Thursday, 15 January 2015

Dark Matter

I think it's almost morning. I've been awake since 3.50am,when Olly awoke from a bad dream. He wouldn't settle until he came into my bed. I lay there with my arm around my precious boy, feeling terribly sad. It would appear that he isn't settling into school as well as he might. It would appear that he is having difficulty with the 'social and emotional aspects of school life.' I know this because I had an hour long conversation with his very lovely teacher this week. It was quite a body blow, and apart from my Dad, it's occupied most of my waking thoughts (apart from last nights documentary on the economic conspiracy to keep the super rich, well, super rich. I knee jerked on FB about it, and got told off by my sister in law).

I hope you don't mind, but I have some thoughts. I'm throwing them out in the hope that it may give me some clarity of vision. I can't guarantee that it will make any sense once I get going. I'm processing on the page here. It's what I do in times of stress. You may wonder why I don't just jot it down in a notebook. I have. And then some. But for some reason it isn't making me feel any better. So I turn to you. My blog. My scrapbook of stuff.

I'm often worried that I sit on the fence. I worry that my opinions aren't firmly rooted on one side of the divide or the other. I can't help that. It's who I am. I always see things from both sides. I can often flip sides during a conversation about most things, and then back again. It's not that I don't have strong personal opinions and convictions, but I sometimes wonder whether my counselling training honed in on that aspect of my character, refined it, and then sent me off with a desire to understand how it may be for someone else. Try going into your living room, and sitting somewhere other than the place you usually sit. Then look at your surroundings from that place. You may notice things differently. You may see different aspects of light and shade to the room that weren't apparent before. You may even like it better there. Now go and sit where you usually do. Does it still look the same, after having sat somewhere else?

When I look at my three children, I see the light and the shade. I see the good and the bad. I peel back their layers. There are many, and they are complex. If I peel back Olly's, I see a little boy who is bright and articulate. He is feisty and quick tempered. He can do and say unpleasant things at times, but is also caring and loving. He loves to create, and has a wonderful imagination. He displays top dog behaviour, and revels in being the centre of attention. He is funny and cheeky, but can also be rude and rather cruel. He is fizzing with energy and has an unbridled enthusiasm for adventure. He is demanding, and exhausting. I may not like some of these traits, but I love the whole that they make up. I love him completely.

So to be told that he is sometimes behaving in a way that only shows those dark layers upsets me. I want Olly to be a likeable member of the class, to get on well with his peers, to be respectful and behave appropriately. I don't want Olly to be excluded from activities, to be rude to his teachers and unpleasant to his friends. I'm wondering whether this attention seeking and rule breaking is a "notice me" call. I'm wondering just how much his little self is struggling to cope with school life. I'm wondering whether he is simply being unpleasant, and there's no real or adequate explanation for why.

You may have had or have 'breezy' children. Those children that seem to cruise through their school years with no trials and tribulations whatsoever. You may be the kind of person who wouldn't be able to see or confront the dark side of your own child. You may have had terrible difficulties with your children, who then grew into wonderful adults. None of my children have been 'breezy.' And I have been guilty of only seeing the not so pleasant traits of their characters at times. Sometimes it's because that's all they present for a while. But often it's because I lose my own sense of seeing them completely. I forget to go sit in another part of the room, and look at them from there.

I fear that this week I've started to do that with Pops. If his teacher feels that he needs a little extra support I should embrace it. I should wholeheartedly support it for his well being and happiness. If it helps him to cope with the complicated place that is school, then I should say 'go for it.' So what's holding me back? Why am I so stuck? Why am I replaying that conversation? Why am I so worried about talking to Marc when he returns from the States tomorrow? Why am I fearing the worse? Why do I worry that something low level may escalate into something all consuming? 

I think I'm worried about the labelling that goes on in schools. Maybe not by the teachers (although I have had plenty of experience of that too), but by his peers and their mothers. And my biggest fear is of negative consequences that can come from intervention. Again I'm speaking from personal experience. And let's be fair, he is only four for goodness sake. He is absolutely shattered after a day at school. A lot of the behaviour he seems to be displaying at school, he rarely displays at home. 

