I can imagine some people I know, pissing themselves just at the title; just stay with me here.
Today was parent’s evening and for the past four years, I have almost shat myself at the thought of this periodic event. Probably because in those early years it’s been an opportunity to drop little bombshells on me when I have let the barriers down. When I say little bombshells, I mean along the lines of slyly throwing into the end of a parent’s evening ‘we don’t think it’s working out for Joseph here and maybe you should try a special school’ Oh yes, it happened; I promise I will get to the rest of that story at some point in the future.
I spoke about another one in an earlier post where the teacher was nervously waiting to tell me how some older children in Joseph’s class had taken advantage of him and were teasing him. It broke our bloody hearts to know that some children, for whatever reason had done this to our innocent unknowing child and it made me sad and angry.
And despite us moving on from some of those more challenging times, it doesn’t stop me wishing for my toenails to be removed without anaesthetic rather than turn up for a chat with the teacher. I have longed for that experience that other parents have, where they are told that their child is excelling in a particular subject (and maybe doing fine in other areas but not below average). I don’t want to be sat there filling the time talking about wishy washy shite that is neither here nor there.
I often have conversations with Joseph which could probably be more accurately described as a conversation with myself. I say the words, half hoping that one day I will get a somewhat decent answer. This morning I told him I was going to be talking to his teacher later and asked him whether he would tell me he’d been a good boy or a bad boy. I didn’t give much thought to what I had said because I know most of the time, Joseph isn’t listening or doesn’t respond. But on this occasion, he stopped what he was doing, looked me in the eye and seemed genuinely worried. He pulled me close to him and said ‘give me a cuddle’. When I realised that I might have put the fear of God into him, I told him how I was sure that his teacher would be telling me he had been a good boy. I am certain he doesn’t know what a parents evening is but I tried to explain how other mums and dads would be there talking to the teacher and he would tell them about how their children are doing at school.
I considered why he might have been worried and put it down to the last time I had spoken to the teacher it was because Joseph had been giving out slaps left right and centre. Maybe he associated it with that, I don’t know.
So this evening, I rocked up at school with my twitcher going ten to the dozen wondering what rabbit would be pulled out of the hat tonight.
We spoke about how he had great recall and an aptitude for spelling; how he was progressing with his number work and how he was doing great with the guitar lessons. He has moments when he protests a little when asked to do something he doesn’t want to (don’t we all?) but generally he was settled and happy to be there.
And I waited.
Because usually we have this good shit, bad shit sandwich. My body language was clearly displaying signs of hostility and defensiveness and despite being told all these wonderful things about my son, I was waiting for a little bombshell.
And then it came.
Joseph is a very popular member of the class, with teachers and pupils.
My son. Popular. What the actual fuck?
I checked his face to see whether he was a killer clown (apparently they are everywhere) but his face was still smiling and seemed genuinely serious about it.
And I asked the question that nobody else would probably even ask.
Why is my son, who has limited social skills and can be a knobhead a lot of the time (something else I’m not meant to say), popular? What does he have to offer to any of these children in terms of friendship and to the teachers who probably look forward to his sick days?
He’s just Joseph and I actually like that he is nothing more, nothing less and in turn these children (and the teachers) with all their innocence do not expect anything else from this boy.
He is not Joseph who has autism. To them, he is Joseph their classmate.