Yesterday was one of those unseasonable warm days that we typically get once or twice during the winter. As Scott was getting ready for school and doing his usual complaining and stressing about the day ahead, I was thinking about the nice weather.
"At least you'll have outdoor recess today!" I said, cheerfully. Then I added, before really thinking it through, "Maybe you'll have a fire drill."
"Because it is warm and the school has to get in a certain number of fire drills for the year, so this is a good day to do it. When Grammy had the day care, this is the kind of day when she would have a fire drill. Well, if the fire alarm goes off, you'll know that it's most likely just a drill, and not a real fire or anything. Plus, you'll get to go outside and it will take up some of the time when you'd ordinarily be doing school work."
Scott mulled this over for a bit and then started in with his typical concerns. They wouldn't be allowed to play football at recess, school is boring, he'd have to sit next to the kid that bugs him, he didn't want to play on the blacktop where some kid threw up (in, like, December, I think), on and on.
"I don't want there to be a fire drill," he moaned. "I hate school. I don't feel well. My stomach hurts. I think I should stay home."
"Nope. Time to go catch the bus. You'll be fine."
This is a fairly typical morning for us, so I didn't think too much about it as I went on about my day.
Scott has been on edge lately. We can always tell when things are getting bad because we start yelling at him more, sending him to his room, and arguing about everything. He's been grumpy, or perhaps I should say, he's been grumpier than usual, which is pretty crabby to being with.
He's been sick with the coughing thing he gets every year and also a fever thing that kept him out a few days. And this school year is so dull. The work is easy and his teacher is lame. She's not bad, but she's far from good and he knows it. He feels like he is biding his time, waiting for summer. He's been talking about germs again and other things. The stuff he frets over, obsesses about.
While I was driving home from preschool with the girls in the car, I got a call from the school nurse telling me Scott was in her office pacing around saying his stomach hurt. He didn't have a fever and didn't feel like he was going to throw up, but he seemed out of sorts. I told her I thought he was anxious, concerned about a possible fire drill and maybe about recess and whether they'd be able to play football. I talked to him and he pleaded to go home, but I said, no, I had the girls, he had to stick it out, he'd be alright. We hung up.
As soon as I walked in the door at home, my cell phone rang again. It was the school nurse. What, so soon? Did he throw up? No, she said, she just wanted to know why he was worried about a fire drill. Was it the noise? Or something else, because, that's right, they were, in fact, going to have a fire drill! Nobody knew but her because the principal just told her.
"You have to warn him!" I demanded, then backed off. "Can you tell him? I mean, he's mostly just concerned about not knowing, the anticipation, and whether it is real or not." Then I remembered, "He used to have it in his IEP, in Kindergarten, to be warned, because he is anxious and the noise and the confusion, the unexpectedness, it scares him."
She told me she'd talk to the principal and I said I thought Scott now sees her as an ally and that she might need to put me on speed dial because he gets the worry bug a lot.
I immediately went to the computer and started Twittering. And, of course, the tweeps responded, assuring me that I had done the right thing and that the school would prepare him.
I felt, as I do so often, like I was walking the line. How much do I interfere? He needs to learn how to get by without special exceptions and yet, he really needs help sometimes. Am I doing too much or too little? Should I push for an IEP for the anxiety and the OCD? Or do I just keep plodding along, hoping he can mange, taking each situation as it comes?
School is so difficult for Scott. The bathrooms, the lunch, the kids who talk too much, or get in his personal space, the ever present germs, the teacher who might yell at him. All of this is overwhelming, and, yet, he is excelling. He just got his second marking period progress report and it was all S's and +'s. Not one area or subject that he isn't mastering. But all the other parts of school are a nightmare for him.
I made a few phone calls and was able to get my sister who offered to have her son, Scott's favorite cousin, come over for a bit after school as a special treat. As soon as Scott got home we went to pick up my nephew.
"So, did you have a fire drill? Did anyone tell you beforehand?" I asked Scott after he got off the bus.
"The nurse came in at lunch and told me. She said it was a secret and I couldn't tell the other kids, so when the alarm went off, I knew it was just a drill."
"Oh, that's good. How was the rest of your day?"
"You know, it's funny, after the nurse told me that, my stomach didn't hurt anymore."
"Hmmm. Do you think that maybe you weren't really sick and maybe it was just the worry bug?" I tried not to sound smug.
"Yep. I guess so. Well, and before I went to the nurse's office I was in the bathroom and that kid with the acid reflux came in and he does that thing where he kind of throws up in the sink and it grosses me out and he doesn't even wash his hands."
"Yeah, I can see why that bothers you. Maybe you can use another bathroom?" I tried to think of other solutions. I mean, would you want to use the bathroom if you thought someone might come in and throw up in the sink?
God damn it is hard to be a kid sometimes.
But he's going to make it through.
And the next time I forsee a fire drill, I'm keeping my mouth shut.