It was the last day of school. Chaos and hoopla characterized the whirlwind of a day. Despite my best efforts as a teacher to make the day a smooth and happy transition into summer, the day was not without tears.
I had quite the class this year, but a majority of my stories that I came home with surrounded a charming little boy, whom I shall call Craig. Eyes like exclamation points, alight with mischief and the urge to tell you something right now. Ears sticking out precariously and wiry hair mostly combed into submission. He made me belly laugh. He made me cry in frustration. He stole my heart.
Often, it was a losing battle to get him to be where he was supposed to be, doing what I had asked him to do. But it just didn’t matter. He was that kid that could get away with just about anything, because he was just so dang cute. The fourteen plus hugs I got a day from him might also have played a factor in the soft spot in my heart I had for Craig. He would come up (again, often at the most inappropriate times, like the middle of a science experiment or while I was giving directions, and I just let it happen…) he’d bury his head and reverently pat my belly. “Thanks buddy. Alright– where should you be right now?”
The last day of school was rough for Craig. He won’t be returning to our school next year, so this felt like a bigger goodbye than the typical “have a nice summer” See You Later. With change already being rough for this kiddo, it made for a emotional day. Not getting to be first in line on the way to our lunch picnic ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back. He threw his lunch screamed at the girl that had cut him in line. As we headed out to the playground, Craig bolted. After making sure my class was supervised, I went after him. It was clear that he wanted to be caught up to, yet like a deer in the woods, he kept just out of reach each time I cautiously advanced.
“You don’t need to go back yet. We don’t even need to talk yet, but you need to stay here” I said as calmly as I could, hoping he wouldn’t bolt. I knelt down and picked up the glasses he had flung from his face, his classic tantrum move.
“I’m so angry at Ashley! She cutted me in line and I just wanted to be first cuz it’s my last day and she didn’t let me! I’ll never be her friend ever again and it’s all her fault!
“Oh man, I bet you’re pretty angry right now.”
“Yeah! My last day is ruined and it’s all her fault.”
“Hmm… I’m sorry you’re having a bad day. That makes me sad.”
Inching closer, I see a literal puddle of tears that had splashed onto the pavement. I move to the swings and just wait it out. Arms still crossed, and shoulders tensed, I can see Craig’s defenses starting to come down as his breathing slows. I wait.
“You know what buddy? I’ll bet Ashley’s feeling kind of sad today, because she’s losing a pretty good friend. I know how much she cares about you, and she won’t get to play with you at recess next year or see you in her classroom.”
“Yeah?” (shuffling slightly closer)
“Yup. I know she’s going to miss you so much. And sometimes, when people are really sad, they end up saying things or doing things that they don’t really mean, because they’re upset. They may act mad, but it’s really just because they are sad or scared about something changing.”
“Can I tell you a secret, buddy? Did you know that Ashley and some of your other classmates had a surprise poster that they made you? They had everyone from the whole class sign it to give to you as a goodbye present because they care about you so much!
(Craig looks up, tears still streaked on his face.)
“What do you think about that?
“….Well, I guess I could forgive Ashley,” he consents as he comes in for one of his signature hugs. He holds on just a little longer than normal. And I hug him right back. It’s been a rough year. Each day has been a challenge, but I wouldn’t have traded it. Craig’s unedited emotions were such a window to the human experience.
As we walked back to the playground, hand in hand, I reassured him, and myself at the same time “You know, it’s ok for this to be hard. It’s OK to be sad for awhile.”
“Yeah…. Miss H? Can I eat my popsicle now?”