The next morning, I called his old school. Nate’s branch had closed down, but there were still four or five open branches downtown. A lot of his friends from his old school were at these branches so we thought we’d start there.
I got a hold of the Director of the whole school. She remembered us, she remembered Nate. I was very upfront with her when we spoke on the phone. I wanted her to know everything about what Nate had been going through so she didn’t feel blindsided or anything of the sort.
And she was just…spectacular. She couldn’t believe that his previous school did what it did. “They just let him go?” That made me feel a lot better. Here was someone fully versed in professional childcare, and she was totally taken aback by what they had done to us.
She told us our best bet was her school on P Street downtown. At least a half a dozen of his old friends were there. Two of his former teachers were also there. Cathy took Nate to see it the next afternoon — it’s only a few blocks from her office. And almost immediately, it was like he had never left. He saw Summer and Daniel and Teacher Sue. Everyone gave him a hug. Everyone said they were so happy to see him and they had missed him so much.
And that was that.
He’s been there for a few months now. There have been issues from time to time. There are always going to be issues. He’s five. But there are no more 20-minute meltdowns. No more constant spinning and twirling. No more anxiety. He feels at home. And he is so excited to start kindergarten in the fall.
Neither Cathy nor I believe that this is all over. We still took the steps recommended to us, still had him see a licensed family social worker every week. Last week we took him to a rather magical-sounding place: The MIND Institute. They talked with him for a while; they talked with Cathy for a while. And they basically came back with “go home, you’re fine.” They know what to look for; presumably, they’ve been doing it for years and can tell immediately if a child is “showing signs.” They said “he doesn’t do so great with the eye contact” but I’m not sure that’s an issue. Most adults I know don’t do so great with it either.
I’ve thought a lot about the decision his school made to kick him out. He was a danger to other students there, this is true. We feel awful for the kids and parents that were caught in the wake of any of Nate’s outbursts. And while I agree that something needed to be done, I don’t think that kicking him out was the right decision.
We ask a lot of our daycare providers. They watch our children, they mold and shape their little minds, minds bursting with energy and new ideas, confusion and excitement in equal measure, all at a thousand miles an hour. When Nate hurt a friend, they sat him down, talked it out, made him draw a picture about what happened. It’s a very lofty, lovely notion of discipline versus learning, but it TOTALLY didn’t work on him.
What I’m saying is that the school needed to change their approach with him, and they didn’t. Rather than switch it up (with our blessing) and start saying, “All right! No more fun for you today. Sit over there and stare at the wall,” they stuck to their flowery little guns, and he ran right over them. In that sense, they failed him. They were too rigid, too unwilling to waiver from their predefined notions of how to teach a child. Nate didn’t fit their mold, so they washed their hands of him.
And it’s their loss.
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