Post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) develops after a person is exposed to one or more distressing events like injury, assault, or the threat of death. It’s often seen in veterans after returning from war. I feel it an injustice trying to compare what I’ve been through with Ryan with any of the horrors my dad experienced in the war. But there are times I reflect on Ryan’s days in public school and feel my emotions stir up quickly. My pulse races, and I begin to shake with anger at the hardships he endured. I relive those moments as if they have just happened, much like a person with PTSD.
What separates me, is the ability to stop those memories quickly. Mainly from the pure satisfaction of the choices we made for him; the glorious exhale of relief that I no longer worry about him after dropping him at school. I don’t fret over how he will behave. I am not concerned about an outburst that could send him over the edge. I don’t agonize over his safety—will he run off campus again? All the emotions I literally lost sleep over, are no longer my concern. Because he is in capable hands. I cannot speak for the school district, as to why they would not allow our aides into the school. As much as it makes me scratch my head with wonder, I refocus my energy and bask in the glow of my boy who is now happy to go to school. A boy who asks why there isn’t school on a holiday. A boy who gets ready on his own without prompts. Who would have guessed that four years ago he would one day enjoy school like he does?
When he was in first grade (for the first time) I was laying out items for school after the long Thanksgiving break. On weekends and holidays, I put the kid’s backpacks in the hall closet so we don’t trip over them. As I brought them out to put in the kitchen, my silent child (this was at a time when he didn’t show a lot of emotion nor did he speak very much) stared wide eyed at his back pack, as if it was on fire, and burst into tears. He began to say loudly, “No school, Mommy, back pack back in closet. Back pack in closet!”
I stared at him in pure shock. I had no idea he associated the back packs in the closet with no school. I didn’t realize he even paid attention. Apparently that was a big visual sign to him. I pulled him to me and wrapped him in my arms as he cried, over and over, “No school, Mommy.” Soon, I was in tears with him.
What was I doing to him sending him there?
How can I send him back after he begged not to go?
PTSD may be too strong a word for my painful recollections, but memories of your child begging not to go to school when he could barely ask for milk, evoke a physical and emotional response as fresh as the minute it happened.