Wednesday, April 22, 2009
What makes you think he had an accident?
I used to teach the 11-12 year old primary class, right before the kids went off to YM and YW. My class was filled with girls, 5-7 of them depending on the week, and one boy, a little downs-syndrome kid who we'll call Timmy. Timmy was a full-time job as a teacher. Because of the fear of molestation and any other kind of evil that men are capable of (but women are not), when a man teaches primary he must be accompanied by another man. In our class one of us would teach the lesson and the other would try to keep Timmy from pestering the girls, wiping boogers on them/us, taking his clothes off, etc.
I had several discussions with the primary presidency about the situation. It seemed to me that Timmy's mother basically dropped him off at the beginning of primary and then had no further thoughts of him until a brother or sister was sent to collect him after church, sort of like a baby sitter service where no one gets paid. This is normal to some degree and typically primary does serve this roll for many people. There are a couple factors that make this situation different:
1) Timmy is a special needs child. Neither my co-teacher, nor I, nor any of the primary presidency has received training or instruction on how to care for a special needs child.
2) Timmy's constant disruptions in class make it impossible to keep the rest of the kids on track and focused.
3) Timmy is 12 years old and should be in Sunday School and Priesthood classes.
Timmy is very low functioning DS and comprehends almost nothing going on around him, cannot speak intelligibly, and is a major disruption to the others' learning. That said, he is a sweet kid and means no harm. But the fact that he is not cognizant of the goings on in his primary class or sharing time means that it would make no difference to him if he was sitting in his own world in primary or in Sunday school/priesthood. This would also keep him with the kids his age, whom he already knows, and who already know him and are comfortable with him.
Fast forward...I no longer teach that primary class. I now teach 9-10 year olds, so Timmy is no longer in my class. His peers have moved on to their older classes and he remains in the 11-12 year old class, in his own world 100% of the time. This past week I was trolling the halls looking for errant class-skippers. I popped into the restroom to blow my nose and the check for the missing children and was greeted by quite a shocking scene.
As I turned the corner into the restroom, before me stood Timmy, pants and underwear around his ankles, post puberty bits and pieces waving in the wind, and urine covering his hands, legs, and ankle-level clothing. Thinking fast, I immediately cranked out several feet of paper towels from the dispenser and handed them to him. Being a male member of the church I knew that I could not stay in the restroom with him alone to help him clean up, lest I be labeled forever upon the earth and in the records of the church as a molester, etc. So, I told Timmy to stay in the restroom as I bolted in search of Timmy's mother. I located her in the chapel, listening to a beautiful and inspiring message in a combined priesthood/relief society meeting with the stake presidency. I subtly tapped her on the shoulder and whispered that Timmy was in need of her assistance in the restroom and appeared to have had an accident. Despite my being discreet, before she even moved from her seat, she said at full volume, "Well, what's he doing in the bathroom unsupervised!?" I calmly (and again in a discreet whisper) explained that I didn't know, but that he needed her immediate assistance. She was visibly annoyed at having to leave the beautiful and inspiring meeting, interrupting her free baby-sitting service time to come and help her special needs child. She kept asking me, "Well, what is he doing in the bathroom by himself?", "Why isn't someone in there with him?", "He's not supposed to be left alone", etc. I responded that I didn't know, I was not his teacher, nor responsible for his care, but had stumbled upon him by coincidence and felt it was best to come fetch her rather than burden his primary teacher with cleaning up his bodily fluids. As we walked back through the cultural hall (gym), she asked me, "What makes you think he had an accident?" Now, I should note here, that all questions from Timmy's mother were delivered not with the loving concern of a mother with a precious special-needs child, but with the bitchy, annoyed, put-out tone of an angry bear woken unexpectedly from hibernation. She had decided to focus her negative attitude at me and blame me for what had clearly been an accident for her child. When I didn't answer immediately she repeated, more agitated this time, "What makes you think he had an accident and what is he doing in there alone!?" At this point my good nature had been spent and I decided to return a little of the attitude back at her, responding, "Hey, listen, I'm not his teacher, I'm not responsible for his supervision, and I went into the bathroom to blow my nose. When I got in there I saw him with his pants down standing in the middle of the bathroom with piss all over his hands and legs and thought that perhaps you, as his mother, would like to be notified so you could help him out. I'm trying to be helpful and I don't appreciate your attitude with me."
Right about this time the rear door of the cultural hall opened and in waddled Timmy, pants still around his ankles, still covered with urine, and bits and pieces still swaying to and fro for all to see. His mother, having decided she'd heard enough to complain about, hurriedly pulled his pants up, without wiping him off, and ushered him back to the restroom. I assume she washed his hands at least before escorting him back to sharing time, but I don't know for sure.
As she pushed him through the door of the primary room into sharing time she motioned angrily for the primary president to come out in the hall and talk to her. I was sitting near the door and overheard some of the conversation. I noted she had not toned down her sass level and was still being a total bitchy grump. Basically she chastised the primary president for letting this happen on her watch. She expressed the opinion that it was the primary's responsibility to watch over him when he is there and that we should have known better than to let him go to the restroom by himself. The primary president, to her credit, kept her cool and responded something along the lines of the fact that he was nearly 13 years old, large, strong, and unable to be restrained by the female adults in the primary. If he wants to go to the restroom they cannot stop him. She explained that though he no longer belongs in primary we all try to accommodate him and make him feel a part of the primary. That said, we cannot be held responsible for him 100%.
Timmy's mother then stormed off with a grunt of indignation, Timmy safely back in the free babysitter program.
There's nothing quite as touching as a mother's love.