Can I share a story with you?
A story behind who ‘that mum’ really is.
You see ‘that mum’ found herself on a roller-coaster of a journey, a journey that she hadn’t really ever planned to ride, and she certainly hadn’t read the guidelines for!
Now you may be read this and think that mum sounds just like me, I’m so relieved that I’m not alone.
Or you may read this and think I know that mum; and I never realised that’s why she stands in the playground each day looking down at the floor, maybe I’ll go and talk to her?
Or finally you could read this and think I hadn’t realised how much courage it took for that mum to finally open up to me and let me into her world.
So here is the story of ‘that mum’
One morning in September there was a playground full of nervous little kids. All looking so grown up; wearing their crisp clean uniforms, and running around in their squeaky new shoes. Their parents were beginning to smile and nod at each other in a knowing kind of way, all as nervous as each other. Then the awkward silence was broken by the bell ringing loudly, a signal to everyone that it was now time. Time for all the anxious parents to let go, and time for the children to start on their journey of discovery.....as it was their first day of school
Well here she is
Here in the middle of this
But her son was screaming, and clinging onto her as if his life depended on it, and she was wishing the ground would swallow them up, as all eyes looked in their direction.
Her poor boy, why was he being like this, why couldn’t he just be like all the other kids?
Day after day as his anxiety continued she told herself it was just his nerves, it would soon settle. But niggling in her gut was this fear that she couldn’t shake; a feeling that something with her child was different. Yes he was anxious, and yes he needed routine, but more than she would have expected for a little 5 year old boy....She suspected there was more going on, but she was too afraid to admit it yet, even to herself.
So instead she distracted herself with thoughts of the football matches they would proudly stand and watch. And the school plays they would sniffle through, and that kept her focused for a while.
But slowly she began to realise that her son was just unique from his classmates. She watched with a feeling of envy as the other mums in the playground collected their kids who were all smiles and laughter. And she found herself beginning to avoid eye contact with them to ensure she didn’t have any awkward conversations about how well it was going. She just couldn’t face opening up to them, or worse having to pretend that everything was OK.
So she would stand in the corner and wait nervously for that first glimpse of her son, as she knew instantly as soon as she saw him what kind of day he’d had, and therefore what kind of evening they would face at home.
He would stomp out at the back of the class looking pale, scowling at her whilst chucking his bag in her direction, and then he would often explode in the car, pushing his sister away and sobbing uncontrollably. He was struggling with the demands of school. Then teatime would become a battle zone, and homework ... well let’s not even go there with homework! It was just the most horrific time of the day and left them both feeling battered and bruised with the stress.
Day after day she began to question what more she could do, and then the guilt would eat away at her because she was a working mum. She was clinging on by her fingernails. It was exhausting, especially when she didn’t really know why it was happening, she had no answers, and no one else saw it but her family. But deep down she just knew......
Everyday was getting harder and harder to get him into school, and eventually she became so exhausted holding it all together and putting up this front. Tired and worn down she knew something had to give.
She felt sick.. She had to start being honest with herself and stop pretending everything was OK.
This is not something she wanted to have to do. You see she wanted to be the mum on the PTA organising the cake sales, and dutifully volunteering as a mum helper, reading once a week with his class. That’s the journey she had expected to be taking with her 5 year old son, not this roller-coaster ride she was now on.
It would take all her courage to start this conversation with someone she barely knew and let anyone glimpse into her world. A world she had kept hidden for so long to protect her son from prying eyes and judgement.
She felt like she had been slowly climbing this roller-coaster for months, higher and higher she had gone..... she was now at the top of the climb facing a momentous drop into the unknown, there was no other way down.... she was so scared.
What would she say?
What would she think?
Would she think she was a bad parent?
Would she call social services?
Will she laugh at me?
So her defence walls were guarded. The war paint was on as means of protecting her feelings keeping her dignity intact.
She avoided it for days, head down, looking at no-one. Never quite plucking up the courage, and never finding the right time to start a conversation. But then one particularly morning full of stress (non uniform day) she simply could take no more, and whilst peeling her screaming son off her leg, her gaze caught the teacher’s eye. And the emotions simply overflowed, tears began to well up and slowly trickle down her face.
This is where her complex journey with school as a special needs mum begins.
This is where my journey to becoming ‘that mum’ all started!
Mrs M x
A version of this blog can be found on http://www.kathybrodie.com/