Strange how life repeats itself. Repeats itself but with slight tweaks in difference. I am not sure what is worse, seeing your child physically tormented, or emotionally. Both just heartbreaking to watch; see a child suffer, see their tears, see their bravery diminish and their confidence shatter.
It started at the end of last term and continued as we came back this term. Tears before lights out, whispering the nasty words that only children can say to wield pain; the exclusion at play time, the rebuttals, the rebukes the laughter and torment finally too much so that he removed himself and has been hiding at play time in the bike sheds on his own, my little mouse shivering and alone.
This time last year, when Tom told me that boys were throwing him against the railings and kicking him, my blood boiled and my rage roared. My anger matching the aggression, wanting to but resisting the urge to play the angry Mamma Bear, intervene and break them back.
My reaction this time was different. With my heart already broken, it couldn’t break any more. But I could feel it sob inside, matching the sorrow of my little boy. Knowing the playground is cruel, making new friends within already firmly established groups a tough challenge. Having learnt from experience, I didn’t wait. And while I have been impressed with the pastoral response at school, it is Tom who I have been most proud of.
Rob Bell has a wonderful podcast on ‘Making room for the immensities.’ As I listened to it, while I relaxed in my 10 Day Detox mandatory evening bath, I realised Tom had done exactly what he was talking about; transcendence.
He talks about suffering. An ‘Immensity of life’ of any kind isn’t something you can wind back the clock and wish never happened, or wind forward so that you have gotten over it; suffering from an immensity is something you have to go through. The ‘immensity’ just becomes part of you. You will never be the same person you were. You have to journey through it all – feel the pain, heal your wounds and then transcend to being a ‘bigger’ person from the growth. And as Rob says, you know you have transcended your immensity, because if you encounter someone else going through something similar, you don’t block it out, you don’t ignore it or run away from the pain it brings up in you, you turn and face the person and say ‘me too’. Me too. And show them compassion and love and guidance.
On hearing his little brother was suffering, going through an emotional time at school, not dissimilar to his own, I saw that he had transcended. He was a ‘bigger’ boy. He climbed into bed with Willy, held him close and I left them to it, letting Tom share his pearls of wisdom from first hand experience of how to deal with nasty boys in the playground. He shared his ‘me too’ moments and his ‘me now’ story.
It was an emotional day.
It was an emotional day. Seeing Willy hiding behind the school assembly props and being lead out sobbing, fearful of what the boys would tease him for… And yet, picking him up at the end of the day to find him happily playing with new friends.
It was an emotional day. The boys tired and emotional, shouting at me. Blaming me for ‘kicking Daddy out’.
It was an emotional day. Seeing and hearing the emotion in the Big Man’s voice as he explained clearly and calmly to the boys why he had moved out and was still not moving back in after 3 months. Hearing his voice crack and his eyes full of pain, as he explained he had broken the vows we had taken in marriage, how he had hurt me very much, how much he regretted his actions and that to help me forgive him, he had to give time and space for that to happen, however long that might be.
It was an emotional day. Seeing Tom cry and put his fingers in his ears as he curled in my lap not wanting to hear the explanations to the questions Willy was asking.
It was an emotional day. Knowing as a family, and noticing it isn’t just me who is suffering, but all of us. All with our own level of pain, sorrow, hurt and anger. And on hearing Rob speak about transcendence, realising we need to go through this suffering together, holding each other together so that we can transcend our very own immensity. An immensity that won’t define us, but will make us bigger, better people and so that one day, as individuals, or as a unit, we can help others by saying ‘Us too’.