Back to school: First day nerves, a DJ and the place where fruit goes to die.

“I know I can’t…” George said as he got into bed the night before school went back after 7 weeks at home. “…but I wish I could have one more day’s break… you know, because today was so bad”.

We’d had a dramatic day with a visit to the emergency vet for a guinea pig with a large abscess that needed lancing, as well as witnessing a physical fight between three men in a shopping centre car park as we were looking for a parking spot (we hastily left the car park without going into the shopping centre).

“Mummy, I’m nervous” George said, “I’m nervous Mummy” in a wavering voice from a Tik Tok filter.

“I don’t want to do JPA (Junior Performing Arts) anymore.” He doesn’t want to continue playing clarinet and despite him dancing and singing (beautifully) round the house, doesn’t actually want to do that in public.

Earlier that night we wrote out his schedule, found clothes to wear for the return back to his no-uniform school, discussed lunch options and put some money in his wallet.

I cleaned out his school bag. Something one of us should’ve done 7 weeks earlier. My hand landed on something wet and squishy as I was assaulted by the smell of rotting citrus fruit. The bottomless pit of the school bag, where fruit goes to die, literally.

In the bag, I found:

  • 1 black banana, shrunken, mummified with a bonus mould lesion
  • the aforementioned mandarin
  • 1 shrivelled apple
  • 2 squashed cheese sticks
  • 3 different drinks in cardboard cartons (Up and Go and apple juice).
Exhibit A: mummified

George texted his friend to meet outside school at 8.30am.

The next morning he was too nervous to eat any breakfast. We gave the guinea pig his dose of antibiotics and reward kale treat, left on time and pulled up at school at 8.28am.

I’d decided to drive George to and from school for a bit until I was more sure of the buses – how crowded would they be? How clean, are the same ones running? He’d only just got used to catching the bus when school closed. Now his former bus buddy who he used to walk part way home with no longer lives next door to us.

“Ooh I’m nervous” he said as we passed some kids walking, one or two on bikes, he gazed at the playground of a primary school along the way.

We pulled into the car park of the high school to the sound of music (not the musical). There was a cluster of four or five kids, a teacher and a DJ spinning his tunes on a balcony, several metres away from where the kids were standing.

“I hate this song” said George as Dance Monkey blared across the school ground. “Where’s my friend?”

I offered to wait but he said no and got out of the car. I heard George’s name. It wasn’t the friend he’d arranged to meet, but another one. George’s face broke into a big smile as the DJ spun Chameleon.

I drove away and teared up a bit to see G happy to see his friend. I was grateful that the school had gone to the effort of organising a DJ to welcome the Year 7s back, in a socially-distanced way.

George phoned me at lunchtime to ask if his friend B could have a lift home. I left my office at 3pm to drive to collect them.

They were waiting for me out the front and I noticed B was taller with longer hair after almost 2 months of iso-life. (I’d squeezed in George for a haircut at my hairdresser’s house when I’d gone for my colour two weeks earlier).

George’s face appeared smiling at the car window, B behind him. “Hi Mum, B’s hit puberty a bit!” George felt the need to explain. B just looked a bit embarrassed and no one said anything else about it.

B’s voice was breaking. What a difference 7 weeks can make in a 12-year-old. It was like a scene from the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie when the kids come back from summer break and they all look older apart from Greg Heffley.

I asked B what he’d thought of online learning. “It was good, except for science. Science sucked. There was too much work.” Glad we weren’t the only ones who thought that.

I also heard that the Performing Arts teacher (the one we’d discovered on Tik Tok) brought her dog to school. “She didn’t want to leave him at home alone” George explained.

We dropped B home then George and I discussed afternoon tea. “Did you eat your lunch?” I asked. “Did you eat your grapes?”

“No, I couldn’t find them.”

It seems George’s bag really is the place where fruit goes to die.

How can I get my almost-teen to eat more any fruit? Will I ever give up trying?

Feeling guilty like a mother part 2: the broken wrist

 

The broken wrist

Plaster day 1

In my last post I wrote about the challenge of adjusting to full-time work for me, and the shock of going to after-school care every day for Spider Boy.

To add to this, about three weeks ago (the week before I started a new work contract), Spider Boy broke his wrist when he fell off playground equipment at after-school care.

It was a terrible day.

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

It was the day of the year 3 NAPLAN Maths test. It was the day BEFORE Friday the 13th.

That morning I’d wanted to acknowledge Spider Boy’s completing NAPLAN, so thought an after school special treat was in order. I told him I would pick him up a bit earlier and that we’d go to his favourite cafe, a 50s-style diner.

Usually my boss (at the job I was about to leave) was really good about me leaving on time to pick up Spider Boy from after care. But on this day, she said:

“I know you said you wanted to go at five but did you manage to do those budget updates?” Damn, damn, damn. I hadn’t. I had planned to tackle it tomorrow.

“No…” I told her. “I needed to ask you about it because I’m actually a bit confused about something” I explained to her disappointed face. (I’d shared the pain of this particular work project with my sister, who made me laugh by texting me a line from that carpet ad from the 80s or 90s, “Oh Mr.Hart, what a mess!”)

So after a discussion with my boss about the approach for tackling the mess, I left work at 5.25pm that day instead.  When I arrived at aftercare at 5.45pm, Spider Boy had a dark look on his face. He didn’t look happy to see me. Because yet again, it was “dark and night time.”

I didn’t rush up to him; I felt bad, because I realised he remembered I’d said I’d get there a bit earlier. But I hadn’t. I felt like he was calling me out with his eyes for breaking my word.

I walked over to the sign-out book.

It was only when he was standing next to me I noticed he was holding an icepack to his wrist. The carer explained he’d hurt himself when he fell off playground equipment.

