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.