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.