Tag Archives: Friends

On trying not to over react

IMG_1082Jo was bored. Billy spent Friday night at a friend’s house, then phoned very early Saturday morning to ask how he should get home as there was snow on the ground. We checked the trains on-line, all running normally. He eventually made it home by early evening, but in the meantime he had invited another friend along as well, a refugee from building work on his house. That meant that Billy had company all weekend and didn’t need Jo. Jo was bored and stressed. I don’t know quite what happened but there was some incident on-line with one of her oldest local friends, who never wants to see her. Maybe with Billy occupied she had tried to find other company and was disappointed that it didn’t work out. It became apparent on Sunday that she had no intention of returning to school. By the time we took Billy to the station on Sunday evening to make his way back to college we found “my blood is on you all” smeared, in blood, all the way up the white wall of the staircase. On Billy’s bedroom door, along with more bloody finger marks, was the word “Die”. Very jolly! Tony and I were both tired and not in the mood for Jo’s drama-queen antics. We focused on getting Billy out of the house, and assured him that we were not ignoring Jo’s behaviour, we just weren’t sure how to deal with it. He suggested she needed an exorcist.

Part of me wanted to ring her CAMHS counsellor first thing Monday morning to say that we simply couldn’t cope with this sort of thing. Part of me just wanted to tell her off and get her to clean it up the mess, as it seemed indulgent and uncalled for. Billy and his friend had ordered a Domino’s Pizza takeaway after supper on Saturday evening, refusing to share any of it with Jo. On Sunday Jo refused to eat saying that she only wanted a Domino’s pizza. I don’t usually buy them as they strike me as overpriced and not particularly healthy, but Sunday afternoon I had made a special journey to get Jo a Domino’s pizza. This she had turned down on the grounds that it was too small. She had evidently boxed herself into a place where she felt she had to act out her frustrations, as happened so often when she was younger.

Fortunately Tony and I were too exhausted to do anything and Jo was hiding under her duvet, refusing to make contact with anyone. We decided that we would ignore her histrionics, calculating that she was not a suicide risk. I could see some blood on her sheet and broken glass on the floor, but nothing to cause too much alarm. We hadn’t the energy to try to get Jo back to school, and phoned to say she wouldn’t be in that evening. Her housemaster was relaxed about it so we did not feel under any great pressure from that direction. A couple of hours later Jo appeared in the kitchen and presented me with a dirty pink flannel, with which she had evidently wiped the blood off the wall (we have tough wipe-clean paint for good reason). I asked her to move the flannel from the kitchen table to the washing machine, which she did. She then found the remains of her breakfast sausages and the Dominos pizza still in the oven and disappeared upstairs with them. She didn’t say much until this evening (Monday) having slept all day. She is clearly stressed, and has cuts all down one arm, having broken something made of glass her friend had given her, in order to make the incisions.

Part of the problem seems to be Jo’s indecision about going ahead transitioning from male to female. She feels female and just wants people to treat her as a girl, but is finding it hard to accept that she needs medical intervention if people are not going to see her, at least partly, as male. We find it easier and easier to think of Jo as a girl as in personality, and the way she talks, thinks and acts she has always been far more female than male. But one can’t escape the facts of puberty. However she dresses and does her hair, Jo is in a male body. Hopefully taking about it, rather than just acting out her frustration and sense of isolation, will help Jo move forward. I’m glad we didn’t react to her message in blood, even if it was because we simply didn’t know what to do and were too tired to engage with it at the time. You could say it was a call for help, certainly a bid for attention, but not one we would wish to encourage. Being fourteen is never easy, and for Jo there is a lot more to work out than just who your best friend is and why she doesn’t like you.IMG_1084

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Good Enough Parenting

It is always good to get a pat on the back. Neither Billy nor Jo are programmed to say “Thank You!” or show outward gratitude. They are still operating at a much younger level than their chronological years in many respects. Most of life is self-referential. ‘How does this affect me?’ ‘Am I safe?’ ‘Can I get away with it?’ Luckily we don’t parent in order to get these rewards, although learning to say “Thank You” is a useful skill they will hopefully acquire along the way.

aeroplane-in-sunsetI was therefore very touched by Edgar’s Christmas card message, which I read this morning (having got back from Heathrow at 1am). The plane had been delayed and the baggage took an age, then Billy insisted that he and Edgar go to the smoking area before we left, overshooting our two hours of parking. Pricey, but it was very good to see Edgar again after about six months absence. The message read:

 You can’t believe how happy I am to be with you now!…

It’s been AMAZING those 2 years with you all!!

My grades have luckily gone up a bit. I hope Billy is on his right path too….

I remember the first time I came over… we had Domino’s, MacDonald’s and KFC in one weekend, haha! ­Jolly good (splendid!).

Maybe Billy could come over to [X] again sometime again?

I just want to thank you all again for everything you have done for me… you can’t believe what it means to me (honestly, those 2 years have been the best in my life yet).

So enough talking, let’s celebrate 2015!

Lots of love, kind regards, yours sincerely etc.

Edgar

 The envelope was endearingly addressed: To the most splendid family on this planet!

