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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

hell is other people's mothers

There’s a frigid woman at school, startling white jeans, Playmobil hair and crossed arms clamped firmly across her chest. She is one of my arch enemies. I doubt she even knows my name. Why should she? I have merely driven her 2 hooligans from an after school class for a year without recognition, let alone reciprocation. It’s not that which I hate her for, and let’s not think hate’s too strong a word here, but that her nasty little son is one of 2 tormenters of F10. She's bred a brute, doesn't know it, doesn't care. As long as her Merc keeps going, life is sweet.

F10 is a complex beast. He does beautiful, intricate drawings, he is fascinated by nature, his mental arithmetic is startling. He dresses up in a suit, an Indiana Jones hat and my Jasper Conran elbow length gloves to watch ‘Poirot.’ Eccentric is the word, random. He can also be maddening, argumentative and with a wearing sense of his own rectitude. He aint your average 10 year old and is a quandary too far for many of his classmates. It’s not a good mix.
Mercifully many of T12’s friends love him; for them he is “The Ledge.”
“F10’s hair is ledge,” said W12 yesterday wistfully, ruffling his own black mess, “that’s what I aspire to.”
“What?” I said, “a crazy wig in need of a radical re-think?”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s ledge.”

Meanwhile white-jeans Mum (the original ice maiden who, when once she tried a smile had to spend a week in recovery), has spawned a toxic pram toy of a boy who squeaks malevolently and is chief toad in opposition to my F10. What he does not get he seeks to destroy.
His co-general is a squat lout with a plasticky quiff and the cold pale eyes of a killer fish, 4th child of a troll-goat (down to the purple hair and stumpy legs). The family have a genetic misfortune to look as if they have been thumped on the head with a hammer. I’m trying to work it into conversation.

Last week, for whatever misguided reason, F10 took to school with him his precious ring. Had I but known, I would have wrestled it from him, I would have undergone wounds from cross claws to keep it safe and out of sight.
I can only imagine that he had a very different outcome in mind when sliding it into his pocket. In his mind’s eye, he would have revealed the ring, expecting an admiring intake of breath. The ring would glow bright, drawing all near. Perhaps one boy would have dared to ask if he could touch it. F10 might graciously have conceded. An eager audience would have gathered, each craning for a glimpse of The Ring. It would be the talk of the playground.
He was wrong.

The scenario unfolded in a very different way.
Out came the ring. F10 nursed it tenderly, shyly.
“It’s crap,” squeaked Toxic Pram Toy.
“Yeah,” mocked Plastic Quiff Troll, “Crap.”
“Spazzy.”
A round of laughter at the heady wit.
“I bought it from the museum,” F10 said, rallying with the wrong rally.
“Should be in a bin.”
“It’s trash, rubbish.”
“Stupid.”
“Sad.”
“Stupid, ugly ring, crap.”
"Sucker."

They all joined in, thoughtless safety in the pack, careless power in numbers; it went on for some time.

For in addition to the leaders, as powerful as Roman Emperors within their fiefdoms – although as yet without the authority to confer senatorship on their gerbils – there are the hapless bystanders. A depressing lot, happy to gather in the skirts of the great, anxiety to be in with the core group bleeding from every desperate pore. One, an erstwhile friend of F10’s, is the Brutus of the piece. Brutus, but in smaller shoes. Another fond mother to avoid.
I'm not saying he must be cossetted. There will always be pushing and shoving, one cannot micro-manage. They have to learn to deal with the pack. The other kids don't have to like the wretched ring. But, six of them, against one? Again.

Gollum’s intensity of fervour would have wavered beneath this jeering attack. F10 clutched his ring the tighter, and said nothing.
The story leaked in bits and pieces over the weekend. He sobbed.
“Why didn’t you Tell?” I said.
“I couldn’t,” he said.
“Was Mr J not there?” I asked, meaning the headmaster, who always wants to know when there is a fresh “incident.”
“It’s not that,” he said.

What it is is the humiliation. He cannot, could not and will not Tell because to articulate the episode would force a new reality. If it hasn’t been said by him, he can convince himself it didn’t happen and keep safe his dreams. He has already developed what the school would call Coping Strategies which are far too sophisticated for a ten year old. Those of disembodiment, of effectively writing off his time there against when things start properly at his secondary school. But whenever we suggest moving him elsewhere he is distraught. It would smack of failure, of having been driven out, of the triumph of PQT and TPT.
His teacher is fantastic, and when she telephoned me to discuss it I detected a whisper of the warpath.