But I'm still stuck. And I'm still worried. And yes I did tell him off when we got home from school yesterday. And yes I rattled on for far longer than I should. And yes in the end he was upset and confused. And I was upset and felt guilty. But I was also cross. And tense and so, so fraught with the anxiety that surrounds it all. I stood and cried silently in the kitchen. I felt terribly sorry for myself, as I thought that I'd have to go through all those trials and tribulations of school again. At that moment I could have quite easily  got in the car and driven away from it all.

I made the tea instead. And after that Olly and me played Connect Four. And we cuddled. It was lovely. 

I still don't know how I feel about it all. 

But I feel a little better for writing some of it down.

And I shall stop now for fear of regurgitating the same stuff over and over again. I do that really well. 

Bloody hell, Today's Stuff is rather fraught at the moment.

Thank you for that. And although you may have regretted it, hello to new followers. You are most welcome here. And Chickpea, I can never seem to leave a reply on your blog. It just won't let me! I have really enjoyed your blog of late. Hope you read this ;)

Have a great weekend one and all, and please don't tell me if you have perfect kids. Save it for another time. Or maybe pay a visit to the other side of the room.

With much love,

Leanne xx


  1. I can hear your turmoil. You have an awful lot going on right now with your Dad, and Marc being away and now this too. I cannot offer any thoughts on children, but love yourself, love them and take care of yourself my dear. I do hope that once you can talk it all through with Marc you will feel much better and I hope that sharing it here has helped too - a problem shared and all that. I think it is good that you can see both sides of a situation and that you are prepared to "change sides", many people are far too stubborn to do that, so I admire that in you! xx

  2. Good morning Leanne! I hope today will turn out a little brighter for you and Olly. You could have described a day/night in my live in this post. I don't have any breezy children, to be honest, I don't think anyone has. I think certain teachers overemphasise issues, be it positive or negative and sometimes I wonder if I have a velvety kittens for children or clawed monsters. Olly is only four, he is in his first year of school thrown into a mix of children that he didn't choose. He would in all likelihood prefer walking Honey with you. Who wouldn't? He is a perfectly normal little boy who maybe needs a little more time to cope with that complex world that is school, where rules may be different from home and where teachers don't have the time to ride out a storm like we do at home. You are lucky Olly is offered a litte extra support at school, I had to fight for it for my James, who struggles with live sometimes and is the happiest boy in the world other times. There is very little in between and he flips from one extreme to the other without warning. The extra support has made his live so much easier, and although he wouldn't be able to articulate this, I think it helped him understand that he needs the support and he particularly likes sharing it with the 4 or 5 children in his year who are in his little support group. He is more balanced at school. It is good for me, too. I could go on and on and on but I won't now. Keep yer heid up hen! Lots of love, Christina xxxx

  3. Hi Leanne. Having been a nursery teacher, I can tell you that Olly sounds like a perfectly normal little boy! It's always difficult for all children at school initially - they are exhausted, stressed by all the new children around, missing Mummy etc. etc. I'd be grumpy too! Take all the extra support offered, grit your teeth and hang in there; it will get better. x

  4. Oh, my dear chum, I really feel for you. You know, and I know, and every mum out there knows that there is no such thing as perfect children. It is soooo hard being a mum sometimes, all you want is the best for your children and for them to be happy but I guess there are lumps and bumps along the way for them just as there are for adults. From everything I've read on your blog it is abundantly clear how much you love your children, so be a little bit kinder on yourself eh? Olly will come through this phase as he comes through all the others with you and Marc there to guide him and look after him. xxx

  5. Oh Leanne, life seems to be dumping everything on you at the moment. You know your son, he sounds a delight, he is finding his feet, school is still so new to him. The social side of things takes a while to adjust to. Perhaps invite some of his little friends around to play so he can be in a 'safe' place while he negotiates his way through the minefield of social interaction.

