Tuesday, 13 October 2015


     Where did I go wrong? What was it I did? Was it something I said? Did I encourage this? I know it’s my fault, but I don’t know what I did. I don’t know how to fix this.

     It’s school trip week. Year 6 are off to the National trust centre at Brancaster for five days. A few children haven’t gone. Some because they’re new to the school, and missed the letter & instalment payments. Some because their parents couldn’t afford the £260. And one because the letter home about the trip came at the wrong time.

     The Boy, of course. Always The Boy. The Letter about the school trip came at a time when he was struggling. When he hated school. When he was so unhappy, every day, that I was crying for him every morning. Thing was, it wasn’t school that was making him unhappy, he was just troubled. Trying to make sense of the world around him. Trying to understand how it was that one of his best friends was going to grow up without his mother. Scared. Scared that if it happened to his friend, it could happen to him too. And of course, with my history, it could have happened to him, although he’s unaware of that. Perhaps that’s why it was such a dagger through my heart, to see him try to process that. Knowing that he came so close to losing his mother too.

     It was a hard time, for me and for him. He was so unhappy. It wasn’t really about school; it was about being away from me. He just wanted to be close to me. The school were brilliant; I can’t speak highly enough of them. They understood exactly what he needed, they supported him, they did so much for him that he got his confidence back, he loves school again, he became my silly, giggly companion once more.

     But of course, there was a hangover. When The Letter arrived, he refused, point blank, to talk about it. ‘I’m not going.’ But all your friends will be there. ‘I’m not going.’ It’ll be a wonderful opportunity. ‘I’m not going.’ Look at all the activities they have. ‘I’m not going.’ You’ve been away from home before. ‘I’m not going.’ Your teachers think it’ll be ideal for you. ‘I’m not going.’ You won’t be far away, and you can phone us. ‘I’m not going.’ Shall we at least pay the deposit, in case you change your mind? ‘I’m not going.’ I’m not going to force you, but at least think about it. ‘I’m not going.’

     The teacher in charge of pastoral care even phoned us to say we needed to encourage him. ‘He’s such a lovely boy, he’s so kind, so thoughtful, this would do so much for his confidence’ But still, ‘I’m not going.’ And because I know him, because I know myself, I knew that if I were to push him into it, it could backfire nastily. The anxiety he’d feel, for months ahead of the trip, would send him into a spiral of misery. So I left it. I told him that whilst I thought he should go, I wasn’t going to make him do something he didn’t want to. I told him that his feelings were important, and I was listening to him. I told him that it was good he was so honest. Are you sure, The Boy? It could be fun. ‘I’m not going.’

     Until about two weeks ago. When it dawned on him that all of his friends were going. When he realised he’d be pretty much alone in the playground. When he’d settled into his new class with unprecedented ease. When he’d gained a huge amount of confidence in himself, from snorkelling every day in Spain. From completing the (frankly, shit scary) Go Ape treetop trail in Thetford forest. From being able to finally ride his bike. From attempting to skateboard. He’d conquered so many fears, physical fears, and he realised he could handle an activity holiday; he wasn’t worried about being away from me anymore.

     We couldn’t really afford it. £260. But we would have found the money, for him. Too late, though. No places left.

     And now… misery. Utter misery. Tears at schooltime, tears during school, tears when he gets home and tells me about his day, tears at bedtime. Tears on the way to school this morning, with ‘I’ll just spend all day CRYING’ thrown in.

     I comfort. I cajole. I distract. I tell him I’m sorry, that I know it’s rubbish, feeling left out of fun things. That it is a horrible feeling, especially because he changed his mind about wanting to go. I say it’s only a week, it’s not that long. I suggest fun things we can do together at the weekend. I spend hours on the sofa, hugging him, listening to his litany of woe. And (this is the bit where I’ll lose any sympathy you had for me) I want to shout at him. I want to say ‘for Christ’s sake. Get some perspective. Stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Nothing terrible has ever happened to you. You have been surrounded by love, comfort and warmth since the day you were born. This situation is of your own making, and YES I’m sorry that you feel so sad, but stop fecking moping about, stop complaining about your life, and realise you could not be more fucking privileged than you already are. Stop being so bloody precious, stop feeling so sorry for yourself, and instead of constantly banging on about how hard done by you are, realise that you are incredibly fucking LUCKY.’