I do not believe for an instance in the innocence of children. ‘Lord of the Flies’ reinforces that. Sassy and wanton, vessels of corrupted morals, shot through with deep rooted unkindness and a huge sense of their own entitlement, yes. Or so my jaded condition convinces me now.
I am not alone. A sad father spills his own story when we’re out dog walking. Many of the girls in F10’s class seem as bad, with bitchy shifting sands of allegiance. Loyalty dumped for a sleepover. Promises abandoned in return for a fiddle with a mobile phone. Do they learn it from television? I don’t know. Too much too soon and none of it nice.

I don’t think I’m blind to my own children’s faults: I could list them here and it would take some time. I am not unrealistic. They complain that we are far too strict with them. We are hot on manners, harsh on dereliction of duty. I wonder what the parents of Toxic Pram Toy and Plastic Quiff Troll are told, why aren’t they on these boys like a ton of bricks? Is it just me left feeling the anguish, suffering the night thoughts, driven to fond fantasies of tragic road accidents: an ice maiden cut short in her white jeaned prime, a troll found squashed beneath the tyres of a friendly truck.

Chatting to other children’s parents brings a warped view. For many their children seem to be gadgets, accessories, objects of great wonder who can do no wrong. Perhaps they don’t see them enough. I’d be happy to fill them in. Until that joyful day, the day of great reckoning, they are free to chuckle indulgently at feral acts and enjoy the inflated sense of their kiddies’ dubious worth. They roll their eyes, “what can one do?!”
You are supposed to collude, to bill and coo. Kids, eh. I don’t. I avoid the school gates at the moment, sullen at the thought of encountering what Sir Alan Sugar would call the whole bladdy lot of them. Anger brings eloquence and I fear what I might say.

“Don’t take your rabbit in,” (Bunsy being up there with the ring), I said to F10 when tackling his wig this morning, chasing the curls with a busy hairbrush.
“I won’t,” he promised, ruffling them up again.
The ring I’ve not seen since.

72 comments:

Exmoorjane said...

Oh Milla, this brings back horrible memories of little models of horses being flung into nettles on the way to school and nasty girls cackling as I stung myself getting them out.
Children ARE cruel and brutish and I hate the ganging up, the having to be part of the crowd which seems to afflict both boys and girls.
At the moment James is being teased for 'wearing a dress' (long cricket shirt) and skimpy swimming trunks (not at the same time I hasten to add - and these regulation school ones too so totally ridiculous). But he can be a sod too and it's pretty much tit for tat with him. But just horrible when one is always picked upon - and even more horrible when it is your own child and there is precious little you can do and you just feel helpless.
But he is the Ledge.....hang onto that. Only one more year of that pissing school and then he could be with the big boys who obviously think he's the dog's bollocks.

Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

That brings back lots of horrible memories from primary school. Good that he has a nice teacher. Mine bullied me as much as the kids. One of the reasons I ended up being home-schooled for a few years. But secondary school, while also bringing its fair share of bullying, did eventually bring like-minded people with whom I could feel at home and comfortable. Hope he finds the same or better.

Welsh Girl said...

The Foul Fiends. Words have abandoned me in my rage at their cruelty. However I LOVED the description of the Ice Maiden's hair - Playmobil Hair. It is genius.

I remember all too clearly the cruelty of school and not wanting to be moved because I thought it would a) be no better elsewhere and b) would smack of failure. To this day I'm not sure if I shouldn't have said 'yes please, take me out of this hellhole...'

Welsh Girl said...

Incidentally, I look forward to the day when 'The Ledge' is an uber cool hero to millions, and his ex school mates will have to live with themselves in the face of his assured successes in life....

Edward said...

The Ledge's problem is that he is so utterly uncompromising that he won't do the needful to fit in even the smallest amount - he's a world-class Wind-Up Merchant. But he's also utterly adorable when he wants to be, and has always got on better with older children.

Another fine blog, and another fine and eclectic set of tags!

Quilting Cat said...

Sounds as if the Head and Staff not doing their duty and why cannot white jeans take her devils spawn offspring to after school classes. I loathe bullies of any kind and those 2 are going to grow up into the worst, good job I don't live round your way, they would soon get their comeuppence.

