When 5th grade started in the fall, my son’s small class had a new addition. Our little private school gets a new kid occasionally, but nothing like public school, where you might not know half a dozen kids in your new class some years. A day or two into the school year, we found out, somewhat abruptly, that the new students brother had committed suicide over the summer. The teacher quickly sent out an email apologizing, that he knew this might come up, but he hadn’t expected it to come up during the “what I did this summer” part of the first week of school. We learned more details, and the school hosted an evening seminar on helping children cope with suicide. I didn’t attend, but I’m sure there was valuable information presented. Being curious, I looked up information on the brother, and found while they lived in the same household, they weren’t actually related. That doesn’t diminish the impact of suicide, but it somehow makes it seem slightly less catastrophic.
It didn’t take long for the dust to settle, so to speak, 5th graders are pretty resilient, and for kids, death is just a thing, a part of life. The class moved on to more mundane things like homework, and book reports and such. The girl’s mother, or foster mom really, sent email to the class, asking if anyone could carpool, because she was a school teacher, and needed to be to class before it was ok to drop off at our school. Since she is sort of on our route, I volunteered for Wednesday mornings. It went fairly well, she’s a remarkably normal 11 year old, (5th graders are pretty resilient), We went through the fall, altering our normal routine on Wednesday mornings, and things went ok.
Over time, both of my kids complained that wednesdays weren’t working out, that they didn’t like the disruption. It caused my 5th grader to get up 90 minutes early, (long story), and he liked to sleep in as long as he could. As the winter holiday approached, the kids were less and less happy with Wednesday mornings. In addition, my son doesn’t much like his classmate. “She’s kind of weird, and she disrupts the class”. I felt bad, I didn’t want him to be stuck with someone he didn’t like, and she seemed like a fairly nice person. It kind of seemed unfair. But I can’t decide who he likes and doesn’t like, I just get to make suggestions. I finally decided that I needed to let the mother know, we’d continue to carpool until the break, but afterwards, we’d need to go back to our old schedule. Which brings me to the present.
I took the kids to a christmas show, which was lots of fun, but ran long, and was on Tuesday night. They didn’t get to bed until 11, much later than I had anticipated, and I told my son, I’ll drive everyone to school, and then come back and wake you up. Sleep as much as you can. He was happy that he didn’t have to get up. I got to pick up his classmate on my own, which was a first. She was surprised to see the car empty, but I explained, and told her she could sit in back, or up front, her choice. She sat in the front seat and chatted with me all the way to school.
“I have kind of a crush on your son” she said, “but don’t tell him I said that”. I told her I certainly wouldn’t. She asked if I wanted to know why she liked him. I said “sure” although, I have to admit, part of me didn’t want to know. She said, “he’s really funny”. I was reminded they’re only 11. This girl has had quite the life so far. Way too much for an 11 year old, and she’s found she likes a boy that I know doesn’t much care for her, and she’s bravely plugging away moving forward through her life, hoping for the best.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the situation. My desire to promote her to my son, and realizing that it’s not my place to steer him in a particular direction, or try to convince him he should like someone he doesn’t like. It’s the luck of the draw that brings people together. But at the same time, life can be particularly unfair. It occurred to me that while my life had it’s challenges, I had nothing compared to this little girl, who has already lived through more difficult times than I have experienced in most of my life.
Somewhere in the middle of thinking about her situation in life, I realized that her I was responsible for ending her brief Wednesday morning time with a boy in school she liked. I’d like to be able to save the world, or at least the small part of it that I live in, but at the same time I know if I interfere I can only make it worse.
I spent the day wishing there was something I could do, or that things had turned out differently, or something that didn’t leave us in this awkward position.