I SEE RED: Chapter Six


Last Resort

[I see red.]
            I waked up in my bed, and suddenly I miss the red and blue cars. I wish them were still here in my pocket because them were so cool. I wonder where the blue guy went after he drowned in the toilet? Same place the poops go I guess, but I never knowed where that was. I do know I can never go there. The loudest things are happening in my house right now. There’s a grown-up who is crying and crying, and I think the cry belongs to my Mom. Moms can yell, moms can hug, moms can read booksbut moms shouldn’t be crying like babies. Them are too old for that. I wonder why her is so sad? Waitcan I hear The Evil She’s voice? Here? At my house? I hope that’s not real. I walk to my bedroom door and press my ear to the wood. I listen closely:
            “I’m sorry this happened, but I’m confident I did everything I could,” She says.
            “I believe youit’s Jacob that...” Mom says without finishing the words. “I’m just at a loss as to what to do with Dallas. I don’t think we’re making progress at all. I think he’s getting worse.”
            “I see where you’re coming from. To be honest with you, it’s my belief that if we can manage his anxiety we’re more likely to see progress. Any kid who has a behavioral intervention taking place is likely to get worse before they get better,” She says.
            Mom asks, “Zoe, can you seriously look me in the eye and tell me you think he’s going to grow out of this?”
            Her does a deep breath and then some seconds go by (they feel like a hundred years), and then the Evil She says, “I couldn’t honestly come to work every day and do this job if I thought he couldn’t change. It’s not going to happen quickly, or without a lot of work, but I honestly believe it can happen.”
            “Have you seen these kinds of interventions actually change kids? I mean, have you been personally involved with a child who has made significant, lasting change?” Mommy says.
[I see you.]
            I rack my brains for a case that will throw her a lifeline. I have seen plenty of kids improve, but I think she’s looking for someone who is “completely normal” now. I haven’t got many squeaky clean stories from which to draw inspiration. My first kid changed schools without notice, and his parents decided he didn’t need help anymore. I waited all day at the school, but he never arrived. I heard through the grapevine that that child has since been kicked out of five schools, so obviously his folks made the right choice in ditching the intervention (not). My second kid stabbed me with some kind of stick fashioned into a shiv, and I was never allowed to be in the same room with him again. Third kid ended up going to a special education placement, which turned out fantasticallybut that case isn't relevant to Dallas, because he’s not eligible for that kind of thing. My fourth and fifth kids moved away, and I never heard from either of their families ever again. I often wonder what became of these guys, and mourn for the fact that some of their interventions were never properly realized.
            Thinking over this list, I wonder why I’m so intent on continuing with this job, since the success rate appears to be so low. Big picture, it’s hard to see changeespecially when the parents aren't on board. But on a day-to-day level, each of these boys progressed by leaps and bounds. Little things like learning to greet people appropriately, making eye contact, considering others before themselves, learning their body’s limits, and paying attention to the still small voice inside their hearts that some may call a conscience. I have seen glimpses of change, breakthroughs unimaginable… but somehow they struggle to translate to a full success story.
            Sarah persists, “How? How did they change?”
            “Time,” I say. “And a lot of really consistent adult interaction. I’m talking about interactions so predictable that they’re boring. Kids need to be able to expect something stable from their adults.”
            Now I'm the kid with the shiv, and Sarah is me. A guilty expression washes over her face and remains like stagnant water. My words are like knives to her heart, yet I don't regret my cruelty. For me to have integrity, these things need to be said.