Potty Mummy said...

I want to say something supportive and apposite but I'm too angry on your son's behalf.

blackbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dumdad said...

Kids can be cruel and thoughtless but it is alarming when children of troll-goats lead the pack. I can feel your anger and frustration at the situation. How to deal with it? Hmmm, that is tricky. Befriend the beasts?

Frances said...

Hello Milla,

Without any children of my own, I am not qualified to comment as a parent. However, as a grown-up child, I can certainly feel for The Ledge, and still remember waiting for certain era of school days to end.

And end they did! My early certainty that there were great friends elsewhere turned out be be true.

I do think that some of your other commenters might be right, in thinking that the bullies wish that their mom were more like You!

xo

Pondside said...

One consolation - huge consolation - is that you're raising boys with a sense of self, imagination and (wonderful outcome of horrible schooldays) well developed backbone.

It's too horrible, this elementary school phase. I don't know how children like yours and mine make it, intact, but they do. The horrible spawn of trolls and goats go on to maim themselves in drunken car crashes, marry women worse than their mothers and lead lives dedicated to sport and the good old days. Your sons, on the other hand will continue to grow in curiosity, generosity and wit. Small consolation now, but honestly, that will be the outcome.

For now?.....perhaps what I did will help you - I always told my two that the others were envious of them but couldn't express it any way but with bullying - that they wished to have a ring, a rabbit, long braids, to be tall, to be tiny - whatever. I then read the riot act at the school and had the staff on side.

Oh - and with a smiling face and a lilt in my voice, in sight of but far away enough from the other mums to ensure privacy I said :) Have a talk with your boy about his bullying or I will call child protection about your negligence, as only negligence could account for such cruelty from a child. It must be a cry for help" Big smile, turned around and left.

Faith said...

I know it's hard for him and you all now, but he WILL get through. The horrible kids are obviously jealous. What I don't understand is why are you ferrying one of them about? Let ice maiden take her own kids.

zooarchaeologist said...

It will all only make him stronger in the long run. Kids are horrible, I had quite a few similar things happen to me at school, but now I look at what became of those kids and laugh.
Dont drive the other kids about though- let their parents do it until they actually speak to their kids about what they are doing.
I feel for the Ledge!

clareybabble said...

This reminds me of my school days unfortunately. I can't believe that bullying is still so rife in school. But he will get through it and be a much better person than those nasty cowardly bullies. I know because whilst I have a happy life and fantastic family, some of those who bullied me haven't! Aha! x

Carol and Chris said...

I don't have kids of my own but I do know what it's like to be on the receiving end of a bully and it's not fun!! I was bullied all the way through primary school (small Scottish village...17 kids and 2 teachers in the whole school...one of the teachers was the bullies Mum so nothing was done about it) but everything changed when I got to Secondary.

Like ExmoorJane said...the older kids think he's The Ledge and I'm betting that they won't tolerate that behaviour towards him when he moves to Secondary.

Keep your chin up...and tell him to keep his up too!! It's hard now but I bet anything he'll be the one doing great things when he's older and Toxic Pram Toy and Plastic Quiff Troll will be deadbeats!!

C x

Milla said...

thanks, everyone, I've tried to show that I don't think my boy is perfect so hope I'm not naive in all of this, but your reactions are so encouraging. And as for grown ups being bullies (touched on in a couple of comments) yes, not helped by Plastic Quiff Troll's Vile Goat Troll Mother (try typing that lot after a gin) is a governer, and a dinner lady and a pathetically all pervasive member of the PTA. My truck dreams will persist. But the brutes all apologised today. F10 was gracious apparently, burbled in his husky blokey voice that it was alright, that he'd forgotten it all. Blessikins.

Single Parent Dad said...

I'm with Dumbdad, keep those enemies close.

The Machinist's Wife said...

Oh, Milla. Understood. All of it.

We had 3 foster boys in addition to our own. The most devastating form of child abuse, and one so very prevailent today is negligence. Failure by the parent to teach / train their children in good manners / character. If you see ice maiden mothers, who never acknowledge a kind deed, or express their appreciation - particularly in front of their children - what hope do the goats, gollums and trolls have?

Cait O'Connor said...

I'm afraid my daughter and my son when they were young would react physically if anyone 'did them very wrong' and also spent a lot of time defending others and getting into trouble sometimes for so doing.

