Surreality Bites

(I can show you the teeth marks)

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Confessions of a Reformed Jerk
Bite Me
I don’t think the average jerk knows he or she is a jerk, or feels at all like a jerk even at their jerkiest moments. They aren’t trying to be jerks. They aren’t trying to be self righteous or small-minded or hateful. Life just hasn’t handed most of them a mirror and forced them to see themselves for what they are. Last week I was handed just such a mirror, and I'm holding it up just in case anyone else out there needs to take a look in it.

I've discovered that phone calls from my son’s school have a way of changing my viewpoints. I should be thankful for the opportunities to gain these wisdoms and insights, but I’m not: I liked being ignorant. Being a jerk is easy. Being kind and insightful is a lot of work, and the self examination leading up to it is painful, to boot.

Winter break was a nice relief when it came to not worrying about whether or not the school was going to call. For two and a half weeks I was the mother of a normal, happy child. Not a perfect child, but a manageable child. School started back up on Wednesday, and that morning I got a call on my cell phone. I always mutter a few choice swear words when I see the school’s phone number come across my phone, to get them out of the way. Then I can sound calm and professional after I press the “talk” button.

“Good morning. This is ---- -----, the assistant principal at [Sweet Pea’s] school. How are you doing this morning?”

“Fine. I think.”

“Oh, don’t worry. [Sweet Pea] is okay. I just needed to touch base with you today about something you will be getting in the mail. Do you have a few moments to talk?”

I hate these “touching base” phone calls more than the crises phone calls. Crises phone calls only last as long as the crises; touching base calls can drag on and on and on. I took a deep breath and exhaled.

“Of course,” I said.

She went on to ask if I knew about the incident on the school bus that had happened in the morning back on December 16th. I did not. Well, an incident report had to be written up by the driver (standard procedure and all that), and I would be getting a copy of it in the mail. She just wanted to give me a heads up and see if we couldn’t come up with some solutions to see if we could keep it from happening again.

I told her I understood. I don’t freak out at these calls any more. I do brace myself a little, but they don’t send me reeling like they once did. I view them like a vaccination shot at the doctor’s office: I expend the news to sting a little, but I know I will survive it.

There were two incidents, really. On the 15th Sweet Pea had gotten a little agitated before the ride home, so the school counselor had given him a coloring book and a small box of crayons to occupy and distract him. It worked a little too well. He had taken everything out of his backpack on the bus and spread everything out, papers, crayons, his jacket, his fidget toys, etc, all over the seat and on the floor, and then got upset when the bus stopped in front of our house and he was told he needed to get off the bus. He got agitated. Jeff was at the bus stop and got on the bus to gather up everything and calm Sweet Pea. A parent on the bus isn’t really allowed, the assistant principal told me. I understand why, right? (Not really) But anyway, it happened and she guessed it was okay in this one instance. But that wasn’t the reason she was calling. That incident was not written up. She just wanted me to know about it.

On the morning of the 16th, Sweet Pea was out of his seat on the bus. The child who sits across from him told him he should not be, and told the bus driver on him. This caused Sweet Pea to scream and hide under his seat. The driver could not get him to come out. He “continued to emit a shrill, high-pitched scream and refused to come out from beneath the bench and sit in the seat as instructed,” she read from the report. Once the bus arrived at the school the rest of the children unloaded while Sweet Pea stayed beneath his seat, clinging to the legs of the bench and refusing to budge. Staff from the school were eventually able to talk him into getting off the bus, but it took awhile.

She wanted me to understand the safety concerns of a child not being in his seat. I said I did. She wanted me to understand how serious it is to have a child on the bus that does not follow directions from the bus driver. I said I understood.

“During the IEP meeting, was the special ed bus discussed at all?” she asked. “You know, there is a seat belt on that bus, so he could not get out of his seat. And there is an attendant to help the driver. It’s something to consider.”

“It was brought up, but Theresa said she didn’t think it was necessary,” I said. Theresa is the principal. “Let’s see if we can’t try some other ideas first. This was one incident.”

“Two incidents,” she reminded me.

“Two incidents in the week leading up to Christmas, when there was a lot going on that was out of the ordinary. Let’s consider other things we can try, first.” So we discussed other options for awhile.

