Most times when you are raising a child and you have a problem, you can keep that problem in the house. No one knows about it, no one can judge you for it, you can resolve it in your own way and in your own time. Every once in a while, however, something happens in the public eye. Remember those tantrums at Toys R Us when your child would scream blue, bloody murder because you wouldn’t buy them those Pokémon cards and it felt like EVERYONE was looking at you and labeling you the world’s worst parent with the world’s worst kid? lol I know I could never get out of the store fast enough so I could hide in my Momvan. This is about one of those times.
It’s Grade Seven and the beginning of another school day. We are at home doing the usual get ready for school things: brushing teeth, making lunches, yelling the countdown for how many minutes before the bus will get there. Logan is still at Glenwood and goes in with me every day which allows him a few more lollygag moments. John and I honestly don’t remember what happened, but obviously something pushed Luke’s buttons and next thing we know he is gone. Like out the door gone and we don’t know where he is gone. I start walking the streets and calling his name like it’s a weird game of hide and go seek. At this point in our neighborhood we have a lot more woods and more places to hide. It’s daylight, obviously, lol, but I can’t see him anywhere. Clearly all those nights of Manhunt were working in his favor. After a while I start to think maybe he decided to walk to school. We live within a mile and a half of Central Tree and the weather was good so it was a possibility. I pack myself up and I head over.
Eric Githmark is one of those principals you dream about. I believe what set him apart was his genuine interest in the well-being and success of his students, his families, and his staff. He loved each and every one of the children in his care and they knew it. He was also funny and relatable. Eric formed relationships and I was grateful for ours on this morning.
I am sure I was a bit distraught when I showed up at the front desk. I asked if Luke had made it in and when the secretary, poor Sue!, informed me he hadn’t, I immediately became emotional and asked to speak to Eric. Eric’s door was always open and he ushered me in to his office. As I spilled my words out about what had transpired that morning, as well as some of the difficulties we had been experiencing with Luke, Eric’s eyes were caring and sympathetic. His demeanor calmed me down and he made a few suggestions/comments about how this might go next. Then he told me, “I’m sorry, Patty, but if Luke isn’t here in an hour, I have to notify the police.” Already in disbelief at being in the principal’s office for the first time, this piece of information floored me. How was this happening to me? And now the police might potentially be involved?
My next stop was home to pick up Logan and take him to school where I then had to inform my principal, my boss, that I was going to be late because I needed to find my son. Tony Gasbarro was another incredible human being and administrator. Tony always believed in family first and my temporary absence didn’t ruffle him at all. I, on the other hand, was mortified. I am your typical high-achieving employee – never late, never sick, always handling my responsibilities and more. But Mr. G understood and sent me on my way.
When I returned to our neighborhood, I decided to make one more round of the cul-de-sacs and the woods. I hollered Luke’s name over and over again. At the same time John was texting Luke to let him know we wanted him to come home, that we weren’t mad, that if he wasn’t home soon the police would be coming. I’m not sure what strategy worked, but next thing I know John is texting me to let me know that Luke was back in the house. There was no big blow up, no extensive conversation, we just piled into the car and took Luke to school. I know Eric had a conversation with Luke about what had happened, but he didn’t get a detention or anything. I know I had a conversation with Tony, but the day pretty much went back to being any other day. What I also know is it was at that exact moment that I realized the cat was out of the bag. Our ability, or inability as the case may be, to handle this challenging side to our boy, was now public knowledge. What had once been a family problem, a private problem, was going to be the topic of conversation at the staff lounge of the schools and at the bus stops around Rutland. The moral of the story is… once something is out, well, you just can’t put it back in a nice neat little package again. And Luke Inwood, problem child, was out.
So here’s what I need you to know: We all have an inflated sense of self. Whether you are ten or thirty, when something goes wrong we feel like the entire world is watching. Tripped over the curb coming out of the mall? Everyone in their car saw that. Dropped spaghetti on your lap during dinner? Everyone at the restaurant and all the servers are looking and now making fun of you. But the truth is we spend 99.9% of our time thinking about OURSELVES. All of us – you, me, the delivery person – are all so self-absorbed we don’t have time to ponder what everyone else is wearing, drinking, eating, planning. We only think about ourselves. Try and remember that the next time you are in an embarrassing situation. And if you DO catch someone in a compromising scenario, or you are witness to a run in between a parent and a challenging child, don’t judge. Be kind. Always. Everyone is doing the best they can. 🙂