[I see red.]
            Mom starts talking quiet as a mouse and I have a harder time hearing through the door. I crack it open just a little, and you wouldn’t believe how much more clearly I can hear now. Her is talking about Jacob being an angry butt head.
            “Jacob doesn’t understand the time aspect. He wants a magic wandhe’s not interested in a long-term intervention,” Mom cries. “He thinks it’s bullshit. If I disagree, he gets angry.”
            “You are Dallas’s mother,” The Evil She says. “Start by changing your own interactions with him. You’re ultimately in charge of your son.”
            “I am doing the best I can,” Mom says, sounding a little angry. I think The Evil She maked her mad.
            “I know that, Sarah. Just remember that every little interaction causes Dallas to weigh up whether or not you can be trusted. Make schedules, stick to limits, eat three square meals with himpick him up on time,” She tells my Mom, like a bossy kid.
            Mom cries more, “It’s hard to do it all on my own. Jacob only looks after Aurora.”
   The Evil She puts her arms around Mommy, and I wonder if her is going to hold on until Mom dies? I am about to run out and kick she’s legs, when her lets my Mom go.
            “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to Dallas’s biological father?” She says, and I do mind her asking about that. I know that means my real Dad, and that is none of her beeswax. That’s exactly something that’s just for me to know. I want to interrupt her so bad, but I know I am already in trouble, and that means no screen time. I don’t feel like also having no dessert, so I think I just have to let my stupid Mom tell The Evil She about my Dad.
            “We divorced three years ago, after a death in the family,” Mom tells her. I want her to stop telling that story, so I start humming. Now I can only hear parts of what Mom is telling the She. I hear her saying sorry to Mom and I shut the door, put my hands in my ears and hummmmm.
            Hummmmm…. “Dallas and Grey” ….hummmm….. “He was six and Dallas was just three”...hummm….. “You know, all kids love swimming in the summertime” …..hummmmm.... “They were good swimmers, but” …. hummmm… “It only takes a second, you see that’s the part that people don’t take seriously” ...hummmm…. “By the time we realized, he was blue” ...hummmm… “Dallas never truly understood what happened to his brother. He’s never really recovered from that day. But we don’t talk about it.”
            She’s lying! I know what happened to himhe died. Him breathed in water, and his insides were supposed to have air. I was next to him, I was supposed to save him, and I didn’t. Dad told me it was my fault, and I can never ever say sorry to Grey because he’s gone. He went to heaven, and we never saw him again, and he lives with Jesus now, because I made him die. If I want to be near Jesus, I need to go to church with Rachel, but I can’t because Jacob told my Mom that church was bullshit, and we aren’t allowed to go. Rachel said it wasn't bullshit, Rachel was more right than Jacob, but now I have no Rachel. Also, there’s no Grey, and there hasn’t been one for a very long time. Sometimes I can remember him, and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I don’t remember him on purpose because he’ll never come back. Jacob said dead people just get eated by worms in the ground, but Rachel said there's heaven. I know there's a heaven, I just don't know if I'll ever get there because I'm bad.
            I find my music player and untangle the earbuds again. How do they get so tangly every single day? I do my most happy playlist because I'm feeling the most sad. I put the earbuds in and close my eyesit’s the closest to invisible I can be.
I think I disappear when I do this, so I do it for hours and hours.
[I see you.]
            So, after three hours of damage control at Dallas’s house, we’ve come up with an educational solution for the immediate future: I’m going to homeschool him. It’s really great timing because this week Jacob finishes his paternity leave, and the baby starts daycare next week so we’ll have the house to ourselves. Despite the fact that today was the scariest day of my life, I’m feeling confident about the future. I’ve been face-to-face with death many times in the past three years, and I guess today was our closest shave. By the grace of God, Dallas and I are both alive and kicking. (Maybe he’s kicking a little more than I am.)
Meanwhile, if we were looking for a reason why Dallas is the way he is, then today we hit the nail on the head. I can’t stop thinking about Dallas’s brother, Grey, who drowned three summers ago. His death ultimately fractured the familyMom's alcoholism threw her towards rock bottom, while Dad had multiple affairs within a year, resulting in a new baby with a girl barely out of college. Dallas has been through so much, and that’s why he disassociates.
            There seems to be a cloud around the story of how Grey actually died, though. What Sarah told me doesn't exactly add up. I know it's an incredibly emotional story to relay, but there seem to be some significant gaps. All I know, and all I need to know, is that they've all been through significant trauma. Dallas's mind was frozen in time.
            Just when I think I’ve had enough of this kid, I open my phone and flick through my photos. I keep a cute picture of Dallas in my album, so every time I’m at the end of my rope I look at his first kindergarten photograph. There’s something about the way his nose is scrunched that makes it hard to hate him, his pointy chin and baby teeth add to the cuteness. He's just a little boy, isolated from the shitshow that is his life. I’m convinced children are adorable to ensure that we continue reproducing, despite the fact they can be the absolute worst. Having worked in this field, I’m not sure I’ll ever have my own kidsthey’re far too unpredictable for my liking. My feelings for Dallas run the gamut from deep affection to pity, anger to indifference, and deep down inside of me is a feeling I am embarrassed to admit, but I guess I need to be honest with myself.
There is a part of me that truly hates Dallas.


