You know, I'm always writing about all of the wonderful things my son does. How brave and smart and strong he is. And that's all true. But he's also human. And never more so than on Friday.
Man, this is tough. Aw hell, let's just jump right in.
Joseph has been saying "fuck" lately. Not in my presence. Or in front of other adults. But with his buddies on the school yard. How do I know? Because, he told me, that's how. He tells me whenever he's done anything he's not real proud of. Often saying, "Mom, I don't feel right unless I tell you about it. It just sits in my stomach and makes me feel sick."
I'm not naive. This will certainly change as he gets older. But for now, as it was when he was very little, this boy feels compelled to fess up when he's done something wrong.
Anyhow, we've talked about the "F" word before-- back a few years ago when a friend of his had shared this word with him. At that time he asked me about it, and I had explained that it's an ugly word-- one of the nastiest words you could use, and one that could get you in a lot of trouble for saying.
Yeah, I know. I probably just served up one big 'ol hunk of forbidden fruit.
Now, after our little chat, he seemed impressed enough not to use the word, and to be sufficiently shocked if he heard it on the street (we live in a college town -- not an unusual thing to hear around campus).
Fast forward to just two months ago-- that's when he began saying the word himself. And shortly after, he made the decision to, as he put it, "break the habit." Needless to say, I was not happy to hear of his recent experiment with bad language (remember folks, he just turned 10), but I was proud of the fact that he wanted to talk with me about it-- and that he wanted it to stop.
He'd been doing great-- bursting with pride as he shared his progress.
But now he's in trouble.
On Friday, Joseph sat down to take his spelling test. His teacher said the first word, and Joseph didn't hear it. His teacher described to me, in an email, what happened next:
Joe was flustered because he missed the first key word. I don't repeat words so that kids stay listening and focused. I told him he needed to keep on going with the other words and would not give him that word. That word would come to him at some point during the test. He repeatedly asked for the word in a disruptive (loud) way. I continued administering the quiz to the class. Joe said, aloud, a phrase which had within it the word "fuck." I told him quietly at that point that his test was invalid-- he would get a 0 for it. Joe became quite upset for a moment, then proceeded to take the rest of the test. I'm sure he did well on it.Before I read this email, I already knew what it was about. Joseph told me the moment we arrived home on Friday.
On our way to recess outside he apologized. I accepted it. I also said I would be contacting you. He was not happy during recess. I took him down to the nurse right after recess when he said he felt low.
"Mom, I did something really bad. And I mean, really bad. I said that word again."
"Oh Joseph, we've talked about this."
"No mom, it's way worse. I said it in class."
"You didn't say it in front of your teacher, did you?"
At this point, Joseph looked absolutely miserable.
"Oh yeah. I didn't hear him say the first spelling word when he was giving us our test, and he wouldn't tell it to me. I just got really mad because he was being so mean about it! He just wouldn't say it again. And I guess I muttered under my breath 'What the F... ' I took the test, though. Even though Mr. S is giving me a zero. It was hard, but I didn't want everyone to think I was stupid. Then I went out to recess and just cried. Sam tried to make me feel better. But I knew Mr. S. was so mad. And that you'd be mad, too."
Yes, I was.
And, at first it was all about the consequences-- no Friday night movie, no gum (which he LOVES) for a month, and so on.
But later that night, and over the weekend, I got to thinking about my son, and what a terrific kid he is. And I also got to thinking about the events of Friday. Sure, Joseph can be hot-tempered, and irrational. But nine times out of ten, when that happens -- when it's that extreme -- there's something funky going on with his blood sugar.
Soooo, I thought back to Friday. After his teacher had left him in the nurse's office -- after recess -- it was discovered that, yes, he had been low.
He was 56.
On Saturday, I asked Joseph, "When did you take that spelling test?"
His answer: "Right before recess."
Now, I didn't tell him why I was asking. I don't want him to blame all of his moods or bad behavior on his blood sugar-- and I really don't want him to view his diabetes as a free pass to act out of control.
But then again, I don't want him penalized for something he can't control.
Do you see my quandary, here?
That's what made me think back to last Thursday, the day before the "incident." When I was leaving the school with Joseph that day, his teacher pulled me aside and told me that Joseph had been "acting out a bit lately in class," but that he and the kids are "getting used to it" and that my talk had really helped them understand this a little better.
Maybe I didn't do such a good job after all.
I don't want them to "get used to it." I want his teacher to recognize when something's wrong. Like when Joseph misses a spelling word, and then (loudly) badgers him to repeat it.
I want him to see when my son is clearly acting unlike his normal self, and suggest that he check his sugar before he says "What the Fuck?!"
I don't want my son to be different in a way that people feel they have to "get used to."
I don't want him to have diabetes.