A young baby/child and parent’s relationship is built on need. A child’s need for food, warmth and security and Joseph’s needs are no different to any other child. He has always seemed very secure yet indifferent to others. I often wondered when separation anxiety would occur as it has only appeared to exist on my part; yet selfishly I have needed and looked forward to those times apart.
I know that Joseph cares for me, as he does a range of people but I cannot recall him ever crying for me when I have left the house. My mum has said on a couple of occasions more recently that he has asked “Where’s Mummy?” but that is probably more because he is concerned he is going to be retrieved from his pampered puss environment and returned to normality, as opposed to actually being bothered as to my whereabouts.
Similar to a cat, he likes to be in comfortable, familiar surroundings which is no different to most of us. He will often be shy if he doesn’t know someone and would quite happily stay at home playing on the iPad for 12 hours a day if I didn’t force the opposite. That is where his likeness to cats ends, as ironically he isn’t fussed about our own cats company. He will frequently shoo them away and would rather them be as far away from him as possible and I can completely understand this.
Similarly, he has never been too fussed one way or the other whether other children are in the same room as him and has consistently played either alone or independent of other children. We always encourage interaction with his peers yet he will happily play alone. It’s a huge frustration as I constantly crave the social aspect that other parents experience in the playground and I’m not just talking about the mum chatter. I want him to be invited to parties and for tea; I want him to bounce out of the school doors putting me in that awkward position that I used to put my own parents in when asking if someone can come for tea. I ask each day who he has played with and who he has sat with at lunch. His response is usually “Friends” and I’m left not knowing whether he has played with anyone or whether it is one of his usual scripted responses. I can’t blame other children for not wanting to play with Joseph, after all he gives little back. It’s not that he doesn’t play nicely, he just doesn’t understand how to play most of the time. Neither does he have an interest in most of the games they play or things they like to do. He doesn’t care for disney films, football or playing chase. I am sure that his classmates have tried on more than one occasion to engage with him but if it is not reciprocated then they probably get fed up of trying.
More recently he has begun to form a bond with my partner’s children and will often ask when they are coming home. He will torment his son so that he instigates play and will replicate play he has previously witnessed or experienced. He enjoys it when they all play together and gets just as much pleasure from one of the others being tickled, whilst shouting “TICKLE *HIM*!” Seeing this side of Joseph develop has been amazing and gives hope for the future. I’m asked whether us moving in together and my partner having shared custody of his children has affected Joseph in anyway and the answer certainly has to be a resounding YES. Not only has it given him an extended family, I believe that it has also benefited his children. They have also shown patience, kindness and resilience that I know has been enhanced by having Joseph in their lives. His son knows what makes Joseph laugh and will often play the daft one to encourage him to play and make him giggle.
Today is a milestone day for us; Joseph was invited to one of his classmate’s house for tea. I was pleased, nervous and anxious all at the same time. He’s nearly 8 years of age and it’s only his second tea invite from school and this time I am sending him alone. I don’t really know the parents or the child (which is not unusual for me) other than the fact Joseph often speaks of his friend and I have seen her being kind and generous on more than one occasion. She came bounding out of school with a big smile on her face yesterday asking me what Joseph would like for tea and that he had told her, “Pizza, jelly and strawberries.” She wanted to know whether this was ok and I wanted to say “It’s more than ok. It’s not about the tea, it’s because you cared enough to invite my son to your home.” He had his annual statement review only last week and every year they ask him what his likes are. Joseph never responds to this and probably because he doesn’t understand the question. This year he responded by telling them this friend’s name and that he also liked assembly. She has obviously made an impact on him and doesn’t even realise it. Will she look back in years to come and remember the child she went to school with, who she offered kindness and generosity to. Would she ever realise that this simple act meant a great deal to his family?
I wrote most of this before I collected Joseph from his tea, in the hope I would be able to finish the story on a high. We had a little hiccup in that I didn’t have his friend’s address and her mum had left her phone at work, so couldn’t contact me once she realised I didn’t know where they lived. All was sorted though and Joseph seemed to have had a good time and eaten all his tea. When they were considering whether they needed to drop Joseph back at our house, they asked him his address and he had recited it perfectly. I had been going through this with him for a number of months, always worried that if he ever got lost he wouldn’t be able to understand the question, so primed him with different versions of the same question “Tell me where you live? What’s your address? Where’s your house?” Joseph was welcomed into their home and despite farting on his friend’s mum, I think his behaviour was of a reasonable standard. I need not have worried and after nearly 4 years of being in the same school, it turns out she is the niece of the manager I spoke about in an earlier post who helped me out when I needed it most. Funny how things turn out.
Most of the parent friendships at school are likely to be based around their children’s friendships, which puts me at a disadvantage. I am never certain as to whether the party invites we receive are due to the small circle of school mum friendships I do have, because they know Joseph won’t get the same invites as other children or whether they have in fact been instigated by the child. Whatever the reason, I am appreciative and consider ourselves lucky that at present he is still included.
Today I feel proud of Joseph in that he has secured a friendship, no matter how temporary this may be and is, for now, my superhero.