A week and a half before the year ended, the Charmer mentioned the Over Achiever during lunch one day. I have a picture of her on my bulletin board (she gave it to me; I put up pics of any kid who gives one to me) and he’d ragged on it before. That day, I’d added one of him and his friends from a writing workshop they’d done with me a few weeks before. I pointed it out to him.
“Yeah, but you have it right above hers. Which is, like, way closer than I want to get to her.” I ignored him. He went on, “And now she’s acting totally crazy. Like can’t even be in the same class as me because she’s too in love with me or whatever.”
That caught my attention. “What? What are you talking about?”
“Yeah, like she’s so in love with me that it hurts too much to be in the same room as me so she’s not coming to math and science anymore.”
I changed the subject, but I was perturbed.
That afternoon was our end-of-year staff party. One of my colleagues, Ms. Librarian, mentioned the Over Achiever and how she was helping out in the library for the rest of the year. “I heard about that,” I said. “So she can’t handle being in the same class as the Charmer? What’s the deal?”
Ms. Librarian shrugged. “I don’t know…I guess she’d been making excuses to leave school every day early, and finally admitted that it was because of what was going on with him.”
“What IS going on with him?”
“Apparently he’s been saying some really inappropriate things to her, telling secrets he learned about her last year like about her dad [her dad has a drug problem and has had major health issues this year; it’s been incredibly hard on the Over Achiever, understandably] and just not being very nice. So her teachers agreed she could spend the end of the year in the library with me.”
Without even getting into what a terrible message I think that’s sending to her, I didn’t like the sound of this. Because it sounded like everyone had decided that the Over Achiever was the innocent tulip who was being viciously destroyed by the cruel Charmer. I didn’t think it was so clear cut as that, but I also didn’t want him to get in trouble for this. We had a week left of school. He just had to get through without doing anything dumb.
The next morning I went to talk to his counselor to see if I could help in any way. I told her what I’d heard and asked if it was okay if I talked to him about this and tried to persuade him to stay away from her for the rest of the year. She said that’d be great, because there was more to the story. The Over Achiever had come to school in pajama pants the day before (against dress code, but she’s the kind of kid who gets away with that stuff). The Charmer had allegedly said to another kid, “Yeah, because she left her pants at my house last night.”
Yes. Because she left her pants at his house last night.
Seriously? In seventh grade, who says stuff like that? With that added to the situation, I knew it was a matter of time before he got suspended, something I wanted to avoid if possible. So I went to pull him from his first hour class (they had a sub and I had permission from the counselor to try). He wasn’t there. Didn’t come to school that day or the next. When he showed again on the second-to-last day of school, he and I talked. He flat out denied having said that; he claimed he’d made a comment about her pants, just something about how they looked dumb, but he asked why he’d say what the Over Achiever had claimed, because that would be a compliment to her, like saying he’d want to have sex with her. And as horrific as that statement was, I could see his point. She’d been pursuing him and he’d been turning her down all year – why would he suddenly start acting like he wanted to be with her again, even in an insulting way? The logic was gross, but valid.
I got him to promise that he’d stay away from her, and that he’d try to stay out of trouble for the last two days. I thought he would, too. Then I heard about the last day of school.
On the last day of school, the Charmer really went above and beyond to be a delight. He walked over to a kid lying on the ground during a kickball game and asked the group at large if he should teabag the kid. During the same game, when a girl missed a pop fly, he said that was weird because she was used to having balls fly at her face. Then, finally, at the end of the game…he left. School. Just left.
My kids fall apart before vacations pretty frequently. School’s a safe place, with rules and consistency and expectations. Home’s not, for some of them. Parents aren’t around, or if they are, they’re not always that stable themselves. Food is sporadic. Kids have nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to talk to. So they start acting out right before they’re going to be on their own for a while. I can only assume that’s what the Charmer was doing. I can only hope that’s what was going on. Because if that’s not it, if there’s more to it than a simple and temporary change in circumstances, then I’m terrified about what’s going on with him. This won’t go anywhere good, and I don’t know how to help.
(Photo credit to Nesster, http://www.flickr.com/photos/nesster/3168425434/)