I realized, if I’m not honest about everything, that’s not truly being honest. So... here goes.
This past Thursday I received the phone call from a principal that you don’t ever want to receive... your kid is in trouble, and you need to come get him.
I’m not going to go into a lot of the details of what Quinn did - to protect the innocent. But, suffice it to say, he did a bad thing using some bad language that was, well, not very well received or much appreciated.
Well, shit. I have NO idea where he learned those words from.
Yes, I have a mouth that would embarrass most truckers. I know it. I’m not proud of it but, well, there it is. I swear. Sometimes an awful lot.
However, Quinn knows, and has known for quite some time, that those words are not appropriate to use in certain circumstances. Slam your thumb in the cupboard at home and yell an emphatic s-word and we’re okay. Drop an f-bomb in the school lunchroom? Not a very good plan.
I’ve also had lengthy conversations with both children about what hate words are (like “faggot”, “retard”, “gay”, and, of course, the n-word) and why they should never ever ever under ANY circumstances use that language. Ever.
So Quinn getting in trouble for using bad language - Mama was NOT happy. And Quinn felt awful. He was depressed, despondent, morose... So there have been many discussions and many meetings (with his therapist, his youth pastor, his grandfather, his principal, the dean of students, his father...) about how, just because he did a bad thing, it does not make him a bad person - it is what he does now that defines him. A big part of that is accepting responsibility for what he did wrong, and trying to make amends.
Thus Quinn started on what we have been calling his apology tour. First, he apologized to me. Unprompted, with big tears in those sweet brown eyes, he gave a pretty mature apology to his mother, which I have to admit must have been a little scary because I’m fairly certain I looked like I wanted to strangle him. And it wasn’t one of those, “I’m going to say I’m sorry so I get out of trouble” apologies either. It was a sincere, “I really screwed up, I’m sorry for disappointing you, what can I do to fix this?” apologies.
That was a step in the right direction.
Then there was having to go back and face people at school. That’s a pretty daunting thing for anyone - but for a kid like Quinn who doesn’t have a normal response to stressful situations, it’s especially difficult. Quinn just isn’t able to shake things off like other people do. He takes things far more personally, they hurt far more deeply, and take far longer to get over - if he ever does. It causes him a lot of pain, anxiety, depression, sleepless nights, bitten-to-the-quick fingers, migraines, and queasy stomachs. Life hurts kids like Quinn a lot.
And for the Mom watching him suffer, it hurts even more.
So, when I received a message from one of Quinn’s teachers that said, “...our kids will forever make us humble, and that doesn't mean they are bad people. Quinn is without a doubt a quality being. He made a mistake... It doesn't define him ...He is not at all a bad kid! He made a mistake. We all do that. Like I said, I have no idea what happened, but I still love that little guy. He's a great soul.”
I let Quinn read the message, and it made him not quite as scared to face the doors of OJ.
Today, Quinn met face-to-face with another of his teachers. After they discussed Quinn’s assignments, Quinn took a deep breath, stood up straight, looked his teacher in the eye and said, “I want to apologize that my behavior caused me to miss your classes.”
His teacher stood up, came around the desk, shook Quinn’s hand and said something along the lines of “I don’t know what you did to get in trouble, and I don’t care. You’ve never behaved badly in my class, so we’re good.” I’m paraphrasing because it was hard to get it exactly right, what with the tears in my eyes watching Quinn perk up and give his first truly genuine smile in several days.
Quinn then continued on with his apology tour by meeting with another teacher, with much the same response. This teacher informed Quinn that no one had ever taken the time to apologize to her under similar circumstances, and how proud she was that he took the time and responsibility to do so. Another big grin.
To those teachers who spoke so kindly to Quinn - you really have no idea how much that means to him. Thank you so very very much.
It’s been a pretty rough couple days at the Sargent household. But I think today the message really came through that it’s not the horrible things that happen to us (or that we do) that define us - it’s how we react to those horrible things that matter.
Redemption. It feels pretty good.