Chapter Description: Clark gets a progress report from school and it is everything the former adult Little dreaded it would be.
Janet was grinning like an idiot all the way home after school that Friday. On one hand, this was unsurprising. Beginning of the weekend meant she had more time to obsessively try to be ‘Mommy’ with me. Just being around me and holding me in her lap seemed to recharge her batteries.
For my part, I dozed in the car seat somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. Such a shit week. Everything was falling apart in the worst ways. It was like the old saying: A Little plans and gods laugh.
I’d been relatively ‘good’ that day and spent most of it half-awake inside my own head, daydreaming what awful ways I could hurt the giants in my life. I’d barely noticed when Beouf handed a stack of envelopes to the Littles’ bus driver that afternoon, eliciting promises to hand them off to their parents.
How to repeat my early successes of catching them off guard and making them as uncomfortable as possible? How to use their own rules against them without them adapting? How could I Gibson things up a notch?
I didn’t know. I really didn’t. Somehow, that Friday, I’d felt more alone than I had on Monday. Perhaps it was because of the sailor onesie Janet had dressed me in that morning. White with navy blue pinstripes, and a matching collar and a fake dress try stitched in it was like what I’d worn on my first day, but worse. Zoge, of course, felt compelled to gush about it.
On second thought, ‘alone’ wasn’t a good word for how I felt. Beyond bedtime, I was never really alone. Chances are I wouldn’t be ‘alone’ this weekend, either. No doubt Janet would be projecting perceived ‘jealousy’ onto me and use that as a pretense for spending every waking moment possible with me.
At least she was leaving me alone in the car.
Just reliving what I’d done to myself, right in front of her and that douche Mark made me shift uncomfortably
I opened my eyes. “No!”
“Okie dokie. I’ll check when we get home, just in case.” She didn’t even comment beyond “dry” a few minutes later. But why would she?
“Janet, can I please get this onesie off?” I asked as soon as I was out of the car and in her arms.
She took us from the driveway through the front door and straight into the living room. “Sure. You can toddle and crawl around in just your diaper.” She sat down on the couch and shifted me over to her lap with one hand while she pulled something out of her purse with the other. “But first, look what I got!”
A manilla envelope full to nearly bursting was clasped in her free hand. At the speed of thought, at least a dozen semi-hopeful scenarios blitzed in my brain. They came to a screeching halt when I saw the Oakshire Elementary insignia stamped on it. “What is that?”
Janet squeezed me tight with her other arm. “It’s your progress report! Mrs. Beouf handed it to me this morning. I thought we could read it together.”
Immediately, I tensed up to the point where I could hear my heartbeat faintly thumping in my ears. Fuck. I knew this day was coming, but I’d thought I had at least another week. No such luck.
Progress Reports: The not quite report card given halfway between reporting periods. For most students (and their parents), progress reports are either warnings or reinforcers. The student is doing great! Keep going to maintain that A average! The student is slipping. Best dig in and make sure that that C doesn’t slip further. The student has eight missing assignments and an F. Conference requested!
Beyond the fact that report cards were more ‘permanent’, there wasn’t much difference. To people who were either too young or treated as too young to the point where graduating to the next grade wasn’t really a concern, there was no difference. My three and four year olds didn’t see the difference; one way or another they would eventually go to Kindergarten. I hadn’t given much thought to it, either. It’s not like I’d get to ‘graduate’. Professional courtesy would likely keep me in Beouf’s room even after they’d figured out how to soften me up for a ‘regular’ daycare.
The other thing I hadn’t thought of, was that progress reports and report cards were the perfect place for Skinner, Sosa, Winters to add in any kind of comments in my therapy notes alongside Beouf’s analysis. Teachers sent reports home at the end of the week to give them time to avoid the hot wrath of a potentially angry parent completely incredulous that their perfect angel might be something other than the epitome of academic excellence.
As a student, I now had two days in isolation with a Mommy who would be reading about all of the naughty, bratty things I’d been up to behind her back. Bend my life over and fuck it sideways.
“Let’s see, let’s see,” Janet said, pulling the envelope open. My jaw all but unhinged looking at the massive stack. I held my breath. How much could these vindictive assholes possibly write about me?
She peeled a stack of brightly colored construction paper and worksheets off the bottom of the stack. Evidently, Beouf and company sent home school work and other classroom artifacts with the report. “For the fridge.”
I exhaled. The tremendous stack of papers was whittled down to a scant five. Stupidly, I expected there to be something resembling a grid like a normal progress report: Subject; Percentile; Letter Grade; Behavior comments coded by a numbered list; that sort of thing. Of course there wasn’t that. That format started in Kindergarten. I was considered beneath that;. beneath even my old classroom.
