Three weeks into her first foray into public education, Emi was sent home early from school. Technically, it was a same-day suspension: the school counselor told me Emi can return to school the next day if she felt ready to follow the rules again.
Apparently, Emi's class was working in stations, and when it came time for her group to sit at her normal desk group, Emi wanted to sit in the seat she usually sat in. However, when she pulled her chair out, another girl slid into it, maybe as a pseudo-musical chairs game. Now, nothing triggers Emi's temper like musical chairs. She hates that kind of clamoring chaos and the jostling and stealing that accompanies it. She got upset.
So I received a call from her student teacher asking for advice on how to handle her, as she refused to do her work anymore, and overall just wouldn't let the chair thing go. So I suggested that the student teacher maybe talk to her about the chair, tell her that it's okay to be upset, but she needs her to move on. Apparently that didn't work, and she started just flat-out saying "No!" to every request, not coming in from recess, not staying in her place at circle time, poking other kids who were trying to do their work, and overall being a butthole.
So Emi's normal teacher waded in, and threatened that they will send her to the classroom next door for a time-out, which apparently usually sets kids straight, but Emi just said, "Go ahead." So, without much choice but to follow through with their bluff, they sent her next door. However, she then spent that time trying to escape from that classroom, which of course isn't safe. That's when the counselor was called in, and Emi was super-defiant to her too, stomping her feet down the hallway, playing with the toys in the counselor's office and not stopping when asked to put them down. The counselor gave her a choice: talk about what happened, or call her mom and go home. Emi opted for the phone call.
I wasn't angry when I picked her up; I was just resigned to picking up the pieces of my daughter's fragile emotional state for the rest of my life. I'll be shaking my head as I bail her out of jail for the first time, shaking my head during her first misdemeanor trial, shaking my head as reporters thrust microphones in my face demanding to know if there were any warning signs of her thirst for crime in her childhood, and why didn't I put a stop to it.
When she saw me, that's when she started to cry. My defiant little girl finally let her walls down.
When we got home, I gave her a snack and made her sort and put away laundry. After a few minutes of repetitive tasks, I could see that she was finally relaxed, and then I conducted the following interview:
What made you mad?
I pulled my chair out to sit in it, but a girl (maybe ****) went and sat in it instead. And the next chair was taken, and the next. I wanted **** to say sorry to me, but she didn't.
Why didn't you tell the teacher?
Because we were about to do the activity.
But you didn't do the activity, right?
Right. Because it was boring, boring, boring!
And why didn't you come line up when recess was over?
Because I wanted to be by myself.
Why did you start getting mad at your teachers?
Because I didn't want anyone to notice that we were talking. I was a little bit afraid that they might laugh at me. The teachers talked to me anyway, so I felt embarrassed.
Do the kids laugh at you sometimes?
*********** does, because every time I say something to him, he makes a little laugh, and I don't like that.
But no one else?
When were you sent to Mrs. 2's class?
Mrs. 1 sent me to Mrs. 2's class because I wasn't following anything.
Were you crying, yelling?
What were you doing in Mrs. 2's class?
Just trying to get out of the class. Because I was too afraid to say I wanted to get back to class.
Then who talked to you?
The teacher that I went to the office with.
What did she say?
She asked how am I doing. I said no. I did not want that teacher to hear what I say. I was too afraid that she might laugh too.
Do you see how being afraid people will laugh at you caused a lot of problems?
Are you going to keep not saying anything because you are afraid people will laugh at you?
So next time someone takes your chair, what are you going to do?
Sit somewhere else
And if something different happens that makes you mad, what are you going to do?
Tell the teacher
Do you want to get sent home from school again?
No, because I just want to go to Kids Club.
This is why I do the Proust Questionnaires, people! My kids are naturally reticent when it comes to talking about their feelings; doing mock interviews gets them used to being interrogated and thinking through their responses, reflecting on their feelings, and socializing them to semi-normal interaction.
I showed this interview to the counselor in our follow-up meeting a few days later, and she raised her hand to her heart multiple times. It is one thing to see a child who has leapt off the cliff of rational thought and willingness to listen; it is another to see the same child be able to freely express remorse and figure out her own alternatives should another trigger arise.
She assured us that the suspension will not be recorded on Emi's permanent record, but my documentation of the interview will be.
I believe that now makes her the one to blame if this is truly the start of Emi's mafia career, right?