The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them because they are really just weak rank cowards. My stepson on the other hand had to be 'coerced' by his father to fight back and once he did so he never needed to again. It is sad but true. But I understand that not all children can get 'physical' and mine have the Irish temper, as I have if roused!

Your observation that some of these mothers do not see enough of their children and treat them as azzessories speaks volumes. Is there a link between this increase in bullying (in both sexes) and the lack of an at-home parent? I think so and I also think it is a psychological time bomb waiting to go off. There will be a lot of disturbed adults around in a few years time.
Rant over. I really feel for your son and I hope the teacher will get on the case.

Expat mum said...

I have one such and we're just coming out the other end at almost 14 - and he's becoming a bit of an unsung hero to his friends, because he marches to his own drummer.
I love Edward's comment that he's a world class wind-up merchant. Adorable as he is, he probably needs to learn that some compromise is needed until he's a bit older and cooler. (Probably not going to happen, I appreciate.)
Anyway, (before I start really rambling). this age is when they're all sorting themselves out. When they get a bit older (15-16) it all seems to fall into place. And then you have a host of other problems.
It is awful to see your child in this stage though.
I love your moving Avatar on PowderRoomGrafitti (dot com) by the way.

Preseli Mags said...

I love your descriptions of the protagonists and I'm glad to hear that the brutes have all apologised. Great nickname, The Ledge, long my he dress up to watch Poirot.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Ice maiden will never be happy. So there. Your poor lad, what a super star he is.

As an aside, I have a friend who gave himself the nickname of 'The Ledg'. He drank too much one night and decided to write his name on the wall, forgot it had a d in it and is still known, to this day, as 'The Leg'.

Angel Bluestocking said...

Kids are cruel. I remember it well. And it's even harder when you're a sensitive soul like F10. It actually sounds to me like there's simply a lot of envy from others about him. He sounds a lovely boy!
At least they've had the decency to apologise.

Remember Milla - what goes around, comes around. That's what I always say. That applies to the brutes and Ice Maiden...


xx

Ladybird World Mother said...

Beautifully written. Have totally neglected my children while I read your post... so agree with you on just about every bladdy word.
Rock on, The Ledge. X

Sally's Chateau said...

What with this corker hot on the heels of the one above I'm fair exhausted 15.14, still too early.

Sordel said...

Very nice work, Milla. Having been the bullied child in the story, I am intrigued to read such an empathetic and perceptive account from a mother.

In my case, my mother fearlessly engaged with the uninterested school authorities on frequent occasions and didn't get very far at all.

In my career as a teacher (so brief that even fruitflies could reminisce about it as an incident of their distant youth), I did gain the admiration of my colleagues for intervening in a case of bullying. Personally I viewed my intervention as doomed to long-term failure: so much so that I apologised to the victim immediately for saving him!

Adults are completely at all at sea when the Darwinian lives of children are thrown into sudden illumination. Sad to say, but F10's silence is probably another sign of precocious intelligence.

Calico Kate said...

Great post Milla and some really good comments. I too was bullied at school by girls who threatened to throw my crutches off the train following a hockey accident. But by far the worst was a teacher who bullied me so badly that my parents took me out of that school and in to another, & I wsn't the only one. I don't know if she ever got her come uppance. But as a consequence I have only horrid memories of school and a singular sick feeling at the thought of doing any more 'learning' now, still. I do hope that F10 won't be haunted in the future. Sounds like you're doing a jolly good job. Love the nick names!
CKx

Katherine said...

Your son sounds truly wonderful, he sounds like what my s#1 will become in a few years time...unique, interesting and creative (my s#1 spends a lot of time pretending to be a dog and "rocking out" to 1960's pop/rock bands...not one to follow trends). the school must have a policy on bullying, which must be followed. As a teacher myself, if any parent complains of bullying, I take the matter very seriously; occasionally it's something and nothing and other times it opens a whole can of worms which should have been open a long time ago.
I think you're right though. A lot of parents just don't invest the time in their kids (other than to buy them disposable material goods) and, in turn, don't really get to know them. Many don't see that their children are capable of error or bad judgement. I have a very good, lovely friend, who's son is turning into a problem because she is incapable of saying no to him, in case he gets upset. She will one day, she's getting there but some never do. Good luck to you all.
PS I soooo recognise "white jeans mum"!

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