My son, who I love beyond all measure, is being a bit of an asshole. He’s so much like I was as a child – a loud, articulate, attention-seeker extraordinaire, unable to quite know when to stop. Unlike me as a child, he has the added bonus feature of having spent the last two years watching his Daddy die, slowly, right in front of his eyes.
Until D-Day, the dickhead qualities were always visible, but in a fairly endearing way. People would be bowled over by his confidence around adults, and his engaging personality. What he lacked in his twin brother’s fierce academic prowess, he made up for in articulate expression, and we’d always had him marked out as a leader in whichever field he chose to pursue. He was also, most importantly, fairly kind (except to his brother, obviously.) Over the last couple of years, we’d noticed the signs of anger bubbling up inside him, and had had the occasional call from other parents whose child had been on the receiving end of some outburst or other, but it was never that big a deal. People knew me well enough to tell me straight, and never expected anything other than my full attention and an apology, if necessary, from my son. They also knew that the poor kid had a lot to deal with right now, and that all this was a bit out of character. I do not breed Perfect Peters. We deliberately raised our kids to have spirit, to ask questions, and to stand up for themselves (verbally, not violently,) and on the whole I think we had been doing a fairly good job in the face of some monumental challenges, not to mention running a business and working around several 40-mile round trips to the cancer hospital every sodding week.
I’ve always believed that the one favour you can do for your children, and for their peer group, is to be realistic about them. Don’t expect behaviour miracles to come overnight, but also let’s quickly lose the rose-tinted view of how perfect they are, no matter how much effort it took to propel them from your vagina, because I haven’t met a single child in the boys’ class who doesn’t have a strong propensity to be a little shitbag from time to time. Most parent freely admit this with a cynical eye-roll, and usually we laugh and pour each other another gin. A sense of perspective with children is vitally important, and the violent, sanctimonious, immature little fuckers are still learning. They all make mistakes. So do I.
And I feel lost. Completely out of my depth. My wonderful, funny, lively, intelligent son, who is moving up to a lovely CofE high school in September but who still goes to sleep with his thumby in, and who loves nothing more than a cuddle and to rub the tips of his fingers along my fingernails for comfort, tried to throw himself out of his bedroom window yesterday. After he’d trashed the garden. And after he’d raced towards me with a metal spike. And called his brother a twat. (I obviously show huge signs of disapproval at the swearing part, as well as everything else, because parenting is 99% hypocrisy, and anyway, the boys don’t know I write this shit down.) He then made a dramatic exit out of the front door, and I found him 20 minutes later, cowering in a bus stop, sobbing. The amateur psychologist in me – no, wait, let’s not big up my part – the former childhood attention-seeker in me, recognises that none of these things were done seriously, and were all a bit half-hearted. I am pretty confident he was not about to board the next bus into the big city, nor was his bottom ever going to leave that window ledge. But it’s still awful to watch, and worse when you feel powerless to help and are the only adult in authority. But I don’t feel like I am an adult, or in any kind of authority.
Hubby and I were the ultimate team. We never quite intended for it to happen this way after we got married, but before we knew it we were living and working together, and bringing up our two sons completely in tandem. It was so easy to share the load. If he was working, I’d cook, or vice versa. If they were being little bastards, he’d give them a verbal bollocking. We’d both be there at school drop-off, pickup, bathtime, story time, bed time, and he and I just loved parenting them. They were his joy, but like me, he was fully aware of their faults, and would hold up a mirror to them whenever it was necessary.
The bollockings. I never really did them. I wasn’t all that good at discipline, and it didn’t matter because my hubby was there to jump in, snap his fingers, and get things done. I was too soft, and I know I was, but it feels as if now, I’m paying the price.
I went into school. I begged for help. I guess it wasn’t particularly convenient that my husband died a couple of weeks before SATs and now all the teacher wants to do is freewheel to the end of term. But, to give her credit, she’s sent through a referral to Behaviour Support (although she did manage to fill in the form with enough spelling mistakes to make this Grammar Nazi wince, and quietly wonder what the fuck she’s been teaching them all year.)
It’s not her job to be a grief counsellor as well as a teacher. I know that. I’m also told that their behaviour at school is completely normal for their age group and for the time of year. “End of Year Six-itis” was her diagnosis. She said they were all being cocky and difficult little fuckers, or something along those lines. But one child in particular is desperately sad, angry, and so consumed by grief that he’s taking it all out on the people closest to him, and his twin brother is trying so hard to forget his grief that he won’t discuss it at all. I don’t know which is worse – loud-mouthed drama queen, or insular nerd. They’re both as heartbreaking as each other, but the noisy one has my full attention just for now. I don’t know how to throw him a lifebelt when I can’t see one anywhere, but I know I need to get hold of one quickly before he grabs our hands and pulls us all down to the depths with him.
Love Fanny x
My son’s Fathers’ Day card. His twin brother has made one too, but he wants to hide it in his memory box so I haven’t seen it. Neither of them are assholes – just very, very mixed up little boys who want their Daddy back. And so do I.