“I didn’t see it happen, but then I heard him calling me and he was on the ground crying”. It turns out he’d jumped off something and landed on this wrist.

“But I don’t think it’s broken,” she said. She illustrated this by moving his wrist this way and that. He didn’t seem to feel it. He said it didn’t hurt. He didn’t wince anyway. I’ve witnessed a couple of other broken bones (not Spider Boy’s) and this didn’t seem to induce the pain of those ones.

“I think it’s just a sprain.”

“See? If you’d come early I wouldn’t have hurt my arm” said Spider Boy as we walked to the car in the dark, the bitter late Autumn wind whipping around us.

I felt like karma was stabbing me in the heart for arriving later than I’d said.

“No, Darling, no. It could’ve happened even if I’d been watching you in the park on an afternoon play date. Sometimes these things just happen.”

I tried to work out his level of pain. In the car I asked him to move his wrist for me again and he said it didn’t hurt. It’s probably just a sprain, I thought.

“Maybe we should go to the doctor. Do you want to go to the doctor?”  It was dark and cold and windy. “No, let’s just get hot chips” we agreed. I was sure it was just a sprain.

Later at home on the couch, he said sweetly, “Mum, don’t promise, but can you try to pick me up early tomorrow?”as he clutched the icepack to his wrist.

His father came to visit him, as he usually does each evening, and they sat on the couch together while Spider Boy showed him his iPad games. He seemed OK and ate his dinner.

But later, about 10pm, he said his wrist was hurting. He’d gone to bed with an ice pack and I offered him Panadol. He had one sip of that and then screwed his face up and said he couldn’t drink it. Not long afterwards he vomited.

He slept in my bed that night, tossing and turning, refusing Panadol and asking for a new icepack when the current one lost its coldness.

I didn’t go to work the next day. My favourite doctor from last time we lived in Canberra wasn’t available so we went to a medical centre.

The GP said an X-ray was in order. He viewed the images straight away.

“No major damage” I breathed a sigh of relief.

“But there is a very small crack in the wrist bone here, see? It’s a greenstick crack.” He’ll need to wear a splint for two weeks, that should be enough. I don’t think he needs plaster. We can do plaster if you want, but it’s probably not necessary. As long as the wrist is kept still. And the benefit of the splint is he can take it off for the bath.”

“Mum, is this my childhood accident?” Spider Boy asked me from the back seat of the car on the way home.

“Darling, if this is your only childhood accident, then we are very, very lucky.”

Still, a little voice in my head niggled at me;”What if the splint’s not enough? what if he needs plaster. The doctor had mentioned plaster. What if he really needed plaster?”

My sister visited that weekend and Spider Boy worked the guilt card a bit. ” Margie’s watching what she wants on TV, and I’m the one with the broken arm!” (ahem…wrist)

We went out on a long walk with Señorita Margarita and he complained that I was talking to her too much. “What’s wrong, Spider Boy, what’s going on?”

“It’s because I have to go to aftercare everyday!” he started crying. My sister and I stopped and tried to calm him with gentle reason, but the big fat fact standing in the way was that I had a full-time job (and was about to start another one) and there was no one else who could pick him up for the time being.

The next night, Sunday, the GP rang me at home. Never a good sign. “The wrist is worse than I first thought,” he told me.

It appeared that the GP had underestimated the damage to Spider Boy’s wrist (as had his mother). Once the actual radiographer saw the X-rays, they determined that it was a deeper crack.

“He’s going to  need plaster. Come in on Wednesday morning to give it time for the swelling to go down.”

Wednesday morning was the day I was to start my new job. I shifted my start day to Thursday.

I sent him to school in his wrist splint on Monday and Tuesday. I waited to speak to his teacher at the morning bell. “Are you sure he’s right to do the walkathon?” she asked me. (I was thinking he’s going to be walking on his legs, not his hands, so yes.)

“Yes,” I told her. But what of the 20-minute playground stop that was scheduled into their walk? “He’s not allowed on the play equipment.” I told his teacher. “Please keep an eye on him”.

“He can sit with me,” she said. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy for Spider Boy, but today was the last day of a work contract and I had to be there to complete as much as I could and do a handover.

Was the teacher judging me? I don’t know, maybe. In an ideal world, I would’ve have gone on the walkathon and sat with Spider Boy at playground time.

The plaster was applied the next day, and we were told he’d need it on for four to five weeks.

I think back to that first night when I didn’t take him to a doctor. The GP who did treat him the next day told me he wouldn’t have been in a great deal of pain with this particularly injury, so I’m grateful for that.

I started my new job the next day and worried about Spider Boy facing the rigours of the playground and after school care.

I spoke to the aftercare carers, with instructions about making sure that he is not on the playground equipment, not playing contact games, but is sitting quietly doing craft, which is really not his thing after 5 minutes.

But as I write this three weeks later, he’s coping so well. The aftercare carers have been fantastic, introducing him to new board games and coming up with non-active, creative pursuits. He is like the godfather of card games at aftercare now, teaching all the kindy kids to play Top Trumps.

I am so proud of him. He complains sometimes, but that’s OK, it’s better he gets it off his chest – his life has changed in many ways.  I’m so grateful he enjoys his new school and that he has made friends. He just gets on with things. He’s a trooper.

And what really helps is that his uncle is now able to pick him up from school on Wednesdays, which breaks up the long week nicely.

I am also grateful to Danny Katz, Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope for writing/producing Little Lunch, a kids’ mockumentary-style comedy on ABC’s channel 23. It gets Spider Boy out of bed every morning by 7.30am. Except when he watches the opening credits, with vision of kids swinging on monkey bars, he says “They’re doing all the things I can’t do.”  But he says it with a cheeky look in his eye and a hint of irony.

He’ll be OK.

The broken wrist - day 2

Plaster day 2