After the call was over, I sat thinking about the “short bus” for awhile. It has a stigma to it. It’s wrong that it does, and in a perfect world it wouldn’t. I understand what a blessing it is to have these busses for handicapped children. There should not be a stigma, but even as I thought about it I could hear the conversation of two women over the cubicle wall talking about an insurance agent that one of the women considered to be thickheaded.

“I mean, it’s like he got right off of the short bus, you know? I mean, right off of the short bus! And every time I talk to him, I just want to tell him go get back on the short bus where you belong, why don’t you?” Each time she said short but it felt like I was being slapped across the face.

She was using short but as a synonym for stupid, defective, and not worth bothering with. I could not muster the rage to come across the wall and correct her, though: I have used the term this way myself. I won’t anymore, but her words were my mirror that let me see what a jerk I was for ever thinking it was okay to be that cute and insult a group of children when I only meant to be catty about an adult who had gotten on my last nerve.

The kids on the short bus have a hard road to travel. They are different, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. Their parents love them as much as any parents love their kids, and most of them have been through the ringer at one time another fighting for their children. I’m all for being catty and snide, but I think we can all agree that when we want to insult a grown up that we think has done something stupid or that we don’t care for, we can state that plainly. We can say things like: I don’t like him. He’s a pain in the neck. He’s a jerk. I don’t want to bother with him anymore. He just doesn't get it. And so on.

If you think someone is dumb as a post, or maybe a brick, then say so. Posts and bricks are not living things and can't be insulted. But we need to stop picking on kids who for one reason or another are not able to ride the “big bus.” Because picking on children because you don't like an adult makes you a bully. And it makes you a jerk, too. Take it from a reformed bully and jerk like me.

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I have been called on it too. There was a point that comments like that became my gallows humour. I momentarily forgot that not everyone has reached a place of acceptance and that not everyone has a sense of humor like mine. I hurt someone's feeling and I felt like an ass wipe for it.

I keep thinking that they expect so much of your son. They seem so rigid. he is still so tiny!

This exactly. He's so young still. He's easily overwhelmed. They know this. Has anyone discussed this with his bus driver? He is responsible for him part of each day so it seems like he should be brought into the problems and ways to deal with little man when he has a melt down.

I think this was the bus driver's first taste of my son in a state of agitation. I can forgive him for being freaked out by it. My son is tiny, but intense.

I can do gallows humor with a lot of things; I think it comes with the "anger" stage on the road to acceptance. I was still at the "What do you mean put him on the special ed bus?" stage, where I wasn't ready to laugh at much of anything.

I've learned that gallows humor is best reserved for other people who are down with it, kind of like excessive swearing or dirty jokes. It's not for a general audience.

It's my son's dual nature that gets to them; if he did not swing from "normal" to "out of control" I think they would know more what to do with him. He is tiny, but some of the staff are afraid of him. For someone like the bus driver, who had not seen a meltdown before, it can be pretty frightening.

remember that Aidan (my oldest who plays symphony) started out with autism. Perhaps he still has it and has developed coping skills, but I know that sweet pea is going to floor you with his accomplishments.

These school people are ninnies.

They are freaked out. Most of them are pretty good and understanding. The assistant principle is not my favorite person to deal with, though. I sense that she is not as sympathetic as some of the other staff and faculty members.

Welcome to my soapbox. It is yet another part of my rant on using the r-word as an insult.
Plently of room up here!
I, however, have been known to reach through cubicles -- picture me as Bill Cosby in Ghost Dad reaching through the telephone!
Rage, I have in spades.

The reviews on Ghost Dad were so bad that I did not submit myself to watching it, as fond as I am of Bill. :)

I am not generally one to shout or lecture people. I have spend the days since thinking about a gentle response to open the next person's eyes to what an @$$hole they are being the next time this happens, though. Mind you, it will be a very, very firm sort sort of gentle that no one will want to trifle with.

I totally failed at subtle, and have a shaky "D" in gentle. I can, however, provide a very scary 200-pounds-of-pissed-off in a flash.

I'm hoping the special ed stigmas have faded a bit with the times. Mini had to get some extra help for a couple of years in what her school calls the learning centre. She could barely read and write in grade 1 and 2 and they were fearful of a learning disorder. She went with the special teacher for a half hour a day with a couple of other kids.

