Thursday, 26 July 2018

The Problem with James

I suppose the title to this post is completely misleading because, quite frankly, there isn’t a problem with James; at least for the people who know him there isn't.
James has always been James; bright, bubbly, fun-loving, sensitive, funny and often at times brutally critical of me (Much to everyone’s enjoyment when I share what he has said)

When he was a baby it was a rough time for both his mum and I as we were in the middle of separating and having to deal with the rubbish that goes with it. Most of my readers will know that through the years we ended up focused and looking forward to having the great co-parenting relationship that we have but at the beginning it was very different.

To add to that upheaval James, at 6 months old, ended up in hospital after an incredibly bad asthma attack; it left him so weak and looked incredibly vulnerable.

The following years he grew into his little happy character and embraced life in the only way he knew how.
When it came to his education he was behind. James came to school age and again, like a previous post mentioned, we had to look at him individually. He had real speech and language difficulties where he would slur, stutter and could only be “translated” by people who knew him the best. He seemed highly emotional and prone to wanting to run, hide and cry when things were difficult or overwhelming and finally, he was still physically behind in his motor skills, pencil manipulation and still having the need to wear nappies during the day.

Without official documentation and statements, school placement seemed difficult so the logical step was to Home Ed him too. I had experience with some of his difficulties as a teacher and knew that I could help him. It was, for me at least, only a matter of time to place him in school when he was ready.
Over the last 2 years he has made some real progress and although he may, in some areas, be behind some peers I knew that he was ready to be reintegrated to a school environment.

Yet, I always worried if his personality would adapt.
He has always been a social child. He may not always “fit” into social circumstances but he definitely enjoys being around others.

His idea of playing role play games with others always highlighted his slight difference; every child would be playing cops and robbers and James would want to be the police dog. Not quite fitting into the game and conforming to the “rules” but somehow still finding a way to be himself.
He has also, compared to some other children his age, continued a level of dress-up, costumes, make-up and disguise. Doesn’t matter to him, he just wakes up and wants to be whoever he wants to be for the day.

Being a home ed parent and family he thrived in this lifestyle. I would go and get him in the morning and he would be walking through my flat door dressed as a vampire, robot, pirate, dog, spiderman or just a general entertainer wearing a cape and carrying a puppet in each hand. Whatever he wanted to be, he would be.

It wouldn’t just be a comical fad for an hour. James would be in character all day long and somehow manage to integrate that character into the games that the other 3 would be playing.

Along with this he can be quite wild. I won’t be polite and say “lively” or “energetic” because that doesn’t do him justice. This is a child who is happiest running around in mud, still eating his food solely with his fingers and can be quite abrupt.

His first term at school did come with some difficulties. James was being bullied. He was being deliberately excluded from games at play time by other children and reports of directed comments at him came back. I, of course, spoke to the school and they were on it.

His report highlighted, however, that he “struggled to adapt to the school rules at times and needs to remember to treat others as he would like to be treated”. This didn’t surprise me. The adjustment would take a little time anyway considering he’s gone from home to school and if he has been bullied by others he probably wouldn’t always be nice. That said, I still sat and had a long hard chat with him about it all and have hope for better in September.
This was until he went to a school friend’s birthday party at the weekend.

It wasn’t a fancy dress party but James wanted to dress up. He wanted to be a vampire. Why wouldn’t he? This is James; he faces most days by being someone else.
However, I knew that it could and would be difficult for him. Parents would have known about him because we had already heard from them on the playground as describing him as “lively” and now he is turning up to a non-costumed party, as a vampire.

Quite wrongly, I tried to convince him not to go as one. I was wrong in the stance that I shouldn’t make him feel that who he wants to be is wrong but equally I was trying to help him socially. Help him to be seen the same way that we, his family, friends and church friends, see him.
In my head I was saying “get past the bouncer and then let them enjoy him dancing”.

He still went as a vampire.
Sadly, this wasn’t embraced. It was instantly commented on as “this isn’t a Halloween party” and was then sneered at.

Following that James was on his best behaviour. The wild James that I may have been worried about wasn’t there. Despite his costume, he fitted perfectly into what all the other children were doing. However, he was clearly the scapegoat. It became pretty apparent that some children had an issue with him.
You could sit and watch them do something, James then does exactly the same and they come to tell on him.

As a parent it was heart-breaking to know that this happened. The teacher in me was worried further. As a previous teacher you would get notes of the children that entered the class and they always highlighted the “difficult” ones. These children at the party were obviously used to the “James does something and we tell on him” as it came as second nature. So what does that hold for him?
I don’t want him to conform to society. I want him to stay James; whether it is Elephant James, Pirate James or James the science professor. Yet, it seems that society and his peers aren’t quite ready for that.

As I said at the beginning, there isn’t a problem James. He is a brilliant kid and I love him for who he is. I just wish the world could see him the same way I do.


Sarah Arthurwears said...

I can totally relate to this post about James. I have a lovely little boy myself, who, really is his own person and I have witness lots of scapegoat scenarios and we have also been completely excluded from my old NCT group because certain parents don’t want their children near mine. The issue is definitely theirs and our job as parents is to champion and support our little ones so that their spark isn’t dampened by the opinions of others. Sounds like you are doing a great job of seeing James’ qualities and potential and that is exactly what he needs x said...

Ahh bless him, that's really difficult for him. I can totally see what you mean about the scapegoat thing and it makes it difficult for him to get on with the parents or the teachers. I do hope that can be resolved before he starts to feel like he's the problem when he clearly isn't. I wonder where he gets the dressing up thing from though? I seem to recall seeing a pretty impressive fancy dress outfit involving a wheelchair appear on my social media recently...

Angela Webster said...

James sounds like an awesome little kid and the problem definitely isn't him it's other people. We should be celebrating the differences that make up a person not trying to squash them so they appear more 'normal'. Those kids are the ones missing out on having someone as wonderful as James as their friend x

Kim Carberry said...

Aww! James sounds like an awesome lad. I hope in September when he goes back to school the other children are more accepting. Your boy doesn't have a problem, other people do which is a shame for them because they are missing out on knowing such a fab boy!

Peachy and Clementine said...

I can relate to how you must feel. Peachy is 2 and a half. She is a wild child too and she too can be difficult to understand. She loves playing with other children but doesn't always know how and 5 or 10 year olds generally don't have the patience to include her in their games. Some children are wonderful and it melts my heart to see her play with a child her own age that matches her energy level, or to watch an older child take her under their wing. On the other hand, some children are jerks. Too bad it's totally unacceptable for a 30-something year old woman to punch a 5 year old in the face.