The 9th Grade Explusion

by | Oct 16, 2022 | Kuntz Day 2

My eyes snap open, heart racing, head spinning. The room is still, dark and warm. No snoring, so I assume Jon is also laying awake. Intrusive thoughts swarm my mind, repeating the lines of text and seeing my son’s eyes welled while he stands unwavering. Suddenly my heart beats even faster and I can’t catch my breath. I bolt upright, inhale deeply, filling my chest and back to no avail. Throwing back the covers and quickly swinging my legs to the floor in a thud, I wonder if my exaggerated movements are real or an effort to see if Jon will react.
In the bathroom, door closed, lights on, I check my pulse with my Apple watch. 114 BPM. I sit on the edge of the bathtub, staring at the red heart, willing the number to go down. 112. Am I having a panic attack? I teach about this every quarter, using the textbooks and recalling stories from students’ past in an effort to describe what overwhelming, unexpected anxiety may feel like. I make the mistake of looking at my phone, scrolling and even intentionally searching for friends with children at my son’s school, on his soccer team, from our old neighborhood.
Why does this keep happening to me? I get so angry at how happy other people are. How perfect, thriving, and well-adjusted their children are – doing all the things, homecoming dances, parties, honor society, band performances, dance recitals. At the same time, I tell myself, I know people only show the good. No one posts when their child fails a test, gets caught sneaking out, was drinking or smoking. I tell myself, at least my kid won’t be killed drinking and driving. But still, I wish he’d at least get invited to party. I imagine what it would be like if he had friends. Real friends.
“It kills me to think he is being bullied. And he doesn’t even seem to realize when its happening,” said Jon earlier that day. Looking up at his lips quivering as he rubbed his throat, I completely lost it and buried myself in his arms. It’s been like this since preschool, if we really think about it. Remember the birthday parties? He would just watch everyone else play, or completely shut down. And his 8th birthday? That was unbearable. I was honestly so glad when he refused to have any celebrations after that. That was the year he told me he wanted to cut himself and I took him to that child psychologist. No diagnosis. No “pathologies” the therapist said. A bright, kind, sensitive child. Here we are 6 years, 7 years later and he is diagnosed with four things. Four! I’m supposedly an expert in this stuff, and I didn’t see it! “You tried. We tried. Some of his teachers tried, too. Tomorrow let’s draft an email to the Principal. He is going back to school. It’s his right. We will damn well make sure they listen.”
So, you see – I think he is aware. He knows. He will try to make friends and then I don’t know what happens. Teachers say everyone likes him. But no one helps him or includes him. I don’t get it. It’s so unfair. I’m so angry and scared, but I’m not sure at who or what.

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