Oppose not rage while rage is in its force, but give it way a while and let it waste.
~ William Shakespeare
Luau had put himself in a bind. He’d volunteered to chaperone Katie’s field trip (starts with ‘A’, rhymes with Barboretum) and without realizing the overlap, he’d also committed to help with a Halloween themed project in Brooke’s classroom at the exact same time. I was thrilled for the excuse to bail him out. Oh dear, what shall I do? Looks like I may just HAVE to sneak out of work early that day and help out. *wink, wink, sigh *
I couldn’t have been happier as I set up shop with two other moms in Brooke’s classroom. We were each charged with leading a Pumpkin Math station.
One was an observation station where the children observed various types of pumpkins and gourds and then recorded their observations. One (mine) was a counting station where the kids took a stab at estimating how many seeds had come out of the pumpkin and then sorted them into groups of ten and counted them out together. We then compared their estimates to the actual results and tallied up how many friends had guessed too high, too low and just right. The third was a weighing station where they estimated the pumpkin’s weight and compared it to other objects around the room.
We set up our individual stations while the kids were out at recess and I was nearly vibrating with excitement by the time they came back in.
The kids were adorable. They were chatty and friendly and silly and sneaky and eager to touch and feel and smell and explore everything around them. They guessed everything from 100 to 2000 seeds and grew wide eyed as we counted them out. Every one of them wanted to reach into the pumpkin, eager to dig right into what they were learning. It was heady stuff, watching them drink it all in.
Brooke’s group came over in the second rotation. I watched her with her aide, our spectacular Miss N. I started out just as I had with the last group, by showing them the pumpkin and asking them what they thought had been inside of it. Kids shouted answers over each other and we sorted through the noise as I called on one child at a time. Brooke fidgeted and looked around. I asked the kids if they knew what ‘estimate’ means. Two little hands shot up in the air. I looked over at Brooke. She was playing with the counting cards in front of her. I called on one little boy who looked like he might just burst if he didn’t get to say, ‘A really good guess!’ Miss N kept Brooke on track as we moved along and the kids wrote their estimates on their worksheets.
Things were moving fast. I was under the gun to get through the lesson in the alloted twenty minutes. I knew Brooke would need help – a lot of help – following what was going on around her, but this time it wasn’t my job. It was all on Miss N. She kept her moving, feeding her numbers and helping her figure out what to write on her page.
On the last rotation, the teacher came over to relieve me so that I could follow Brooke’s group. I caught up to them at the observation table where Brooke was sitting in front of a miniature pumpkin. Miss N was prompting her with questions. “Brooke, what shape is the pumpkin?” she asked.
Brooke answered, “Orange.”
“It is orange, Brooke,” said Miss N patiently. “That’s its color. Can you tell me what SHAPE it is?”
I drifted into some of the other bits and pieces of conversation around the table.
“What’s that word for figuring out the size of something round? Excuse me, Ms F, do you know if it’s the circumference or the radius that tells you how big it is? Are we going to measure these? Do we have rulers?”
“Mine is a funny shape. It looks like it’s having a baby! Tee hee!”
“This one’s not a pumpkin. It’s a squash. Or is it a gourd? Um, is this a gourd? I have to write that down. How do you spell gourd?”
And then I focused back in on my girl.
“Brooke, can you tell me what shape it is?”
“Good job! Let’s write that down now.”
She set to writing the letters, one at a time. Miss N had set up her notebook in front of her like an easel to make it easier to write. She began to write her first letter – a ‘T”. She started in the wrong spot and Miss N gently pointed out where she needed to be, drawing a smiley face on the page as a guide. She handed her a pink eraser and Brooke erased her ‘T”. Over and over and over again, Brooke would write, erase and write again. Miss N would let her go for a while, allowing her to get the thought out, but eventually she’d have to remind her what she needed to do. Finally – FINALLY – she had a five word sentence on the page.
‘The pumpkin is a circle.”
She fussed and said that she was done. Hell, I’d be done too. Miss N calmly said that she needed to write just one more thing about the pumpkin. “What color is the pumpkin, Brooke?”
The kids around us were still chattering excitedly about their gourds and squashes.
“This one’s really bumpy! Check it out; it’s like it has a diseeeeeease! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
“That’s right. Good job, Brooke. So let’s write that down.”
Brooke looked exhausted.
After stealing a good long hug, I left with the other moms. I met Luau outside and we scurried off to enjoy a couple of precious hours before pick-up. On impulse, we decided to head into town for lunch.
We sat down in a lovely little Italian place off the town green. I smoothed the white cotton tablecloth as I ordered a very grown-up sounding meal. I took a deep breath and sat back in my chair. And then it happened.
In the middle of the day, in a particularly civilized little dining room surrounded by older couples and ladies-who-lunch, the storm came. I didn’t recognize it at first. It’s been a long time since it’s been around. But it was undeniable. It wasn’t any of the usual suspects. It wasn’t sadness. It wasn’t frustration or heaviness or weariness. It wasn’t anxiety or even fear.
It was rage.
Suddenly and without warning, I was choking on the silent scream of impotent rage. For a fraction of a second, I couldn’t see. The room went dark and the air disappeared. I couldn’t move. I had this strange thought afterwards – that I’d wanted to flip the table. Just stand up and turn it over. To cause upheaval, commotion, noise. But as in a slow motion nightmare, I was paralyzed.
Just as quickly as it had come, it passed. The only remnants were the tears on my face and the tension in every muscle in my body. I felt like I’d been in a car wreck.
I get sad. I do. I get sad and I get tired. I get frustrated and weary. But until that day, I guess I hadn’t gotten angry in a really long time. That day, I was ANGRY.
I was ANGRY that my girl has to work so God damned hard to do what seems to come so easily for everyone else. I was ANGRY that she is trying to figure out the difference between a color and a shape when everyone around her is talking about radius and circumference. I was ANGRY that she has to write and erase and write and erase to get one God damned word on a page. I was ANGRY that she has to puzzle through every single interaction that is somehow so natural for everyone around her. I was ANGRY that she has to struggle to keep up with a world whose pace and focus are so completely different from hers. I was ANGRY that every little thing is so God damned hard for her.
Why my girl?
Why my baby?
Why anyone’s baby?
The clouds passed that day, but they’re still close. And I can’t get past this sinking feeling that they’re not really gone. No – if I had to put money on it, I’d say I’m standing smack in the eye of the storm.