It was my son’s last day of primary school yesterday. Every day I hear phrases like “can’t believe he’s grown up so fast” or “where has the time gone?” I don’t identify.
It feels like a lifetime ago that my baby boy started school. A different world, another life. So much has happened and so much has changed since then. I think about my happy innocent boy, who trotted off for his first day in school with no idea of what he was going to go through over the next seven years or how much of a different place he would be in by the time he started high school.
I think of how naïve I was, the phrase 'ignorance is bliss' rings true. When my boy started school I was 9 years into an abusive marriage, yet blissfully ignorant to what my husband was doing or how the abuse was escalating. In my mind my husband had a few mental health problems and I was hopeful and excited about him overcoming them, I looked forward to the life he promised us.
I was a full time manager, a career woman, my husband had gone back to University whilst I supported him on my earnings. Life was hard; he was away and I was on my own with our child. When he did come home he was bad tempered and angry; complaining bitterly about the course tutors who didn’t understand him and weren’t as clever as he was. But I was filled with hope. In my mind by the time my son left primary school he’d be top of his class, with a bunch of awesome lifelong friends and his parents would be happily married both with successful careers, his dad would be a role model who worked hard during the week and hung with him at weekends.
And now here I am 120 miles away from that school. My son has been to three different primary schools, been diagnosed with autism and found school tough. He has hidden in his bedroom while his dad beat me up, he’s run and hidden from his dad chasing him, he’s sat in fearful silence not knowing what to say to his dad’s endless criticisms. He’s endured humiliation, fear and physical pain from the man who was supposed to love and protect him. He’s watched his mum turn from a confident career woman to a broken mess who cries in the kitchen whilst cooking his tea. Far from having a role model my son has had to sit and explain to social workers why he’s scared to be alone with his dad.
My beautiful innocent little boy who happily raced his friends across the playground has seen and endured things no child should. I think back to how innocent and naïve we both were and a part of me wishes we still were. We’re both jaded now. He’s not yet eleven; he shouldn’t be jaded. I am so proud of how he has come through the things he has battled, how emotionally intelligent and strong he is, what a mature thoughtful approach he takes to his experiences, and how hard he tries to provide his brothers with the good male influence he never had. But I am sad, so deeply sad that he has had to.
When he starts high school in September his baby brothers start primary school. And I consider how different it is for them (and me this time). When my older boy started school I was naïve and filled with excitement and hope. Now I am cynical and tired but I still hope. In fact I have more reason to be hopeful now and my hope is grounded in reality, not in fantasy. Somehow though that makes me feel sad. I’m not sure why.