    Thank you for reading my blog, sorry you haven't been able to reply, when it come to technology I am useless, I have altered one of the settings so hopefully it will work. If you could give it a try I will be able to see if I have fixed it . Chickpea xx

  6. I can understand your fear of having your son labelled, at some level anyway. My son needed some extra help - thankfully his school deal with it in a very caring manner, and so many children receive some form of learning support, it doesn't seem to have the same negative connotations as it did when I was at school. But it was still difficult and worrying. We found that it didn't take much for Matt to catch up - almost a year of support at school, and working with me at home, for all of us to understand what was needed. He then learned strategies to do things himself, but he knows that there is always the option to return to LS if needed. He was much happier once he realised he wasn't stupid, just learned differently.
    Mind you, having said all that if he is only 4, aren't most children horrid at times through trying to adapt to all the changes going on, and they are very tired?
    Wishing you a relaxing and calm weekend. xx

  7. What a miserable spot to find yourself in.....I have 2 small children, very different to each other, both very kind, caring, loving, spiteful, shouty, horrid, rude....both at different is a big bad place when you are 4, defenses go up, things don't go your way, you have to learn to share even!! different types of behaviour are put in place as coping son is an angel at school and yet a little bugger at home, i think my daughter is headed the same way.....if the school are offering to help that is great, it may not take long and all is settled and Olly will of found his place in the scheme of things, be strong for him,even when self pity takes over and you want to shut the door and makes me laugh out loud when friends with new borns moan about how hard it is......wait and see I say, you have it easy.big hugs xxxx

  8. oh Leanne, how distressing. The thing I can offer is that someone once said to me don't look forward to how much worse things could get, which I find helpful (apologies if you don't). Otherwise it risks adding to the exhaustion and fear. Sometimes I find it tough to stay in the moment but it sounds as if you've got your hands quite full enough at the present without thinking about this escalating. and the other thing is life is quite tough for you at the moment; Marc's away, your dad is not well and now this, so at the same time as extra support for your son is there anything you can do to boost personal resilience? I find when I feel breezy everything else is a bit easier to deal with and finally can I just say it is obvious how much you love your children, and it's good to see someone who is realistic about them at the same time. I honestly believe if you've been loved you come through things. Olly sounds spirited and he will find his place in the world. hang on in there... Cathy

  9. Oh Leanne, you have my sympathies completely. I know exactly what it's like to worry about how your children are, and in a way to be powerless to help them while they're away at school. Two of mine have had some more kind of social problems at school, it really isn't always a happy place at all. And it worries me more than I can say and I lie awake and go over and over and over everything and grind my teeth. You really aren't alone in any of this. I wonder if the teacher has made things seem a little more worrying than she should have done. At four children are always very instinct-led and just react to things, rather than doing things calculatingly. I'm so sorry you and Olly have been so upset, I really hope things settle down very soon. I am having some school tussles and worries at the moment too, so I know how hard it is. I really wish you weren't going through such a difficult time of it all, and I'm sending you a big cyber hug. CJ xx

  10. Your words have said IT , all of it, completely IT,,,,

    . School can be the worse place to educate children!!! How dare I say that after spending over 40 years teaching mainly in Foundation and Nursery Classes. That's actually why I dare.

    But, there we are. School also has so much to offer. I could write the longest list ever of all the wonderful aspects school life can bring.

    You are in very early days with Ollie . Bless his heart. Why should every peg that these children have to fit in be of fairly uniform shape. Of course you have to help him fit in, of course he has to learn to fit in but that measuring up needs to be done with as much love as possible and I know that you will provide that love.

    I could go on for ever but as a mother of three very different children like you I know what it's like to have to navigate the stormy waters of school.

    One thing which always seemed to help my most " interesting " was to find an ally of two. Can he choose to have a friend home to tea/ visit to the park of beach?

    Someone once said to me " as a mother you are only as happy as your unhappiest child" so,so true. And just now your plate is overflowing with Ollie and your Dad.

    Amongst all this please be kind to yourself, please walk near the sea, please feel the sun on your face .... Because this time too will pass.

    Lots and lots of love and just believe in yourself and your little boy xxxxxxx

  11. I think it's always difficult to realize your child needs something you can't necessarily give him all by yourself. My son is the easiest, calmest child (breezy, even), but he needed services as a toddler because he was a very late talker. We went through tons of testing because they suspected he was autistic. He is not, but he did need a lot of help with his speech and gross motor development. I feared that this would lead to what we call "tracking" in our schools - he would automatically get pushed into special-needs classes because he'd had developmental issues as a toddler/preschooler. This turned out not to be necessary; he just needed the therapies until he got caught up and then he was okay. I'm glad I listened to the doctor and therapists who urged me to let them help him. I think he would have fared worse if I'd let it go. It's just one experience, but I know how hard it is to make the decision and to see your child have trouble you can't help him with. I wish you peace and strength as you work through this.

