Milo was a kindergartner in my self-contained class for students with behavioral and emotional disorders. He joined my class for the latter part of that school year after assaulting adults and peers in a regular classroom. Milo was small for his age but quite muscular and agile. His school readiness skills were in the basement. He responded well to the structure of my room and was fine as long as he was in my line of sight. All bets were off if I lost sight of him for a few seconds. One of the first things I did was make a home visit; I wanted to see how Milo functioned out of school. He was never home when I made my visits and no one ever knew where he was. His mom took one look at me and told me how to handle him. “You tell Milo the “Enforcer” is in that room and you won’t have any problems.” I must have looked confused, so Milo’s mom explained that he believed she was always watching, Enforcer in hand. The Enforcer was a giant stick, to be applied liberally if he acted up. I had social services involved in the wink of an eye. Of course, I never mentioned the Enforcer to Milo, but I did find myself searching for it occasionally.
I gave Milo my best effort. It was hard to form a relationship with him, but he seemed to like me. He probably had an attachment disorder along with a slew of his other diagnosed deficits. Milo made no connections with his classmates (other than with his fists). I had to restrain him a few times, but he would immediately calm down and make perfunctory apologies. His academic performance did not improve much. I worked hard to find ways to praise him (“Wow, I like the way you are breathing!” popped into my head once or twice). After a couple of months, we came to the last day of school. I watched Milo approach the room but he didn’t see me. Uh-oh. He flattened a fellow kindergartner with a vicious kick to the belly just outside our door. When I asked him about it later, he didn’t even know the kid, nor had they interacted. I wondered if he was sad about leaving my class; his mother was moving, apparently able to find him long enough to take him with her.
Fast forward about six years. Same class, new kiddos. One of the kids started crying during our class meeting, describing a neighborhood bully. In a private conversation, it turned out that this bully was sexually assaulting him and other kids at gunpoint. The bully’s name? Milo. Social services was contacted again and I told my student to run if he saw Milo. A few years later, Milo was in juvie for sexual assault and other violent acts. Then he graduated to adult jail.
Fast forward again about 10 years. I was at our administrative offices, hanging up an art display created by my kids. I was on a ladder, just about finished, when I looked down the long hallway. I saw Milo walking in my direction. He was an adult, but I could tell it was him (and he had once lived in that neighborhood). “Oh, Lord,” I prayed, “Please don’t let him see me! Don’t let him remember that I restrained him years ago!” I turned my head away and held my breath. And then I heard him say, “Mrs. Teachezwell!” I looked down at him and saw a beautiful smile. I could tell that he was overjoyed to see me. I climbed down the ladder and we hugged for a couple of minutes. I looked up at this tall, muscular guy, grabbed his shoulders and said, “Wow! You are all grown up!” (“And breathing!”) He smiled. Milo was genuinely glad to see me, former restraints or not. I could not come up with much to say. “How was prison?” “Assault anyone lately?”
I do think of him from time to time. He was birthed in alcohol, drugs, and violence. I remember worrying that he would kill his mom when he got bigger than the Enforcer. Dear Milo. I am glad that you remember the good old days.