Jamie was waiting for me in the kitchen when I got home.
‘I’ve missed you so much Mum.’
He held out his arms and there were tears in his eyes.
‘Is everything alright?’
‘I’ve had another angry. Dad had to hold me.’
Rob appeared looking shell-shocked. He reassured me that the weekend without me had been fine apart from the last hour. As is so often the case the angries had centred on homework.
Refreshed and reinvigorated from an utterly lovely weekend spent with a friend, indulging in music, food and conversation I was able to take the long view. I thought back to the day last week that I spent listening to Dr Margot Sunderland talking about art, storytelling and play as a means of helping children to process past trauma. That evening I suggested to Jamie that we do some drawing together and that perhaps that might help to soothe away some of the angries.
‘I’m getting bigger and stronger,’ he said.
‘I wonder what the angries might look like when you are a big man?’ I ventured.
‘I’ll be fine by then,’ he mumbled unconvincingly.
He might be right, but I wouldn’t like to bet on it and I well remember Margot talking about unlaid ghosts and unprocessed trauma. So we sat in bed together with a pad of paper and two bic biros.
‘How does the world feel to you when you are angry?’ I tried in a rather amateurish way.
The bic biro sped around. A little stick boy appeared in the middle of the page with an upside down smile and dishevelled hair. The right hand side was labelled ‘bad side’ and contained a host of figures holding pistols. Bullets rained down on to the little stick boy. The figures were smiling, some were weighed down with devil horns.
‘It must feel lonely and scary to be the stick boy,’ I try.
‘That stick boy is me.’
A good side was added to the left hand side of the page. It was empty apart from a well-formed picture of me with a big smile and wonder woman hair. Between the stick boy and the good side appeared a deep and wide river.
‘There’s a 99% chance I’m going to go over to the bad side and a 1% chance I’m going over to the good side.’
It looked pretty hopeless. Then he drew an electric car, a new invention, which can cross rivers, but only if the percentages are more favourable.
‘I wonder how we can improve the chances that the stick boy can cross the river?’
He thought for a while and then wrote ‘Calm’ followed by the numbers 1 to 6.
‘We have to think of six things to bring calm.’
With each calm point he wrote down, the percentages were adjusted; first to 90% and 10% and then to a more encouraging 75% and 25%. He wrote things like ‘listening to music’ and then ‘playing Lego together’.
‘It has to be together or it won’t work.’
He ended the list with ‘drawing’. The percentages adjusted to 0% in favour of the bad side and 100% in favour of the good side. This unlocked the magic car, which came across the river and brought the little stick boy to his mum on the good side. With a final stroke of the pen, a big smile came across stick boys face.