In the parenting of my adopted children I have faced many situations when I could have done with a bit more front and confidence than I had on tap at the time. Parents’ evening yesterday was one of those situations.
Regular readers will know that my son Jamie has just started seconday school. It has been a tricky time and that is an understatement. Parents’ evening at the new school, I now know, is a sort of survival of the fittest experience. Children are given a list of time slots on a sheet and then three days to collect appointments. After much badgering (from me), much sulking (from both of us) and some help from his tutor he arrived home last night with three five minute appointments. They were spread over an hour and a half. They were for woodwork (the only appointment he made of his own free will), maths and english. The first was half an hour before my husband was due to get home to take care of our daughter. It was clear that Jamie didn’t want me to go.
To cut a long story (lots of phone calls, precarious child care arrangements) short, I made it. I was frazzled, but I was there.
There was talk of too much talk, a lack of focus, immaturity, too much clowning around, some sighing, a little bit of hopelessness. Some positive things too. I found myself trotting out a question which I have found useful in the past: you do know about his background don’t you? I find it polite, asked in the right way and yet it gets straight to the heart of things. I am then guerilla-style, able to smuggle in some facts about attachment disorder and some hopefully useful pointers. This was of course the main reason why I went to parents evening.
To my surprise most of the other parents were there with their children and were clutching full appointment sheets. It was becoming clear to me how very much my son hadn’t wanted me to be there. For a short time I fought back a creeping crisis of confidence. I was the only parent there on my own. I began to feel a bit battered by hearing what I know spoken by people in authority and with the accompanying body language. And as I had resolved to try and see as many staff as I could, I had to hijack some of them when they were not seeing other parents. This wasn’t easy as Jamie claims not to know the names of any of his teachers, so there was a fair bit of guess work and deduction involved.
On the drive home I caught in myself a fleeting feeling of shame and I am not proud to admit that. I saw confident children and relaxed parents and I felt jealousy too. I also fought back feelings of grief for what might have been. Horrible as these feelings are, they did connect me more closely with how Jamie must be feeling. He used all the tactics he could to keep me away from school because of the toxic levels of shame he experiences.
When I got home he didn’t ask me how it had gone and avoided eye contact with me. I told him it had gone well and passed on all the positive feedback I’d received. I quickly mentioned that a few teachers suggested he try and chat a bit less and then quickly glossed over it all.
Instead of reading we watched ‘The Great British Bake Off’ in bed together. He snuggled closely into me and needed repeated reassurances that he is loved. He also noticed that Saira Khan kept opening her oven,
‘She needs to be more patient with her banana cake or it won’t rise, will it mummy?’
And I felt proud that he knew this particular cooking fact and reminded myself that I need to remain patient too. Raising the child victims of neglect and abuse is a long and difficult road, but I am hopeful of a good outcome, with a great rise.