Or, Never Say No to a Hug
Teachers, you'll know the one I'm talking about - that kid you can spot from a mile away. The one who is always making trouble, pulling hair, stealing pencils, talking out in class and being disruptive. The one for whose absence you feel, albeit guiltily, a tiny bit joyful. I refer to this student as The One Who Tries My Patience.
Well, sometime after Christmas, TOWTMP turned from loudmouth to Clingon. As in he's very clingy and he clings on to me. He follows me around. He pats my arm. He nudges my shoe with his shoe. He has a vice like grip around my waist, a hug that lasts until I manage to pry him off and get him to sit at his desk.
At first I thought perhaps he'd had a change of heart and was overcompensating for past annoyances, but honestly, he's 8, and I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure 8 year-olds don't think like that. Anyway, wishful, optimistic thinking won over reason, and I let it go. An anecdote - "Hey, I've got a Clingon in one of my classes - a kid who just hangs off my arm!" But today was different.
He came bounding over for his hug, as usual.
"Oh, it's my best hugger," I said brightly. (After all, who doesn't like a hug?)
He smiled up at me, but he looked sad. And I mean weighed down, full-on, sad sad.
"Are you sad," I asked?
He nodded and didn't let go.
The rest of the students were still tidying up from their previous class and searching for their English books, so I just stood there and hugged back for a while longer.
Later, I asked his homeroom teacher about the change. His grandfather, who is his primary caregiver, is dying, and he hasn't been told. He's being ferried around from one relative to the next, staying with whoever has time to watch him. He's not sleeping well, and he's confused. He knows something's wrong, but he doesn't know what it is.
Kids have it made - they don't have to cook or pay bills, they just go to school and run around with their friends without a care in the world. It's so easy to forget that they have real-life problems, and real-life feelings.
My heart broke a little bit for my Clingon today, and I am so thankful that I didn't pull away, that I hugged back.
I obviously can't tell him about his grandfather. And I can't even tell him everything will be ok.
But I can be there and hold on, and give him just a minute longer.
Today I'm linking up with Emily Wierenga's Imperfect Prose. You can check out more posts here.