49. Minute Observations

“Minute Observations”

A’s school is always telling parents to schedule observations of their kids’ classroom sessions, so we finally decided to go for it a couple of days ago.

Being a special ed school, they are really set up for this stuff, with a one-way glass window panel through which parents can view their child without being seen. This way, your kid and other classmates aren’t distracted or upset by your presence, and there is no observer-participant problem to mar the data.

It was very cool to see A being industrious and occupied. He sat at this cute little desk that has an attached chair, and it was just the right size for the bean he is. Teacher has been getting him used to wearing headphones to block out extraneous noise, and apparently he has a favorite pair which are falling apart, so he asks people to fix them, then keeps wearing them even though the headband bit keeps ending up on his brow. We kept clutching each other and snickering every time that happened.

I love his little work station. He used to be up against a padded, three-sided enclosure, but felt so safe that he began to stand on the desk like in “Dead Poets Society,” so his teacher, being no slouch, moved him.

Today’s special ed classroom has a ton of technology, and it was amazing to see how individually customized each child’s use of their tech device was. The school day is structured with a wise nod to short attention spans, and they moved at a brisk pace from one task to the next.

Hilariously, none of the kids are accustomed to the curtains that obscure the mirror being open. First it was A who noticed, and he darted out of his seat and insisted on yanking them shut. Yes, we were laughing behind the glass. After several teacher and A tussles, we accepted the diminished aperture he had left us, and went back to watching Serious Learning Things.

Then other kids started to notice A’s fixation, and they started to fixate too. By this time, my husband and I were enjoying ourselves tremendously. I don’t want to go into any detail describing other people’s kids because that would be so unethical. You have to take my word for it that it was the kind of unintentional humor that doesn’t come along to make us laugh every day.

Selfishly, we took comfort in the observation that A has just as many mood swings in class as he has at home. Hurrah for not having to feel incompetent! I’ll take my pathetic little victories wherever I can.

As we sat there watching a small slice of A’s day, I felt a sense of stepping out of my skin. Just that morning, I had woken up to the news of my uncle’s death. I sat in bed, holding my husband’s hand, crying, filled with regret that years of special needs parenting had separated me from loved ones so much that several beloved elders have left the world without my having had any recent opportunity to see them. A long life, well and kindly lived as my uncle’s was, cannot be summed up merely by its end. But it is still hideously painful to know that his loving smile, his deep baritone voice, and his welcoming nature are laid to rest forever. There are so many funny, affectionate memories to sift through. I wanted to take a picture of him once, but he realized his dhoti was at his knees, so he made me retake the picture, saying, “Oh my God, I look like a cook!” Then he did his baritone laugh because I was cracking up.

Watching A, I thought of how much I had cried that same morning. How much I had blazed with regret and useless anger at my circumstances. They are all natural emotions. No use denying or suppressing them. But this is where I am. To experience my son’s day, I sit behind glass and fabric. To understand him, I listen to his silence. And it is only possible to live this way if I don’t count the losses. Otherwise I will blaze until I don’t recognize myself.

Sometimes I am afraid of what I have had to become. But then I look at A, quivering with hyper awareness, surging and strong in his demands, yet so easily undone by the slightest twitch, and I remember–it is those beloved elders, their certainties and values, that have shaped me to carry this mother load. This job was given to me because I am sufficient to the task. With all the wisdom taught to me, I will succeed somehow.


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