Back to School Bonanza Guest Post #4: Adrienne

How do I even find the words to tell you how much today’s guest poster means to me?  Of course each of the eight total guest posters (or Blog Babysitters, as I like to think of them) is important to me because otherwise I wouldn’t have asked them to be here.  Some are PPD mommas who have commiserated with me.  We’ve helped pull each other through hard times.  I have a fellow teacher coming up.  I have a friend who I know in real life. 

All of the blog-sitters are inspiring to me in some way, but Adrienne?  She is my inspiration ass-kicker (sorry, mom.).  Adrienne is one of those rare people in my life who sees me for who I am, still loves me, AND still calls BS on me when she senses excuses and, well BS.  She is the mom of Carter a beautiful boy who happens to have developmental issues in all areas: physical, emotional, intellectual etc.  She writes about this and everything else Adrienne over at No Points for Style. It was one of the very first blogs to make me weep from sorrow, heart-ache, joy, and laughing…all in one post.

Clearly I could go on and on.  Instead, go to her blog, follow her on twitter, and read her post.  You will love her.


Nest of Vipers

When I was pregnant with my eldest son, my (now ex) husband and I spent lots of time walking around the neighborhood, and since we still liked each other back then, we talked while we walked. Mostly? We talked about our baby, and how we would raise him, and what he might be like, and how nervous I was.

I wasn’t nervous about mothering a baby or a little kid; I was scared of the school years. In my mental picture of my baby’s first 25 years, things got hard at kindergarten, reached a crisis at the beginning of middle school, and briefly improved during high school before the onset of a tumultuous early adulthood.

Strangely, that exactly matches my life.

And in spite of his parents’ divorce when he was only 3 1/2 years old, Jacob was always an easy-going, delightful kid. I’m sure he must have thrown a tantrum sometime, but I don’t remember any. He was happy, eager to please, and (with his sister, born exactly 2 years after he was), the joy of my life.

There were hiccups, but overall? Jacob was socially successful at school, church, drama, basketball, and everywhere else. He has an easy, engaging personality and he never tripped the wires that I tripped when I was a child.

All those tripped wires? They were why I was so nervous. I was everybody’s favorite target at school, the one they taunted and teased and mocked until any concept I might have had of myself as a strong/smart/capable/interesting/likable person was shredded. I was shredded.

Then? Sixth grade at Madison Middle School. The whole story is here , but for now I’ll just tell you that it was brutal, quite possibly the worst year of my life, easily the worst year of my childhood (and my childhood included this). The bullying I endured was relentless. It tore me to pieces and left me staggering.

So when the time came to enroll my firstborn child, my artistic, sensitive, unusual little boy, in middle school? I might have lost my mind just a little bit.

Or maybe I lost my mind a lot.

The middle school to which we were assigned is one of the worst in the city so I went down to central office to apply for a transfer. I listed the three best middle schools that were a reasonable distance from our house. My third choice?

Madison Middle School. Of course.

And which transfer did we get?

Madison Middle School. Of course.

Sometimes? I’m pretty sure the universe is sticking its tongue at me.

I was shocked by my own physical reactions over the months following that letter. Even when I read the letter itself, my heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and I felt on the brink of a panic attack. How would I do this? How would I send my son to that place?

I didn’t think I could do it; I considered handing over the whole thing to Jacob’s dad, but on registration day I sucked it up, got together all the necessary paperwork, and drove with Jacob over to Madison.

I packed a paper bag in my purse, just in case I hyperventilated or needed a place to yack.

We walked onto the Madison campus and I was chanting to myself, “It was 25 years ago. It was 25 years ago. It was 25 years ago.”

In spite of the chanting, my heart was trip-hammering in my chest. Everything looked the same, felt the same, smelled the same. And wouldn’t you know it? Registration was in the gym.

The gym.

The gym, for crying out loud. The place where I wore a target on my back every moment I was there. The place where the kids laughed at my shoes and called me names and pulled my ponytail. The place where the teacher thought it was OK to join in the fun.

I was still chanting 25 years ago 25 years ago 25 years ago and Jacob was looking at me like I’d started growing an arm out of the top of my head when I heard someone call my name, “Adrienne! Hey, Adrienne!”

I couldn’t decide what I should do. Throw up? Pass out? Pee my pants?

Not my proudest moment.

Jacob saved me when he tugged my arm and said, “Hey Mom, that lady over there is waving at you.” He pointed at a woman I recognized immediately, and I dashed over to the table she was standing behind, told her how relieved I was to see someone I knew.

Kelly and I were classmates at Madison, both of us misfits, both of us struggling to find our place. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “It’s different now, Adrienne. It’s really different.” I tried to breathe, tried to slow my heart. I barely managed not to burst into tears.

Honestly? If I’d known I would have had such a terrible time at registration, I never would have gone. I’d have sent Jacob with his dad.

Kelly helped me register Jacob. She got him his planner, showed him a campus map, and found his class schedule.

Which revealed that Jacob’s homeroom teacher? Was my old friend Kelly.

Every now and again the stupid universe throws me a bone.

When I dropped him off on the first day of school, I was almost as panicked as I had been at registration, but not quite. I had to resist the urge to sit in the parking lot all day and wait for him to come back out.

Alright, if I’m being completely honest? I’m pretty sure that, had I not had other children who also needed me that day, I would have stayed in the parking lot. Driving away was hard. I felt a little like I had just thrown my baby into a vipers’ nest.

I was on pins and needles all day, and by pins and needles I mean I was a nauseous, weeping, trembling puddle of maternal angst.

And then, at 3:00, there he was. I asked, “How was it Jacob? How was your day?”

He chirped, “Awesome! I loved it! I met some really cool kids and we’re going to play basketball after lunch everyday. Oh, and my art teacher is so cool! Wait till I show you what I drew today!”

My heart quieted a little bit. The second day, I was a little less nauseous and trembly and angsty, and the third day was a little better, but I didn’t really start to calm down until after Halloween.

And the whole year? Almost every single day of the sixth grade?

He was fine.

Happy, even.

The problems he did run into were very ordinary, very manageable. He forgot to turn in his homework; he had a tiff with a friend; he wouldn’t stop drumming on the table in science class.

But no trauma.

We survived.

It’s a good thing, too. If someone had bullied Jacob (or my daughter, when she went to sixth grade the next year), I doubt I could have handled that like an adult.

Yeah. I’m pretty sure that if my kids had been bullied, I would have done to those bullies what I fantasized about doing to my own bullies for so many years.

See? Sometimes the universe throws other people a bone, too.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Adrienne, what a great story! Finally I see a tiny bit of glitter 🙂

    Your happy stories don't actually sound happy until the very end, you have a wicked talent that just wants to read more and more, and more.

    Thanks for hosting Katie!!

  2. What a beautiful story!

  3. WTH am I Doing? says

    Wow. That's all I've got. This has had a rather visceral effect on me. I was never bullied that badly. Some, but not that much. Enough tho? That I totally understand where you're coming from.

  4. Whoa. Katie? Your introduction made me cry AND blush.

    Love you!

  5. Grace @ Arms Wide Open says

    what an awesome story of overcoming fear! you are an amazing mom & i'm soo soo glad Jacob had a good experience. i can only imagine how proud you are of him.

  6. I love you Adrienne. So much so that I almost just shouted out "AAADDRRRRIIIEEENNNEEEE" a la Rocky, like you've never gotten THAT before.

    I was bullied in middle school, too. And now, even though I'm a teacher in a different county than where I attended, if I have to walk into a middle school, my heart goes all flip-floppy and my stomach lurches into my throat. I hate that I feel that way.