Today reminded me of a day early in my career. Both situations were totally different but left me feeling the same. Mostly confused because my actions felt so correct in my righteous bones but the ideas and reactions of others made me think maybe my bones are dumb, ignorant liars.
Today I found out about a fight occurring tomorrow while the kids are off. 5’oclock Friday, one young man was getting his butt kicked by another. I went into sleuth mode. Seems the boy getting the beat down had kissed his fifth grade girlfriend the day previous at lunch. Obviously a big no no from a school staff standpoint. The boy planning to administer said beat down was also a fifth grader, and the girl’s cousin. I am attempting to pare this down to essential details because this drama had many unnecessary twists and turns, as most do when dealing with ten year olds. Once I got the kisser to admit he did not want to fight and the fighter to realize he was actually being a bully because the two from lunch were “dating” (in fifth grade, ew, sorrynotsorry) and laid out the eye-stare promise that cops would be deployed the second a fist hit anything, the beef was squashed.
Of course I then immediately found the girl. The “boyfriend” in this case is a shy, emo, bashful, cool kid. The girl is…the type of girl drawn to that type of boy. She is at that period in her life, you know what I mean, like precisely there. She is teetering. Not in a super scary way but in a way that lots of 10 year old girls tend to. She is impressionable yet clever, inquisitive yet reserved. And I think she thinks this boy is the bee’s knees. Most importantly, she trusts me. I don’t think she trusts many people. It’s big. I knew what happened, I told her. She flushed and blushed and looked around for a drain to melt down. What I care about most, I told her, was whether or not she was made uncomfortable yesterday or ever. She assured me not and swore is was a “dumb dare”. She swore it would never happen again on school grounds.
The ruling from on high was the bilingual secretary would handle the fighter, the principal would handle the kisser, and I would handle the mother whose house was to be the venue for this brawl. But the girl… It was decided that the bilingual secretary and the principal would call and tell the old-school, tough as nails, very conservative mom. Everything. My entire being screamed “no”.
I plead my case. Yes – if it were my daughter I would want to know. That was about the only sticking point that made sense. But really, would I? A dare kiss from a boy she actually likes in school? I mean, maybe, but what would that do? I would certainly like to be told something happened. I know something needed to be relayed to a parent. But then I was given the main reason why the mother must be told. The thing that reminded me about the other thing I’m about to recount and also the thing that made me re-dig my heels back in. (THIS IS THE NEBULOUS PART I KNOW I’M PROBABLY WRONG ABOUT) I was told to think about the likely scenario in which the girl’s mom found out and maybe even found out her daughter had confided in me – I would be in “SO MUCH TROUBLE”.
I honestly don’t know whether I’d rather find out some lovesick boy gave my kid a peck, probably her first kiss, or if I found out my pubescent daughter actually entrusted an adult with something that already began her shame spiralling at an age where it’s already happening – and he broke that trust! I remembered that today was conferences and that I would, in just a few short hours, be sitting down with the girl’s mother. I begged to be allowed to cover my own butt and talk to the mom about this myself today at conferences. They relented and noted that I might not want to tell the girl and spill all the beans to mom.
Of course as soon as I got back I pulled the girl. My main focus was not my butt or the consequences it might have to face. It was this girl being forever scarred by shame over her first kiss. This girl is the type of girl where this event being mishandled leads to pain and confusion later. That’s all I could see happening. It petrified me. So I told her the truth – that I was going to tell her mom the truth. That the choices I was given were to have the boss let mom know every detail or that I would do the talking today at conferences.
“I TRUSTED you!”, she whisper-screamed in the hall. She had the look of the gallows-destined all over her already purposeful emo countenance. I told her to shush. I told her that the most important thing was that she made a dumb, but normal, 5th grade mistake over a boy she liked. I told her that whether or not this was her first kiss she should not feel ashamed or like there was anything wrong with her. I also told her that if I could give her any advice from now until forever it would be that if the boy you like constantly gets you in trouble you’re probably too good for him. I told her that my boss gave me the order that I must let mom know something happened with her baby girl at school or I could lose my job. And I told her I would tell her mom the truth. I would tell her mom that a rumor had been spread that there was a dare and a peck on the cheek at lunch. I would tell her mom that I did not see this to verify its veracity. And I would tell her mom that I spoke to her about how if something like this happened or ever were to happen that it would be unequivocally against school rules and not ok. And finally, I would tell her mom that she agreed and that I believed her. The girl radiated relief and hugged me before returning to the group project she was working on. Her shoulders exonerated from the planetary gravity that seemed to plague them all morning. I’m sorry. I think I did right. Mom will be here for conferences in an hour. Fingers crossed.