  12. Dear Leanne, I totally understand and sympathise. We (parents and teachers) would do well to remember that, in other countries, our four year olds would still be in nursery of kindergarten, not in school. He's still very, very young, and learning how to behave and fit in. I worry continually about Angus. (Bella is my breezy one ;-))

    I saw the same TV programme and was appalled. I too avoid Facebook politics but sometimes you have to say what's in your heart. I'm getting more left wing in my old age. Xx

  13. As parents we always want the very best for our children, for their lives to be perfect. But of course that's not always possible and we've got to learn to accept the rough and tumble of childhood along with the fun and laughter. It's early days in his school life and current circumstances conspire against you. Keep up with the cuddles!

  14. I speak as a retired teacher, hope it helps. First, no one knows your child as well as you do. You know what works for him, what things might be triggers, how to calm him, how to engage him.
    Another point is that school is so very female orientated, boys frequently have trouble adjusting to it for the emphasis is on sitting quietly, waiting your turn, sharing and quite frankly this are rather feminine qualities.
    Some teachers are better for boys, check around, his teacher may be a good teacher, but not for boys.
    He is just 4, didn't realize they started so young over there, maybe he needs a shorter day or 3 days a week.

  15. A wise friend once told me that someone should issue a warning that when you have a child you will wear your heart on your shirtsleeve for the rest of your life. Truer words were never spoken. I have five children, and every single one of them had their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Even though they are now all adults I can still get into that head space of only seeing the weaknesses, and then blaming myself for them. It's that heart on the shirtsleeve thing.

    I'll share one story with you, and hopefully you will find some comfort in this. When I sent my oldest off to kindergarten (he wasn't quite five yet) he was enthusiastic. The reports from his teacher were all positive. But by the end of that year things had changed. This teacher who had previously had such good things to say was now saying my son wasn't engaging with the other kids in class and had a very short attention span. I went through a whole range of emotions, but then did what you are talking about - I sat in a different chair and looked at the situation. In my son's case I decided he was bored out of his mind at school, and that was the root of the problem. This led to my decision to homeschool him the next year. One year of homeschooling followed another, until he finally entered formal school for grade 12 (the final year of school here in Canada before going onto university). I often think back on the hastily spoken words that teacher uttered, and how different things might have turned out for Karsten (and not in a good way) had I fully accepted what that teacher had said. Yes, there was some truth to her words, but there was a deeper truth, and that was the truth I acted on.

  16. Hi Leanne -
    I think you sound like a great parent (the fact that you're giving this whole thing so much consideration proves it).
    Joe's not perfect. He's only two, so who knows what he next few years hold? Actually, as an ex-teacher: NO kid is perfect. And if they are then they're not normal. In fact they're a bit creepy.
    I too lie awake worrying about things - my anxiety levels have gone through the roof lately, necessitating a trip to the doctor and a counselling session. Be gentle with yourself.
    Oh, and I agree completely with Gillian. Four is indeed very young to be at school, and I think it's too young. As do many others. Joe will turn four a just few days before he starts school. Still a baby.
    Things will work out. At the risk of sounding cheesy: storms pass. Sending you love and best wishes - it's a very tough time. Hang on in there.
    S x

  17. Hi
    He's still only a babe - stand back, take a deep breath, give him a big hug and pat yourself on the back - you're doing fine, this will pass, he's got years and years at school and things change - I sometimes wish I could turn the clock back and have mine aged 4 all over again and mine certainly weren't little angels! (They're all in their 30's now) Hugs from me xx

  18. It is such a huge step going to school and having to be there day after day at the age of 4. No child is perfect and each one like us comes across challenges that they have to overcome. It is so hard as a parent not being able to always put it right for them in the flash of a magic wand. Thinking of you. Sarah x