Instead of hard and fast grades and assignment listing I got qualitative diagnoses from almost every Amazon that had interacted with me since I got put back in diapers.
Janet pulled up the first page. “Let’s read this together.”
She cleared her throat. “Speech and Language. Based on observations in the classroom and therapy settings Clark is having difficulty marking the distinction between speaking to adults and speaking with children. He has difficulty maintaining impulse control and taking turns talking with teachers and classmates, often interrupting before a speaker is finished.”
I cringed. Skinner was using my tendency to backsass as justification.
“While he is capable of advocating for himself by expressing displeasure for non-preferred activities,” Janet continued reading, “he remains unable to vocalize or express needs or desires for preferred activities.” That was because I didn’t have preferred activities. The less babyish of two options was still babyish.
“Clark has demonstrated the ability to communicate effectively at times when given heavy prompting and structure, especially with a preferred peer or a stuffed animal, but shows gaps in vocabulary such as labeling animals and animal sounds.”
“WHAT?!” I shrieked. That bitch! That vindictive bitch! I overturned one measly lesson on animal sounds, and she was playing it off like I did so out of ignorance instead of disgust! How dare she? “WHAT?!”
“That’s what it says here,” Janet tapped the paper before putting it aside. She gave me a kiss on the top of my head. “It’s okay. It’s not saying you’re bad, just that you need work on some things. You didn’t tell me about the animal sounds. Do you want to practice that some this weekend?”
“Okay…” That hesitance was how I knew I’d be spending tomorrow proving that I could imitate barnyard noises.
She picked up the second piece from the group and examined it. Sosa’s analysis was so brief that even with it held at an odd angle above my head, I’d read the whole thing before Janet started talking.
“Occupational Therapy. Clark is currently progressing on using scissors to cut lines with a quarter inch accuracy. He is easily frustrated and is working on building up endurance, using both hands for tasks which require them, and asking for adult assistance when needed.” Janet nodded. “That’s not so bad! Good job!”
It wasn’t so bad, and in a way that made it worse. I wasn’t surprised that Sosa mentioned my difficulty with the rigged scissors. With how brief it was, I just knew that she was holding back. Ever the ‘professional’, she couldn’t find a way that would address how much I’d pissed her off and still directly address the bullshit propaganda that was my I.E.P. goals. It was Sosa’s way to let other people talk themselves into a trap, anyways.
“Physical Therapy,” Janet read. “Oooooh!”
“What?” I said. “What?”
Janet lowered the paper down to my eye level. “Read it yourself.”
I did and the blood froze in my veins. “Clark is such a sweet boy and a pleasure to have in physical therapy,” I read aloud. “He is very talkative and eager to please, but it does not detract from his sessions where he is an active participant.” Oh no. “He has shown great comfort and natural skill in lowering to all fours…” I paused and gulped. “And using reciprocal crawling to reach desired locations and modifying it to carry preferred items with him as he continues to crawl around the room.”
Janet bounced me in her lap and clapped. “Yaaaay! You’re doing super good for Miss Winters. Need to ask her what she’s doing right.” This was the downside to trying to manipulate an Amazon by buttering them up. Any positive interaction could be viewed through the lens of acceptance. I wanted to slide off her lap and onto the floor so I could properly die right then and there. Janet’s python-like embrace kept me in place. “You missed the last part, though.”
“He also enjoys sitting on the level swing and jumping on the trampoline as a reward for completed tasks? I! Do! Not!”
Another squeeze at my chest. Another peck on the top of my head. Another batch of cooing nonsense. “It’s okay baby boy. No need to be embarrassed.” Embarrassed didn’t even cover it. Frustrated was more like it. Outraged! It didn’t stop my cheeks from flushing crimson.
“Independent Functioning,” Janet said. “Oh. Mrs. Beouf must have written this one.”
I shut my eyes and sighed. “Probably.”
“Clark has shown a tendency to self-soothe,” Janet read, “often sucking a pacifier or his fingers as well as cuddling with a stuffed animal as a means of calming himself when he is feeling anxious. He shows a high level of engagement during these periods.”
My face fell a little more.
“He can successfully use a visual schedule and check it independently to move to his next center in class.” Of course I could. I was thirty-two, not two! “He benefits greatly from routine and even slight changes to it can cause him to become distressed when forced to adapt to new situations.”
I started trying to rub my temples. This was bad. This was really bad.
“He has difficulty working independently during centers and often requires extensive redirection and prompting to remain on task; but has learned to work with peers to successfully complete tasks.”
