Those are the words that popped up on my phone a couple weeks ago on a Wednesday morning, just a week after the beginning of the new school year.
And here we go again, I thought. Let the games begin.
How long have I been keeping this blog? Six years? Seven? Maybe even eight (though admittedly, these past few years have been scant), and it seems like by now, I would have a copy of this mysterious code book. I mean, I watch enough television to know that "code blue" means someone has stopped breathing, and I'm pretty sure that we had a few "code browns" when Ben was two and learned how to take off his diapers and use the contents to finger paint all over the walls (sorry--should I have posted a trigger warning before saying that?)... But I wasn't quite ready for "code black," though it certainly seemed ominous.
What followed the cryptic warning was nothing short of a narrative straight out of a Laurel and Hardy script--except I couldn't decide whether I was supposed to laugh or cry. I reproduce it here only with small revisions to grammar (because, well, I can't help myself), but the vocabulary and structure is all Ben's own:
So here's what's happening right now. I'm in the counseling office, post-controlled meltdown. I was in Digital Literacy. I was picking at my lip (I get it--bad idea, shouldn't have done it, you don't need to mention it). It started to bleed intensely. I ran to the tissue box, but it wasn't enough. So the teacher sent me to the bathroom, where I was washing my hands and washing the scab on my lip (still bleeding a lot), and everything was all swell. I was just standing there by the sink while pressing a paper towel to my lip, waiting for it to clot. Then, out of ALL the days and ALL the times, a fire drill went off. In the bathroom, so small, plated with tile, the only opening being a door followed by another door, the screeching was MUCH louder than usual, not to mention that it echoed, A LOT. It basically put me into shock. I sprinted through the doors and back to my classroom, with my lip still bleeding, barely clotted at all, a paper towel still pressed against my lip. We headed out to the soccer field. I was wanting SO badly to break down on the ground sobbing, but I didn't want to make that kind of impression on my new classmates, so I held back the tears and kept standing. We kept standing out there for I would guess 10 minutes in the 90 degree heat. I was extremely sweaty. We finally went back inside. And now I'm here.
So. That is apparently a code black.
I asked him what he needed, and he said that a lunch break would help, and I said I would come down to the school and take him out. After lunch, he went back to his afternoon classes (yes, of course he suggested that since I was already there, maybe we should just go home, but when I said no, he didn't resist).
Here's what's remarkable about code black:
- It wasn't the end of the world. It was hard, and then it was over.
- It was a learning experience, for Ben and for me. Ben discovered that he could get through a few challenges and move forward; I gained new appreciation for Ben's strength, wit, and insight.
- It marked a milestone of progress and growth. Only a year ago the bleeding lip alone would have been enough to put Ben into a meltdown and require me to pick him up.
I'm liking Ben in black. He began to demonstrate this new maturity at the end of the last school year (8th grade) when, as we were driving home from school he commented, "Mom, I don't think I'm emotionally ready to begin high school yet. I think I should repeat 8th grade again next year."
It was like a light illuminated the whole car. I had spent the past month in turmoil, worrying about the widening social and emotional gap between Ben and his 8th grade peers. I knew that moving into 9th grade--high school transcripts that colleges would review in a few years--could be disastrous. But I just didn't know what to do about it. And suddenly, there was the answer. Let's repeat 8th grade, and take another year to catch up on skills Ben still needs to be successful.
So that's what we're doing this year. Ben is repeating 8th grade, though he doesn't have to take all the "core" classes again, because he passed those last year. So he is enjoying his classes, and learning to work in groups, and developing new study and organizational skills.
And apparently, amazingly, he's learning to manage a code black.