I recently experienced three miracles in one day – two in consecutive sentences.

“I think I’ll do something calm and relaxing like listen to a [story] CD,” said DS1, not long after we had got home from school.

This was brilliant. He had recognised the need to take some time out to get his head straight and he had found his own solution.

He went upstairs to his room, from where I heard him declare: “But first I’ll tidy my toys away, so my room doesn’t get as messy as your pants.”

Ignoring the idea that he thinks I regularly shit myself, this was totally unheard of. Unbelievably, two weeks on, his room is still tidy.

A far cry from the time he told me: “You clean the house just to make it ready for me to make a mess again.”

A little while later, he popped into my study, where I was working, and demanded: “Come on Dad, let’s go and do my homework.”

I nearly fell out of my chair.

His maths homework was fractions. We began well, but then we got to a section he didn’t understand. I started to explain it to him, but before I could finish he screamed: “That’s not how you do it, Dad. I promise you.”
“Let me finish explaining,” I requested.
“No!”
“Put your listening ears on and let me finish,” I insisted.

I received a punch on the arm for my troubles.
“I’m not listening, nah, nah, nah, nah,” he shouted, putting his hands over his ears. He then ran out of the room and sat on the stairs.

I followed him and tried to continue with my explanation, but he kept his hands tight over his ears: “Nah, nah, nah, nah.”

I pulled his hands away and very calmly told him to let me explain, not to interrupt and then maybe he might understand how to do it. Unbelievably, he accepted this. He sat quietly while I talked.

“Oh,” he said, before running back to the table, where he promptly flew through the questions.

“Easy,” he declared triumphantly.

Like soldiers do

He is still enjoying the art and craft-based Create after-school club immensely. In fact my father, who usually picks him up from there, commented: “I think it’s really good for him. He seems much calmer than normal when he comes out and is very chatty when he gets home. I think it helps him relax after a busy day at school.”

“Well, we’ll see when I pick him up after Create won’t we,” I said, slightly pessimistically.

Last Monday I had to pick him up from art club. Two punches and being called a “turd” later, we made it back to our house.

I’ve had worse journeys home I suppose.

The other good news is that he has returned to judo. It was just a one-week blip. Maybe, he just didn’t feel like doing it the other day, which is perfectly understandable – we all have days like that. Maybe it was tied up with the issue of Roman Day and having to put on his own toga after judo.

This particular issue was solved twofold. First, I bought him a fancy dress costume off of that Amazon so the dressing problem would be negated and, two, Roman Day was postponed to later in the week.

Come the day, he got dressed up as a Roman soldier. The tunic came a little way below his pants, leaving his legs bare – and it was a bitterly cold day.

“Why don’t you put some trousers on underneath,” suggested the wife.
“I’m not allowed,” he replied.
“I’m sure you are. At least wear them to go to school in, you can always take them off once you get there.”
“But, I’m not allowed.”
“Of course you are,” the wife persisted.
“Well, yes I am allowed,” he conceded. “But I’m not allowed.”

Ah. It was his rules that weren’t allowing it. If he put trousers on, then he wouldn’t be an authentic Roman soldier. It’s the same with his judo kit. He refuses to wear a T-shirt under the jacket even though he is shivering on the way to school. Again, real judoists (is that a word?) don’t, so he can’t.

Other than that, by all accounts, Roman Day passed off without a hitch. He seemed to have a thoroughly good time: making a Roman helmet, baking bread Roman style, feasting at a banquet and re-enacting battle formations – this time without punching anyone (see Rolling with the punches).

The following day, though, the wife got a call from the school. Naturally thinking the worst, she answered hesitantly. But no, it was good news – he was going to be presented with a ‘School Wonder’ certificate in assembly and would she like to come along to watch.

Now, last year when he received one, you may recall, he refused to stand up, let alone venture on to the stage to receive it. As for answering questions from the head teacher forget it.

This time, though, he hopped up onto the stage to join his fellow achievers and to receive the plaudits. Sensibly they left him until last so he wasn’t up there for too long and they avoided any questioning.

But what did he get the certificate for, I hear you ask – sitting still for more than 10 minutes, helping to put the chairs out in the morning? No, no, no. This was for genuine, excellent work – for completely throwing himself into this term’s Roman topic. As his teacher explained to the assembly, he was “fabulous at Roman numerals, showed good design and attention to detail making mosaics, he was kind and helpful towards others, enthusiastic, volunteered answers and overall has been amazing throughout the whole topic and I’m really proud of him”.

For some reason, she didn’t mention his ‘over-enthusiasm’ for authentic battle tactics, though.

Changing of the guard?

The miracles kept on coming. The other Sunday, he was going through a day of, mostly, being very polite. He offered to help lay the table for dinner, made a drink for everyone and even fetched the wife’s phone for her. He sat at the table for the whole eating experience and ate everything on his plate, including the vegetables. He even complimented me on my cooking and thanked me for making it.

Again, a far cry from this little gem from a few months back, when rather than helping me with a particular task he had proved to be somewhat of a hindrance:
“Sorry for shouting, I know you were trying to help,” I said, after calm had been restored and said task completed.
“No I wasn’t,” he replied.
“Oh. You were trying to be annoying?”
“Yes.”

As bedtime approached, we went through the ritual of asking him if he wanted mum to do his stories, to which the usual answer is “NO!”, when, unexpectedly, he replied in the affirmative, “Er, OK.”

We looked at each other, flabbergasted. I went into the kitchen whistling ‘Happy days are here again’.

When it came to bedtime, he and the wife went up the stairs to his room. But, having got into his pyjamas, he slipped out of the bedroom, crept back downstairs and hid behind the door to the lounge.

“What’s up buddy?” I asked.
He was reluctant to say, but he looked upset.
“What’s the matter?”
Again, nothing.
“Is it because mum’s doing stories?”
He nodded.
“But you said you wanted her to do them.”
“I want you to do them, but mum really wants to do them.”

This was amazing. He had recognised the needs of another person and had tried his best to accommodate them, not wanting to upset her (she didn’t really want to do stories, but that’s not the point). But when it came down to it, he just couldn’t quite follow through on it. But it was a major step.

One week on, and it’s still me in the reading seat. We can but hope. 

Stop press: he actually asked the wife to read to him a couple of nights ago and it all went off swimmingly. Although, it did take him longer to settle afterwards. And it has so far been a one-evening wonder. But it sure felt good to have a night off.

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