After the poetry recital, I sat in my car and cried--full of self-pity--for about 15 minutes.
All over 12 words. The 12 words in the poem N had been assigned for the class recital. The 12 words he just couldn't being himself to step up to the microphone and say to the assembled parents. The 12 words he had practiced dozens of times at home, full of expression and excitement, but which he had told us...and his teacher had told us...he hadn't yet been able to practice in front of the class. Which meant it was unlikely he would manage to pull it together for the recital. Which he indeed did not do.
He also did not recite either of the two class poems along with his 19 classmates, instead standing stock-still, mouth clamped shut, twisting his hands compulsively, as the rest of the kids said the words in unison. When I asked him why after--as he came over for a hug, just like the rest of the kids did to their parents, if they were there--he said it was because he was too nervous. "I needed to just take deep breaths," he said.
When I'd asked him over the past week whether he'd managed to do his poem for the class, he'd shook his head every time. Yesterday, he told me, "They all keep saying, 'N, just say it.' They have too much pressure on me."
It's not like I didn't know what was coming today. So why the tears?
Because I could see he was sad, and a little afraid we'd be mad at him, though he kept insisting he was fine. Because most of the time, he 'passes' more or less seamlessly, but this time he was the sore thumb, the only kid out of 20 who hid his face in hands, pulled up his pants legs to scratch at his knees while the other kids recited, kept shrugging his shoulders every time one of his classmates would look at him as if to prompt him to keep up with the class.
Because I think he knew it, and was a little bit embarrassed.
Because--and this is the hardest part for me to admit out loud--I, too, was embarrassed...mostly because all this took place in front of the other parents, most of whom I do not know, most of whom do not know him. All of whom had to have 'seen.'
And because--and this is the hardest part for me to deal with in general--Baroy was so visibly shaken by this, angry even, though it wasn't clear at whom he was directing it. He gave N a fierce hug when he came over to us, but then proceded to vent to--no, to be honest, it was at--me as we left the school. Where I tend to spend too much time looking at and worrying over the 'differences' in N, Baroy tends to spend way too little time acknowledging them. Today he couldn't pretend there is no difference between his son and the rest of the kids, and he wanted an answer, a something-to-do, to make sure it doesn't happen again. And because I didn't agree with his off-the-top-of-his-head, man-like, needing-to-DO-something-right-NOW solutions, he got angry with me, and we snapped at each other, and something that should have brought us together left us stalking off in separate directions, him to head home, me to head to my car and drive to work. But only after crying for a while, wondering whether we'll ever figure out what N really needs, wondering whether--even if we do--we'll be able to get it for him, wondering if I can forgive myself for letting the presence of the other parents get to me, wondering if I am the only person with a 'special needs' kid who can't seem to get on the same page as her husband. Feeling generally sorry for myself. Feeling pathetic. Being pathetic.
All over 12 words.