Today was the dreaded Christmas carol sing along at my sons school. For the last two years he hasn’t coped with all the chattering noise, pre-christmas excitement and expectation to perform. The first year he managed one and a half carols, last year he managed almost one and we left early, and this year he broke down completely. You may ask why do I continue to allow him to participate? The thing is, each year he is a new child, and many things he didn’t cope with last year he manages well this year. He rehearses the songs and enjoys the music, but on the day it all becomes too much to cope with. So whilst the other children sang ‘Rudolph the red nose reindeer’ he huddled in a corner whimpering. His teacher and teaching assistant were lovely and spoke gently to him trying to ease his anxieties, they accepted he needed some space and allowed us to retreat to a quiet room to help him to relax. I got him a plate of food from the buffet and he munched through it whist spinning on a chair, I hoped he would feel comforted, and he seemed to show signs of winding down. I asked him if he would like to leave, he didn’t answer but instead spoke about a wooden tank that he had made and wanted to show me, he bolted off saying he had to find a teacher who could unlock the woodwork room, I caught up with him, as he frantically scurried through the hall ways, shouting, “I must find him!” The carols sang out, ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’ whilst my son sang out, “Where the f… is he?” I tried to explain to him that all the teachers were with the children and parents singing, and it may be easier to find him if we wait until the end of the carols. He reluctantly agreed, and finally we joined the others in the hall, and for a brief moment I felt relief, but it was brief, he had made up his mind that he wasn’t staying, and this time bolted through all the parents who were teary eyed watching their little ones singing, ‘The Bear and the Hare’ such a beautiful tune – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqWig2WARb0). He tried to get out of the school front door, which was locked and supervised, his shouting began to penetrate through the children’s singing, so the children sang louder to try to drown out his noise. We opened the front door for him to leave to be able to get some fresh air and cool off, but it was too late the red mist had descended and he was beyond all reasoning, he kicked every wall, he hit out, punching and swearing loudly, the children continued to sing as loud as they possibly could, eventually my son had to be dragged outside because he was like a wild animal caught in a trap, he desperately needed freeing. Once outside he ran to the middle of the playing field and paced as if still confined by walls. I stood watching him from a distance, but just insight so that he knew I was there for him; my tears stung my eyes as I held them back; I love him so much but when he’s like this, I feel so helpless, he feels out of my reach, as if he is transported in his mind to another place; his pacing eased and he then stood still staring into the sky. The singing had ended and I noticed the children and parents had begun to leave, one parent approached me and said, “Try not to worry my little Tommy has moments like that, he’ll be ok”, I felt like I was about to crumble into a blubbering heap, but I turned back to look at my son who was slowly walking towards me, I felt anxious, I waited and stood still as he approached, he hesitated about a metre away from me but didn’t look at me, he looked down. I wanted to grab him and hug him and tell him that it was alright, that it didn’t matter, that it wasn’t his fault – but instead I stood and waited because I knew that was all about what I wanted to do, I wasn’t sure what he needed; he eventually moved up close to me, still not looking at me he butted his head into me and said, “Im so sorry mum, I just couldn’t help myself, I just want my tank and to go home”. His lovely teacher unlocked the woodwork room and retrieved his tank, “Thank you so much sir, I’m so sorry”. They were all very understanding and reassured him with kind words. On the journey home, he sought reassurance from me too, I wanted him to know my unconditional love for him but I also didn’t want to pretend that nothing had happened, so I said, “I love you sooo much, but it makes me feel sooo sad to see you that unhappy and angry.” Tears rolled down my face, and he looked at me and touched my face, and said again “I’m sorry” (he often says sorry in his everyday conversations, even when it’s not required, he seems to use it as a pattern of speech and I wonder how much he understands), so I said, “it’s not about saying sorry darling, I just wish for you to feel happiness”. Later that evening, after his bath, when he was relaxed we talked some more. I explained to him about how he is getting bigger and stronger (he will soon be eleven, but he is more like the size of a big strong fourteen year old). I asked him, “How did you feel to see me looking sad?” He said, “You still look sad in your eyes, and it makes me feel sad” and I explained to him that was why I felt sad, because it hurts my heart when I see him so angry and sad. He kissed me on the cheek and said, “Smiling is better”, I smiled at him and he smiled back and then said, “A horlicks and two biscuits, that would really make me smile” 🙂
Now he is in bed and settling to sleep, now it’s my quiet time to reflect on how I handled the situation, question what I could have done better, what I should and shouldn’t have said, how I can teach him better coping skills – I type this, I cry, I feel tired, I feel useless, I think about The Bear and the Hare – Why does my heart feel so heavy?