Let’s talk about gratification, or closer, ‘gratifying’. When I hear the word gratification, I don’t why, but as usual, I’ll blame the Internet, I think of sex, and to a smaller extent, food. Sex and food and the expressions delayed gratification and instant gratification.
I don’t think until this week, I’d experienced it. I think that’s partly because in some way you’re acknowledging you had a hand in something good.
Last year, about half way into the last term, after another day of my youngest son, Stephen King Junior, coming home from school uncommunicative and teary, I decided we’d had enough.
SKJ had been bullied – proper bullied, not the ups and downs of learning how to get along with the other kids – but a determined effort to undermine his confidence and character by a collection of the boys in his class.
He spent his lunchtimes and recesses on the step outside his classroom or hiding in the library. He’s little, SKJ, and some of the taunting was about his size. Now he wears layer upon layer upon layer of clothing to compensate and there is no changing his mind about it (he even wears two pairs of pyjamas to bed).
I’d been up to the school, the teachers, the vice principal, principal, and they were good. SKJ is the third son I had at the school and the school was always ready to listen to parents and students. I do not blame the school.
Anyhow, blame is useless.
Bullies cannot be reasoned with.
Change is what was needed.
Let’s take a short cut to today, in fact, last week, Wednesday afternoon, three thirty p.m. I’m waiting for SKJ outside his new classroom. The bell sounds and kids pile out of the two school buildings (SKJ’s new school has 250 kids as opposed to 1,100 at his previous school). I wait in the sunshine. I’m a little nervous.
There he is. The only kid with his jacket on. He has sweat around his hairline; I can see it from here. He’s walking along with a boy, talking, and he turns to say a quick goodbye to another boy. He beams when he sees me.
He has icy blue eyes this son of mine, lighter than his brothers, and in days passed, the old mouldy days of Postnatal depression, I thought that that ice colour was mean, deceptive (the things you can think). Really, his eyes are an open blue, open like the sky, like a promise, he slips his hand into mine and look into those eyes and I see happiness and rest, peace.
‘I made a friend, Mum,’ SKJ’s sort of skipping, ‘and that’s Jett. He’s the fastest runner I ever saw, that’s a good name for a fast runner. See ya, Jett.’
‘Matey, that’s ace.’ I ask the question that could tell me the most, ‘what did you do at lunchtime?’
‘I played tiggy.’
‘You played tiggy? No wonder you look hot. That’s ace, babe.’
Yes, it is ace. I was so happy the tears I would normally have cried couldn’t come.
This school, the teachers, the ethos, the buildings, like I said, there’s only two of them, it’s smaller and kinder, everybody knows each other but in a good way.
When I told SKJ we were moving him, I’d looked at two schools, and he could pick which one he went to. I wanted him to have a choice, feel like he was involved in all this, but I sure wanted him to picked the school I liked more. It was hard to keep my big opinions to myself, especially when he asked me what I thought, but SKJ can be oppositional and I feared if I suggested one school, he’d go the other way. So we toured both of the schools and he absorbed what he saw, didn’t ask many questions and didn’t volunteer much.
I gave him a week to decide.
I gave him a week to put me out of my misery.
He chose the school I thought he’d be best in.
On Monday afternoon I spent half an hour with his new teacher.
We talked about what happened at his old school, in the telling, when you say it, this happened and this happened, and the issue with all the clothing, and the kick to the head he got on the last day of school the year before last, well, out of all the times I could have cried in the last week, that was when I felt the sting.
But he’s doing well. He’s grabbing it with both hands.
He’s contributing to class discussions, that’s new.
He’s been invited to a birthday party, and he’s considering going, that’s new.
On the Friday before he knocked his teacher’s socks off with a story in wrote in only half an hour. Four pages about a shark and a fish and the unusual friendship they develop to overcome the odds.
‘It was excellent,’ his teacher said.
I said, ‘that’s my boy, he’s an ideas machine.’
His teacher believes that SKJ will flourish in the two years he has before high school. It’s a grade five six composite and he’ll have the new teacher for two years. I’ve known the bloke for a couple of days, but I can see he has belief in my kid. Belief goes a long way.
It sounds cheesy, because nice things aren’t meant to be articulated, and nice feelings are often the stuff of derision, but I said it anyway, ‘I feel like he’s in the arms of a warm embrace.’
Gratifying. It’s been a gratifying week. A wonderful start to the school year. I’m not the only one undergoing a rebuild, so is Stephen King Junior.
so proud of ya, Stephen King Junior