The other time I felt like this was a couple years ago. I was on a three month maternity leave in a tough part of town near the city. We got a 40 minute lunch, or at least I did, and because I was still learning both the economic and dietary ropes I usually ran out to grab something to eat. One day, this was in mid-March I believe so no coat but a little chilly on an overcast day in just shirtsleeves, I was walking to my car and an old man with 3 Aldi bags fell down. Right in front of my car, all 6’9 or so of his frail, stooped frame tripped and fell, shattering a bottle of wine. I saw a minor scrape on one forearm but otherwise as I helped him to his feet he seemed fine. I asked where he lived and if I could give him a ride. He politely declined but I felt bad letting him walk away because his gait seemed…off. So I walked alongside him and when he told me it wasn’t far I told him I’d be happy to make sure he made it there in one piece.
I could tell something was wrong as soon as we got out of view of the school. This very large older man began to sway mightily so I got on his right side and threw my left arm around his waist. Held out in front of him in his hands as if they were resting on the handles of a shopping cart or a walker, was one plastic shopping bag with bread in it and another with more, apparently indestructible wine, and some supplement bottles. And with his hands thus held out I had him Siamese twinned to my side as I had to continue increasing pressure with my left arm pinning his waist to basically right under my armpit as he, too, was a teetering mess. He began to lean forward and lurch and continue walking. You have no idea how odd it is to be literally holding up a gigantic septuagenarian in a strange part of town with the wind picking up the cool air and that being the only sound along with the syncopated rhythm of four shuffling feet. In dead silence this man’s ability to walk was rapidly declining and as the lurching and leaning became more “Annie are you ok?” Michael Jackson-style than any other walking stride I can conceptually think of and somehow I swung ‘round from his side to the back of his white Hanes undershirt which I was holding with all my might with both hands while keeping all my weight back back back. All while walking. In total silence! For some reason that got me. How was he not saying anything? How was I not? It was like I left my body and watched the absurdity of it all in silence. How was no one seeing this?!?!?!
It was then that I realized than not only had this poor elderly beanstalk scraped his right forearm when he fell, but the left one as well. It was also then, based on my white button up work shirt and blue tie, that I realized that maybe blood in older people wants to be free any time there’s any sort of entrance available to them. Like, really badly. I was covered in the old, very tall man’s blood that I was basically using every ounce of my weight strained against the back of his shirt to shuffle, one foot at a time (each so two feet at a time) all the way to his house. It took at least 30 minutes. When he got there it was one of those old cobblestone jobs. You know, with the narrow, steep concrete steps leading up to the front door. I sat the man down and got his keys. I called work and told the secretary who always reminded me of someone who should be running a construction crew (she was my favorite) that I would try to make it back in time but if so I’d have to go.
There were about 7 steps. I got him up and he was pinned between my right shoulder and the front door, his chest draped across my back, still holding the pills, wine, and bread. I unlocked the door, it swung open, and despite my attempts at a quick-clutch fireman’s carry his entire 6 foot whatever frame came crashing to his foyer floor. The second wine shattered but thankfully out on the concrete landing.
I crooked my head under his armpit and bulldoze pushed his body until I got his back across his living room floor and propped on his couch. That easily took 8 minutes. We were both covered in blood. He was breathing heavily and erratically. I told him I had to get to work but was going to call an ambulance. He let loose a tirade of profanities as a thank you for my Good Samaritan work and made me swear to call no one and to lock the door behind myself. I fake locked the door, ensured it was unlocked, and called 911. Then I called the school. Within about 3 minutes fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and both the principal and vice principal had come around the corner to meet me in the front yard. The man continued to swear at me as they wheeled him out on a gurney through an oxygen mask. I just smiled a weary smile and waved.
The principal sent me home. The next morning I was called to the office. Two different people, one from district admin and the assistant principal, both basically read me the riot act. He fell on school grounds. Never do that again. We could have been sued. I could have been sued. What on earth could I have possibly been thinking? I tried to explain that, at first I just thought I was walking an old guy down the street real quick and then over to Wendy’s for a couple Jr Bacon Cheeseburgers (don’t judge, I’m off the stuff now). I promised that, if that exact scenario presented itself again that, no, I would not act the same way. But inside I was like, “yeah I would”.
If I get fired for letting a fragile young lady trust me and not wanting to break that trust, while still getting mom up to speed on what’s what, I feel like I’m going down valiantly. Even if I am wrong (because, idealiotic) it’s a mistake I believed in. Same with the bleedy old mean sweary monster tall guy. Something like this someday is going to be the end of me. I know this. But I’ll probably do it anyways.