“My foot hurts,” DS1 complained.

He’d mentioned it the night before, but there was no sign of physical damage, and he couldn’t remember doing anything to hurt it. And it was certainly a rubbish excuse if he was looking for a day off.

But hurt it did, he insisted. So much so that – as he exaggeratedly limped to school at a pace that meant by the time we got there we’d have to turnaround again because school would have finished – I decided it would be prudent to turn back and restart the journey by car.

He hobbled back to the car, which was a painful experience – more for me than him – bundled him in the car and hurtled around the streets at breakneck speed to dump him outside the school gate with seconds to spare.

“Do you want me to pick you up in the car as well?” I asked.
“Yes.”

As I waited for him in the playground after school, he emerged in tears.

Brilliant (or words to the opposite effect), I thought. Was this the foot or something more complicated to decipher? I wondered.

“What’s up, mate?” I enquired.
“[My teacher] told me to go out of the classroom by the back door. She can’t tell me to leave that classroom – it’s not her one.”

Oh, this old chestnut again.

“She can. And, anyway, it’s not like Henry is still in there – he came out ages ago.”
“He didn’t.”
“But, he’s over there playing football,” I pointed.
“He didn’t come out before me.”
“Well, I saw him come out five minutes ago.”
“He didn’t.”

I let it lie (or should that be, I let him lie) – there were clearly bigger issues afoot.

Talking of foot. “Does your foot still hurt?”
“Yes.”
“Well, I’ve got the car.”

Although this was a good thing as far as his walking ability was concerned, it caused another crisis – he wouldn’t be able to walk home with his friends, and he wouldn’t leave the playground until they did.

Fair enough, but, as I pointed out, the car was only 50m away and we wouldn’t be walking home with them, so we may as well get going.

But, he was having none of it.

I metaphorically dragged him, kicking and screaming all the way to the car, while all the time he was chastising me for not letting him walk with his mates.

“But we’ve got the car and your foot hurts,” I reasoned.

Once I’d got him in the car (not the easiest of jobs), he sat, arms folded, with a face on, refusing to put on his seatbelt.

I didn’t stop to think that there may be an underlying cause to his demeanour and seized instead on his immediate disobedience, thinking he was just being ridiculous about the ‘leaving the classroom incident’ and not being able to walk home with his friends (even though he’d asked me to pick him up in the car).

At home, once I’d got him out of the car (not the easiest of jobs), he flopped, subdued, onto the sofa. I left him to chill. This was not the time to go through the whys and wherefores.

Weird science

A little while later he sought me out and gave me a huge hug – his way of saying sorry. But what happened next was unprecedented – he actually told me what was wrong, unprompted and on the same day that the problem had occurred!

“It was science day today,” he told me.
“Oh, yes.”
“It was supposed to be fun, but it wasn’t.”
Oh, how come?”
“I didn’t get to do as much as the others.”
“Why not?”

He explained how the first experiment had involved them being in small groups and they had been given an assortment of foodstuffs (I think) to see what effect they had on the colouring when dropped into some cabbage water.

“I only got to do it once and the others had three goes,” he complained. “And for the exploding can experiment, I only got to put the can on the floor.”

The exploding can experiment? Put the can on the floor before it was detonated or while the fuse was lit? A myriad of questions. But I opted to concentrate on the main one at hand.

“Did you say to the others that you hadn’t had the same number of goes?”
“Yes, but they all wanted to do the fun bits. I just got to do the boring ones.”

How vociferous he’d been I don’t know. I suspect he was more of a wallflower.

“Wasn’t one of the teachers with you, to keep an eye on things, and make sure everyone got the same number of turns?” I asked.
“No.”

I doubted that, but with the whole school taking part and pupils moving around different classrooms, I guess individual/group facilitators were in short supply.

This break from the normal school routine and having to cope with different classrooms and different teachers would have been hard enough for him to deal with as it was. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d just shut down.

