Technically my work day ends at 1pm. Which is also, conveniently enough, when the wee girl's class is dismissed and we leave together. Rarely, however, do I have enough to do between 12:30 and 1 to keep me "on the clock".
Today I spent that time, per usual, in the staff office. Checking email on my phone. Then I notice I had a missed call from the boy's school. And a voicemail. It was his teacher. His teacher who is actually a long term substitute since his other teacher is currently out on maternity leave. She was following up on an incident from yesterday. And wanted to talk to me about a picture he had drawn today.
We're raising Calvin. He draws pictures of aliens invading and humans with chainsaws for ams fighting them off.* He draws pictures of his dad at work. He writes amazing stories about a Shadow Man and ghost hunters. We've never, ever censored what he's drawn or what he's written. He's 7 years old. He's brilliant. His imagination is astounding. And he's our son. There was never a chance he was going to be Normal.
By the time I listened to the voicemail other co-workers had wandered in. One whom I share far too much with anyway only because she has six children and the youngest two are friends with my son and our lives overlap on multiple dimensions. That and I trust her wholly and completely. As I'm pounding my head on the table she's doing her best to not laugh as she tells me it's going to be just fine. Another shared a story of her own 2nd grader son drawing an anatomically correct (and, apparently, well hung) leprechaun. His story? He was just getting dressed and hadn't put his pants on yet. By the time everyone had shared their stories, had their laughs at my expense they had reassured me (in their on special ways) that it was, indeed, going to Be Okay.
I was able to talk to him before his teacher returned my call returning her call. He confessed he'd drawn a picture of a person with a sword through his heart. A little more violent than normal but certainly not enough to warrant a phone call. Until I get the phone call and she said he had named the heart stabbed victim.
Fortunately she made the decision to talk to me first before taking it further. Given the number of stories in the news of schools who have gone way overboard with perceived threats, our conversation could have ended much differently. For that, at least, I am grateful.
I don't know how to navigate these waters. I certainly don't know how to navigate them on my own.
Yesterday he made a comment that got the guidance counselor involved (and another fun filled phone call). His reaction statement to his teacher was, "I can say what I want. They're just words. I have Freedom of Speech."
Today I got to explain to him that he's 7. The Bill of Rights really doesn't apply to him. Not only that, the First Amendment has to do with what our government can and cannot do. It does not give him free reign to say whatever the hell he wants to say. Words have power. And he needed to take responsibility for what comes out of his mouth. And for what he draws down on paper. We talked about consequences. We talked about "red flags." We talked a little about school violence and why his teacher felt like she needed to call me.
I shouldn't have to have these conversations with my 7-year-old. It pisses me off that recent events have schools, and our society as a whole, on edge. He, and every single other 7-year-old, should be allowed to draw their morbid pictures, write their amazing stories and use their incredible imaginations without their teachers, their principals, their peers, their parents analyzing every single detail.
Again, I'm grateful his teacher talked to me first. I was able to explain a little about our crazy life, what his dad does, how we are at home. She does know my son well enough to know that he doesn't have a malicious bone in his body.
I'm looking forward to next year when the wee girl is in kindergarten. And she shares the pictures she draws of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles having inappropriate relations with princesses.
And when I say, "I'm looking forward to it..." I mean, of course, "Someone just shoot me now."
But that would be a "red flag."
*I swear by all that is holy and pure I have never let my children watch "Army of Darkness"! Even though our daughter, upon seeing her dad dressed in a suit and tie, burst out, "Well helloooo, Mr. Fancy Pants!"