Squirly Rolls and bringing up small boy

I am back in school again explaining my extraordinary small boy’s approach to the world.

His latest antic means being called yet again by school with long phone calls about what makes him tick and visits explaining why he is “special”.

Of course he is special. I am his Mum and as his Mum I believe his unique and talented as I also do large boy with his A grades and nerdy physics lifestyle. However this is the story account of small boy. I am writing it for my blog I suppose in some attempt to cheer Mums up and make us smile, to shift some of the guilt I feel about my inadequate single parenting and indeed keep as a word document to print off for the next lot of teachers who need to know about smaller boy.

So let us start at the beginning as they say. I am remembering that his birth was tricky; induced with that nasty vacuum sucky thing to get him out, and then I remember I was ill in last few weeks of pregnancy and was monitored every other day. Perhaps the fact he had to be made to come early upset his little equilibrium.

As a baby he looked like Granddad Bob and huffed and puffed a lot so we called him Hufflepuff.

I remember him snuggling into my neck with a head of black hair huffing and puffing. It is worth noting that my memory is of a small person always attached to my body. Last evening after the latest episode in his life larger small child asked for a big hug and wrapped himself around me all legs and arms.

Next memory is stroking back of his neck when he is about 18 months old. My beautiful baby boy. I have cancer, may well be dying and my precious boys will have no Mum. Weirdest time of my life which involved moving house, big operation and lots of tears. I am sitting here remembering the look smaller boy gave me when I came out of hospital. H had not seen me for two weeks. His eyes were full of mistrust and wariness and he walked away from me.

Over the next year this toddler experienced watching his Mum recover from serious illness, three out of four grandparents dying, and grief stricken parents, and his daddy who had been his stay at home cuddly Dad upping sticks and disappearing.  Small boy attended nursery and I remember nursery telling me that as a baby he was “stubborn”. I laughed and said as his Mum I would say “self-determined”.

I can write those words but that year is very blurred for me. I think I went through basic motions of providing care, good enough parenting, a warm home, a bottle of milk and a cuddle. I remember a small person who clung to me for dear life. Struggled with letting me out of my sight, think toddler wrapped around neck, leg my extra appendage.

 So a little description of my small child around this time. So he was running around in a batman suit talking in his own language. He talked nonsense to the rest of the world as he had his own words for things. Large boy and I were fluent in his speak and would translate. He was very cute and would toddle off around to the neighbours and go sit on the sofa and talk small boy speak.

Pooing constantly in batman outfits was not so cute. Neither was always pooing at wrong moment such as being at cinema, in a café and indeed hiding when he did so, not cute at all. He also decided to be in complete control of his food from this moment onwards with the beginning of the squirly roll diet.

I cannot remember when squirly rolls became part of life. But they are always there. Or an empty box is there. Empty squirly roll boxes have filled with dread and anxiety resulted in tantrums hoo haa and grief. Chocolate and grief. I never expected to be a single Mum trying to do everything. I was trying to find work to pay the bills, grieving for my Dad and trying to get life back on track. Bribery of chocolate mini rolls seemed a reasonable option to manage small boy’s self-determination. The exhaustion of extracting small boy from screaming under the table, refusing to bath, dress get up could always be solved with a squirly roll and a cuddle.

Good enough parenting. Small boy and squirly rolls started a lifetime of controlling behaviour about food. My barely coping parenting managed the best I could with squirly rolls. As I could barely get myself dressed, but had to present myself to the world as “doing okay as I am strong” squirly rolls just got me through without anger or indeed injury.    There is even a newspaper article written about me, the boys and food you can google us!

      School is approaching as my little batman is now four.  I am remembering a kind health visitor drinking tea in my summerhouse on a hot summer’s day. Summer seems better time for potty training. Except my small boy will not be trained with or without squirly rolls. So many pooey pants. I am a disaster as a mother but not even nursery seems to get him “trained”.

So we start school in pants and big boy uniform talking his own language. He has a beautiful smile and starts to draw. He draws long elongated stories and tales of beautiful abstract ideas. His drawings reflect his own vision of the world of monsters and tooth fairies and a God who is a big red smiling ball with long cuddling arms sitting on a sea of clouds.

With grommets fitted in his ears his own language starts to fade as he enters a hearing world. When you view the world through small boy’s eyes and life begins with squirly rolls school is a tad dull. Pooing everywhere makes it more fun though. Pooing gets you lots of attention from kind but dim ladies and I can watch the world spin around me while I poo.