[I see red.]
            It’s Friday today, and Mom said I’m not going to school. I asked if it was just today or forever and Mom said it was for always.
            “But why I can never go back?” I ask.
            “Do you remember what you did yesterday?” Mom says.
            “The cars had adventures. Also I made this city out of blocks for hours and hours,” I explain. Mom grabs my face, way too rough and her hand hurts my cheeks.
            “Dallas, you’re not welcome back at school. Do you know what that means?” Mom tells me in a yelly voice, then lets my face go.
            “It means they don’t want me there.”
            “Yeah! Sound familiar?” she growls like a bear. “This is your fourth school in a year!”
“Do they just need space? If they tell me with words, they’ll get a gold star,” I remind her. Mom doesn’t look nearly as happy as The Evil She when I get stars.
            “What the hell is wrong with you?” Mom yells, very meanly. “You don’t get a damn gold star for risking your life and having no remorse for the effects of your behavior!”
            “I didn’t say I get a gold star!” I am yelling now, too.
“I don’t fucking care,” Mom swears.
“Listen to me! I said the teachers would get a gold star!” I yell with all my voice.
            “GOLD STARS AREN’T REAL!” she yells back. “Grey never needed a single gold star in his life. A thousand gold stars won’t make you a good kid. Gold stars won’t get you a school that sticks, dammit.”
            “Well, how am I gonna learn to read if I’m not in school?” I say.
            “Zoe is going to homeschool you.”
            “What’s a homeschool?”
            “School at home,” she says, “As the name would suggest.”
            “So the teacher and all the kids will come here? That feels like too many people for the house,” I tell her, because she mustn’t have thought of that yet.
            “No. You and Zoethat’s it. That’s your school now,” Mom says, and I hope she’s lying.
            “That’s not fair! You know I hate her!” I scream.
            “You did this to yourselfyou chose to put yourself in this position,” Mom says.
            “I hate her!” I say the loudestand I mean it.
            “Well, that’s too bad. She likes you, whether you like her or not,” Mom says because she’s a mean liar. “God knows why.”
God probably does know why, because him knows everything. Here are some things I know:
·       I know when the ketchup is the wrong brand, because it tastes weird.
·       I know you can yell as loud as you want, but people in heaven can’t hear you. Unless they do, and they don’t feel like saying a reply.
·       I know Army Ants can be used as stitches when someone cuts themself. You shouldn’t do that if there’s a doctor in your neighborhood because real stitches are cleaner.
·       I know I will never like The Evil She. I will never let her teach me things at homeschool, which is home and not school.
·       I know for a fact that this weekend will be so boring, and my stomach will hurt the whole time because that’s how my body feels when I don’t know how to expect home school to be like.