     Of course I can’t. Of course I won’t. Not least because of The Swears. But I’m starting to think this situation is actually because of me. Maybe I’ve been too indulgent. Maybe I’ve been too soft. Maybe, by constantly listening to him, validating his feelings, I’ve made him a bit too self centred. I did it because I saw so much of myself in him, and I didn’t want him to grow up feeling the way that I did, isolated, overlooked, unimportant. I always felt that my feelings were never considered, and I didn’t want him to feel the same. I didn’t want him to feel as crushed as I did.

     Instead, it seems, I’ve gone the other way. I’ve created a child who, whilst loving, sensitive, and affectionate, is also (WRITE IT) a bit of a brat.


Julie Kirk said...

Morning Lucy. I can't really comment as I'm not a parent but ... his story is familiar. I think I pretty much was him! [And probably for similar reasons re. being protected by my mother]. If it's any consolation, I'm less of a brat now. ;-)

And, if you're going to be affected by your parents, it might as well be because they love you so much, rather than the alternative. I put my impermeable sense of ego [in the nicest possible way!] and certainty of myself that I have - in spite of difficulties along the way - partly down to my parents letting me decide what was right for me. Even when I was wrong.

Hoping this week gets better for you all soon.

Anonymous said...

You didn't go wrong. You are a good mum and you know it. This is a learning curve for both of you. In the scheme of things this is the merest blip in both of your lives and you will both learn a great deal from it. Your little boy is in the throes of puberty with his hormones throwing his emotions in all directions. Once his friends return from the trip life will continue for him. Just love him, hug him, and reassure him, it's all you can do right now. (CW)

Felix said...

But what would you have taught him if you'd paid the deposit without his agreement? That his fears aren't important? That his wishes don't matter?

He's lost out, because you gave him the opportunity to make his own mistakes, which is a priceless lesson.

Plus, you get lots of opportunities to gently remind him of this regret whenever you want him to take a longer view in the future ;-)

Marina Sofia said...

Painful though it is for all concerned (especially for us mothers, because we are so good at piling on the guilt and never ever being able to feel we've done something right), it probably does teach something about decisions and their consequences. My 12 year old is also a real strop at the moment and I keep asking myself where I went wrong... and I've probably been too considerate and indulgent (for the same reasons you describe above). So I hear you and am keeping my fingers crossed for you and your son!

Jaimie MIlls said...

Hi Lucy,

As a Father of three (12, 3 & 1), I think you have done the correct thing. Offered the chance to go, repeated the offer and then respected his decision not to. As Marina stated, it is important to know you are loved and heard but equally important to understand that (eventually) being an adult means making decisions and that those decisions have consequences.

A child needs love, encouragement and support but also boundaries and the opportunity to learn these life lessons. In the long run, I think it will be a positive experience and will reinforce that he likes school, he has good friends that he values there, that you love and respect him but also that how he feels about things'in the moment' can change - for the better.

Lisa said...

You've created a child. He's just doing what children do and learning lessons the hard way. You did exactly the right thing. It's a lesson he'll put to good use in the future. xx

Rachel said...

I can so relate to this, but I think too you did the right thing but like someone has said as mothers we pile on the guilt. As parents, generally we probably consider our children's feelings far more than our parents did! We just liked it or lumped it a lot of the time. I think that this is mostly a good thing - but I do feel that sometimes I pander too much to my dd's feelings and rather than just leaving her too lump it! Lol!

Lucy Benedict said...

Thank you, all :-) As it turned out, guess what?... He ended up having a brilliant week. Of course. He had some great projects planned by the school, he loved it, by Thursday was telling me how much fun he was having, kept in touch with his friends via the blogposts they were posting from Brancaster, and then on Friday had a huge hugging pile on in the playground with all of his friends.

He's definitely learnt a lot from this - mainly, as you guys said, that just because he felt one way nearly a year ago, doesn't mean he'll always feel that way. Having been in to see his teacher for a Parent Teacher evening last week, he feels the same way about The Boy. Important lessons learnt all round I think - The Boy knows I'll listen to him, he also knows that things change. And I've learnt not to beat myself up so much over something I can't change :-)