This is my first encounter with head teacher with patronising look and her big book of badness notebook. She told me my son had mental health problems. I told her to get stuffed, wrote a behavioural plan and a letter that explained that before he was three Mummy had cancer, grandparents dies, daddy left and mummy grieved. Silly cow.  Most grownups would have not coped with a life time of grief that my little man had experienced yet he somehow had managed to still be standing all be it with pooey pants and a squirly roll in his hand.

My little man at five just wanted to be a toddler a little longer. School didn’t and still does not suit smaller boy. Throughput the years I have had to visits every form teacher and explain: My son does not do being told what to do or rules. He is his own man and everything is up for negotiation. Pick your battles wisely with him or you will have a nervous breakdown. I didn’t engage with a battle of wills with him.

Small boy is strong and self-determined.  Such great qualities to have as an adult. Sort of stuff to write on a CV. Middle aged women who teach small boys aren’t so keen on self-determination. They like children who conform and who do not hide behind curtains, run off, crawl under tables and refuse to undertake school work.

When you see the world with a sense of wonder and interest and your senses are open to a world of possibilities why would you want to read a dull nursery rhyme book? When you can draw your own picture of the universe and God why would you need to colour in or join up the dots? So small boy doesn’t and spends a year drawing at the back of the class. Oh but we love him continues the rest of the world as he runs  in the sports day giving the crowd a cheery wave coming last with a cheeky smile. Remember he has no intention of coming first or running fast, why would he?

“Errrrrr have you considered a statement?”  says year three teacher. I am exhausted running this parenting race by now. The head teacher’s big book of badness has been out too many times and naturally as a working single parent my boy’s inability to conform is a result of my shockingly bad parenting. The notion that assessments could be done and possible support surprised me. It still amuses me now that small boy’s inability to conform still in large part has resulted in support at school.

I sit here smiling as he did indeed get a statement a pretty hefty one at that. So my boy is no longer perceived as “bad” but “special”. Everyone loves him. He is funny charismatic and cuddly. He has a twinkle in his eye that somehow makes most of his antics funny. As I am working small boy is supposed to go to afterschool club. He has already been thrown out of one club by refusing to walk back with the ladies and hiding under the table. With this one he votes with feet. He tells form teacher Mum is collecting him, distracts at home time and nips home to be with brother. On his third successful attempt at escapology I give up and big brother takes on the after school care. You see this is example of small boy’s tenacity.

Throughout all of this small boy continues to hug me. he will not leave me alone as my mother says. Out of sight he is independent and getting on with life but when Mum is around he clings. Physically he lies on me he wraps around me, he is there constant. Being loved and giving love is for me one of the wonders of being a Mum. Small boy has the biggest heart and huffle puff was the most snuggliest cuddliest boy. I miss this now he hits greasy smelly unhuggy teens.

Throughout primary school he is loved well liked and non conforms. He does not participate with rules, conventions or traditions. He cannot go out to play so stays in and builds Lego men. He makes his own super heroes by painting them and will occasionally oblige with a quick run around if he is allowed to wear a cape! Concerts and Christmas carols and assemblies are excruciating. I sit there as a Mum alone surrounded by Mums, dads, grandparents all proudly watching their off spring. I have sat there fingers crossed or pinching myself to not weep as small boy wanders off, mutters through songs, refuses to be a donkey, only does assembly as “banana man” in a super hero yellow cloak, refuses to be an executioner until the last moment and I sigh with relief as he has sat still for 30 minutes. I have attended sports days where he has come last in every race including one time not running at all as he refused surrounded by parents smiling and cheering off spring on.

Small boy sort of has friends but generally he is not fussed. He has his “first friend” our old neighbour who is like a kindly older cousin. Various boys have knocked on the door but he remains ambivalent. Until recently his only exercise was bouncing on our now defunct trampoline where he would bounce and tale stories from his own imagination. We have a room full of Lego which in his world is far more interesting than playing in the park. Kids like him though. They think he is funny and suspect slightly elusive.  He rarely has play dates and does not do parties. I gave up with birthdays after the age of seven. He hates groups, clubs, joining in or being part of any gang.

As a Mum sometime I yearn for a normal boy who is steady at school, play footy and hangs out with mates. I have a smallish boy who struggles with reading and writing has few friends, won’t join anything, who is charismatic, fantastic at art, making things and has a head full of smart ideas.

