So it's official. I'm a grizzled veteran.
The little boy I nurtured and challenged and adored for three years (kindergarten, first and second grade), has moved onto grade three, with a new teacher, she of youthful exuberance and immense talent. I have stepped out of the picture despite my deep connection to him, and made way for the new folks to build a strong relationship with him. I put aside the joys, the pain, the frustration with his abusive mother, and an ineffective child protective services bureaucracy. I smile at him from across the hall, and pretend I don't hear his terror filled cries.
I do all this because it is part of the cycle of life in a school. It's good for the kid, good for his new teachers, and ultimately, healthy for me.
Letting go of the child this year has been hard. But I'd let go of his mom a long time ago.
She's part pitbull, part abuse "survivor" herself, part mother who does indeed love her child. She is impulsive, needy, cruel, a dreamer of big dreams. She's creative, usually capable of torturing her young one without leaving marks, and sometimes unable to keep from whacking him senseless.
And everything and anything I did in support of her son had absolutely no lasting, true effect.
Even calling CPS and ultimately testifying against her at the trial.
I cut her loose in my mind and my heart sometime in the spring of last year. No more sleepless nights for me. No more wondering what she was planning. I closed her down, even as I continued to care for her child.
It's a matter of survival. Mine.
But when I tried to describe this process to my colleagues today, as the new, young teacher looked over at me incredulously, I realized it's the nearly 20 years of experience that let me do this. You don't shut yourself down if your heart is still tender and fresh.
So I have to admit it. I'm a little toughened up. I'm a bit cynical.
I'm a grizzled veteran.