A bubble, a giggle, a gasp, a snort.
As I have mentioned many times before, one of the things that I love about my work is how much laughter I get to experience every day. Most of the time this is a good thing - the laughter of my students and colleagues mingling to form a joyful reminder of how fantastic my job is.
The impulse to laugh, however, is not always a blessing and sometimes it is, well, downright inappropriate. Such was the case on Friday when one of my students (let's call him C) capped off his week with a meltdown to top all meltdowns.
Tension had been building for a few days with this little guy. His behavior had been different. His ability to focus, reduced. His adherence to routine (i.e. his need to be in control) had become particularly strict, with any slight deviation or denial triggering "minor" outbursts. And with C's penchant for using explosive and colorful language during these episodes, the whole school was basically on high alert.
So, it was unsurprising to those of us in the know when the last of C's self-imposed restraint dissolved Friday morning. All it took was another student playing a beloved bubble-popping game on the Smartboard first to send him into a panic.
To his credit, little C really did try to keep it together.
"I need to calm down!!!!" He cried to one of his teachers, and then proceeded to count to ten...to no avail. The fuse was lit. The boiling point reached. The final straw ever so delicately placed.
The resulting frenzy included screaming, swearing, kicking, punching, smashing, crushing, slamming, banging, shoving, pulling, fake crying, real crying, sobbing, wailing. Pushing over chairs and tossing trash bins. Tearing pages out of books. Threatening to perform a multitude of destructive acts and launching any small item within reach across the room.
I would like to say that this is the interesting part of the story, but for my colleagues and I, it's old news. Expected. Normal even. No, what took me off guard was what happened after the storm. As C lay on the floor, exhausted, sweaty, and softly crying, with his teachers by his side, he began to sing a "sad song" about how he had missed out on the game.
"I tried to pop the bubbles, I did not reach the level," he crooned to himself. Sweetly attempting to cope with his disappointment.
Then, as his eyelids fell heavy he demanded of one teacher, "Sing the sad song!"
I knew immediately that this was not going to be good for me, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I had already been forced to stifle a chuckle when he had made the request, because he, very adorably calls his teachers by their last name (no Mr. or Mrs. necessary apparently), and this amuses me to no end. But more importantly, I knew that my colleague, being the most amazingly kind woman that she is, would absolutely oblige him.
This meant that in t minus 2 seconds she was about to make up both a melancholy tune and depressing sounding lyrics, on-the-spot, which could only, undoubtedly (unless you are some sort of musical genius) result in something straight out of a comedy sketch.
Surely you all have experienced something like this. A moment in which it would be deeply disruptive, distracting, or disrespectful to laugh. The feeling is.....horrendous. Your diaphragm bubbling in anticipation. Mouth clamped shut in an attempt at control. Throat and chest tight with effort. Eyes watering. Heart racing. Muscles shuddering.
Oh man. I had it all.
But I did my best. I swear I did. I remained in my crouched position, chest clenched, face down, hands continuing their soothing pattern on C's back, attempting to maintain consistency. Still, even with all of my effort, as the first few notes of the very sad song rang into the air, it very quickly became clear that I was not going to make it. A few gasps escaped. And then a snort. And then I silently shook on the spot, desperately hoping that C wouldn't notice in his semi-comatose state. Or at least that he would think that I was crying at the sadness of the song.
That would, literally, have been preferable.
Eventually, to my greatest relief, my co- shooed me away with her hand and I, gratefully, moved to the other end of the room to try and get it together. I am happy to report that I was able to compose myself as I set to work cleaning up the room. This was both an attempt to contribute in any way possible, as well as to make up for my shameful inability to control myself :-\
Thank goodness for fantastic teachers. My straight-faced colleague was able to transition our now slightly more relaxed student into a new activity that would help to put him in a better mood. As he read a story and watched the funny animations, his sniffling subsided and was replaced by a smile. He "predicted" what would happen next in the story and giggled as his predictions came true.
After he was finished, I walked C to the cafeteria, where he purchased his lunch, sat down in his usual spot, enjoyed his favorite foods, and then ran outside to play in the sun, accompanied by some older peers. And together they made up a game, based on C's intricate imagination, that made them run and hide and jump and play.
And there was laughter. Lots of laughter. But only the good kind.