This mother was filled with anxiety about her daughter, a first grader in the classroom of an excellent and caring teacher. The little girl was dressed impeccably every day and the mother drove her to school and walked her into the classroom daily as well. Her anxiety drove her to follow her daughter to the playground and observe closely, interrupting children’s games to protect the little girl when she thought it was needed, which was often.
Normally, I was happy to have parent volunteers. But this mother was adding more concerns and work than she provided in assistance. The teacher structured helpful activities such as cutting out activities, supervising craft stations in the classroom or running copies on our ancient copy machine.
At one point, the mother became concerned that the teacher didn’t truly appreciate her daughter. She came to me to share her worries and I listened carefully. I had contact with her daily on the playground and seeing her when I made classroom visits. So I think she trusted me to a degree. I asked if she had talked with the teacher about her worries. She said that she had not because she just knew what she suspected was right.
“How do you know” I asked? “Did the teacher say or do anything in particular?”
The mother replied, “ I just know it, I know like my husband knows it when I am faking an orgasm. You know?”
I was fairly speechless and she was highly agitated, almost angry. I asked her to walk around the playground with me and talk the situation over. During our walk I convinced her it would be good idea to take a break from volunteering and let her daughter try to adapt on her own. Furthermore, she accepted the fake status I gave her as “Volunteer Administrative Leave.”
The next day, her husband brought their daughter to school late. He stopped to see me and shared he had taken his wife to the hospital. She voluntarily committed herself and was extremely disoriented. We visited for a long time and I felt his suffering was deep and extreme. His mother was planning to move in and help out until his wife recovered. I let him know we were willing to support in any way, transporting his daughter in case of scheduling needs or that kind of thing. He was grateful and left looking depressed.
A week later he came to school in the middle of the morning and asked to speak with me. We walked around the grounds as he shared his story. His wife had met a man in the hospital. She told her husband she had fallen in love with this man. When he told the therapist this information, she thanked him and said his openness at sharing this would be very helpful in her treatment. A few days later the father came to school again and in tears told me his wife had left town with the man. She had checked herself out with him, gone home and taken their checkbook for a joint line of credit on their home equity while he was at work and her daughter was at school. She then went with the man and bought a motorcycle and rode off with him. I asked him what he was going to do? He said this had happened before but he was really devastated this time. I felt I had to ask, “Why don’t you divorce her to protect your assets?” He said, “I just love her, man.”