May 15, 2009
Two unrelated Schuyler stories
Last week, I received an email from one of Schuyler's teachers. Actually, it was one of those e-cards, and along with the music, the condolences message and the animated candle, there was a note. "Schuyler told me that your father had passed away and I wanted you to know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers."
It was a very sweet message. It really made me kind of sad to have to write her back and say that while yes, it's true that my father passed away, it wasn't exactly a fresh tragedy in our lives. My dad died in 1990.
I'm not sure why, but Schuyler is a little obsessed with the topic of my father's death. I think the asymmetry bothers her, for one thing. She has a mother and a father, and so does Julie. The fact that I do not seems to bug Schuyler.
It's also the only real-world death that she's ever had to think about. Being Schuyler, she thinks about it a lot. She turns it over and over in her head, trying to make it fit in her world, like a puzzle piece. I've never shied away from the topic with her, and so she freely (and often) asks questions. When we drove past a huge, beautiful Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn, she asked if my dad was there. When she sees someone sick on television, she will ask me "Like your dad?" It's one of the reasons I have decided to delay my book about fatherhood for a few years. I think she might have something interesting to say about the topic when she's a little older.
Recently, Schuyler asked me if my father is a zombie or a mummy. Perhaps I need to start paying closer attention to what she watches on television.
It took me years (and the arrival of the Internet) to get my own, but Schuyler is ahead of the curve.
At the age of nine, she has her first nemesis.
They started off as friends, and if you ask Schuyler on a good day, she'll insist that they're not just friends, but close friends at that. This girl joined Schuyler's AAC class this year, and for the longest time, she and Schuyler were inseparable. They seem close in skill level, and they're both ambulatory, so it seemed natural for them to become friends, especially since Schuyler's previous best friend no longer attends her school.
Over the course of the year, however, the relationship has grown... complicated.
Now they can't leave each other alone, but as often as not, they are antagonizing each other. They disrupt class, they insult each other and are intensely competitive. When her friend gets upset, Schuyler knows exactly how to push her buttons and keep her in a state of anxiety. The stories that come home to us don't even sound like Schuyler anymore.
They sound like me.
It's been a recurring state of affairs for the past few weeks, and at this point we all seem like we just want to run out the clock on the semester and start fresh next year. Schuyler had a particularly rough day yesterday after trying to get her little frenemy in trouble, and it's going to be a long weekend of no TV, no computer and no hamster. (Swee has moved into our room for now, and last night I got an answer to a question I've had since we got him. Yes, he does use his wheel at night. A lot.)
Last week, Schuyler got in trouble at school during an argument with her friend in which the insults escalated to them calling each other "stupid". That's obviously a troubling word for them to be throwing around, especially since as special education students, it's one that they get to hear from the rest of the world enough as it is. I confess that I have developed a kind of prejudice against neurotypical kids, as hard as I try not to. I see a few of them snub Schuyler at her after school program when she tries to tell her "friends" goodbye, too cool to be seen talking to the Weird Girl. It's only a few of them, but it still makes me crazy.
But with her friend, it's hard, because they're both on the same side of that fight. "Stupid" is a word that I hate to hear her use against another SpEd classmate in particular, and so we all sat down and talked for a long time about respect and about the things we should never ever call someone else. I felt like a hypocrite, of course, and I made a little vow to myself to be more careful what I say about other drivers when we're in the car. I guess in that respect, we're lucky she called her friend "stupid" and not something along the lines of "fucknuts".
After our talk, it was obvious Schuyler was thinking about something intensely. She was clearly troubled by something. Finally she said, "Daddy, can I talk to you?"
She says this a lot, for reasons that we're not quite sure of. It feels a little like the movie cliche "Permission to speak candidly, Sir!" I think, however, that it's mostly her way of saying that she's got something important to say, so listen up and pay close attention. She started punching something up on her Big Box of Words, making sure she got her statement just right before speaking. As she activated the speech, she put her hand over her mouth, as if she was speaking forbidden words. I had to look away so she wouldn't see my smirk.
"But I think she is stupid."
She has since recanted that sentiment, but let it never be said that Schuyler can't hold a grudge. I have no idea where she gets it.
Ugh. She came home today with an even worse note. Apparently during art class, she called her friend's picture "stupid", too. Ironically, she couldn't spell it right for me when I asked her to tell me on her device what she said. She's learning how to spell the word right now, in her room, over and over on a pad of paper, like I had to do when I was a kid. If she loves this word so much, she at least needs to know how to spell it. We're going old skool.
And for the record, I never hate myself more than when I am disciplining her like this.