I don’t deal well with feeling helpless and I’m having a bit of a helpless week. There are two things going on right now, at two ends of the scale, that have been taking up all my head space and leaving me feeling emotionally wrung out.
One of them, there are not yet any words for. We are all beyond helpless with that one and it is too big for me to even look at yet.
So let’s look at the other one. I am well aware that my stress about this second concern is massively amplified by the fact that I cannot help with the first. That is how my helplessness works. I have to try to fix things. I can’t fix the big thing – nobody can – but I might have an outside chance of doing something to improve the other thing.
And, to be honest, the other thing would be enough on it’s own to really concern me. My dear little H is struggling at school and I am really worried about him. This isn’t a new thing, it has just come to a head again this week. When he started school, H felt just too young and it took him such a long time to settle, I began to wonder if he’d ever happily run in with his friends. He cried every morning for the first term.
As a April baby, H was one of the younger ones but he was also just very young in his ways, and he still is. When I look at him and his class mates now, other seven year olds seem so much more mature and worldly. Hell, even his four year old sister seems more mature at times. I don’t mean he is immature in the sense that he behaves badly. He is just a total innocent abroad. He really struggles with new situations, which completely stress him out, and he finds the world a very challenging place at times. In fact, he often seems to be in his own world entirely, drifting off somewhere pleasant, floaty and entirely unproductive. None of this is very compatible with the school system.
H’s school has been very supportive and he has had all sorts of extra help. We are also sending him to a maths tutor once a week, which has definately seen him improve, but he still isn’t closing the gap as much as I’d hoped. He reads pretty well but his spelling and handwriting are crazy and his maths is very basic. I know this is common in kids his age and I am also aware that he is far from the only one in his class who needs assistance but I just keep waiting for the eureka moment we had with his reading. But for now at least, numbers still baffle him. I’m no maths whizz myself, so I sympathise.
H is a leftie, something my right-handed husband and I weren’t expecting, and I’m sure a lot of things are harder for left-handed kids. H didn’t even consistently hold his pencil the right way for most of his first year of school. He just really struggled with it and, whilst he now at least has that nailed, his writing is pretty unintelligible, even to him.
H is my first born, my first school pupil. It is uncharted territory for both of us. I am not craving a straight A genius. Really, I’m not. I just so want him to do well enough to achieve what he wants to achieve, to feel like he is on a par with his peers and to gain confidence as he learns, rather than being distracted by worrying about whether he is smart enough or quick enough.
I so want to help him, it actually hurts. I know he is a bright lad, he just doesn’t seem to be entirely compatible with the one-size-fits-all system that is our education system. Thankfully he is happy at school and we’ve have been told we are doing everything right but I can’t make him pick it up, I can’t force the understanding into his head. There is only so much I can do and I don’t think anyone has the power to snap him out of his lovely classroom daydream into the focused, switched-on pupil I would love him to be. I don’t understand what is going on inside his adorable, little head so I am baffled as to how to mould him into a more ‘suitable’ pupil for the school system.
And part of me doesn’t want to. Because, on the flip side of my concern about him not hitting the academic targets, I worry a lot about putting too much onto my H’s little shoulders. Because he has a maths tutor, he already has far more homework to do every week than the rest of his classmates. On top of that, we are working hard on his comprehension, so we do little workbooks at home too, to get him used to working out how to focus on instructions and understand what is required of him. Most evenings, he does a maths worksheet, a few pages of a workbook and his reading. He is only just seven. I don’t want to hot-house the poor lad when part of me is screaming that he should just be allowed to play and enjoy himself. His dreamworld looks pretty bloody lovely to me and I can’t bear that we have to try to extract him from it so often.
I sometimes want to throw all the homework on the fire, tell him I’ve done fine without knowing my times tables, that there is more to life than grasping numbers. Tell him that his Dad’s writing is terrible but that it didn’t stop him doing what he wanted to do. But I know that this age at school is all about mastering all that apparently vital stuff. I also know how bad it can make you feel when you are not a natural at one of these key skills and you watch other kids doing them with ease. How it can make you feel that you are worth less than them. I can’t bear that H may be feeling like that, either now or in the future, because I know what a massively negative impact that can have upon a kid’s self esteem.
The whole business is nothing but worry to me, especially as I see his little sister – three years his junior and a very bright little spark – coming up behind him at great speed. The day she starts shouting out the answers to his sums quicker than he does will be a very difficult time for both of us, and it isn’t that far off. I’m bracing myself, but H has no idea, of course.
In discussions with his maths tutor yesterday, she asked me if H was on ‘the register’, by which she means the Special Education Needs register. No, he isn’t. Maybe he needs to be, I honestly have no idea. I know being on that register isn’t anything to be ashamed of and that knowing what we are dealing with might help. But hearing for the first time that this may be the direction we are moving in, that we may be looking for a label or a condition, was – if not exactly a shock – very upsetting. It is new territory, yet again, and I am slowly digesting it, before trying to work out our next steps. Before trying, desperately, to be ‘helpful’ again. To fight the helplessness. To try my best to make my much loved little boy’s path through life a little less painful, a little less stressful and something to be enjoyed, not endured.
So, I’m waiting for a call from the SEN lady at school, hoping she will give me a plan of action for my wonderful little boy, who has so much more to offer than knowing the answer to 8 x 4.
And I also wait for a call about that other thing that we can’t yet talk about. Because there are no words. Because there is no help to be had.
No, I definitely don’t deal well with helplessness.