ELIN [A Day in the Life – The Beatles ]
–We are a bit worried about Kalle, have you and Maritta time to come for a chat, do you think…preferably today?
I have just dropped Kalle off and the nursery teacher has taken me a bit to the side. Kalle has as usual rushed in to the room without saying ”good bye”. He is always in a hurry. The children are running around her legs, clinging to her and everyone wants something. It’s the usual early morning confusion in the far too small hallway at the nursery.
-Like I said, we need to talk to you about Kalle…
Miss Elin looks troubled.
Strange, I think. What is going on, what’s happening?
She carries on:
–If you can’t this afternoon I have these slots free this week.
She unfolds a piece of paper and shows me.
I don’t say anything, I can’t see anything. Just a muddle of figures.
They don’t tell me anything.
Thoughts are moving around in my head and inside my stomach something nasty begins to stir.
Somehow this is what I have expected. What I have feared
Still it comes as a complete cold shower.
A contradiction, but that is how it is.
What is happening?
Now I am terrified.
I am aware that it shows.
–You must understand I am getting worried now, I say.
I must tell her that I won’t be able to think about anything else until we have sorted this out. What is it she wants? What has happened?
I stare at Elin. She understands. I can tell. She too has children. She has been in this situation before. She knows how difficult and sensitive this is.
A problem concerning someone’s beloved child.
-Yes, of course I understand, but don’t take this too seriously. Take it easy, there is no need to get worked up. We would just like to talk to you and Maritta about Kalle. We think there are reasons to talk about certain things that we can perhaps help him with and would like to do that before we begin. Talk to you that is.
-We will be here straight after work this afternoon, I say and walk away.
Get away from here.
It all feels unreal and I need to get back on firm ground and the usual, secure world.
Confused thoughts appear. Shall I take Kalle with me and go home?
The place that I have earlier only associated with positive things, all of a sudden feels strange and unwelcoming.
Can I really leave Kalle with these people? Shall we stay at home today?
But, no. I decide that today is just like any other day. Kalle is not unwell. There is nothing wrong.
Of course we will be there this afternoon, how could she have thought otherwise, I am thinking as I sit in the car on my way to work.
But what is going on? What does she mean by ”talk”?
But I am sensing what’s coming.
Kalle’s speech has deteriorated. His development has been standing still the last few weeks. He has even been regressing. There has actually been a noticeable decline, especially linguistically. We have been pondering over this lately, Maritta and me. We have talked a lot about it. Why was this happening? Was it a ”period”?
Big brother Wille, who is nine, has also asked: When will he start to talk properly? So we have been wondering, and now the nursery has also noticed it. On one hand I am glad that they are observant, that they want to help. It can’t be an easy task to point out that there is something ”wrong” with a child. I don’t envy them. All parents know how sensitive you are about “criticism”. I have also noticed a worried expression on miss Elin lately. A “wrinkle” between the eyes that never used to be there. I have been wondering what that wrinkle might mean, but never associated it with Kalle.
Perhaps we have said something inappropriate?
Been careless with time-keeping?
Missed bringing a cake to the parent’s evening?
But again, it is good that they are observant. But it helps very little against my worries. Not when they have opinions about our beloved child.
After Christmas the periods of illness have come and gone at home.
Colds and vomiting.
The flue and after that even more snot and coughing.
Kalle crowned the whole thing with a massive attack of asthma that needed acute hospital care.
He panicked when they forced the inhalator on him. The experience at the A&E for children was traumatic, it left traces.
After that excursion he stopped sleeping in his own bed. He became very attached to his mother. He spoke less and less.
He became little again. He is still little, only 2.5 years, but he has actually been bigger when he was younger. One step back, perhaps several steps. But don’t children do that sometimes?
Maritta answers, as usual out of breath, when I get hold of her on her work mobile. She is running around in between home visits in her district. I tell her word for word what has been said at the nursery.
-Oh dear, what does this mean? Despite the fact that we are talking on a mobile phone, I can immediately hear that she is very worried. I tell her I don’t know, but that miss Elin is concerned.
-Must be his talking, says Maritta. We have also noticed, no?
I say I don’t know, but that the situation feels “unpleasantly acute”. Why else would she be so keen?
Why would she have prepared herself with several possible dates on a small handwritten piece of paper if it were not serious?
Maritta does as usual not become as worried as me, she quickly lists a number of reasons why the nursery might want to see us.
We agree it is probably because of Kalle’s linguistic regression.
-Because it cannot be anything else? He seems to like it and I have not seen that he is aggressive towards other children? I continue “fishing” for answers from Maritta. I want confirmation that it is nothing to worry about.
-It is a good thing that the nursery is observant, perhaps we can get help from a speech therapist? He ought to speak better than he does. Compared with Acke, Lovisa and Daniel. They are only a couple of months older than Kalle and they talk really well.
-You should not compare with other children. Apart from that both Acke and Daniel are not as physically developed as Kalle.