[I see you.]
            It’s easier to agree to homeschooling a child than it is to actually plan a program. I’ve been preparing content for the upcoming week while we wait for a legitimate curriculum to be delivered. I ordered one from a school of distance education, and I am hoping it will meet Dallas’s needs. He’s all over the map academicallyunfortunately, his behavior has taken him out of the classroom too often for him to have any kind of consistency.
            I know he’s capable of being a smart kid, he just hasn’t had the opportunity to prove it. From what I’ve been told, he formed a secure attachment with his parents from birth through three; then he experienced major trauma. I’m not sure I fully believe things were peachy before Grey died, but that’s the story I’ve been fed. In the light of what I heard yesterday, I have a feeling the family were hanging by a thread at the point of Grey's death. Regardless, everything he should have learned and developed after the age of three is severely stunted. He’s a three-year-old toddler in a big boy body.
            I take a look at the last report card he was issued. It was written before the summer, so it might not be completely accurate to where he is now.

Ivy ElementaryDescription: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/h7jXjUr7WTQXDcgs0-zknvplI4cvF343bh9U_zjxjHn5MONEsOdMDnxr8C8CUCRzY8dDF-CKW0fv9jasgKCSCW65XzJ9YpitNfvhB9gftmBK0FrkWEBM4XGYlynmKFdv3uJn9d_G
Transitional Kindergarten Report Card
School Year 2015-2016

Student: Dallas Jensen                                                                                     D.O.B: 2/28/2010 (6y 3m)
Teacher: Mrs. Adrienne Barber
Principal: Ms. Celinda Kwan
Date: 6/6/2016

Absences: 10/49 days                                  Tardies: 30/49 days                    Part Days: 40/49 days

Dallas has moments where he is able to engage with the curriculum, though unfortunately the majority of his time is spent off task. He requires enormous amounts of adult supervision and presents with some very concerning behaviors. As discussed, Dallas will not be joining us next year. We encourage your family to find a MFT, and highly recommend that Dallas has 1:1 support in class.


A= All the time         M= Most of the time                 S= Some of the time                 R= Rarely                  N= Never
Can count to -
Identities rhyming words
Correct pencil grip
1:1 Correspondence
Identifies Upper vs Lower case
Can trace lines
Able to classify objects
Identifies sounds of consonants
Correctly writes first name
Able to make patterns
Identifies sounds of short vowels
Can use scissors
Able to match like items
Listens for sounds at beginning of word
Uses pencil with control

Listens while others speak
Cleans up after work
Respects others
Follows directions
Follows directions  
Shows empathy
Works well independently
Hands to self
Displays self control
Puts forth best effort
Quiet when necessary
Self regulate after upset
Cares for materials
Accepts correction
Completes work on time
Shows honesty

            I know he can sing the alphabet, because he loves musicbut he’d be hard pressed to identify any of the letters by sight. He knows colors, which I assume he learned before the trauma occurred. He speaks with an inconsistent mix of pronouns and is yet to grasp an age-appropriate understanding of changing words to past tense (basically, he talks like a three-year-old). He doesn’t enjoy picture books or animated characters, preferring information texts with photographs. He can make friends easily, but his motivations are very narcissistiche chooses the socially weak children and manipulates them to do things for him. His friendships have a high turnover rate, very few returning for moreusually because whoever he spends time with ends up doing something that lands them in the principal’s office.
            Dallas’s world has been turned upside down since his brother’s death, and the biggest question for me right now is why his mother didn’t tell me earlier. Amidst the intense grief, his brain development strayed from typical to atypical, and his parents haven’t been able to address the profound effect this has had on Dallas. The reason his Dad moved out? Dallas and Grey share a striking resemblance, and it was too much for their father to bear. Also, he believes Dallas is responsible for Grey’s deathand three years later, he avoids seeing Dallas. Result? Neglect, attachment trauma, dissociation.
            I have no friggin’ idea how I’m going to teach this kid, or if this hairbrain scheme of homeschooling is anywhere near what he needs. All I know is he’s a human being who deserves a chance at life, and if I can give him a leg-up, I will.