I’ll be honest, I’ve recited this post in my head a thousand times – never getting further than the fourth line. I’ve promised (my instagram following and myself) for a few months that I’d share what it is exactly that we’re going through with my beautiful, biggest bean – Hugo. Sometimes things are just too great to share in a social media caption, and definitely too monumental to squeeze into a 15 second instagram story. But the main reason I’ve procrastinated over this tome for the past two months – abandoning all other writing until this was complete, is that it’s hard to write about something when I’m not sure where it began, it feels like we could be in the middle and I most certainly don’t know if it will ever end.
But even before I begin, a preface if you will, I need to mention a couple of things. As always, I have Hugo’s permission to share our story. Secondly, Hugo, 85% of the time is a wonderful, intelligent, talented, sporty, witty and glorious person. It’s unfortunately that the other 15% is coming close to ruining our lives and Hugo is adamant there is nothing he can do to stop it. We’re trapped on Hugo’s emotional roller-coaster – I just hope someone finds the brakes or gives us a soft landing when we crash.
The Beginning-y Bit
For the best part of 8 years, Hugo has struggled to cope with the myriad of emotions that come with being human. He has violent outbursts, becomes angry and intimidating when things don’t go his way, has incredibly low self-esteem, consequences (no matter how large) will not deter Hugo once he “sees red” and once an outburst is over, it’s as though he can’t even remember it and wonders why we’re all rather cautious. Hugo’s saving grace is his unconditional love and kindness with his littlest brother and animals; it doesn’t matter how torrid he’s acting/feeling – these two things can bring him round, from what can seem like a mental cage of torment.
As a toddler, we all assumed he’d grow out of biting his peers, punching and kicking his brother for the most minuscule of reasons – but now, aged ten, whilst his MO may have altered slightly, his emotional development beyond pre-school seems to have faltered.
It’s easy to come to the conclusion that Hugo’s just a “naughty boy”, but I feel we’re beyond that. We’re now in territory that feels unbalanced, out of control and trapped. With over 3 years of counselling, anger management, and numerous pleas to our GP and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) – I feel like I’m left with a shell of my child, isolating himself from all friends, dealing with everyday situations he’s not equipped to cope with, and on the edge of being expelled from his primary school, as his attitude and violent behaviour are becoming overwhelming for all involved; I’ve banged every part of my being against the brick wall begging for help – but no-one’s listening?!
For the past four years, Hugo’s behavioural progress, although snail pace, was on the up. The chair throwing in class had moved into walking out the classroom when he was feeling on edge; the daily incidents had turned into a weekly blip. Hugo seemed to have made a close friend or two and was actually “keeping” them. As a mother I felt I could walk into the school playground at pick-up time and not avoid eye contact with other mums in case their little darling had been on the receiving end of my son’s temper. At home, although the lashing out at Bruno and outbursts continued, they were decreasing and we had learnt coping mechanisms for minimising Hugo’s triggers. To be honest, we learnt to tread on eggshells in order to keep the peace, picking our battles – whilst it might not have been solving the problems, it become more about living with them and getting through each day.
Then September came – we’ve been on a continuous spin cycle of Hugo’s outbursts at school. Whether the contributing factors were our house extension/moving out for a couple of months, a change of teachers, a year group shake-up of peers or a developmental shift – I don’t know, but whatever the reasons, Hugo, unlike our other children, has not dealt with these changes in a “normal” way.
We’re now “on day 13” as the school like to call it. I’ve since learnt this refers to the number of days suspension in the latest school year. Hugo’s on a “zero tolerance” plan, whereby he only has to consider a kick/punch/slap/shove and he’s suspended for a day. I’m no longer sure if suspension is being used a punishment for Hugo or a break for his teachers ans classmates. We’re having to accept that permanent exclusion (expulsion to you and me!) is a very real possibility.
Conclusion – but not the end!
So, there you have it – a perfectly fit, healthy 10 year old boy, who loves football, his baby brother and cucumber, slowly, but fiercely pushing all that he holds dear further and further away. For a child that craves to be popular more than I need a cuppa in the morning, he doesn’t seem to be able to grasp appropriate responses to those friends he wants to cling to so vehemently.
Today he’s played football, cracked jokes over lunch, cuddled Casper and told me he loves me four times. But what might happen next – we never know.
Goodness, I feel you have just described my 7 year old son. I can empathise with every word of this as we too are living a life with a wonderful boy who is funny and articulate but who regularly turns into an angry, scared and aggressive little boy. At this very moment I am lying beside him trying to calm him down as being too hot in his bed has sent him into a spiral of anger.
Thank you for posting this – I feel less isolated knowing there are other families in the same situation. All the best – from one only girl in the house to another x
I’ve just read your story and can relate 100%. I really feel for your son as mine is 8 and a half and struggles in the same way. CAHMS were involved too. He has these outbursts of rage like you speak of and is so remorseful afterwards when he calms down. The rest of the time he’s a loving happy soul who adores his little brother but his emotions overwhelm him like they do Hugo. We’ve learnt to try and minimise the damage…we do lots and lots of talking to try and teach him to express his feelings. It’s exhausting as the parents and I think you do so incredibly well to stay positive. Thanks for sharing. All the best to you and Hugo for the future. X
Wow I am glad to read this. I have just found your blog due to Instagram. I can relate to this post in so many ways. My son who is 5 sounds very similar. We are working with school at the moment but I have watched my son’s self-esteem be destroyed by the fact he is the ‘naughty boy’. I never know how each day will end. As a family we are exhausted and barely surviving. Who knows what the future holds. Thank you for sharing your post x
I am a teacher and I wish I could let everyone parent in my classes see life from the other side. Children are children and they all deserves respect and understanding from adults when trying to find their way in life. I really hope your son and others like him realise not everybody thinks they are monsters and and that everybody comes in different packages. Although not nice for others to experience violent outbursts of another child, it is far less traumatic than the loneliness and isolation these children can feel. Well done and thank you for telling your story. I hope your son learns to love himself even with his flaws (we all have them!)
Wow I just cried reading this, thank you to hear this from a teacher is wonderful there are so many who just do not get my son and expect him to fit a certain package! x
This is so relatable even down to the cucumber. I am really struggling with what to do with my 5 year old even though the violent outbursts have declined . But he is still very disruptive in school (and everywhere) but on the other side smart loving and very self conscious. Just so hard to know what is best
My 9 year old daughter would fly into a rage at the drop of a hat and constantly seemed to be using her fight or flight response when she wasn’t in control of something. She finds it really hard to relax and is never asleep before 10 each evening, leaving both my husband and I exhausted.
We have since found a place in the New Forest that has actually listened to us and explained to us that the emotional side of my daughter’s brain is under developed hence she is stuck in her fight or flight mode. Since going to see Robin, we’ve had exercises to do and supplements to take and we’ve seen a marked difference.
I feel for you. I have the ‘naughty’ child AND the one who is stuck in a rage and it’s not easy.
Keep going with H and know that you’re not alone. I’m most definitely in your gang and know how hard life is with a child who is the round peg in a square hole x