  19. Big hugs, I hope you feel reassured there's a lot of wisdom from these amazing ladies. Having met the lovely Olly I'm sure that he is just reacting to his circumstances and that in time things will settle down. Let me know when you're free, Antonia x

  20. School is certainly preparation for life because we are never free from the disappointment of unkindness. Your boy will have his heart bruised many times but will be more empathetic as a result. We are all walking wounded. That is why friendship matters and is a gift. Don't be afraid to seek out support because that is such a comfort and can make a big difference. My grandson had such an unhappy grade one but the principle stepped in with support for him and changed the dynamic. He was being excluded and didn't know how to cope with that. Overcoming something difficult build courage I think. All the best!!! You are a dear and loving mother even when you don't feel like it!!

  21. Hi Leanne, I ferl your pain. My son is autistic, so I know all about the labelling and intervention. I also worked in our school for a while. As Sara said there are LOADS of children who receive support or interventions, at every stage. Some of them have a diagnosis, some just need a bit of extra help. Say, for example, your son was included in a social skills group (lots of playing games of taking turns, good listening, etc) it wouldn't necessarily mean he was being labelled or that anything was wrong. My son is now 11 and started secondary school, and I can honestly say he has never had any hassle off anyone for the extra sessions, classes, group activities that he's taken to one side for. It's really really normal for children to be taken to one side in groups to work on something. On the flip side my middle one is breezy and was invite to the social skills group for her year group as the role-model, and she is also a peer-mediator! She's 10! They couldn't be more different. Anyway, I just wanted to put your mind at rest - it's great that your teacher has picked up on this, and don't think of any extra support as having a stigma or anything, it really really truly doesn't these days.
    As I said my son in now at secondary school, I worried tgat he would be picked on or made to feel different. He's in their special needs unit for half his timetable because of anxiety, but in the top sets with a helper for the other half. No one seems to notice that he gets anything different or if they do they don't mention it to him. I'm sure your sins peers won't notice if he has any extra support. As for the mothers ? You know what it's like, someone will always have something to say about everything, you just need to te tourself the ol " Those who matter don't mind" and "those who mind don't matter" thingy.
    Hugs from me

  22. Hi Leanne, in my experience as a teacher (sorry) it takes a while for a class to settle down. I don't think Reception class is easy for the little ones and probably not their favourite school year either. I've taught many children in Reception who had problems either adjusting socially or coping with the frenetic pace and expectations of the UK state system and they have gone on to become amazing individuals. That's probably the key word here - individuality. Sending my love back to you (thanks for yesterdays comment) xo

  23. Hi Leanne. I love your honesty and the way your write about your boys is more helpful than any manual about raising children. I'm not going to add to the good advice here, apart from saying that teaching would be very dull if we had classes full of breezy children. Take care, cuddle that boy and get some sleep.

  24. Dear Leanne, as teacher (year 1) and mother ( no breezy ones out of three ), I would pop back in and ask his teacher for one aspect/target to work on and a date to pop back in for an update. Most teachers don't ask to see you unless they would like to help their pupil. Perhaps having a/some friends to tea would help - not always easy I know. In most cases these things sort themselves out with a little extra attention from school /home working together. Lots of good advice above. Chin up my dear. x

  25. I homeschooled my boys because they were both too bright for school, but I know that's not an option for every parent. And it wouldn't suit every child ... my equally bright girls both chose school because their frustration was compensated for by the interaction with their peer group. I'm not going to attempt to add to all the good advice above, I'm just sending you a hug. Being a mum is the toughest thing sometimes xxx

  26. What an honest, well-articulated piece, Leanne. I am also someone who 'sits on the fence' and can switch opinions in the course of a conversation. I always thought it was a weak flaw in my character, but have come to realise that, like you, it is just my ability to see both sides of an argument.

    In my experience, school problems tend to sort themselves in. Starting primary school is exhausting and having other children around him all day long may be causing Olly to act out more than he normally would (my kids are very sensitive to noise and over-stimulation). I have been through deep feelings of guilt over their struggles, but my husband always tells me it's all a good part of their development since they have to learn to cope in the world at large. At home I do my best to offer them a place of peace and quiet, cuddles and relaxation so that they are better able to cope with the world out there. All the best there xxx