A Room of One’s Own

So far, no word from CPS.

I have heard from Milo’s teacher and special ed teacher that his days have vastly improved. He’s still frustrated when he gets something wrong in math, or when he raises his hand ten times in a row and his teacher only calls on him nine times.  But he’s stopped screaming and yelling and kicking holes in walls and scaring the bejesus out of everyone within a 10 mile radius of his tantrum.  This progress is largely due to Ritalin, and the existence of what I call, “Milo’s padded cell.”

As part of Milo’s IEP (individual education program,) his classroom always includes a closet that has been converted into a calming space exclusively for him. The door is switched out for one with a window. Pads are affixed to the wall.  I’ve bought a comfy chair and a big box of Legos.  Milo goes there to swear. He goes there to escape whatever paranoid delusion has crept in on him in the classroom. He goes there to avoid difficult writing assignments, or the character building curriculum that involves social interactions. He goes there to draw violent pictures and to make asymmetrical Lego monsters.

He loves this room and he hates this room. He needs this room and he hates that he needs this room.

I grew up lucky enough to have my own bedroom. It was a healthy size, with windows on two walls, bookshelves,  a closet, room for my beloved “stereo” and a door into the bathroom I shared with my siblings.  I spent time there in typical fashion — reading, eating chocolate I snuck up the stairs, listening to The DeFranco Family album, mooning over Leif Garrett and plotting to drive my brother batty. So, when I read Virginia Woolf’s, “A Room of One’s Own” in college, I got it, but I didn’t actually get it. I got the argument for making space for women as artists both literally and figuratively. But I didn’t feel a poverty of solitude. It wasn’t until I was a wife and mother and read “The Bitch in the House” that I understood what Woolf meant by, “the beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” 

The reconciliation of female adulthood is essentially unchanged. There is the harbor of family (with or without children) and there is the misery of family.  What Woolf knew then and I know now is that the true life is an ambivalent life. You hold forever the loneliness of having it all and the crowd of having it all, and the nag of not having done enough. You have your room but the barbarians who  share your house can’t help but breach the door. You need them, and you need them to go away.

I have made much of Milo’s lack of maturity.  Every expert who meets Milo points out that the gulf between where he is intellectually and where he is socially-emotionally is oceanic. He has the brain of a high achieving middle schooler and the personality of an immature 7 year old.  It makes it hard to navigate life, particularly the 4th grade. But having a room of his own helps.  

Milo’s relationship to his padded cell makes perfect sense to me. And it breaks my heart. As much as that room saves him, it also shames him.  His teachers need a place for him to remove himself to. He needs a place to remove himself to. He needs retreat. He needs solitude. And yet he hates needing those things as no one else seems to need what he needs. He needs are indeed, special.

He’s special. He’s Milo. He has a room of his own.

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