My angel in gum boots

This is one of those rare posts about one of my children.

I know it is going to make me cry even though it is, in its way, it’s a celebration.

Nevertheless it will be a moment of ‘self’, and moments of ‘self’ have a tendency to drive me down that long wallowing road of self-pity. If you knew me, you’d know it’s  something I’d rather avoid as much as I possibly can.

This is my middle son, P.

He’s dyslexic, his birthday is in August and he has an older disabled brother. So, let’s say, he has a few disadvantages…However, I’d rather not go into those.

And, god love him, he is a spirited, self-reliant, independent and cheerful fellow who will give anything a go just for the experience of it. He wants to live an eco-self sufficient life and wishes he’d been brought up on a farm.

The main thing is that he follows his own ‘star’ and not the ‘herd’.

In the past year he has been incredible. He’s been on a French Exchange and was the youngest by a least a couple of years. I tried to discourage him because of his tender age and difficulty with the English language let alone a foreign one. Yet, he was determined to go. So off he went and survived. He’s taught himself how to make a loaf of bread and is damn good at it. He’s also volunteered to help the ‘tech team’ in the lighting and sound box for a school production, later on he made two 6 ft tall set boxes for the theatre in his DT lunch-time club. In the summer he took me sailing on a little dingy in gusty winds. I was his crew, or ballast, as without my weight he would have kept capsizing for sure. He also went to Ireland with his grandfather to stay with my sister and learnt how to choose straight branches from trees to cut and whittle into walking sticks from my brother-in-law. These are just a handful of his achievements that make us proud.

When my husband is away working which is frequent, P is like a solid rock. Thoughtful and kind; he takes care of many things for me and never criticises. P’s dependable maturity is a point of admiration from everyone who knows him. He’s also lovely with his big brother who’ll be laughing so much at P’s entertaining ways until his sides hurt.

So P’s a bit different. He can’t escape the fact that he struggles to keep up in school and he has an ‘odd’ brother – which frankly is a  hindrance to full social integration. It doesn’t matter how many times I explain that just because my disabled teenage son can’t talk, needs watching like you would a toddler,  it doesn’t mean that he can’t understand or he’s stupid.

I also know that we get limited social invites. I’m not sure if P has realised this yet. Polite excuses are made about how his ‘abnormal’ sibling might behave, or has behaved.

It is my job to give him balance. It is normally done with a hug and advice to try his hardest, stay positive and not to dwell on the little negatives.

He doesn’t tell me much about his feelings but I’m aware he keeps his upsets to himself to save me from being upset. Of course, aged 12, at secondary school and on the verge of puberty he is bound to becoming introspective.  Or helped by the fact that his younger brother is a bright spark with hoards of school friends.

It doesn’t change that fact that I also think he’s lonely.

Yesterday, his ‘friends’ played a trick on him. He wasn’t perturbed by this as such. There’s always a bit of joking as they walk back from the school to the train station. Frequently the others will give one or the other the slip for a bit and P is just as much an instigator in this, just for the laugh, and then they quickly catch up with the others again. Only, this time the joke fell hollow, more like a deliberate act of spite. They slipped him good and proper. P called one boy to ask: “Where are you?” once he was on the train home.  Who promptly lied and said that they had missed the train. He believed him, until later the same boy rang back after P was home to say they had been in another coach. It made him angry and he came home feeling sad. He later admitted that, although they are, on the face of it, ‘friendly’ towards him, he suspects they make little effort to include him in their group.

The hard part, is that his friends are the sons of my friends and my loyalty is twisted in all sorts of ways. I’ve explained that whenever he feels let down by the complexities of friendship he’s not alone. It could be that something he has said or done – a joke backfired perhaps – that could have triggered this occasion of being ostracised by others for a bit. Or at least I hope, fingers crossed, there’s nothing meaner to it – like his single-mindedness, the stigma of his ‘funny’ brother or his ‘failed’ literacy – that would break my heart.

I guess that’s parenting for you.

14 thoughts on “My angel in gum boots

  1. Its heart wrenching when as a mum you are limited to what you can do to help a child when really sometimes all I would want to do is keep him at home safe from the horrible mean world!! I know my eldest has these funny little habits and noises that he makes we often wonder if he is bordering on OCD or even Touretts of a kind. He seems to get away with it now at primary school but I do wonder if he will be as lucky when he gets to big school. The lovely thing about your boy infact all your boys is that they are in their own ways self sufficient and I am totally sure that the older P gets the happier he will become as children become less mean or maybe just better at hiding it I dont know. Either way with all the life skills he already has I am sure he will have a very happy future and sounds like he will make someone a wonderful caring and practical husband one day, trates I personally would love in a man and are very few and far between, The photo is perfect of him xxxx

  2. Bless him…Never mind writting this making you cry, I am sat here with tears streaming down my face! It just makes me want to hug him!

