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
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.