Thursday, December 4, 2008

Assault with a Stinky Weapon

Perspective is a valuable gift.

Because of the presence of Joy in our lives, Rose and I had the tools to cope with what would otherwise have been a ridiculously overwhelming incident yesterday. (Poor Rose actually was quite overwhelmed at first, and with good reason.)

I got a call from Rose's first-grade teacher yesterday afternoon. She prefaced the conversation with the heart-stopping words, "We've had a bad accident...." Clutching the edge of my desk, I forced myself to breathe as I awaited word on the extent of Rose's injuries, and which emergency room I would be visiting shortly. Fortunately it was nothing like that! Here was the account:

Just before gym class, Rose had to make a quick trip to the bathroom. There was only one other child in there, in another stall. As Rose was washing her hands, the other child (a kindergartener with special needs) came bursting out of the stall with her knickers around her ankles and her hands full of poop. She ran at Rose, smeared some of the poop on Rose's shirt, and then threw the rest into the sink.

It sounds like my poor kiddo felt sadly assaulted, violated even. Poop is unpleasant stuff, and she hadn't done anything to this girl to earn any kind of retaliation whatsoever. Fortunately her teacher was able to soothe her, get the soiled shirt off and change her into her art smock -- a bright old tie-dye T-shirt of mine, that went quite well with her hot-pink leggings!

From Rose I learned that after gym class the kindergartener was brought to her to apologize, both with a note and a verbal "so..." accompanied by the "sorry" ASL sign. (She apparently has quite a few signs but very few spoken words.) When Rose told me about the incident as I picked her up from her after-school program, she did so without tears and told me that "the girl had a disability and doesn't always understand." I went ahead and verbalized the connection with Joy, reminding Rose that Joy wears onesies so she doesn't play with her own poop, and asking if Rose remembered seeing Joy smearing poop before. Yes, she certainly did remember.

My Mama-Bear persona is more than a little concerned about why this kindergartener was in the bathroom with no adult in attendance!

The Special-Needs Mama side of me, though, is more than a little aware that... well, poop happens. Unexpectedly sometimes. You think a skill is learned, or that boundaries are in control, and then whammo.

I did drop Rose's teacher an e-mail of thanks for the phone call and taking such good care of Rose in the wake of the incident, bringing gentle attention to the idea that "bad accident" was perhaps not the right term to use at the start of the call, and also including a line about being sure that a flurry of strategizing was underway about how to prevent any such future occurrences...

It's quite an experience to be on the other side of the special-needs mama / neurotypical mama divide for this incident. What a priceless perspective!

Rose, meanwhile, benefits immeasurably from that perspective and understanding as well. While a small bump on the head later in the evening (she ran into our birdfeeder en route to the car to go to piano class!) brought a few extra tears and feeling sorry for herself, she was in good spirits by bedtime, and slept peacefully through the night. As did I. And Joy too.


RatM said...

Oh no!

Well, Rose handled herself really well. I think I would have been more traumatized. I guess you could count me in the ranks of the highly poop averse.

You definitely should talk to the teacher about not freaking parents out like that. I learned early in my years directing residential camp to always start phone calls and messages with "This is RatM from Camp Runamuck. Suzy is just fine. I'm calling about..."

JoyMama said...

RatM - Rose is such a treasure. Y'know, the only thing she mentioned about it this morning at all was reminding me that we needed to get her art smock back to school. That was IT. No reluctance to go back to school, wanted to be sure to be in time to play with her friends!

I think her teacher must have been unusually rattled. This is a highly competent 20-year veteran! I'll get a chance to chat tomorrow, since I'll be volunteering in the class.

It strikes me that if it had been some privileged princess with helicopter parents instead of Rose, there would probably have been attorneys at the school doorstep this morning!! Good fortune that Rose is -- who she is. A treasure.

Niksmom said...

Ah, yes, poop definitely happens! Sorry for Rose's little run-in. But what a superstar she is that she showed such compassionate understanding and didn't hesitate about going back. LOTS of kids would've been so freaked out their parents would've had to come get them. Seriously.

You are raising one spectacular little girl with a generous and loving heart.

JoyDad said...

Attorneys, eh? How much do you think we could get out of 'em?? I could use some new guitars and amps...

Just kidding... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Yes, you should be so proud of how well Rose handled herself. She seems so patient and understanding.

And I love the title of this post!

Mama Mara said...

I'm thinking about the parents of the kindergartener and how relieved they will be that someone like Rose was there. Relieved that Rose's parents "get it" rather than being the kind of people who would raise a stink and rub it in their faces (I know, I know, I just ruined the moment).

jess said...

she is an amazing little girl .. our kids, the sibs, have such a gift - compassion, understanding, tolerance, and yes, a lot of poop in their little lives too.

AuntieS said...

As a former teacher, I did also find myself wondering why there was no supervision for the little kindergarten girl. But, then I was thinking about the many complicated issues that surround the washroom experience. It was always necessary to be cautious about being in the bathroom, near to children who were using the bathroom, or about how much I was able to assist the children with removing or replacing clothing, wiping, and such. Unfortunately, in these times, teachers may sometimes be vulnerable to lawsuits and accusations of sexual abuse or inappropriate actions in situations that involve bodily functions. On the other hand, since my degree is in Special Ed and I student-taught in a special ed classroom, I also faced the need to balance those legal issues with the reality that some children truly need assistance and supervision and hands-on help to complete their bathroom activities. It is always a tightrope walk. And of course, there are other side issues such as whether there is enough staff to allow one teacher to supervise a single student in the washroom without leaving the rest of the class unsupervised. And there are also the concerns about the health issues that could arise when children and adults come in contact with "poop" and "pee" from others. So, I am seeing this incident with Rose as a very complicated, loaded, tricky, and challenging situation. I do hope that the teacher evaluates what happened with other staff and determines what she could have done differently to avoid this situation. It can certainly serve as a learning tool for the faculty.
Speaking as the aunt, I am very glad that Rose was able to deal with this in such a wise way. It is a moment of feeling thankful that she has been given such wonderful examples and experiences through her little sister and her parents! As much as Joy will hopefully learn from all of us around her who try to help, she also obviously teaches us all some valuable lessons too! Good job Rose! Good job Joy! I am a very proud aunt!!