Teen (now fourteen) had friendship issues when he moved up to senior school. But, to be honest, I expected it. This was the boy who, aged three, had pushed his friend into an easel at nursery after a minor tiff, giving her a black eye. As punishment, he was forced to sit in the Principal's office for hours.
I learnt two things that day:
1. This boy takes no prisoners, and
2. Never, EVER, send your pre-schooler to a nursery which is up its own arse enough to have a 'Principal', never mind a 'Principal's Office'.
Teen went on to form friendships at Primary school, but he was always regarded as a bit 'on the edge'. Always a bit sidelined. And so, when he moved to Secondary School, it was no surprise that he suffered unkindness.
He was lonely. But because he was used to it, he dealt with it (with some help from the lovely pastoral care people at the school). And now, aged fourteen, he's happy. He has friends - admittedly, I've never seen any of them, but I can hear them coming over the Xbox loud and clear - and my spies tell me that he is never alone in the playground.
But when Tween started at senior school, I thought it would be entirely a different kettle of fish. Tween has always been sociable, fairly sporty, with a wide group of friends. And initially, it was fine; he arrived with two good friends from Primary school, and they went round together, stuck to each other like glue.
These two other boys are super sporty, and it was inevitable that Tween - a bit bulky and slow - would be left behind. Literally. They are moving on to other friends and this, coupled with some mild bullying from a couple of other children, has left him struggling.
It is heartbreaking. Last week, he was retching on the way to school. He would smile at me and tell me everything was ok, with tears rolling down his face. He begged me not to tell the school, not wanting to be a 'grass'. Night times are spent talking, going round in circles, stroking his hair, cuddling him, telling him that these things take time to iron out.
This is the time when single parenting is hard. I bang on about how I happy I am now that I am single, but at times likes these, I would give anything to have another adult to lean on. My ex is being as useful as a paper bag in a storm and, to be fair, he would have been just the same had we still been married. But at the moment, I feel sorry for my son, and sorry for myself. It is a tough time.
Having reassured Tween that I wouldn't approach the school, I have told them, of course. They have been reassuring and have put a subtle plan in place, but ultimately, Tween has to put feelers out, be brave, and make a new set of friends. We all know how scary this can be, even as adults, so it will take time.
In the meantime, I will be there with the sick bucket, the tissues, the cuddles, the teddy. Hot chocolates.
Because that is what parenting means.
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