Friday, December 03, 2010

"Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise"

Geoff got in trouble at school on Thursday. It is kind of the thing I don't even want to talk about but should because by recording these things I have a memory of them. I kind of don't even want to think about them most of the time. Seeing as we've had more than a year of awesome from him, this was way over the top.

He was asked in his English class to think of another way to phrase the term "Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise." He reworded it to: "To be a retard is pleasurable. Brains are a burden."

I don't know if you have kids in the public school but the word "retarded" is the new "N"word. They aren't allowed to use the word, even in context. It is "banned" at his middle school.

It is banned in a lot of places.

It is an offensive word, I think, when used as a noun, directed at someone, as a slur. I think that he missed the point on "ignorance" which should have been maybe rethought of by him as "uneducated" or "uninformed."

But he used the word "retarded" and his English teacher corrected him. In front of the class, according to him. And he lost it.

He has this thing where he feels his "First Amendment Rights" are being "infringed" upon when people correct him, or try to get him to see things a different way. He felt that he didn't do anything wrong, and then started arguing with his teacher.

Eventually, it got to the point where he got verbally "violent." I think he threatened to burn the school down. He ended up in the assistant principal's office and was given the dreaded "Friday Detention."

I think he was most upset about being dressed down in front of his classmates. Not so much the first amendment thing. But the Dreaded Friday Detention had him in a complete froth.

The day I was having was wonderful -- my Girl C had asked me to help her mom with Quickbooks and data entry. We had an amazing day -- so much work got done. C's mom was rocking the house with getting stuff done. We were ruling the world. It was the best day ever. I deliberately had left my phone in the car so as not to be disturbed by anyone so we could totally focus on getting things done.

Of all the days to do so...

I got in the car at like 2:30, and had 10 voice mail messages and 26 missed calls from the school and my husband.


Luckily, the school is on the way home so I got through to them and told them I was on my way to pick him up. They felt he was too upset to ride the bus. Yeah, he was.

Of all the days NOT to have my phone on... Anyway, I got there, sat with him, we talked, and talked, and I knew he was MORE upset about SOMETHING other than his "First Amendment Rights" being violated.

But he wouldn't say what it was. I thought maybe he was embarrassed in front of a girl. That happens. I had no idea that in his mind he thought for certain he was not going to get into the high school he is applying to.

And THAT was the crux of the situation.

Geoff has applied to a local high school where in his interview session they told him not to get into trouble. There he was, though -- with a Friday Detention. Now, he felt he'd screwed the pooch, that the detention was gonna ruin all of his chances of EVER getting into this school, so the drama in his heart was huge. He was DEVASTATED. Nothing was going to be right. He wouldn't be able to go to the school he wants to go to, life was ruined, may as well be a father raper, mother stabber, puppy kicker and just fuck it all to hell.

Our night at home on Thursday was rough. He was in such as state. I was actually afraid he'd hurt himself.

Doug said to him "Do you think I ever got detention?"

Geoff said "Oh, a man who has a wonderful career at a rehab hospital and is well respected in the community, no! You never ever got in trouble!"

Doug told him about Seventh Grade when he had two days of detention and lived to tell.

Geoff still doesn't believe him.

The drama went on and on all night. I think at one point I was trying to cook dinner and yelled at Geoff and he started crying. Actually crying. Honest to God crying. 13 year old boys don't cry. Crap.

And I held him, because I felt sorry and guilty and horrible for yelling at him.. Now, when you are about 5 inches shorter than your kid it is hard to hold him... but he let me hold him, and he cried and cried about how he "hated himself, and felt uncomfortable in the skin he was in."

It broke my heart to hear him say how much he felt he'd ruined his life, all over some words.

He did his detention on Friday. He survived. He tried to refuse a ride home, saying he was "unworthy" of my driving him anywhere. But that's not true. I'll drive him to the moon and back if he needs a ride. I love him so much. He tortures himself so hard, and for most kids who have a "who gives a damn" meter that doesn't even register, seeing him killing himself like this was horrible for me. He hasn't done this since the end of sixth grade.

It was a rough couple of days.

The root of the problem isn't the word "retarded," I don't think. It is the fact his teacher corrected him in front of others, and he lost it because of that. We had a HUGE talk about the phrase he was redefining, and how ignorance and retardation are totally different. How "retard" as a noun is totally unacceptable. How his "first amendment rights" are trumped by his responsibility to be a member of his community and be a better person.

The school counselor, who works very closely with Geoff, verified that a detention does not go on his "permanent record" so it does NOT ruin his chances of going to the high school he wants. During the day on Friday she informed him of this, and he seemed relieved.

I have asked for a meeting, to discuss NOT the use of the term "retarded" but to talk about how/when to correct Geoff. The fact that he went through all of seventh grade and the first half of eighth without a single hiccup means that someone dropped the ball with him and how to communicate with him.

And the fact that I am a good five inches shorter than him really hurts.


  1. With everything going so well with him people have probably forgotten how important it is to do things the right way for Geoff. It sounds like everything will work out fine and as long as they're receptive at the meeting (they should be, especially with the school counselor on board) it shouldn't happen again. Geoff is lucky to have parents like you to advocate for him.

  2. Anonymous3:54 PM

    i love that kid, he is completely unique and i'm glad you blogged about it so you remember it. thanks again for everything, i'll email you the latest. -c

  3. Anonymous4:15 PM

    *sigh* thank God he has his short mom :)