We had two Open Houses at two different school yesterday. Our oldest daughter, Jules, is heading into 8th grade. It was fascinating and a relief to see her confidently navigate the halls and introduce herself to her teachers. For the first time, I didn’t have to speak for her or prompt her to answer questions. She was friendly and self-assured and smiley- a surprising departure from the girl who had been known to prefer the quiet company of books to interaction with people outside of her family. As I watched her make her way from friend to friend and class to class, I was filled with delight and a certain wistfulness. She’s not a little girl anymore and doesn’t need me quite as much. I know that all too soon she will leave us to find her place in this world while we stand on the sidelines and cheer her on. I am exultant but gutted all at once. It’s a curious mix of emotions.
And then there was Open House with Leo.
There were a bajillion parents and their children there. Grades K-5 all meeting their new teachers between the hours of 5:00-7:00pm. It was nuts. Leo kept a tight grasp on my hand and then onto the hem of my shirt when I needed to fill out forms. He buried his face in my back when his new teacher and para-pro spoke to him with open-ended questions meant to encourage dialogue. He answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with no regard for manners. He was over it wanted to leave immediately.
When we walked back out in the hall, he tugged on my wrist and wanted to tell me something.
Leo: “Could you please not look at anyone the rest of the time? Like, don’t smile or talk to anybody either. Can we just get outta here?”
Me: “So I should just look down and act like I don’t know people when I see our friends?”
Leo: “Yeah- just look at me and I’ll look at you and we can get outta here.”
Me: “We can leave, buddy, but I’m not going to be rude. I like people and I like seeing our friends but I will try not to be chatty, okay?”
Leo: “Okay. Like, if someone says something to you, just say “Yeah, yeah, I can’t talk right now ’cause I have to poop” or something like that so they don’t keep talking to you.”
Me: “Hmmmm…can I something less gross? Like, “I’m sorry, I’d love to talk to you but my son, Leo, is being grumpy and is forcing me to be unfriendly”?
Leo: “Yeah, yeah, that’s good.”
We headed toward the door but there were still loads of people filing in and out and it took forever. We came to a stand still a few times and Leo gave me a scolding glare when I spoke to anyone. He refused to acknowledge anyone who spoke to him and instead stared straight down and and engaged in pretend deafness.
Once we were outside I explained that, although, sometimes we don’t feel like talking to people, it’s important to still be polite and kind when others speak to us.
Leo: “That’s what grown ups have to do. I’m just a kid so I can pretend I didn’t hear them or sometimes I just say “Can’t talk, gotta poop” but I knew you’d get mad at me so I pretended I didn’t hear them. That was a good choice, right Mom?”
So, if you find yourself being ignored by Leo, try not to take it personally. He’s just a kid with selective hearing who has to poop, after all. Thankfully, Jules has become an awesome representative lest people think all of our children have been raised by wolves.