Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Inexplicable Mindset of My 8 Year Old...

The walk to school yesterday was pretty much like any other.  The boys run ahead through the woods, only to instantly return and cling to my side like limpets when I bump into a friend and attempt to have a conversation.

What is that with kids?  The telephone has the same effect.  They can be playing quietly for hours...but if I dare to pick up the phone for any reason and attempt to call anyone - they are there, by my side, loud, insistent, irritating, irksome and pernicious.

I was trying not to raise my voice, I really was.  I was trying to enjoy our morning walk, because they would be gone all weekend to stay with their dad and I didn't want them to start their weekend with the memory of me snipping and snapping at them every 2 metres (which is, unfortunately, how it can be some mornings...much to my chagrin).

We bump into other families on their way to school.  A friend from Captain Underpant's class whizzes by on his bike.  Captain Underpants walks alongside me, holding my hand.  I look at him, in his new specs, as he looks back at me and smiles.  This boy is a total joy, I think.  I squeeze his hand in mine.


"Yes, love?"

"Erm.  Nothing..."

There is a big pause and CU starts to look a little uncomfortable.  He has a look on his face that typically appears just before he is about to make a confessional admission.  You know the sort of thing.   Spilt drinks.  Uneaten lunches.  Getting told off at school.  Losing his library book.  Forgetting to hand in his school club money.

"What is it, sweetheart?  You can tell me.  It's okay."  I look down at him and smile reassuringly.

He is not convinced.  He can't quite meet my eyes and starts to shift his gaze around the path we are walking on.  He looks embarrassed and just a little bit guilty.

Well, I am all ears now.

Now, I have to know what it is that is bugging him.  What it is that he can't possibly tell me.  I look at him a little more keenly.  Oh yes, I think.  He is itching to tell me really.  Oh boy.  This must be really bad.  I search my brain for things that I might have forgotten, which concern him.  PE kit?  Nope.  A request for loo rolls / cereal boxes / egg cartons that I have forgotten about?  Nope.  Something - anything - concerning his dad?  Possibly.  Worries about school?  Could be.

I am very much aware that CU is not a happy bunny right now.  He is struggling to adapt to the extent of change in his life - a new school year with teachers who are job sharing plus a new routine spending two nights a week with dad, freshly moved over from Chicago, plus me now working 3 days a week is not providing the platform of consistency that he prefers.  There have been ongoing complaints of tummy aches.  Tears before school.  Tears before going to stay at dad's house.  My heart aches to observe his anxieties, heightened by the fact that he is desperately trying not to say anything to upset either me or his father.

Now he wants to tell me something.  Something big.  Something that is troubling him.  But he can't find the words and the last thing I want to do is to add to the pressure I know that he feels he is under.

Once this walk to school is over, I am not going to see him until Monday pick up.  Light years away.  This moment will have long passed by then.  I don't want him to have to internalise and fret about anything else.  He has enough on his plate as it is, my sensitive older child.  I have no idea what to do - how to drag this information out of him so that he can just relax.

I stop walking and crouch down to his level.

"You really don't think you can tell me?  I promise not to get upset or angry.  I promise not to say anything at all, if that's what you want."

He shakes his head, glumly.

"Well, how about this then.  If you fancy telling me later, you can take Daddy's phone and just call me, okay?  And if you want to tell me in private, with nobody else listening, you can go into the bathroom and lock yourself in, so no-one else can hear what you are saying."

His face brightens.

"So no-one will hear me?  And no-one will see me.  Right mum?"

I nod.

He nods, solemnly and walks forward with a new spring in his step.  "I will call and tell you later.  On the phone.  From the bathroom."  He seems reassured.  I am anything but reassured, however it appears that a weight has been lifted and he skips off in search of his brother.

After drop off, I head off to work troubled by our conversation.  The day passes.  I am conscious of the time and hope that CU will follow through and tell me what's on his mind.  I dash out of the office early because I desperately need to get to the bank.  I had my brand new purse stolen a week before and still hadn't received replacement bank cards.  The bank's location is not convenient, the tube and streets are heaving and I am a sweaty mess by the time I get there.  I dive into the branch with minutes to spare till closing time, completely flustered and stressed.  As the clerk deals with my request, I dig into my bag for my phone, wanting to check the volume is at its highest.

