Pulling Teeth

As a teacher, I’ve had parents tell me, My child tells me everything that happens at school. They go through their entire day A-Z.

I’ve also had parents tell me the opposite, I have a child of very few words. It’s like pulling teeth to get something about their day.

I’m definitely yanking teeth with Pup, my seven year old. It’s a tricky art that I wish I didn’t have to learn or practice. I just want my kid to open up already.

Sometimes, I think he’s just tired. I get it, the school day is long. I don’t always feel like talking either. But other times, I worry there’s something more going on. He holds everything so damn tightly. Isn’t that lonely and exhausting?

It is for me.

I get a lot of rejects when I say to Pup, Tell me about your day.

MOM! He barks. You KNOW I HATE that question! His harsh answer always bites. I wonder if there will be a day when I just give up.

Today I rework the question a little. Tell me one good thing that happened today.

One good thing that happened is I finished my United States map. Weird, Pup actually sounds willing and little bit eager to share. One not so good thing that happened is no one wanted to play with me in the gym.

I’m shocked by this unprompted reveal. Do I dare pull for more information or do I put my pliers away? I can’t help myself, I want more teeth. Did you ask anyone if they wanted to play with you?

Sort of. I walked around the gym and shouted, Does anyone out there want to play with me? I squelch my giggle thinking of him hollering his open invitation. I squelch my heartbreak too. Why is it so scary for Pup to ask someone directly?

That does sound like a not so good part of the day, I say. We are quiet together for awhile. I decide not to give Pup any wise suggestions on how to find someone to play with. What I find myself wanting to say is that I know what it’s like to feel alone.

Mom, can I have a hug?

Of course you can. I kneel down and face him. My gosh, he’s still really little. Then I open my arms and do the only thing there is to do, wait.

Bigger Paper

Martin is annoying. There is no way around saying this thing.

I’m not going to feel bad for it either.

Martin is a 4th grade student and more than just an underdog in my mixed-age 4th-6th grade class.

He’s an outsider, an uninvited guest, a buttinsky.

Lately, Martin has been grabbing kids’ hats off their heads and running away with them at recess. One student said it wasn’t just hats, he had taken her squishy and disappeared with it.

The students will only tolerate so much of his behavior before they say things like:

“Move away from me!”

“Could you be anymore annoying?”

Martin is notorious for needing to hear things more than once.

There are times I have no compassion left to muster a calm response. I say things like:

“I will not have this conversation with you anymore!”

“Don’t think about asking me that again!”

Martin stirs up the snarliest version of me.

If this were a game, Martin would be winning. I break enough of the time.

“Martin is an excellent artist. Have you ever really looked at his drawings?” a sixth grade student asks.

“Sure, I’ve looked at them.” Martin corners me everyday with his drawings of wild, hideous creatures. I’m very familiar with them. In fact, I’m certain one of his creatures are based on me.

“Martin is still taking people’s things,” the student said. “It’s a real problem.”

There’s a pause. The student says,”But his drawings are good! You know what he said to me today that I liked? He said, I have all these ideas in my head I want to draw, but this paper just isn’t big enough to hold them all.”