Mayday, mayday, mayday: Child lost the parent lottery. By age two Victor was expected to die. When he was two weeks old his biological mother died a cocaine addict, but not before passing on to Victor the Aids virus. He took a large number of preventive antibiotics and medications that had controlled the HIV infection. Victor, age eight, had a compromised immune system, other health impaired (OHI), and behavior disorder. Victor's struggle brought a calm sigh reflecting on the progress we've made since the Ryan White days, and his pitiful example of when HIV fears ruled our lives. Confidentiality rule that school personnel have any right to know a student or another employee has HIV. Unless that person or his or her family chooses to tell, no one is notifies. All situations approach with the idea that any student or staff could have a disease carried by body fluids; thus, the use of gloves and thorough hand washing.
I had been told on Victor's entry of his immune deficiency without the word disorder, so I asked about his open sores. Within three hours of entry to my classroom he was exposed to another student's cold. I felt uneasy when Victor asked to use the bathroom because he felt sick. I stood near the slightly closed bathroom door. He was not vomiting. Victor and I both noticed the staff rushed in wearing gloves.
Victor was suspicious of the "germs in your body" mantra that swirled about his in conversations. He had been over indulged by his late fifties adopted parents. He had a predilection for lying. Victor always wanted his due with no remorse for is inappropriate aggression. He prefers not to deal with emotions or the feeling of other people.
Victor's anxiety showed during music class one Friday. We were huddled in an informal semi-circle with a guitarist. On this Friday, the guitarist signaled with his hand, "Halt! Please, stay back, I have germs." Victor whipped his head around to me. We made conspiratorial eye contact. I nodded and said, "Mr. M. is being careful for you Victor. He has a cold. You are learning about the germs in your body and how to handle them." A smile crept across his face as I held his gaze. I like to think, a smile of affirmation of support. We had sprung ahead---past "poop" in chairs; smearing feces would abate. Lying cessation could wait. Small steps gained trust.
We hid the truth to give Victor a reasonable life, but forgot that Victor sensed the pity heaped on him. He did not know that he was adopted. He was guarded about these parents in their late fifties. I had suggested that it was time to tell him that he was adopted. Our pity may be akin to abuse. Weren't we lying to him? Honesty from his support group would create a caring circle of compassion and empathy. Charity, but how given? Victor was overwhelmed by the demands.
Each parent is in the partnership; bring their history with them. Sharing and giving help the "struggles" without damaging trust and faith in each other. Calmly and seriously explain your explanation of cause and effect. Like the 6 blind men each touching a different part of the elephant explain where 'you are coming from', your history included. When your mayday, mayday mayday tension arises, Step back parents (caregivers) and say, "Look what we have done, partner." Congratulate each other. Be specific. "We can get through, partner!" ( You have just won the lottery of life.)
Kaye is a teacher and author of multiple works including Valerie Valentine Visits Vincent Vampire