Forget April, February is the cruelest month


April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land… (T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland)

View of the lake in winter

Image via Wikipedia

With all due respect to T. S. Eliot, April is a nice month. Spring is just around the corner. Days are longer. Clothes (indoor and outdoor) are lighter.

February, however,  is a different story.

February is definitely the worst month.  The novelty of winter has given way to the daily drudgery of wet boots, mis-matched mitts, scrapping ice off the car in sub-zero temperatures, etc.  Even the groundhog only sticks around for a few minutes before heading back underground to sleep for the rest of the month.

The best thing that can be said about February is that it is short. Except for every 4th year, when they throw in an extra day. Just to mess with us.

February is generally a difficult month for M. While his behaviour at school is often up and down, during February, it is mostly down. Typically, he starts to have more difficulty complying with direction (compliance not being one of his strong suits at the best of times) and has a harder time getting along with other children. As he begins to struggle, his anxiety level goes up and his self-esteem goes down. Inevitably, the calls from the principal increase to almost daily. For the last two years, there has been a major crisis that has resulted in him being suspended at least once during February (one of advantage of it being a short month). We try to put on a cheerful face for M.  But my husband and I tend to spend the month in a state of heightened anxiety that has us snarling at each other like dogs when M is out of earshot or in bed.  By this point, Eliot’s poem seems auto-biographical.

I have learned not to comment on M’s behaviour between February 1 to 28th, in case I jinx things.  When he was in Grade 3, the month was half over and I remarked one evening how well M was doing at school. The next day, he threatened another child with a pair of scissors, which set off a chain reaction of suspensions and meetings with the principal.

Last year was a particularly tough year for M.  December to May phone calls to come and pick him up, meeting with school board officials and more suspensions. I can’t actually remember what February was like. But I’m sure it wasn’t great.

So this year, I am braced to expect the worst. 

Towards the end of January, I started mentally counting off the days until the 1st day of February. We are now a few days into the month and every time my phone rings at the office, I fully expect to hear the principal voice. Or my husband’s, telling me one of us has to go and pick him up.

Some may see this approach as self-defeating and pessimistic – how can you expect your child to do well, if you are expecting the worst?  I see it more as a survival tactic. If M hits another child on the playground or kicks a teacher, I won’t be surprised. Because I am expecting the principal’s call, it won’t be a shock when it comes.

In my next life, I want to be a groundhog. Whether I see my shadow or not, no one will expects me to hang around during the month. And when I wake up, the daffodils will be out. Until that happens, I’ll just keep an eye on my calendar, waiting for March.

Note: I tried repeatedly,without success, to include a link to Eliot’s The Wasteland. You can find the full text of the poem here:


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