He walks to school with his long suffering mate C. Great friends C and his family remain steady support. Until he was about 10 small boy refused to have haircut. I used to have to shave his head once a year with him kicking and screaming wrapped in a quilt helped by a friend so social services wouldn’t be called! One day small boy was late coming home and I found him in C’s kitchen happily having a haircut by C’s Mum. She kept asking and he just said yes!

Oh around this time there was the smoking episode. Small boy had a video camera his dad had bought him and liked making small films. He created a lovely little film of him and his mate having a fag in the summerhouse! When his mate at school denied it the teacher said they had video evidence! There was no insight from small boy that this was wrong. He just tried it, videoed it as an interesting project, said it tasted nasty and that was that.

It is exhausting being his Mum. Choosing a secondary school for small boy broke my heart. He is a non-conformist and our education system will never meet my boy’s needs. With energy support and money home schooling would have been an option. I have neither the support or resources to support small boy with meeting his needs and true potential so local all be it nice, comp is where he goes.

Attempts with his statement and teaching assistants to support his needs sort of work but he runs away lots. Always home but always a worry. I have spoken to the heads and the SENCO leads all well intentioned to settle my son. I have had Mrs B the Head teacher in my kitchen phoning me when I am on the M6, I have discussed with Mr I the deputy head the reason why small boy wants to “make suicide” by jumping off a thirty foot wall. I have also attempted to show his teachers his beautiful creativity. I go to parents evening armed with pictures of his drawings, his legomen, his cushion covers and stories of his take on the world.

If you can create beautiful intricate drawings why would you want to colour in your favourite abstract artist? If you have a head full of fantastic science facts why waste time writing a worksheet down that you cannot read and struggle to write?

“We love small boy” is always there but you tell me how I engage my small non-conformist in maths homework? Geography he might do if it involves making a map or devising a leaflet because he wants to. There are fewer cuddles now and he has entered the world of the net. Despite boundaries and parental controls I am still a bad mother as he spends too much time on laptops and games machines. He can’t /won’t read and rarely goes out to play, eats weird food and it is massive struggle to get him to undertake a shower so often smells.  He then comes to find me with a book full of sketches and cartoons. I come home one day to house covered in blue paint as small boy has undertaken a “blue” painting project.

Months do go by without the dreaded “what has he done now at school call” but there always an expectation or indeed my wave of guilt that I should do more. I roll in from work shattered and there is only me. No Dad, no sister around the corner. I do homework the dishwasher stays unloaded, cook tea and there is no reading time. I can create some enthusiasm for often dull dreary homework, I stick time tables on fridge but my son controls his own destiny.

Anyway at twelve years old and in Y8 life has been remarkably quiet. There is a sense that some emotional maturity means that small boy has stopped running and has finally got with the “plan”.       

I have been distracted with life being a daughter, work and meeting older boy’s needs. Deep down I know small boy’s life was far too quiet so made an appointment to catch up with new SENCO lead last week. So I am driving back from Nottingham university and get the phone call from school wanting to discuss the small boy’s latest progress. 

Later in the evening I found small plastic bags filled with stuff. One his filled with salt, one with mixed herbs the other with grass from the garden. Small little bags that could be perfect props for “Breaking Bad”. In his head I know it won’t be for getting up to “no good” but will indeed just be his latest creative prop making project. Fortunately school the see the funny side though without concern.  As single Mum I rant on about not being a druggy, the bags were for earrings and that I have parental controls!

Secondary school; has not been too bad for small boy. He likes the varied lessons and has slowly been improving narrowing the gap of his amazing smart brain and what he puts on paper to be assessed by. He almost plays by the rules. Until now and I am here again explaining why small boy has “lack of effort” with a big reminder of why he has statement. He is has no “ism” so how do your explain his needs? He is beautiful, funny creative smart boy who cannot read or write very well, still has some speech issues and will not conform to rules and struggles with negotiation. He is self-determined, tenacious and thoroughly exhausting.

 To school I think put him on report if you want. He might respond if he cares we shall see. After school there he is rummaging around in the cupboard for a squirly roll. He refuses to discuss plastic bags of salt, school life or effort.  I know he listens though as he sits on my lap with his large limbs draped around me. He then shows me his latest funny drawing and we smile and eat squirly rolls.                


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