When I discussed this with her she never gave any indication that other kids made fun of the kids who had to get that extra help. Hopefully things have gotten better in that regard.

I don't know if it still has a stigma with the kids, but I know some adults who could use some enlightening.

My son (of all people) was telling me of how a friend of us likes to call anyone/thing he doesn't like "retarded"

All of my children received a lecture on why we DO NOT use that as an insult.

Seriously. Yes. These experiences change our perspectives, don't they?


Gah! Thanks to my son I am wiser, I am more compassionate, and I am a better person. The truth is, I never wanted to be these things. I mean, I said I did. I now know that I didn't actually want to do the legwork; I wanted those changes to just sort of happen while I slept.

Hey I knew there was a reason I stuck around.

Funny shortbus story. Kid I know with some problems was offered a slot on the shortbus. He thought that sounded like a reasonable idea, convenient, affordable...his friends said "no, no, don't uhhh ride that bus." And he ended up taking the city bus I believe. So this was relayed to me by a 3rd party and I said. "What? What do you mean." Friend said "you know...the SHORTBUS."

At the one school I attended with a shortbus, the people being transported happened to live in distant towns. They rode in together on a special smaller bus because there were just a small number of them. Utterly typical in every regard except they lived in fancier suburbs that were further out.

So I said "yeeeeeeees?" "It's the SHORTBUS." Me: "WHAT THE [deleted] IS WRONG WITH SMALL BUSES?" So I had it explained to me. So now I know.

It occurs to me that sweetpea may very well prefer a quieter possibly posher bus experience. People who dump on him for that for a surprise.

The surprise is that something comes for everyone. It is cancer and death and car accidents and mental illness and heartache and things I don't even know about. Until it happens to you, until your life gets derailed and kicked in the head, you have two choices. You can show compassion, or you can make fun of the person getting kicked. I personally think it's kindof excusable that until people get kicked they don't see the whole picture. I have a lot less patience with people who have been kicked and are still clueless.

Do I win longest comment?

You win! (Usually writingmoments does.)

It might be, but he is weird about changes (for the good or for the bad). Continuity is his big thing. He sits right behind the bus driver, so he can't really be picked on.

I understand the the bus driver is not trained to handle special needs kids, and maybe I'm in denial about how special my son's needs are. But while he has developmental delays with his emotional and social skills, his intellect is fine. I would like him to be mainstreamed as much as possible so that when (I hope not if) his emotions and his social skills catch up to his intellect, he will be able to segway into a typical school environment as easily as possible.

consider that on short busses there will be less fighting, less bullying... it will be a LOT quieter.
I've found that the stigma is usually, at such a young age, perpetuated by teachers talking amongst themselves in places where other children can hear. Kids themselves are very intuitive and kind.
and , please, one thing I did learn is do not hesitate to push those school officials around. The school officials should have it written on your file that you are not one to contend with.
you once said you saw handprints on his arm. If you ever do again, ask them if you should escalate this up to the superintendent. you only have to say that once.

and frankly the fact that they always pull him out of class rather than try extra hard, and then call you at work is definately an issue that falls under the category of inclusion.
This is one area that you can get them in hot water with, should you chose

They have pictures of the hand print - I handed them to the principal at the IEP meeting. This means I am not the only one who saw it. They are on notice about that $#!&.

They only put him in the special classroom when he looses control and is deemed a danger to himself or those around him. Most of the time they pull him out into the hall and talk to him to calm him down; if they succeed, he goes back to class. Since the PASS team (aka, the Ninjas) took over his case, I haven't gotten any calls until last week. The front office was involved this time because the incidents were on the bus, which is outside of the PASS team's jurisdiction.

I am lucky to live in a school district that is very well funded and that can afford the extra services we need. If they weren't, I would have to be fighting them tooth and nail. As it is, they just need a little redirection from time to time.

the fact that they are well funded might be in part to the number of "special ed" cases they are claiming.
I remember sweet pea using his trike to crush acorns, am I remembering correctly? That boy is just fine.

It was a can crushing (and pine cone crushing) machine. :)

Intellectually, he is fine. His social and emotional development is a bit delayed.

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I hate it when God rubs this stuff in my face, though. A little divine subtlety would nice.

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