One step forward, two steps back. That’s how life goes here. Norman managed a full week of half days at school last week, at the school’s request. This week however, he has managed half a day, and today he’s lashed out again and, surprise surprise, been suspended again. Seven years old and six suspensions to his name. Seven years old, and a reputation for being a “naughty boy”, a troublemaker… a lost cause.
My boy is none of those things, despite what people might think. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he is a product of his start in life. People tell me again and again that “he was so small, he won’t remember… I don’t remember anything about when I was that age…”
I don’t remember being two either. But then, when I was two, I was loved, cared for, looked after. Unlike my boy. I can remember the worst, most traumatic days of my life, regardless of how old I was when they happened. That’s how trauma works you see. I also remember the things I was taught when I was two. Things like how to walk, how to talk, and how to feed myself, and that above all else, my family loves me. My boys were taught to shout, to hit, and, thankfully, to survive. They were also taught that the only people in the world that they could truly rely on was themselves. What that means is that when they start trusting a new grown up, it panics them – particularly Norman – because his brain is wired to protect himself, because grown ups hurt him, grown ups leave, grown ups aren’t to be trusted under any circumstances. So he pushes back. Fight, flight or freeze – my boy does all three, but most often his fear causes him to fight.
We do it as adults too; at least, 99% of the people I know, myself included, do. We develop fears and anxieties based on our experiences, so that when we move on to a new friendship or interaction, we put barriers in place to protect ourselves from that same hurt again – fight, flight, freeze. In the same way that we learn not to touch the cooker because it’s hot, we then apply that experience and knowledge to all cookers, and we do the same with people, with relationships.
What really frustrates me though, is that we allow ourselves that. We justify it, we accept our own reasons for doing it… yet we then judge a seven year old little boy for following those exact same instincts. For panicking that every person he loves or gets close to will disappear. For lashing out in anger at those who won’t understand him. And the worst thing is, the main reason it frustrates me, is that I judge him too!
We all deserve to have someone on our side. I’m on Norman’s side, and Marvin’s side, and I know Mrs S is too. Sooner or later, something has to give, it has to become two steps forward and two steps back, then two steps forward and only one step back… it has to right? Maybe even one day, we’ll lose count of how many backwards steps we take because we’ll be taking so many forwards ones. The same as all of the other families do.
My friend said to me earlier “It’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t a train,” and that basically sums up exactly how I feel lately. But tunnels can’t possibly last forever can they.