Riley has been having a very rough year. She is with two “new to her” teachers, both are kind, and doing their best, but it does not seem to be working. When it isn’t working, there is an unsaid disapproval Riley feels. From others. From herself. No one has done anything grevious, or wrong, but she takes in the message and believes, she is “the problem.” Disapproval of yourself, for who you are, for something you can’t change; there is nothing worse.
In prep for the service dog going to school I asked for and received a list of the meltdowns, triggers, duration, time of day, etc. It was way more than I expected. Not a week has gone by this school year where she hasn’t had at least two meltdowns, often more, and some of them are going on for two hours. There are also big meltdowns every single night during homework. The kid is stressed, and school is the issue. There are a bunch of social issues too. She is ruminating on “I’m a baby. I’m the youngest. I hate being the youngest girl.” She is chronically worked up over this, fighting daily about going to school.
But you know what? She is a baby. Socially, she is so confused. Her peers have been good to her, but she’s different. She does not understand 4th grade banter,flirting, any meanness, even in jest. She feels like a baby because she’s innocent. But she is so aware of being different. To her, at this point, it just means she is fundamentally wrong. She compares herself constantly to her peers and in her eyes she never quite measures up.
You don’t have to be a genious to know prolonged negative stress breaks down the immune system and leads to disease. Physiologically, what is happening to this girl? Two days ago I was combing her hair, getting ready to put it in the bopsy little pony tail on the side, just how she likes it, and I found a grey hair. A grey hair on my nine year old.
There has not been a lot of support for the service dog among the staff at school. The teacher who would be handling it is supportive, but mostly there is a tentative vibe, or worse, an eye-rolling type of energy. The once friendly principal now basically avoids us. The special ed higher-up claims to want to do a home visit, to learn more about Jingle but doesn’t call back.
I believe if we wanted to, we could shove this dog down the school district’s throat. Legally we could get our way. And how much of our life energy(and money),otherwise devoted to our kids, would be lost? How awful for our “attention shy” Riley to be the center of a legal battle. And even if we get the dog in the door, we can’t force it to work. Jingle is very helpful at home, at martial arts and at cello lessons, but if the school isn’t fully supportive, I am never going to be able to relax. Jingle will have to be perfect every second she’s there, and since she’s a living breathing creature and not a robot, that won’t happen. It all seems so upstream.
Riley is a very sensitive person. So sensitive she can’t tolerate perfectly intolerable things most of us have desensitized ourselves too. I don’t think that is a bad thing.
Over the summer we went to a baseball game. You have to pass by a movie theater to get inside the stadium. Under the marquee, there was a poster for a horror movie. On it, a woman was covered in blood. A jagged shard of glass poked through one of her eyes. Hundreds of people passed it on the way out of the baseball game. None blinked. Riley wept.
Why the hell aren’t we all weeping? What is wrong with the world? Riley is not the problem. She points out the problem.
This girl experiences her feelings, ALL of them. When she is lined up with Who She Is, (and it is often) her joy is palpable. When she isn’t, it is intolerable to her. She does not walk around with negativity or sarcasm. No low grade misery like the rest of us. In my soul I know this child did not come here to conform. She is not a square peg needing to be contorted into a round hole. She is brilliant, but will likely never be a nine to fiver. She’ll likely not go to college in the traditional way. Why are we attempting to prepare her for that? How many people who take that route are actually happy anyway? This girl is a creative force, with no time or energy left to create after putting her all into maintaining at school, and often failing miserably.
Who says she has to do everything like everyone else? What an impossible thing to ask of her.
We’re seriously considering homeschooling Riley.
Do stay tuned.