The last week or so my FB page has been filled with photos of friends children. Kids with smiling faces as they eagerly look toward days filled with swimming, playing, and then onto another school year and another grade. No longer will they say, “I’m a second grader”, but they will proudly tell people, “I’m in the third grade now!”
I see photos of older kids, decked out in graduation cap and gown, leaving the care free days of high school and by extension, childhood behind. Older kids with a summer ahead to prepare for college, trade school, military service or to enter the work force full time. My screen is full of so many rays of hope, so many dreams of the future held in the hearts of parents and children alike. I am happy for them all. I am…I am.
The end of this school year has no meaning for Pickles. While 2 years ago she was reading, writing, and doing math well ahead of her grade level, she has now lost 2 full years of school being in and out of psychiatric units and residential treatment centers. Two full academic calendar years and many more years in her own inner ability to do more than the low end of 1st grade work. She can write her name still, all be it the readability depends on the day and the level of her psychos in that moment. The majority of her letters and her numbers are written backwards and anywhere and everywhere on the page. It all depends on where “they” think she should write.
Reading? No. Pickles can now barely read the simplest of words; and that’s on her best day when her “ghost friends” are hiding deep in the recesses of her mind. My daughter who should be looking ahead to the 3rd grade, spent 30 minutes in “time” (read: isolation) yesterday drawing about her behaviors that landed her there because she can’t write about them. Because she can’t but barely write the simplest of 2 or 3 letter words.
Pickles is so smart. Anyone who has met her and talked to her will tell you how she is bright and engaging. That’s what makes looking at all those young smiling faces rip my heart out and bring me to tears tonight. While Pickles talked about her first real off campus activity at her new residential treatment center, I choked on tears. While Pickles told me over and over again the same story about her day, all the while pausing as if to listen to something other than me on the other end of the phone, I held back tears. As she hesitated when I asked how she was feeling, happy, or tired or something else…when she hesitated as if to listen to someone other than me before quickly saying she didn’t want to talk about it, I held back the tears. I held back the tears when I said that it was ok if she didn’t want to tell me, and I held back tears when the reply to that was given in a hushed little voice:
“Mommy I can’t tell you, they’ll know I talked about them.”
When I asked her who she was talking about the reply given in an even quieter voice was:
“The moons!! They keep watching me all the time! And they don’t like it when I talk about how I feel because it makes them mad. They will make me die!”
As the gravity of those words sunk into my heart like hot, molten lead into a smithy’s cauldron, I choked on my tears so as not to let my little girl hear them in my voice.
While all the while, all I could think about were last days of school, summer swim parties, and family vacations under a warm sun. And the end of my world as I ever could have known it.