Wednesday, 28 August 2013

It Takes a Village Full of Kevlar....

It takes an entire village to raise a child, so the saying goes.
I’d amend that to say it takes a village full of Kevlar to raise a teenage boy.

I came to this conclusion last week whilst foraging for blackberries by the river with my mate Gill Hoffs & her gorgeous little boy. ( Our day out came 2 days after I had gone through the most nerve wracking morning of my life, and I was feeling quite reflective.

Last year, during my first year gathering blackberries, I did a few things right, a few things wrong.  I wore long sleeves. GOOD. I didn't wear gloves. BAD. This year, I swapped that around. I wore gloves and saved my manicure (a rare accomplishment for me, nice nails). I forgot long sleeves. My arms looked like cat scratching poles. All weekend, through jam making, smoothie making, freezing punnets for winter treats, my skin stung, puckered, itched and bubbled from contact with nettles and berry thorns.  But….that jam is so divine it was worth every ounce of pain and hassle. I might even go back in a few days and get more berries, heaven knows there’s gallons more there. This time I'll wear long sleeves.

And so to Kevlar. I’m short. My 16yo son calls me a hobbit. The whole time I was in those berry bushes, I just wanted to push in deeper, climb up a bit higher, get every juicy berry I could see. I wanted Kevlar and a stepladder.

As I was wishing for more protection on my arms, I was thinking back to a few days previous. To Thursday. To the day when Mike and I, along with other UK parents of 16 year olds, waited with a clenched fist of dread in our stomachs, for the results of GCSE tests.

It’s been no secret to any one in my real life circle of family and friends that raising our 16yo son has been a battle since day one. From a very small age he has been an uncontrollable ball of energy, a screamer of questions, a speeding rocket of dangerous inclinations. When he was 7 we were told he had ADHD. Not great news since I have Multiple Sclerosis, and find many things in life a challenge.

School was a huge trauma. Not that he wasn't good, he was. He saved all his acts of defiance and vandalism for home. At school he was sweet, kind, goofy, charming. But he couldn't sit still, couldn't do quiet work. Couldn't do homework. Couldn't stop distracting everyone else.

In primary school it wasn't too much of a problem as they had a strict rota standardized across all years for English & Maths homework. I always knew what was due and when. High school was a NIGHTMARE. We spent years fighting with him and teachers trying to keep on top of assignments, projects, trips, money due, evening programs. Simple things like remembering his PE kit or food for cookery class were just beyond him. Each time he missed a homework assignment he got a detention. Each time he got a detention, he was grounded. It got to the point that family teased him and pointed to the grass & sky asking him how long it had been since he’d seen them. Girlfriends threatened to dump him because they never spent time together. We despaired because he wasn't stupid. Far from it. He was blindingly intelligent. Just unfocused, dithery, flighty. His grades never reflected how sharp he was. We were frustrated, and so was he.

Then this year, in his last year of school before he heads off to college, he suddenly  GOT IT. He went crazy, astonished us all. When he walked out of the school hall waving his results, when we saw THAT LOOK- that look of personal pride on his face, it was worth all the battle scars. Worth all the tears (his & ours), worth all the screaming and grounding and arguing. All the money spent on tutors. He got brilliant grades that finally were a true reflection of all the cleverness hiding behind his disjointed struggling.

But looking back on it, I still wish I’d been better prepared. I wish I’d had some sort of Kevlar, something to protect me a little from the pain and stress of all the years that had gone before. Something to help me deal with it better. I often worried that in my efforts to help his future, I was permanently damaging our relationship.

Good Jam. Good kids. It takes some effort. But it’s worth every bit of it. Especially when they have that look on their faces. That look that says WOW, finally. I feel like a worthwhile person.

That look that says that they found in themselves what you knew was there all along.


 Yummmm. Want some jam? Too bad, we're not sharing!

The boy with his guitar. He got a Distinction* in Performing Arts, an A in Music.

 The reward for pulling his grade up in math from a fail to a pass? A designer Karl Pilkington t-shirt.
 (Do I know how to score mum points or what?)  (go on. ask me where you can get one, I know you want to! Tom Davies on twitter @1TD)

No comments:

Post a Comment