The boy’s teacher rang me during school hours (not that she rings me out of school hours – that would be weird). That’s never a good thing.
“I just wanted to let you know about an incident that happened today,” she said.
I braced myself.
“We were in PE, acting out some Roman battle scenes, when [DS1] decided to punch one of the girls in the stomach. He then wrapped his arms around her neck. It was bad enough that she had to go to the medical unit and her parents will need to be told what happened.”
“Oh, that’s not good,” I lamely replied. “Oh, fecking hell,” may have been more apt.
“At no point did we indicate that there should be any contact,” she continued.
“We took him out of PE because he couldn’t be trusted to continue and he has been to see the head. As a result, he will lose his break and lunch time.”
“Did he acknowledge he’d done it?” I asked.
“Yes, he agrees that he shouldn’t have done it and that it was not a good thing to do. I have made him think about how the girl must be feeling, how I am feeling and I asked him how he thinks his mum and dad will feel about it.”
“Has he said sorry?” I asked.
“No, I don’t think he has yet. That’s my next thing to tackle.”
“Do you know why he did it?”
“He said he didn’t know why.”
“There’s been nothing this weekend to suggest something like this was coming,” I said. “However, he did refuse to go to judo this morning, so I think there is something troubling him. But he said there wasn’t and he couldn’t tell me why he wouldn’t go to judo, just that he didn’t want to do it today.”
We resolved to try and find out what the underlying reason was.
When he came home, he seemed chipper – even taking into account that his Nana and Grandpa had picked him up from school and he’d had a couple of hours at their house.
As we left there, Nana called out: “See you next week.”
“Yes, unfortunately,” he retorted. As you know, social etiquette is not his strong point.
Anyway, back home, I tackled him about the day’s events.
“Do you want to tell me what happened in PE today?” I enquired.
“Oh, so why did your teacher phone to tell me you’d punched Sonia?”
“I didn’t touch her.”
He was playing the denial card. I probed for a little while longer but met resolute resistance. I leave it… for now. I need to play the waiting game. He’ll tell me when he’s good and ready (I hope).
His refusal to go to judo has been coming for a little while. Every Sunday this term (and some of last term, to be honest), when I put his judo kit out ready for him for the morning, he has uttered: “Oh, not judo.”
“But you like judo, you wanted to do it, so yes it is.”
“But, it starts so early.”
“But, you’ve been up two hours before it’s even time to leave the house!”
And that’s been that. He’s put his kit on and off we’ve set. He always seems to enjoy it once he’s there – as far as I can tell.
But this time, there was no persuading him otherwise. He promised that it was a one-off and that he would go next week, but I have a feeling that as far as him and judo are concerned the game is up. Something must have happened to make him not want to go, but what, I don’t know – and I probably never will.
It’s a pity – I think it’s good for him. Exercise before the school day starts helps him release some tension. It was interesting that the punching incident came on the day he didn’t go to judo. Judo can help build his confidence, and it may be useful to get him out of some tricky situations when he is older. But once his mind is made up, there’s usually no changing it.
On the plus side he has started an after-school club – Create, which is an art and craft based lesson. It seems to be right up his street. Maybe doing two clubs a week is proving too much for him – and Create is the new one of choice, so judo must go. Who knows?
He also went trampolining at the weekend, with his mate Henry, where they met up with an old friend of the wife’s and her three kids, who he’d never met before.
He had a whale of a time, non-stop bouncing for two hours. He dealt with the cacophony of noise in the huge hall and mixing with new people admirably.
We fully expected to cop it later, though, when once back in the safety of his own home he could let all his anxiety out. But he was as good as gold.
“Can we go again?” he asked enthusiastically afterwards.
As an aside, he wore his hoodie for the full two hours and was sweating buckets. He didn’t once contemplate removing it, despite the fact he was boiling. Contrast that to refusing to wear a jumper to school when it’s bitterly cold.
Dazed and confused
He was removed from another lesson recently, but not quite in the same way.
We got home from school and he asked me: “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
“Let’s start with the bad,” I said, wondering where this was going to lead.
“I got sent out of the best lesson of the day – RE.”
Two things struck me. First, obviously, why on earth is RE the best lesson of the day; and, second, oh shit, what’s he done now?
But it wasn’t that type of sending out. He had an alternative lesson to go to – understanding emotions, one of the requirements in his individual education plan, which in turn forms part of his EHCP.
“Why did you get sent out?” I asked.
“To do a stupid emotions game… The good news is I won it.”
“Oh, that’s good. What did you have to do?”
“You had to roll the dice and then move along the board and when you landed on an ‘emotion’, you had to describe a time when you felt like that.”
“Can you give me an example?”
“What, of one I landed on?”
“That would be good, yes.”
“And what did you say for Confused?”
Facing the facts
I said the punching thing came from nowhere but, thinking about it, only last week he punched the wife in the face because things weren’t going how he wanted to them to in a game they were playing.
I pulled him away, sat him down and told him that this was not how we deal with a situation when things don’t go to plan.
“Serves her right,” he said.
“Er, no. If we aren’t happy about something we talk things through, we don’t punch people.”
I wouldn’t say he concurred but he didn’t push it any further.
The situation dealt with I thought no more about it, until his Grannie, who was sat on the sofa at the time (and this may indirectly have been the cause of his unacceptable behaviour), remarked on the fact that the punching incident and subsequent telling off had not resulted in a full-scale meltdown. He’d calmly accepted it and moved on.
Not having witnessed this sort of behaviour for a while, she had fully expected it to kick off big time, and she saw his more mature reaction as a sign of how he was improving.
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think she’s right.
Digging for clues
Grannie had brought with her some Roman artifacts that she had extracted when she had worked on an archaeological dig in her village a couple of years ago. She thought DS1 might want to take them into school and show the class, as part of their Roman theme.
These broken bits of pottery and roof tiles fascinated him. But when I asked him if he wanted to take them into school, it was clear he was too scared to do so – because this would mean having to explain to the class what they were.
Even though, he knew all about them, the physical act of speaking aloud in front of people was too much. It would initiate questions that he wouldn’t be able to answer – and this needed to be avoided.
“Do you want to take them in and show your class?” I asked.
“Yes, but I just can’t do it,” he replied, his voice quivering.
Sad to hear, maybe, but the fact he was able to identify and communicate this to me is another example of the strides (or rather, little steps) he is making.
So we made a plan for him to take them in and I would explain to his teacher what they were and she could take it from there. The smile returned to his face.
Maybe it’s the disruption to normal lessons that the Roman theme is having – even though he is enjoying it – and the fact that next Monday is Roman day (when they have to go dressed in a toga) that is fuelling his anxiety.
Roman day also coincides with judo day, which means he’ll have to put the toga on himself, rather than go to school already dressed in it. Something he has already expressed a worry about. Maybe this is why he is backing out of judo – to avoid that problem.
Sometimes, you have to play the detective to find out what on earth is going on in that head of his. Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at Morse code.