“For the last experiment, no one wanted to pair with me,” he continued, dejectedly.

The nature of this task escapes me, but he completed it with one of the teachers, so all was not lost. But was he left unpaired because he was being annoying or for some other reason?

“Do you want me to talk to your teacher about it, so we can make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again?”
“No!”

The fear of being singled out, being talked about and, perhaps, having to talk to a teacher about it was more of an issue for him than the problem that had caused his upset in the first place.

Still, on the positive side, I had solved a mystery on the same day.

Hiding under the (league) table

A similar occurrence occurred soon after. He was busy making lists to do with his U-10s football team, but couldn’t find the league table on the club’s website.

“What’s the name of the league, they play in?” I asked. “We can look that up on the Internet and maybe the league table will be on there.”
“League I.”
“No, that will be the division they play in. What’s the name of the league?”
“It’s League I.”
“Hmmm, I’ll need more than that. League I will be like, say, League One is a division in the English Football League.”
“It’s League I,” he insisted.
Right. “OK, I’ll ask [your coach] where we can find the table, next time I see him.”
“You can’t ask him,” he panicked.
“But, I’m sure he’d be happy you are so interested.”
“Say you’re interested, not me.”

Even though he desperately wanted to know something, the thought of drawing attention to himself so that he could find out the answer filled him with dread.

Prize fighter

Although, on other occasions he has no qualms about drawing attention to himself – albeit inadvertently.

We were invited to a bingo night (that’s how we roll) at his friend Henry’s rugby club. This was set to be a noisy, crowded affair. One where I expected he might kick off. But, equally, he has to learn how to cope with such events – and the only way he is going to do that is to expose him to them – and I figured with his best friend along for the ride he would be fine(ish).

Indeed, he was… for the main part. Apart from an incident over sharing a bag of crisps, which saw them go flying across the table and all over the seats. The concept of a few bags opened up and left in the middle of the table for people to dip into was lost on him. He wanted the cheese and onion ones and he was damn sure going to have them – to himself.

The bingo itself went swimmingly, despite a lack of wins on our table. So much so, we stayed a bit longer than we originally intended, taking in another game while we waited for the raffle to be drawn.

We all had a strip of raffle tickets, which we placed in the middle of the table, explaining to the kids that we would share any prize we won (except the bottle of vodka, obviously).

As luck (or not) would have it number 41 was called – one of ours. And a £30 voucher for a pub/restaurant was secured.

“That was my ticket,” DS1 insisted, as he snatched the envelope containing the voucher.
“No, they were all our tickets and we are sharing the prize,” I advised.
“Yes, I know, but 41 was in my strip.”
“All the tickets were in the middle, we didn’t allocate the strips,” I explained.

I think 41 was in the strip nearest to him, but…

A battle of wills ensued as to who would be taking the voucher home.

“It doesn’t matter who keeps the voucher,” I said. “We will all go together. So [Henry’s dad] can look after it.”

This went down like a lead balloon. But I was making a stand, that he can’t have everything his own way. Life doesn’t work like that.

When we got out of the car as we were being dropped off, I reclaimed the envelope from DS1’s grasp and handed it to Henry’s dad for safekeeping.

That was perhaps an error. But a point had to be made.

The rest of the evening didn’t go too well. He kicked off big time about the envelope, raging to the wife about how it was his ticket, that it was all my fault, I was an idiot and I was ruining his life. A few punches and kicks were thrown in for good measure, as well.

Despite the fact it was already well past his bedtime, it was another hour and a half before we got him to settle as tiredness finally took over and he fell asleep. The rage postponed.

As coincidence would have it, we were going to watch the football team he trains with play the next morning.

As we said hello to Henry’s dad, he handed me the wretched envelope.

“I thought you might need this,” he said.

How very perceptive.

There was a slight smile on DS1’s face, as I took possession of the prized voucher – a look of satisfaction, perhaps.

Needless to say, the voucher hasn’t been mentioned since.

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