That #$%& Co-op!

Halfway into first hour at coop this morning the director knocked on the door. She had St. Nick beside her, and neither of them was happy. He was being kicked out of class for his first time ever. Kicked out! Sent to the office! Sent to sit in the hallway! Whatever that horrible thing was that happened to the bad kids in school, but never to me. How have I managed to raise one of those bad kids? Is St. Nick a bad kid? Am I a bad parent?

For the next two hours I had half the moms in the school giving me advice, asking questions, trying to be helpful. Helpful of my son's "Special Needs." But why is it that the other two hours of class passed without incident? How is it that the second hour teacher has found ways of getting St. Nick out of his funk and into the group, without bringing him down, red faced (both him and herself) to talk to me about how disrespectful and disobedient he's been? And what on earth is so bad about letting him observe rather than participate?

I appreciate the help, the advice, the success stories of how they get him to enjoy their class. But what I really want is for those involved to understand St. Nick the way I do. The incident this morning started with the teacher confiscating his candy publicly. I shouldn't have given it to him, true, but I can almost picture it - taking the candy, announcing to the class that there's no eating in class so St. Nick must lose his treat. Why not take him aside a moment and say, "Now, I know you want your M&Ms, but the other kids feel left out. Let's save them until morning break." And getting him involved - ha! Telling him, "Join in or else" will only make him wonder what "or else" means. And by golly, he's going to do whatever he can to find out. The second hour teacher gets this, she teases or tricks, "St. Nick, if you already know everything about bats, why not tell the class what you know?" And then he will. Or telling him, "Now there's one rule for this activity. Absolutely no smiling. None. Not a flicker. Got it?" And you can imagine what happens.

So why the talk of Special Needs? What's so Special about this - about a little boy that has to keep his hands busy, who doesn't like to be humiliated in front of others, who doesn't respond to stock threats and tedious busywork? Because he's different? Because he requires a little extra attention or an additional moment of thought?

Last week he drew another monster picture. I saw it as his silent act of defiance, and while I'm not happy about it, and I did talk to him about "appropriateness", I understand the frustration beneath the surface. I hate boredom too; I abhor authoritarianism and blind legalism. Maybe, this week, had I not forgotten his notebook, I'd have had just another scary drawing.

Yet I wonder about school. Will they be more likely to call me up, "Your son was so disrespectful today ..." or will they take the extra time? Will they have had lectures on kids like him in teacher training courses? How to get bright, easily bored little boys engaged in your lessons? Or will they be even more prone to authoritarian do-it-or-else-ness?

And I wonder why I feel so defensive. Is it because I feel my parenting style is under scrutiny? Because I do allow St. Nick to have his own voice. I allow the decapitated monster pictures and I give him freedom to sulk a minute, to decide on his own time whether he's going to do his lessons cheerfully (or at least soberly, since I'm a realist) or miss out on using the computer for a day. And I give him privacy in which to make this decision. Is that so wrong? Should I be threatening, spanking, insisting on complete obedience and complete obedience NOW, dammit! Does he need therapy in handling his emotions? Is he on the spectrum? Does he need to be medicated? Am I doing everything wrong?

I don't know. Today, with all the helpful moms and their helpful advice, moms whose kids seem so very normal, I just don't know.