No phone.

I can't find my phone.

I really can't find my phone!  I am already sweating rather unattractively due to legging it across central London in the rush hour and unexpected 27 degrees heat.  Now I am seriously sweating and experiencing the onset of a panic attack.  Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!  I can't find my phone!

As desperately as I search for it, the bloody thing fails to materialise.  I dump the bag out onto the floor, rifling through it like a woman possessed.

"I can't find my phone!"  I shriek at the other customers and the bank staff.

"I can't find my phone.  Oh God, I've lost my fucking phone.  I don't fucking believe it.  I've lost my fucking phone....shit, shit, shit, shit, shit."

The cashier looks at me uncomfortably - I am guessing that customers having a nervous breakdown on her watch is not commonplace - and hands me my cash.  I grab it without looking at her, embarrassed by my panic and the fact that I am now in tears.

First my purse.  Now this.  The grip on my sanity has always been a little bit tenuous.  Now it appears the grip on my possessions is following suit.

I try to breath normally, go outside and empty out my bag for the second time.  I need the phone.  How else will CU call me?  Normally it wouldn't be an issue.  But today it is imperative that I am there to talk to him.  He needs to know I am there when I say I will be.  That despite all the flux in his life, my being there is a constant that he can depend.  Oh for God's sake - where is my fucking phone?

I race back to the tube, barging through commuters and provoking many a disgruntled glance.  I start to retrace my steps.  Where could I have left it?  I must find it.  I absolutely must find it.

After 45 minutes of frantically chasing my tail from Holborn, to Baker Street, to Selfridges and back to Bond Street, I admit defeat and head back to the office.  I start to think about the photos I have taken on my phone, which I haven't yet downloaded.  I very rarely synch my phone, because I am a lazy arse and generally technically inept.  Now I can't speak to my 8 year old AND I have lost the only photos I have from both the boys recent birthdays.  What has happened to me?  Why am I always lurching from one crisis to the next?  I need to stop being so easily distracted, so away with the fairies.

I walk into my office, sweating so copiously that there is steam rising from my skin and my clothes.  My colleague looks at me in surprise and I explain what's going on.  I try to think clearly about what I need to do next.  The important thing - above anything else - is that I speak to CU.  My colleague dials my number and we both sit and listen to the phone ring and ring.  I am pretty certain it is on silent.  If someone has found it, maybe they just can't hear it ringing.  I sit and breath for a minute to calm down, collect my thoughts.  I mechanically empty out my bag again and sort through the debris that is its contents, while trying to remember Ex's phone number.  I reach for the bag to shove everything back in it again - and there nestled at the bottom is the phone.

I stare at it in disbelief and start to laugh.  The relief is overwhelming.  My sense of stupidity overrides it.  I am such a moron.

I quickly dial the number to speak to CU.

"Oh, hi mum!"  He sounds chirpy and untroubled.  I start to relax just a little.  I prompt him to tell me what was on his mind that morning.

"Well, you know we saw X riding his bike in the woods this morning?  And you remember you said that when I am older I can ride to school all by myself?  After I have been on the cycling course? and X have talked about it and we are going to wait for each other and ride to school together, when we are older.  But only when we are older.  Not before you say so.  And his mum says so.  Okay, mum?"

After all that - and with everything else that is going on in his life - this is what was plaguing him?  Really?  I am utterly stunned into (almost) speechlessness.

"That's a great plan sweetheart - I like your thinking." I tell him.  For once, I really don't have the words to say anything else.

I breath a huge sigh of relief and think...if I thought I understood my 8 year old, this just goes to prove that I really have no concept of what is going on in his head.  At.  All.


  1. Bloody hell NIc, you can't half spin 'em out!

  2. I know. Shit post. Don't know what I was thinking!

  3. I can just imagine the panic. I had a similar thing last weekend, when I thought I'd left my phone in a restaurant - I ran back in and virtually had them going through the trash, only to find it was in the car after all.

  4. I completely get your panic. And the underwhelming feeling you have when kids finally reveal what's on their mind. It's rarely what we imagine it to be