I wanted to vomit. My stomach must have already digested the slop we’d had for lunch. Otherwise I would have puked everything out.
“Regarding toileting, Clark will often sit in a wet or messy diaper unless checked and changed by a caregiver. He shows no interest in the toilet or the state of his diaper except as an escape behavior to avoid a non-preferred activity or if he is feeling anxious about his Maturosis; sometimes claiming that he is potty trained when he is wet or that he is messy when he is clean.”
My spirits sank even deeper as Janet moved onto the last bit of the report.
“Socio/Emotional. Clark demonstrates a resistance to accepting assistance, but is forming friendships with classmates closer to his current developmental level. He has disrupted some classes by distracting classmates or behaving inappropriately. He often exhibits infantile attention seeking behavior, especially when given the freedom to do so.”
“No,” I said. Janet kept reading.
“Communication is a notable area of concern, with all teachers, aides, and therapists in agreement that Clark sees it as a tool to pull attention to himself at the expense of others, rather than socializing. He understands his own strength and does not engage in physical confrontation with classmates, which is a positive.”
“No, no.” I wanted to scream, but my protests were barely coming out above a whisper.
“Clark shows a great deal of anxiety regarding his Maturosis diagnosis, yet still demonstrates developmentally appropriate behaviors such as pretend play, self-soothing with a pacifier or sucking on his thumb, wearing and using diapers, and playing children’s games with peers. However when this is pointed out to him he shows embarrassment, causing him to withdraw or lash out.”
I was wiggling in her lap trying to rip the paper from her grip. She kept my arms pinned. “No, no, no!”
“If overwhelmed, Clark is most likely to verbally lash out and attempt to hurt others feelings. When he does this, he is removed from whatever activity he is engaged in and given time and space to reflect upon his words and actions as well as allow his emotions to calm down.”
“Please…” I begged.
“ Depending on the intensity, Clark will begin crying and withdraw into himself for prolonged periods of time, wherein it becomes necessary to remove him further and allow him to rest away from the class in the nap room.”
“Almost done, honey,” Janet told me. She continued reading, “It should be noted and emphasized that he is not a danger to himself or others during this time. Given his background and the events directly surrounding his diagnosis, his behavior is not entirely unexpected. Based on the above observations, given enough time and accommodations it is likely that Clark will become a happy, well-adjusted, model member of the class.
We are lucky to have him as part of our classroom family.” Janet’s sigh sounded relief. “Sounds like they know you, kiddo.”
If I lashed out and acted a terror, it got written off as a childish lack of impulse control or not knowing social norms. If I called them on their bullshit, it didn’t get mentioned at all. If I manipulated them and sweet talked, I was a happy baby. And literally every single thing that I’d done in Beouf’s classroom had been twisted around in some way or another to fit their preconceived narrative. Compliance was acceptance; non-compliance was just being fussy; malicious compliance was misunderstanding.
My ex-coworkers had been harassed, hassled, and in some cases outright overwhelmed and outwitted by me for a month. They’d seen any number of examples that I was fundamentally still their equal, but they only chose to remember and interpret the events that fit into their narrative.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. I wasn’t, really. Calling it typical didn’t dull what I was feeling, however.
Wet drops started dotting my cheeks. When? When did I start crying again? I was supposed to be out of tears. Quietly, I heard myself say, “It’s not fair. It’s just not...fair.”
Janet pivoted me around and put me over her shoulder. “You don’t have to be upset, Clark.” She started rubbing my back. “You’re not in trouble. I expected this for your first progress report. I think you did a pretty good job! And it’s obvious that they know you and adore you. I know I do!”
Janet kept gently massaging me. “I know. That’s okay. You can be in your feelings.”
Just when I thought I was at my lowest, I found a new depth. “I’d like to go to bed now.”
“Okay,” Janet said. The hallway started passing by on the way to my nursery. “You do look tired. Are you having trouble getting to sleep at night?”
The mattress rushed up to greet my back. Janet’s fingers probed to see that I was still dry. “I’ll check up on you in an hour or two and see about dinner.”
She left me there, laying in the crib and closed the door. I looked up at a mobile and scolded myself for my own foolishness. I always talked a big game but constantly lacked the follow through. On some level, I kept treating my ex-coworkers like they were associates, when they didn’t give me the same courtesy. For one reason or another, I was using past relationships instead of abusing them; as though they were giving me the same consideration.
That was my problem.
Too concerned about other people’s feelings.
Something about that would have to change.
I’m not proud of the times that followed...
(End of Part 6)