It is good to know we have made some difference to this young man’s life. He hasn’t had it easy either, and lacks the stable family background Billy and Jo have enjoyed. I guess we are all damaged in one way or another. Sometimes its very visible – a broken leg, a congenital disability. In others it’s hidden; a neurological and emotional handicap from a difficult start in life, even before birth. Others are damaged by dysfunctional relationships, a lack of love, or extreme poverty. Edgar was part of our family  when Jo began her public gender transition. Her first attempts to go out as a girl were a little extreme. She hadn’t had much practice and didn’t have a big choice of clothes. She had not decided on the look she wanted to achieve. The first time Edgar was sitting at breakfast and Jo came into the kitchen as a girl his spontaneous remark was “That’s disgusting!” We probably hadn’t forewarned him, which I did subsequently with all Billy’s friends. Jo was understandably upset and retreated to her room. I had a word with Edgar about gender transition and how important it was to support Jo, especially as Billy was being as unkind to her and as difficult as possible. Edgar took it on board and from then on was kind and, at least in our company, was careful not to say anything inappropriate. He made an effort to adapt his language to the change of name and gender.

I was amused to have my lack of domestic skills set out in a series of fast-food outlets. If I read that about someone else I would probably be making judgements about the sort of family who just stuff the kids with junk food rather than sit round the table eating nutritious home-cooked meals. I do try to do that too, but especially when they have friends over we are often trying to keep so many balls in the air, treading on eggshells, trying to keep the kids apart and prevent a meltdown. Giving-in to requests for over-priced Domino’s pizza, or getting a MacDonald’s after a trip to the cinema or on the way back to school, can be a small price to pay for some happily occupied and relatively compliant children.

Not So Holy Innocents

images-1I could hear the church bells coming up the hill from the neighbouring town while letting the chickens out. That answered the question as to whether there was a service there today. In our parish the vicar has a day off after the Christmas festivities. The Sunday after Christmas celebrates the Holy Innocents – the infants under the age of two killed by King Herod, on hearing the news from the Magi that a king had been born in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. I contemplated the many innocents still being killed today through war, hunger, persecution, neglect, accidents and natural disasters. Ten years ago thousands were killed by a Tsunami in South East Asia, and today another airliner disappeared with all its passengers. This evening Billy and I are going to Heathrow Airport in London to meet a former school friend who is coming to stay for the rest of the holidays. I pondered too how Billy and children like him can so easily be both victims and aggressors.

It was in Year 10, having returned to school after a long absence, that Billy got into trouble on a school trip. I dread the phone call from someone in authority – although it is not always bad news. My first thought is always, “ what have they done now?” A call late at night from Billy’s housemaster in Spain was not propitious. Billy had apparently threatened someone with a knife, bad enough, but had also spent all his pocket money on the ferry going out on vodka. Another kid had bought hundreds of cigarettes, but got away with it. The vodka was used to host a party for kids from their school and others at their hotel, plus some local layabouts. Not surprisingly the staff didn’t appreciate having to deal with it, or the inevitable calls to parents to let them know that their children were in ‘deep-shit’ (excuse the language). Billy was lucky not to be expelled on that occasion (but was subsequently). His period of suspension was accompanied by some on-line bullying from peers who wanted him to be chucked out and made their antipathy to Billy clear. This was a form of persecution that, following prolonged bullying previously, was deeply destructive for Billy. The friend coming to stay, who I will call Edgar, was the only one who stuck up for Billy on-line and stood by him in person. We did observe that Billy didn’t appear to be asked to the homes of any of the English kids, nor were they allowed to come to visit or stay with Billy, so he was dependent on overseas boarders for company. We can only assume that he was regarded as a bad influence on their kids, as he had been quite popular in Years 7 & 8. We could only speculate as none of the parents would say anything and we didn’t like to ask directly, but the assumption had to be he had been dealing drugs. We never had any direct proof, only hints from conversations.

So one houseguest despatched, the spare room cleaned and bed remade, we look forward to Edgar’s arrival. He spent most weekends and some holidays with us for about a year and a half, so it will be good to have him around again. He once said rather endearingly that staying with us was better than a 5* hotel, so the pressure was on to keep up the cooked breakfasts. We could at least provide a break from the routines of boarding school. We were thankful to Edgar for sticking with Billy when he was expelled. Billy had also been invited to stay with Edgar on a couple of occasions, although by all accounts didn’t behave particularly well. I’m not too thrilled that Edgar is apparently bringing Billy a sheesha (hookah), as the last oneBilly brought back with him from Edgar’s I threw in the bin, along with anything used for smoking. The quid pro quo was that we would buy 25 grams of tobaccoUnknown-1 a week. I don’t smoke, don’t want the children to smoke, and don’t approve of smoking. But given that Billy is going to do it anyway, we would rather know what he is taking and have some control over it. How we will deal with the sheesha I’m not sure as it hasn’t arrived as yet.

OK, time to inspect the bathroom before leaving for the airport. Just hope that Billy hasn’t been planning a drug-fuelled few days with his friend (it has happened before) while I try to get my head around his neglected coursework due in when he gets back to college next week.