arm around his friend and then pokes him.  He follows him to recess and then says he's playing a baby game.  If this boy goes to the bathroom without him he gets a swift kick.  I need you, I love you - will you still love me if I do this?  How about this? Will you leave?  Will you?  Ben and I won't.  Mae and Lana won't, at least while Ben and I have anything to say about it.  A five-year-old boy, also in his first days of kindergarten?  Not as sure a bet.

I have seen inside this child's soul.  I have held him just after he's awoken, rubbed his back, run my hands through his soft curls, heard about his dreams.  This child, this kid who is disruptive and troubled and, hell, a bit of a bully, he's also so soft way down deep. And so hurt.  It's so hard to see him causing hurt, both to others and, ultimately, to himself.  It’s so hard to see him struggle.

In the first days that Mihiretu came home to us, I kept thinking, “Am I brave or stupid?”  The answer, in the end, is probably both.  Maybe not stupid, per say,  but terrifically, dangerously optimistic.  I’ll adopt a toddler from a poor African country, it’ll be fine.  It has not been fine, and this is where the brave part comes in.  It has been more than fine, Mihiretu is more everything than almost any other kid I know.  More charming, more maddening, more troubled, more heart-wrenching.  He is the bravest person I know.  I guess I can try to muster up a little bravery myself.  I think we’re going to need it.