Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Healthy Good-Byes

We said good-bye to two school friends last week; Nibbles, the Prep classroom guinea pig and Ms Easlea, Andrew's fantastic fourth grade teacher.
Matthew with Nibbles

Nibbles developed signs of a urinary tract infection two weeks ago, something which I'd hoped might be cured with a small round of antibiotics, but which ended up being the symptom of a much larger problem: bladder stones.  Even not taking the costs (and risks) of surgery into account, Nibbles was fading and the prognosis looked grim.  He was euthanised last weekend.

The kids handeled it much better than I'd imagined.  All I could think about was the parents I knew in Germany going on and on about the effect this severe stress - CHANGE so early in the school year, for crying out loud! - would have on their POOR, distraught children.  Good reason not to have a class pet at all, one would think.

As it turns out, kids handle change - even death - quite well when it's confronted as a fact of life. Not something to avoid, but something to accept and grow from. 

Aidan's gentle side

The kids all KNOW that Nibbles is up in heaven.  (Religion aside, heaven is such a comforting thought for little ones that I think I'll keep it around a bit!)  Not only that, but Nibbles is joined by our Wolfy, several other guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes, hamsters, lizards, turtles, dogs, cats and even a horse.  The kids were cool with it.  Sad, but cool.

And another little guinea pig will be joining them shortly.  It won't be Nibbles.  But life continues in the face of sadness, becomes joyous again.

And change is okay.

We felt so fortunate to have had Nibbles with us for a weekend.  Which is how Ms Dance and Fiona explained it to the kids too;  that grieving for Nibbles was okay, but that we should be happy for the time we had with him.  I am not a big guinea pig fan, being the one who has to catch them and treat them without being bitten, but Nibbles was cool.  If ANY guinea pig had character it was this little guy.  So I am glad that we had that one weekend.

Andrew introduces Nibbles to Ryan's pet bunny (Fluffy?)

Ms Easlea, Andrew's teacher, has only been at the school six weeks, but she was a kindred spirit from the start.  Not just because she professed to love Andrew's poetry (which, while enthusiastic, gets a bit ridiculous at times!) but because her gentle, caring spirit really shines out upon the kids.

You love her without trying.

She was my hero BEFORE she left, for being able to manage a classroom of kids all day and THEN go home to her own.  But she is an even GREATER hero to me now, for admitting that her own kids and family were suffering as a result, and for having the courage to admit she has to wait awhile - focus on her family - at least for a few more years before she once again takes on the role of full-time teacher.  (I believe she said as much to the kids so that this is NOT breaking any confidentiality.)  THAT is a SUPER-WOMAN!  In this day of career women claiming they can - and should - do everything, it is empowering to see a woman step back and reevaluate.

Of course we'll miss her - she is really a super teacher - but how can you be unhappy about someone making the decision to be happy herself?

Is it odd we have so many pictures of Nibbles and none of Ms Easlea?!

And the kids WILL adapt.  In fact, they are getting a MALE teacher, something which might shake things up, in a good way, for some of the boys in the class who need a little shaking sometimes!  (Let's just hope he likes corny poetry too!)

I admit, I'd be flipping out a bit more if it was RYAN'S teacher who was leaving, because Andrew really is the one who you don't worry about, no matter what, but in a healthy school environment, with a stable home environment, changing teachers shouldn't be traumatic.

In fact, I can think of nothing MORE traumatic, then struggling AGAINST change.

Ryan and Nibbles

I still remember the child psychologist I took Ryan to in Germany telling me that he thought all the change and travel in her life was making her insecure.  This despite the fact that she had been living in the same home for the last six years, the only home she could ever remember.

Could it have been all the bullying and degradation at school that was making her insecure?!

And that just from the teachers, really.

So that it is good to see change being accepted. 

Maybe it's the ability to see hope for the future, rather than dwell on the securities of the known past.  (Even if it sucks, at least you know where you stand!)

All I know is that I am excited to see what happens with Andrew's new teacher.

And happy that Wolfy has so many friends in heaven.

Wolfy.  I still miss him. 

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