Not my usual post, but I have to spill my guts to someone or . . . I don't know, maybe I'll cry in front of my third period "scientific reading" kids and freak them out or something . . . since I don't want to do that, you, my sistas in Blogland are it.
I got my heart broken this morning. Like the kind of broken where you feel like you can't breathe or , as Sandra Cisneros writes in a short story my kids read every year, you "can't stop the little animal noises from coming out of [you]."
It all started because he wanted to lay his head down on his desk and sleep through advisory.
"Are you tired, sweetie?" (They're all my "sweety"s and "honey"s and "baby"s.) This particular one looks pretty awful this morning. Red-rimmed, hollow, dark-circled big brown eyes in a small, pale eleven-year-old face that looks vaguely like someone else who semi-regularly plays haunting games in my head.
"Yeah, I didn't sleep very well last night."
"Well, I got in big trouble at home last night." He steps closer and leans in to me. He lowers his already tiny voice, "I don't want anyone else to hear this."
My eyes never leave his, but with my left hand I send an "in-a-minute" wave toward another student approaching my desk and then nod for the one of immediate concern to continue.
He'd been rough-housing with his sister outside, and in and amongst all of the sixth-grade-boy details, I manage to gather that he wasn't supposed to have been outside. I think he made his sister cry -- accidentally stepped on her hand or something -- and his mom had yelled alot at him. Normal stuff, huh? But then I do my usual mudging and digging . . . (I mean, all kids get yelled at once in a while and don't usually lose too much sleep over it, so there's gotta be more to the story, right?) And he tells me the "more." And I focus hard on listening and being the grownup who doesn't cry. Who doesn't looked shocked. Who in her head doesn't say Jaja words about the woman I don't remember meeting (but who, he says, came to Open House a couple of weeks back.) But, mostly, who doesn't cry . . . doesn't cry . . . doesn't cry. And I work hard at keeping my breaths going in and out, in and out . . . steadily . . . evenly.
This baby, to relieve his own stress, had gotten into the shower after the Big Yelling; had run the water for a long time. But it didn't wash away the yuck. Mom came into the bathroom, turned off the water, and grabbed him by his hair and slammed his head into the shower wall. Hit and slapped at him until he curled up in to a ball against the tiles. "If you want to pick on someone, try picking on me, not your sister. Yeah, try it with me!"
Did I mention how little this kid is?
Then came the bad part.
He didn't sleep well because he'd then been forced to spend the rest of the night outside.
No dinner. Just the pill for his ADHD and some clothes thrown at him. No breakfast this morning.
He explains almost apologetically that it was hard to sleep because of the mosquitoes (we live on the Texas Gulf coast and have just had two days of rain) "and my dog kept breathing in my face . . . " and that the swing on the porch wasn't that comfortable, "but it does have some cushions . . . "
I take this baby out into the hall, away from other kids, so I can do a quick check for bruises. I only see one on the exposed shoulder, the side that wasn't against the tiles. I get as much information as I can before he says, "I don't want to talk about this anymore."
"Okay. Let's go back in the room, and you can rest on the couch until the bell rings."
But now I can't rest.
I talk to my counselor friend in the front office, and the digging for additional info begins. I don't know the details yet, but my friend is finding from other sources that there have been questions asked about this family in the past. She is checking with the neighboring school district where all of the children in the family attended school last year. She and others are working at putting fragments of information together to better give us a clearer understanding of what's going on.
Meanwhile, the thing I dread has to be done. I have to file a report with Child Protective Services.
It's not like I haven't done this before. I have. (It comes with the pastor - teacher territory.) But this time it's different. This kid isn't living in a known crack house. This kid's mom isn't, from all outer appearances, an obviously mentally ill person. This kid's not a teenager with older siblings who can step in to protect and intervene. No. This is a little kid whose family attends church, whose mom sends I'm-a-very-involved-parent E-mails to teachers; a little kid who will probably be placed in a he-said-she-said situation against his mom -- a situation which, knowing the system as I do, could conceivably have a pretty lousy outcome for this little guy.
Okay, I know you're wondering Pamm, how do you even know that what the kid said is true? It's okay, my counselor friend asked them same thing. But I know he's telling the truth. I know. I do. I saw it in his eyes. I heard it in the ever-so-slight stutter as he struggled to maintain his composure and yet continue his story. It's true. I wish it weren't, but it is. And now my counselor friend knows it too. She talked to him, and now I see it in her eyes. She knows too. She does.
So I will file my report. And I will pray for this sweet boy child to be safe this weekend. Safe until I see him again on Monday morning. Hopefully better rested.