It rained yesterday. That’s headline news in these parts. We’re always unprepared. Several of the caramel-dipped, chocolate covered pretzels I’d brought to school as holiday gifts fell in a puddle (don’t worry, they were wrapped, you can get them that way — warning, product shot! — at Granny’s Chocolates in Gilbert; the casualty was the cute labels I’d ordered from etsy.com) and I was wrestling with the dry ones, wet hair dripping in my eyes, trying to figure out which teacher’s box was where in the school office when the principal walked by.
She always catches me at my most inauspicious. Usually at the copy machine, which befuddles me every time.
“Hi!!!!” she chirped, and launched right in: “I think Sophie’s doing SO well! Don’t YOU? She’s SO CUTE!”
I stopped, mid-pretzel placement, and looked at her. This is one of those moments where you wish you could hit the pause button like on the “Upside Down Show” on Noggin, and take a moment to figure out what to say.
I could have said, “Well, actually, I’m terrified Sophie has no friends and never will and I’m just playing a big game of pretend” or “I’m worried she’s taking up all of Ms. X’s time” or “She’d be doing a lot freaking better if she got even a dime’s worth of extra assistance, and are you ever going to do anything about that 92 to 1 kindergartener to adult ration on the playground at lunch?”
Instead I smiled a goofy smile and agreed with her, immediately wondering if somehow agreeing that Sophie was doing well would someday be used against me in a court of the law of special ed.
“She’s just SO CUTE!” the principal said — again. “And I hear she’s not really running away anymore, that’s great!”
Actually, Sophie ran out of the classroom last week. But I didn’t mention that. I just smiled some more.
“Annabelle’s awfully smart!” the principal continued, adding that she got a peek at her recent test scores.
I smiled some more and nodded some more.
I wish a caramel-dipped, chocolate covered pretzel could drop from the heavens with a note attached (and hey, how about one with no calories, that would be a feat) telling me what to do with this principal. Because like it or not, I’m stuck with her if I want to keep Sophie at this school — and I do, very much, for now at least.
Even as cynical and scared as I am, I have to admit she’s making real progress.
Today my mom and I celebrated Hanukkah with Ms. X’s kindergarteners. After several years of well-meaning attempts, we’ve finally perfected our act — just the right amount of information (me) balanced with a lot of goofy story telling and dancing (her).
As you might recall, I’ve been hesitant to spend much time in the classroom, because Sophie tends to stop everything to focus on my presence. But today, we had a little Hanukkah miracle — or, at least, a small turning point.
Sophie waved when I arrived, and made sure Ms. X knew I was there, but she stayed in her spot on the carpet and did everything she was told for the entire visit. She was happy but calm, and seemed more grown up than I’ve ever seen her, despite the fact she’s still literally half the height of most of her classmates.
She raised her hand along with the others when I asked questions about Hanukkah (I was glad she’d taken off the Santa hat she’d insisted on wearing to school) and mentioned a dreidel when I asked what the kids knew about the holiday, which was more than any of the others knew. (Of course, she’s the only Jew, but still.) When we talked about Hanukkah foods cooked in oil, she did mention bacon as an option, but I can’t blame her — we eat pig. And bacon’s greasy, so she was close, right?
When it came time to pretend to light the candles, she stood proudly before the menorah, hands before her eyes, just like our friend Anna.
She barely looked up when I came by to say goodbye, happily doing her work at her desk. (With some assistance with the scissors.) She smiled a big smile, kissed me, and went back to her cutting.
I would dip myself in a vat of hot caramel and roll in chocolate if it would ensure more mornings like this morning. I’m definitely signing up for a regular volunteer slot in the classroom, after the holiday break.