Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Universe Tilts Sharply Part I

I can tell you already that this post needs to be written in two parts. It's extremely long. It's emotionally draining. We'll begin with part 1: Niko's First Day of School.

So he was transferred, yet again, to another school, because his last school doesn't have the self contained first grade program that he needs. This is his fifth school in the last three years, including two different summer schools. New teacher, new staff, new bus drivers, the whole deal. So we did that whole thing. "Yay, Niko, you get to ride the bus! Yay, you get to meet a new teacher!" He's so incredibly anxious, and we tried to get him used to it beforehand. "We're buying you new shoes for school! We're buying new clothes for school!" We're also looking over his IEP, and putting together an introductory scrapbook for the teacher, and crying out eyes out at night in nervous exhaustion and dread, and everything else that we do right before school. But in front of Niko, we focus on the positive. You know how it goes.

My father comes down to visit. Truth be told, he's come down about every other weekend because I have just been at the breaking point. Dad cleans my floors and fixes broken locks around the house. He was here for Niko's last emergency room visit. He was here for all of this.

The bus pulls up on Monday, and Niko climbs on with very little drama. Hooray! All of our preparation has worked! The bus driver belts him in, and we tell Niko that we'll be there when he gets off of the bus. I still haven't met his teacher, and there has been zero communication about the school. We barely found out where he was going, for crying out loud.

So Dad, Nina, and I hop in the car. We drive over to the school and beat the bus. We look for his teacher, but Niko isn't on any of the rolls that we see. We stand by the buses, figuring that we'll meet his teacher that way.

His bus eventually pulls up, and he comes off of it calmly. I'm so proud of him! I ask around for his teacher, but nobody knows. We're sent to the office. Niko takes one step inside, thinks it's a doctor's office, and flips out. My father, bless his heart, picks him up and carries him outside, where he tries to calm him down for 45 minutes while I'm fighting with everybody inside the office. Fighting. That's how it felt. They have no record of him, no paperwork saying that we should be there. IEP? The person I'm talking to doesn't speak enough English, so I'm waiting for somebody else to come help me. There's a huge line. Niko's screaming outside. Nina's holding my hand and waiting patiently.

Part of the problem is that I should have registered earlier, they said. Friday was the last day. I told them that I didn't know anything about registration. I told them that I looked up their website online, and it was dead. The links didn't work. It hadn't been updated since late 2008. I said that I looked for information about an open house, about registering, about meeting the teacher. I said that I looked to see whether or not the school had uniforms. I looked to see about school lunch, and whether or not they served breakfast. This information was not to be had. I said that they didn't understand the preparation that went into everything, that we spent weeks gearing Niko up for school. I told them that he was going to be scared of school now, that he wouldn't get on the bus anymore. I told them that, believe me, if there was something that I could have done to avoid this problem, I would have done it. I don't say that I knock myself out doing it. I don't tell them that I wake up about 20 times a night, worrying about something that I might have missed, that I'm worried they'll lose vital paperwork, that there's something more that I should be doing.

She told me that all the information that I needed was in the newsletter that they sent home. Everybody in the school district got this newsletter.

"I didn't get the newsletter," I said.

Oh. Maybe if I had gone to the website, then...

Didn't she understand what I just told her? I did go to the website. There was no information there. This could have gone on for hours, but I finally held up my hand and said, Please. Tell me where we go from here. Can I register him now?

Paperwork was missing. It couldn't be found. This is exactly one of the things that I feared, and I fear it because it happens to us all of the time. I ran all over town and finally got copies of everything that they needed. Dad and I took the kids home. My father called my mom and said that all of the kids were crying. He meant Niko, Nina, and I.

So Tuesday was Niko's Do-Over. His second day of school. I said, "Niko! Let's get ready for school!" and he cried. The bus came and he collapsed to the ground, screaming. I cursed everybody silently. I hated them all. I tried not to cry and told him that it would be all right, and today would be much different, and I would meet him there. He existed today. Whether or not they had all of his paperwork, the woman at the office assured me that she could find enough to get him in. He pressed his face to the bus window and cried. I promised that we'd meet him there, just like yesterday, only better. I put on my dark glasses (to hide my puffy eyes) and what my father calls my "Dita Von Teese" lipstick. I armored up. I went over to face them again, determined to work everything out by my sheer force of will.

And then everything changed.


The Cutie Udy's said...

Oh my goodness when are you going to write part two? I am sucked in, about to cry, and about to get in the car and head to the school to curse them myself. You really are an excellent writer. I'm sorry you, Niko, Nina, your dad, and husband had to go through all of this!

Mercedes said...

Thanks! That makes me feel a lot better. Isn't that strange, that I'm happy because you're angry for us? But everything worked out, and now the world is raining comets and butterflies. Just when I thought I couldn't take one more thing.