You see the pictures on my instagram – a busy, happy and healthy brood of boys. What those pictures don’t tell you, amongst other things like the dirty laundry piled just out of shot, is that one of those beautiful boys believes he’s “not good enough”! Everyday he battles with with painfully low self-esteem, emotions he’s not equipped to control, anger that rages out of frustration to communicate effectively, and ostracisation.
But I’m not going to write about H’s anger issues as there’s no diagnosis, no cure and, at times, everyone around him is floundering for answers to help this little boy. Instead, I want to share a little of my frustration and anger – as unlike H, I’m able to highlight the exact things that make me seeth (poor Mr Only Girl!!).
Suffering from rock-bottom self-esteem has always left H looking externally for approval, none more so than that of his peers. In a bid to make/keep friends he always asked for the biggest, bestest birthday party, inviting as many people as he could remember. The planning would start 6 months in advance: the venue, the theme, the cake, the invitations – he’d make list after list of his ideal day, only comparable to a bride-zilla high on smell of luxury, letter-pressed stationary. I was always happy to go along with it, as it was something he enjoyed planning and, as a mother to a child continually alienating himself from friends due to volatility, I just wanted him to feel part of something special.
The BBC’s A-Word (haven’t watched it yet? DO!!) highlighted an issue many “different” children at school suffer from – the party invitations stop coming! The parties don’t stop – you see the invites being handed out, the excited kids being mini-bused off, the pictures on Facebook; it’s just they’d rather not have my child there – for fear he might lash out, become uncontrollable or make a scene! The parents don’t have the time to consider that in the last 3 years he’s come on leaps and bounds, that he would be the life and soul of your party and be very polite all the while. In fairness, why take this risk?! When I ask, “Do you mind you didn’t go to X’s party?” he replies, “No, it’s ok. Can I have him over to play soon instead?” But whilst this breaks my heart to hear his desperation to be “part of the gang”, this still wasn’t my truly gut-wrenching moment as a mother…
H had been planning his cinema party for 4 months, the Ninja Turtles Movie was coming out and he knew the 4 friends he wanted to join him on his popcorn gorging frenzy. I sent out the invites by text to all the chosen friends, as instructed by H. Then, sat and watched not only the original 4, but another 4 make shit excuses as to why their son wasn’t available for 4 hours on a rainy November afternoon. The lure of free cinema, food and childcare wasn’t enough to convince them to take a chance on H. In their eyes he was trouble – worth being avoided! I shouted, I cried, I ranted and I sobbed some more – it still makes me breakdown into a blubbering mess. When growing up we’re constantly prepared for rejection – be it school auditions, team try-outs, beauty pageants – but no-one, and I mean not a single soul, can prepare you for how you’ll feel if your own child is rejected.
But that “angry” child didn’t cry, didn’t shout, didn’t lash out – he took it in (probably bottled it up for another day at counselling), turned to me and said “I wanted to go with my brothers anyway!”.