Monday, June 6, 2016

Sensitive Jaren, Part II

     After the kids' last day of school, I'm lying in bed exhausted and hear Jaren in the living room crying. It's not an angry or complaining cry—I don't hear Braden's or Pene's voice or movements accompanying his—he's just upset about something.
     “Jaren? Why are you crying?” I call.
     “I don't want to leave third grade,” he says.
     This is a surprise. He's never mentioned it before. “Come here.” He comes in, still crying more than a whimper, less than a bawl. “Stand here where I can see you.” His eyes aren't flooded with tears but he is upset. “Why don't you want to move on to fourth grade?”
     “I don't know. It's hard to explain.”
     “Did you look at your report card?” I saw the packet on the table, but hadn't yet examined its contents.
     “And you did all right?”
     “Did your teacher say anything?”
     “Are you afraid of fourth grade or the teachers for some reason?”
     No, he says. We talk a bit about the fourth grade teachers, both of whom had been at the school for years with steady-if-not-spectacular reputations. Our two older kids had liked them fine.
     “I just want to stay in third grade,” he says.
     I explain that last year, we tried to have him held back (because he's a late born and will always be the youngest in his school relative to his classmates and he could have benefited from the extra year to mature) but the principal wouldn't have it. “I know he won't allow it again this year and I don't want that for you anyway,” I say. “I'll discuss it with Mom, but you're ready to move on. You'll do fine in fourth grade.” I think a bit more and ask, “Is it because you like your teacher?”
     “All the teachers,” he says, which triggers more crying.
     So we talk about his teachers. “Do you want a hug?” He nods, climbs up, and puts his arm around me and head beside mine. I cradle him and stroke his head and back. He feels better and so do I. “Mom's home,” I say in response to loud knocks and he runs to open the door for her.
     He cries while explaining to Deanne, then plays his plastic recorder, stopping often in the middle of “Supercalifrajalisticexpialadotious” to cry. It's his way of coping—distraction.
     During dinner, when it's Jaren's turn to share, I ask him how his day went and he says he attended the fifth grade graduation and awards ceremony. I ask, “Is that where you earned your certificate" (that's taped to the living room wall)? He affirms and says it's for his involvement with a club at school. He describes the rest of his day and ends by saying, I noticed most of the boys cried, but not many girls.
     “The fifth grade boys or third grade boys?” I ask.
     “Third grade.”
     “When? At graduation?”
     “No, in class.”
     “When did they start crying?”
     “One of the boys started from the morning.”
     “Because he didn't want to leave third grade.” Thus it became apparent that Jaren's crying was sympathetic—in response to the other(s) crying in his class. It didn't seem likely to me that he'd cry simply for the reason he stated had it not been imprinted in his head by someone else's example. He's quick on the uptake, and quick to imitate, sometimes for bad (inappropriate language or attitudes), sometimes for good. His ability to empathize is a good thing, I guess, at least for now. (Would that more people had such ability the world would be a better place. Jesus cried over Lazarus' death even though he knew he was going to raise him back to life. I'm not comparing Jaren to Jesus, but sympathetic crying sometimes indicates strength, not fault or weakness. And empathy is a virtue in too short supply these days.)

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