    Children can be so cruel, I know as my eldest frequently gets ostracised by her ‘friends’ and it really is heartbreaking- she is currently being tested for dyslexia. However, adults can be even more cruel as they have a full understanding of what they are doing.

    My friend has 3 children, with her youngest being autistic with tendancies of Tourettes. Both of the older children never get invited anywhere other than to our parties as other parents worry about the 6year olds behaviour. A completely selfish act that may give their child the ‘perfect’ party, but one that is completely letting down the family as a whole.

    As you have stated, my job also is to be there for my eldest daughter and I will continue to support her where I can and I encourage her to remember that she can tell me anything and I will always be there to help her. But, it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking when I see her being ridiculed or made a joke of, and it takes every ounce of strength not to jump in immediately and try and fight her battles. I hope that one day she will have the stregth to see these children for what they are and will have the strength to stand up to them. Until then I will be standing by to protect her.

  3. Beautiful post – and picture.

    Yes, when someone hurts your children, you feel it as though they hurt you. My youngest is just 5 years old but has the physique of an 8 year old. Adults expect him to behave beyond his years, the bigger children at school expect him to have the same cognitive processes as them (which of course he doesn’t, he’s 5) and so they tease him, and his own age group find him intimidating due to his size and are slightly scared of him.

    He’s a lovely, confident, beautiful, funny boy and I get scared every day that he is going to realise what is going on and that his disposition will change as a result.

    It is the inability / opportunity to intervene that I find most frustrating. Learning that my children have to learn about life for themselves, knocks n’all, has been one of the most difficult aspects of parenting in my book.

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  5. What a beautiful, thoughtful son you have. It is so, so difficult when children reach this age, I have 4, because you want to protect them, stop them getting hurt. But we have to allow them to grow & experience all these things themselves, damnit! Because personally, it always made me want to go and sort it all out for them. This has definitely been the ‘hardest’ part of parenting for me. But it sounds to me like you’re doing everything right in giving him space to learn for himself, but support when needed. Much love xx

  6. Beautiful post – It’s so awful when you can’t make everything right for your children. As a parent it’s your natural instict isn’t it?

    It seems like you have a lot to be proud of though, he seems like a lovely boy x

  7. This made me cry, because I fear I was your son when i was younger. I was the brunt of the jokes, the one who never fitted in. I think that you are doing a great job in teaching him that he doesnt need to follow the heard, I am sure he will become a great man

  8. Your son sounds amazing – so mature and thoughtful.

    Situations like this are so difficult, but it sounds like he’s coping with everything admirably, all credit to him (and of course to you).

    Lucy x

  9. Thank you for the kind words of support. I confess I’ve now edited this post a couple of times.
    The first, a couple of days ago, because my husband thought I should take it down as my anger was too obvious.
    I’ve now just read this to my son, who has corrected the story for accuracy and ultimately the ‘meanness’ was more intentional than I first thought…

  10. Ohh if only being a parent was easy. My little man is 7 and I have written about him being left out and he has no real idea it is happening, which in one way is good but in another…

    I like P sounds just lovely and you should be very proud.

    Mich x

  11. Oh, can’t kids be cruel? I have a disabled daughter myself, and the playdates have been very rare, and I remember similar things happening to me as the one you have described for no better reason than my just not fitting in.

    My mum used to say ‘you’ll find a level’. And I thought it was utter tripe. But she was right, though I had to wait.

    I don’t want to watch it happen to my children now though. Somehow, that’s even harder.

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  13. Love the picture!
    I get the feeling from my in-laws(well hubbys birth mothers side) sometimes that they just expect us to leave Harry with my mom so he isnt a pain at theirs and searching their rooms for dvd’s (his favourite thing).
    Hubby gets more annoyed each time we visit, he gets really peeved that in his words ‘they never say anything nice about our 4 kids but never stop commenting on how wonderful the other grandkids are even though they are really naughty’ in fact our autistic 11yr old is better behaved lol
    I must admit it’s easier for people to visit us because he has everything he needs here and his siblings just accept whatever he does and treats him like any other brother/sisters would as they dont see ‘Autism’ just Harry being Harry.
    You boy sounds like a star and it’s such a shame his so called friends treat him badly but then kids can be so cruel.

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