‘You’re mean, you’re a retard, I hate you, I’m going to ring Childline about you meanies,’ shouted my 11-year-old son on Friday morning as I wrestled him into his school jumper and forced his feet into his school shoes.
Somewhat chastened and feeling guilty about his latest set of outbursts he snuggled next to me that evening to watch The Simpsons. Due to his superior olfactory skills the Simpson family pet, Santa’s Little Helper was recruited into the police force as a sniffer dog. Busting drug dealers and chasing down burglars became too much for the little dog who would come home after a long days work and take it out on his owners, barking and growling at them and on one occasion biting Bart.
‘You’re a bit like Bart’s dog,’ I ventured, ‘you have a hard day at school every day and then you come home and bite everyone.’ There was a short silence. ‘Mmmm.. yes, I am a bit like that,’ he offered, with the stress on the word ‘bit’. ‘I think you’re finding it stressful at school having to meet so many new people, having to find your way around, having to cope with being around lots of big children.’ I left the thought hanging for a while. He cuddled into me. ‘Do you think if you talked about how you’re feeling at school, it might help you feel less stressed?’ He shuffled, burrowed his head into my side and finally conceded ‘I am feeling worried at school, but I’m keeping it together and trying hard. I’m sorry I’ve been mean to you and it does help when I share.’
Coming at an issue from left field often works with our children. I find they don’t see you coming and don’t have time to construct the usual defenses. The element of surprise can help to unlock some sticky issues.
At the end of the episode Santa’s Little Helper leaves the police force and decides it was better being a family dog. ‘See Mum, that means I’d be much happier if I just left school.’
Sometimes a comparison can just be stretched too far.