This morning I woke up in a puddle of wee. Not, I hasted to add, my own (a situation to which I guess there are pros and cons). It was one of my children’s. He’d got into bed with us for a cuddle and, most unusually, had ended up having an accident.
I am worried about him. While I’m very much aware of the practical consequences of wetting the bed, I have only vague ideas about what causes it. For some people I imagine it’s just “a thing” (the technical term). But when it happens out of the blue, I can’t help associating it with some kind of trauma or distress that wasn’t there before. More specifically, I worry my son is not happy at school. I worry he might be being bullied. I worry he is having problems making friends.
Of course, I am just the sort of parent to worry about these things – the sort of parent every teacher probably can’t wait to see the back of. Middle-class, over-educated, highly strung, I am precisely the kind of self-obsessed knob who would decide, for no reason whatsoever, that my child is “over-sensitive” and “needs more attention that all the others”. I can look back over the years and argue that this wouldn’t be totally fair – after all, external agents such as nursery have, quite independently, raised concerns about my son and I often feel that if I hadn’t been extra “pushy” about him getting an ear operation, he might still be struggling to communicate now. But still, none of this makes me any less prone to over-interpreting minor issues – in fact, it might make me more likely to do so.
The latest worry is to do with friends. This term my son has not been happy with school. Each morning he drags his feet about going (struggles to get dressed, ridiculously long breakfasts, an insistence on dropping off his brother at nursery first). And each evening his stories about the day are no longer funny or silly. Someone has hit him, another person scratched him. That’s if he mentions if at all (but I have seen the scratches). Then yesterday he visited his “best friend”. The visit ended badly – the two of them got hopelessly muddy, so my son ended up in a pair of trousers belonging to his friend. The latter was furious at this and even though my son tried to comfort him – telling him he’d get his trousers back on Monday – the tantrum got worse and worse, culminating in the friend accusing my son of hitting him (he hadn’t), kicking my son and telling him that from now on he’d only play with his “real friends”, whom he listed by name. Perhaps this was just a one-off. Perhaps he just really, really liked those trousers. Even so, it unsettled me. What if my son was the “charity” friend? What if the other boy dreaded these Saturday visits, an arrangement between mothers with which he simply went along because my son has more Star Wars toys than he does? What if, come Monday morning, he routinely ignores my son in the playground? What if they all do?
You can see the way my mind races. I know what it’s like to be unpopular. At primary school I was a “low value” person. Bullied for being “posh”, I ended up hanging around with the girl who was bullied for being poor (clearly, everyone else in our entire year represented some kind of socio-economic golden mean). At secondary school, things got better, but I still find it hard to trust people as a result. I am a friendship commitment-phobe, with a tendency to disappear from view before people who think I’m reasonable discover “the truth”.
I don’t particularly want my son to be one of the really popular kids (whom, if I remember correctly, most of us secretly hated). I just want him to be at ease with himself and others, because he’s lovely and because being young is so hard (sometimes, as part of my job, I visit schools and sit in on lessons. Each time I am reminded of how harsh and judgmental young people are, and how I’d never want to go back to having to find my place in such an environment).
I will talk to my son’s teacher about the scratches. But there is a limit to what else I can do, particularly if I want to avoid being the over-protective, smothery mummy who makes it all worse. I need to build his inner confidence. But how? I tell him he’s ace all the time (except when he’s being a sod. You have to draw the line somewhere).
I don’t know what the answer is. For now, I have more immediate concerns – sheets to change and Vanish mousse to spray on a wee-stained mattress.