“Peggy, I hate to disrupt your evening, but could you give me a call? Thanks. Sent from my iPhone.”
Oh, great. I received this message from Daniel’s principal, my boss, at 7:30 PM, but Jim and I were at a fundraising dinner and it was now 10:45 PM. What to do? Well, if I called and he answered, it wasn’t too late to call back, right? And if he didn’t answer, I would at least get credit for returning the call. I’d see him the next morning anyway. I left a message, and he called me back. This was not a good sign. Did I commit some heinous faux pas in my new position as the Attendance Secretary that couldn’t wait until tomorrow to address?
No. It was about our son (17, autism) and an incident on the afternoon bus. Fortunately I knew what our principal was talking about, because Daniel’s para had already briefed me. Seems Daniel got quite upset with her during his off-campus Television Production class because she was, gasp, insisting that he do some of the project work himself. He quite often plays the helpless card, and she called him on it: “Who’s the student here? You! Who’s doing all the work? Me!” And he got very angry. He’s big, and she’s not, to put it mildly. But she would not be bullied (I love you, C!), and by the time they got on the bus to come back to school, he was in full contrition mode, but expressing it inappropriately, to say the least.
Daniel said loudly and clearly on the bus, “I AM SO MAD AT MYSELF, I SHOULD JUST KILL MYSELF!” C. calmed him down, but the bus driver rightly reported this to the Transportation Supervisor, who reported it to our principal. Who called me.
This was actually very comforting. The adults in my son’s life were taking any suicide verbiage very seriously. The chain of command was followed. And our principal (Daniel’s and mine) was compassionate and concerned with me on the phone. (It helps in every way that he has a special ed background.) He did not express shock and horror that my son would say such a thing on a bus full of kids. He did not emphasize my responsibility to get control of my son (as if I could) to make sure that never happened again.
We are fortunate that Daniel does not have a depressive personality, and that outbursts like this are completely out of character. I can’t imagine a greater pain than desperately loving and parenting a child haunted by the darkness of depression. But if we have such a child at our school, and they cry out, they will be heard and engaged. We did have a very serious conversation with Daniel about what not to say when you’re mad at yourself, and that he owed C. and the bus driver an apology, and that no, he wasn’t in trouble with the princpal. We ended the conversation with the principal’s closing words:
“Tell Daniel we love him and care about him.”
Danz Mom ~ Peggy