Monday, September 27, 2010
The Black, White and Gray In Between
I heard music coming from my purse. I stopped in the aisle at Walmart and fumbled around inside my bag. Flipping open the case after seeing the school number on caller I.D., I said, "Hello?" half expecting the nurse.
A male voice replied, "Mrs. Jackson?" He unnecessarily identified himself as the school principal. I recognized his voice. After I acknowledge it was me, he continued, "Mrs. Jackson, do have a minute? I have Meiners here in the office with me."
Mr. D continued to describe in a serious tone what had occurred that morning on the school playground. "...kickball...argument over outs...Meiners punched a boy...first offense for a first grader...he spent his lunch with me...do you want to talk to him..."
Meiners came on the phone. He cried uncontrollably into my ear. None of his answers were intelligible. "Meiners, did you hit someone on the playground? Why'd you do it? It's not OK. We'll talk about this tonite. Let Mr. D have the phone."
After the storm had passed, I talked more with Meiners about what had happened on the playground. What took place involved Meiner's oldest and dearest friend. I call him Meiners' True North. For Meiners, TN is home. Does that make any sense? Comfortable. Predictable. Loyal. Safe. He's the one who is always there. Is always going to be there. Home. Everyone needs a friendship like Meiners and TN's.
This day, TN decided to play kickball with Meiners. And he kicked the ball. Then ran to first base. But another boy declared him out. Meiners - for whatever reason - argued TN was safe. Was it because he was safe? Because he didn't want TN - who usually doesn't play kickball - to give up and quit playing? Because he wanted to defend his best friend? It doesn't matter. Meiners said he was safe. But the other boy insisted the other way. And put his hands over his ears. And yelled, "Nah nah huh boo boo." At least in Meiners' version. And Meiners responded, "I am now forced to talk with my hands!"
Friday I took my boys to the pediatrician for their well visit. She looked into Meiners' ears and whistled. "He's got fluid in his ear. Oooooh and an infection in this one." We discussed the dark circles under his eyes. How signficantly badly he had performed on his hearing test in her office. She said, "Allergies like this can lead to a serious lack of sleep, outbursts, and easy frustration."
I took a step back. Not to excuse the behavior - or the very nature of his loyalty and competiveness and the spirited person we have always known him to be. And the job we have even now to teach him to make good choices and to exhibit self-control as appropriate. But also to give him a chance. And a seat closer to the teacher. And maybe some allergy meds.
I love you Meiners.