The other morning, as Stig and I approached the HQ for his summer camp activities club, I spotted something that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. The head coach had two mothers huddled around him, these parents had that conspiratorial arch to their spines, hands touching their faces as if to muffle the sounds, occasionally casting a cautious over the shoulder glances. I knew straight away that this involved Stig, call it adoptive parent intuition. As I too wanted to speak to the person in charge, I waited a suitable distance away, but anxious to confirm my suspicions and just hoping that on this occasion it was nothing to do with my kids, I strained to hear the conversation,
Mothers: “It wouldn’t be tolerated on other camps”, “What is your stance on….”.
When I’d collected Stig the previous day, apart from being by far the dirtiest child there, and there was indeed plenty of filth, he wasn’t beaming as he usually was after a day of muddy fun, he had a crestfallen face and he searched my eyes for reassurance. The coach approached me and explained that Stig had struggled in the afternoon session, clashing with another child, resulting in some name calling, angry behaviour and him then walking away from the activity, den building, into the woods on his own. I didn’t react well to the extreme dirt or the said incident and once in the car I demanded an explanation. Stig’s insistence that he didn’t know what he’d done to upset this child increased my annoyance with the situation. I was trying to do the “how could you have behaved differently?” conversation, but had slipped very firmly into critical parent mode. I pointed out that these incidents were rarely one sided, as we often discovered with similar events in school. I made some sounds about it needed to be better the following day or the rest of the week would be called off. I was tense and stressed and his head hung low as we journeyed in silence.
Post hot bath and snack, he joined me in the kitchen wanting to be close, to help, looking for the assurance that things were mending between us. The guilt of my outburst was settling on me and I too made an effort to engage, encourage and comfort. I apologisied for coming down on him “a bit too hard” “I just know you can do this “I said.
“No mummy, it was me, I shouldn’t have done it “he replied. The dagger of guilt twisted. The day had quite obviously drained him mentally and physically and after pushing his tea around his plate he made the decision to head for bed.
As we cuddled in bed the next morning he seemed reluctant to return to camp. He’d been so excited about a whole week of adventures but now, anxiety and uncertainty was all I could see. I knew my own selfish reaction had caused this turnabout.
“I think you’re scared that mummy will be cross if you don’t have a good day and you’re not sure you can make it a good day, especially if that boy is there again”
He nodded his head in agreement, so I dug deep to find the words of encouragement he needed knowing full well I was guilty to the bone.
He decided to dress and eat breakfast and seemed resigned on going although with a little less enthusiasm than the previous day. In the car his apprehension about another possible encounter with the other child was obvious as his chat soon returned to him. We talked techniques, ignoring, walking away and talking to the coach if it got too much. I then tried to change the subject by asking about the other kids and the possibility of making friends. Ask the children “What’s your name?” (Funny how this just never occurs to Stig) I suggested, “What games do you like?” “What TV programmes do you watch?”
“He’s got Lego Indiana Jones on the PSP” Stig announces, bringing the conversation back to the child. As a last resort I suggested that maybe then this boy could be a friend instead of a foe “Why don’t you go up to him and say “sorry for yesterday I hope we can be friends””. We turn into the car park, “He’s here, I can see him”, Stig states.
So once the spine arched parents had gone it’s my turn. “Was that about Stig?” I ask the coach, his head nods to confirm. My heart sinks a little as I launch into a ramble about how “I’ve spoken to Stig about his behaviour and how I’m sure he will be fine today”. Coach nods along, and then kindly reassured me that the said incident had been nothing but “boys being boys” and that Stigs actions had been no worse than the other child. I felt a little relieved but my heart was in my throat all day wondering how he was doing.
“So how was his day?” I ask eagerly as Stig and daddy come through the door later.
“Brilliant, Coach said we should be very proud. He apologised to the other child who showed little graciousness compared to Stig and he got on with the day. He’s been great, no trouble”
“Mummy, coach said he was very proud of me” beamed Stig.
“Me too my love, me too”
Sometimes I know I expect too much from Stig but then on other days he blows my mind with what he’s capable of. He will wear his heart on his sleeve with pride, he does get hurt, even by those closest to him but he gets back up again.His emotional strength is inspirational and truly humbling.