I have been trying to write this post for almost 2 weeks now. Firstly it was trying to get it to sound right here, but it wasn’t working. Then life and all the other shambles that have been happening, happened. I am still struggling with myself as to whether I should even post this here. I don’t want the subject of this post to read it far in to the future and become angry or annoyed, if he does ever read it, I want him to know just how loved he truly is, how concerned we are that we aren’t doing the best by him that we can. I almost stopped writing a number of times but the belief that the power and knowledge of the internets could be enough to guide us to a better place is worth it, so here goes…
I am worried about boy-child. We have always known that he danced to a different tune to most of his peers. It wasn’t that he was more/less smart or more/less aware of what was around him, he was just different. As a young baby he was quite precocious, but we were almost unaware. We lived in Auckland for 6 months, returning to Australia when he was 11 months old. The time we spent there was amazing, some of the best times in my life. I knew only one other person in the entire city when I arrived and was forced to get out of my comfort zone as a hermit and meet people. If boy-child weren’t a part of my life I would have spent my time wandering and exploring, essentially living as a reclusive backpacker as man-child worked. Since I was a mother, I had a responsibility to my boy to expose him to different situations and places, and more importantly to introduce him to other children. It was a whole new world for me, I had to join in and make friends. Fortunately I did make some amazing friends during this time, friends that I am still in contact with today. These friends all had children too. Their children were all older than boy-child by between 3 and 6 months. We didn’t take too much notice of developmental milestones, he was crawling not long after the other babies we spent time with. When they began to walk he insisted on holding hands and walking with me everywhere.
It wasn’t until we moved back to Melbourne, back to a community where we have many ‘friends’ with children who were born within a few weeks as boy-child. Here we discovered that he was developmentally ahead of his peers. He was much more mobile, capable of fully feeding himself (granted it was messy) and he had quite an extensive vocabulary.
When I found out I was pregnant again, we began preparing him for having a new baby. I say prepare him, but it was more like make changes in his life long before the baby arrived so he couldn’t associate the changes directly with a new baby. I converted his cot into a junior bed when he was about 14 months old. He ‘helped’ to convert the bed and then he climbed straight into it, to practice. He loved his bed and wouldn’t climb out despite knowing how to. When he woke he would sit up and ‘read’ books or talk to toys until we came to get him.
We had moved house just before his sister was born, so his world was in turmoil – new house, new family member, new playgroups, reduced access to his old circle of friends but he remained his usual exuberant self. When his sister arrived he had no trouble accepting that there was someone new in our lives to share his home. He was only 20 months old but he was a great little helper. She clearly adored him, in fact every one did. He was always polite and kind and well spoken beyond his years.
He made friends through local playgroups and then was again from his world when we unsuccessfully tried to relocate to the other side of the world. He didn’t show any signs of stress or anxiety, he was happy just exploring his new surroundings and having fun. When we returned back home he slipped back into his old life as if nothing had even changed. He was only young and accepting of anything we did, as long as we were all together.
We were back in Melbourne for him to start 4 year old kinder. He made new friends, but spent most of his time with friends from playgroup. He was happy and carefree at kinder and looking forward to being a school kid.
He was one of the younger kids to start school, in fact there were kids in his class that were more than a year older than him. Despite being young, he was ready for school, we were all ready for school and the extra stimulation it would provide his enquiring mind. His best friend remained the best friend he had at kinder and she was great company for him. They both had other friends, but they could always count on each other.
The second year at school they weren’t in the same class. They still looked out for each other and still spent time together but their worlds were slowly moving further apart. He had other friend of course, but no ‘best friend’. He would play with whomever was nearby at the time. One day he would play cars, the next he would play on the monkey bars the following he might play soccer. He had many friends in many different corners of the school yard. There were 4 or 5 boys that he would spend most of his time with, but most of these boys had best friends a first choice friend who they would play with first. It was never an issue, they would most often play together as a group.
His third year at school, this year, and he is in a class with all new people. None of his friends are in his class. We thought that this would be a good chance for him to grow and find new friends, someone that could be his best friend. I don’t think that it was working. He would still spend much of his time looking for his old class mates to play with, but they seemed to have too many in jokes for him to understand. He was drifting away from them, but not into any other circle of friends. He always found someone to play with, usually as he climbed on the monkey bars so it didn’t seem to bother him, well until now at least.
So now, he has actually found his soul friend, another little boy who dances to his own song also, a song that he seems to share with boy-child. The day they met they were firm friends, hitting it off straight away. They spent the entire evening playing together. Since then their friendship has grown and deepened. When they are together they are both so vibrant and alive. They literally bounce around all of the time. To give you an indication of how incapable of standing or sitting still would be the fact that I am constantly asking the two of them if they need to go to the bathroom, yet their response is most often that they are too busy to sit still.
When they are walking through the park they skip and jump and dance. They are alive. I hadn’t realised just how much I had missed his boy-child’s sparkle. That his energy and light had been slowly depleting over the last year. That the sullen teen like behaviour he had been displaying wasn’t really him, but he didn’t know who he was.
When he is away from his friend, he pines like a lost puppy. He loses some of his sparkle. Even the weekend he came home from hospital, they spent all day together. They couldn’t jump and dance as much but they did spend hours wandering around the park chatting endlessly, like long lost friends who had years of gossip to exchange when in fact it was only a few days without seeing each other. That and they had only known each other for a few weeks.
I don’t know how to fully express how they interact with each other. I don’t know how many analogies I can come up with; 2 peas in a pod, puzzle pieces that fit perfectly, cast from the same mould – they all work, they all describe him and his new best friend.
He lives up the road, a mere five minute walk (at kid speed) along the bike path but his soul friend goes to another school. This coupled with the fact that boy is restricted in what he can do has made the return to school very difficult. He now knows what true friendship is and wants to spend every waking minute with his best friend. He no longer wants to go to school. The things he would play at school he can’t play at the moment and he is finding it difficult to find where he fits. He seems to know now that he doesn’t quite fit, but that he doesn’t need to be like the other kids. He also knows that it is lonely when you don’t fit in, when you don’t have anyone to spend time with. It breaks my heart to ask him who he played with today and his answer is no-one. Sometimes the reason he played with no-one was because he couldn’t play the game they were playing, but often it was because he can’t find anyone to play with or because he has no friends.
We (well man-child actually) spoke to his teacher, to see how he was in class and she was all ‘his fine, he has friends, but I will keep an eye on him’. Yeah that is great, but she doesn’t see that he isn’t happy he is the same little boy she has had in her class all year. I don’t want him to struggle now, to hate being at school, to not belong.
I spoke to the welfare teacher, a wonderful woman I have worked with in the past, just an impromptu chat but I ended up expressing my concerns about his place in the class. Her instant reaction was that he was too young to form a dislike for school and that it was an issue that we needed to address, together. Instantly she started brainstorming ideas about how we could help him find friends at school, friends from other classes who were more like him. She was going to watch him in the playground and see who he spent time with and was also going to create some specific lunchtime activities that would interest him that he could take part in with limited movement. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. She didn’t think that I was over-reacting and she wanted to help, was going to help.
All of this was last week, this week I have been in hibernation unable to go to school. He seems more willing to go to school, but still not happy. It is a start, I just want to be able to get out and be a part of his life, to see if the spring comes back to his step and the sparkle in his eyes return. I hate being isolated from his world.
So now that I have written a chapter about my boy, who he is and where he has come from. I have opened my heart wide and I am turning to you wise internets. I am looking for suggestions and ways to help my boy become the happy child he really is. I want to see him dancing about all of the time, having fun and enjoying life again.