Maritta is right.
Of course, that’s how it is…and you should not compare. But you do.
All the time.
It all sounds so bloody sensible.
Don’t compare. Everyone is different. Sure, but everyone compares.
All the time.
THE MEETING [Senses Working Overtime- XTC]
The rest of the day I am finding it hard to concentrate.
Work suffers. I leave the office early. Take the car and drive around town to divert my thoughts. I see adults and children walking about. Care free people. The world around me looks exactly like it normally does but I have a feeling nothing, ever, will ever be normal again.
What will come now? What will happen next? It must be serious when Elin takes an initiative like this. The anxiety stirs somewhere deep inside my stomach.
It’s not just Elin that receives us when we finally sit down in the staff rest room. The other nursery school teacher, Johanna, is also present.
There must be two of them! This is too difficult to cope with on your own. Moral support.
Elin starts and tells us that they have noticed that Kalle avoids the other children. He is not interested in them, seldom even looks at them. Maritta and I are both surprised. What about his speech? Was it not his linguistic development we have come to discuss? We don’t say it, not yet, but we look at each other in amazement.
What is this?
Elin carries on:
-We have prepared an action plan that we would like you to look at. The aim is to motivate Kalle to make contact with the other children.
She hands me an A4 sheet of paper.
We are surprised. To say the least. The conversation has taken a totally different direction from the one we had prepared for. There is nothing about speech. This is about problems making contact, bad turn taking, anger and being incapable of social interaction.
A load of terms. Turn taking. What does that mean? Does it mean he is impatient? I am wondering. I can’t read this.
Not here, not now.
-What do you think? can you recognise Kalle in what we are saying? Elin asks.
The two women look at us enquiringly.
We are just as enquiring.
This had not even crossed our minds. At home Kalle has always made contact. Both with us in the family as well as with guests. We tell them that Kalle has always been very interested in his brother and his friends.
From the start big brother and everything he has done has been interesting. We have had less visits from smaller children, most of our friends have older children. But small children don’t usually play with each other, do they?
-No, indeed not, says Elin, but it usually comes with time. Have you not noticed this at home?
No. We are both certain about that. Kalle has always seemed a very accessible and open person. Friends usually point that out: “He is very sociable”. We find it hard to accept the picture the nursery teachers have.
-But his speech? I try.
-Have you also noticed that he is using less vocabulary than before?
Yes, they had thought about that, but considered that a minor problem.
-There is a possibility to apply for an extra resource for him…
In need of support.
At first I become scared. Then I become angry.
It is true that they are short staffed, and that is how it has been for a while, but if they want to crucify my son to cover gaps in the curriculum…then god damn it. That is my first thought. The spontaneous one. But I can’t believe that, don’t want to believe that.
Of course I am wrong. That is obviously not it.
Maritta can’t stop herself. In her job “extra resource” means you are ill. You cannot manage by yourself.
-Do you mean that he is ill? What do you mean exactly? Shall we take him to a psychologist? Does he need help?
She is crying. She is sad, upset and angry.
But mainly disappointed. Disappointed that all this has been thrown at us so suddenly and brutally.
-Damn it Elin, we were here three months ago for a progress talk, and everything was fine then. Why did you not say anything then?
Elin squirms, looks unhappy.
-Yes, I did think about it. At the same time I thought it too early to say anything. I did not want to worry you unnecessarily. It was not so obvious then either. I wanted to wait. All children are different.
-I don’t think you should take this extra resource so seriously. Many children need an extra resource from time to time. For example it is not unusual to get an extra resource when there is a divorce, Johanna adds.
She has mainly been silent, but now feels she needs to help Elin to calm the situation.
-Kalle is really a bright little boy, she adds. He is charming and loves to be mischievous with the staff. He loves gymnastics and to be outdoors. This kind of problem can be corrected with training and here an extra resource can be very useful.
-Don’t you think we should carry on, should we not contact a psychologist? we wonder.
The teachers don’t think so. Kalle has had a difficult period, both with starting at the nursery and illness. Perhaps he just needs a bit more time.
We agree. That sounds reasonable. That is actually how it has been.
He has had a really tough time.
Perhaps he just needs a rest?
We decide on a new meeting. Next time Birgit, the pedagogic leader of the nursery, will join in.
-Go home and think about the extra resource now, we will contact Birgit. She is a psychologist and knows a lot about child development, the teachers say.
We pick Kalle up to go home. We pass through the hall way and across the playground. I do not look at the other people there. I don’t want to see them.
I feel that “problems” are stamped all over us as we walk out. I sincerely hope that nobody is going to try and speak to us. I don’t feel like the usual chat we parents do. I can’t cope with idle talk about the weather and dirty trousers. Not now.
We look down, focus a couple of meters in front of the tips of our shoes and thus avoid everybody’s looks and questions.
We manage all the way out to the car.
We are going home.
We are going to think.
Translated by Ella Fallgren
Fredrik Hjelm © Cura Förlag AB