Parents used to agonise over telling their children they were adopted. Thank goodness we have moved on from there in the UK at least. The US tradition of closed adoption records creates a slightly different context, as does the Irish situation as films like Philomena show so movingly. What I’m pondering is how and when to tell the children that I have to go into hospital next Friday. It is mainly a logistical question – Billy will need to make his way home from college on the train, which he can do but prefers not to. Tony will need to fetch Jo then return to the hospital to fetch me, as I won’t be able to drive home or get the train after a general anaesthetic. I was told a few weeks ago that I probably had breast cancer, then that I probably didn’t. I didn’t tell the kids. At the moment I’m well and they don’t need any additional insecurity. We don’t need the fall-out from additional insecurity. The worst-case scenario, from my point of view, is that with or without further treatment I turn out to be terminally ill and die. Not a bad outcome, we are all going to die and I have few regrets about my life. It has been filled with blessings; good things, good people and good places. The problems would be for the rest of the family – Tony is clear that he couldn’t cope on his own; the family would unravel. The children are not old enough to be independent. Tony’s sister and family would try to cover some of the bases but it would be hard to replace my input at this stage in their lives. Thankfully it doesn’t look as if we will have to face that scenario at the moment. There is nothing like a reminder of mortality to make you appreciate life, and the speed at which it passes. Each day is a chance to do something good, to make it count, to build a little piece of heaven on earth for a fleeting moment. I will need to say something to Billy and Jo before they go back to school tomorrow so that they know the score when they come home on Friday.
Dealing with hurt
Billy had a bit of a melt-down last night. He could have been disappointed about the visit non-event with his friends the other day, or maybe was under the influence of something (cannabis?), which made him aggressive. He usually takes it out on Jo, which was the case this time. She was sitting on the stairs that lead up to his attic bedroom trying to engage him with something on YouTube on her iPad. Billy was being obnoxious, starting with off-handed put-downs that evidently turned into really hateful and hurtful language. I tried to get Jo to leave him alone, but she will persist in those situations, giving him the power to hurt her. She came downstairs in tears about the things he’d said to her, afraid, afraid of him, hurt and angry. It is a huge advance that nothing got broken and no one was physically hurt. It is possible that Jo went and cut herself. I can’t tell as after a chat she went off to bed, and 6.30pm the following evening is still there. In the past they would at some stage have attacked one another, and/or belongings, furniture, doors, windows and so on. That Jo can contain her feelings, talk about them to me and express her hurt with words and tears shows considerable maturity and self-control. We haven’t found a way to stop Billy being so unkind. At some level he doesn’t care. He wants to hurt. Maybe it covers up his own hurt. Attacking Jo for being transgendered is just another tool to hurt her. It isn’t personal, it isn’t about who or what she is or is not, it is about Billy and his inability to feel good about himself without putting down others.
When things don’t work and back to school blues
We had another near melt-down this afternoon. Billy had spent hours trying to sort out his Microsoft account to access money on it given by his birth mother. It wasn’t clear what the problem was but his frustration was clear. He wanted to smash the XBox, sell it, pinch Jo’s… (Tony intercepted that move). Any suggestions or attempts to understand the problem were met with abuse. I recognise the sense of frustration when something doesn’t work. I’ve felt like that and have shared the feeling of just wanting someone to fix it. Who hasn’t? We had conversations about the help-line, but Billy evidently wasn’t in a state to talk civilly to anyone at the other end of a phone. We suggested that he could leave it for now and focus on some holiday work that needs to be handed in next week, but both children have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of doing any school work what-so-ever over the holidays. I just wish schools would stop giving it. Some kids, ours at least, have never done any work at home and it leads to tears, aggro, threats not to go back to school, fear of getting into trouble, emails from teachers about our responsibilities as parents… So the books and files will go back unopened. Both kids will probably try the ‘I’m not going back to school/college and you can’t make me’ routine. We will try to ignore it but can feel the adrenaline and sense of desperation rising. Everyone becomes increasingly tense. It would be nice to have some family time together but they are all firmly ensconced in their rooms. I feel bad for Edgar who must be pretty bored, and I know he is embarrassed when Billy is rude to me and behaves like an idiot. So as the holidays draw to a close, we go ahead looking for the small moments when we can make a difference and enjoy life and one another. And I guess Edgar is right, we are all pretty mad as a family. While writing this I’m trying to stop the cat hunt the lizard, who is enjoying a play-time in my study. He has found the boxes and wrapping paper left over from Christmas and will no doubt find a good hiding place if I don’t keep an eye on him. He at least is having a good time, and I’m enjoying watching him.