This morning, you told me you did not want to go to school. When I said that all boys and girls go to school, that I would be back to get you soon, I saw you bottom lip quiver, your eyes fill with tears. I heard your voice crack.
I can’t. The walls are wrong. I do not know what all the rooms look like. It is different to nursery. I only like going to school sometimes. I am not the kind of boy who goes to school every day.
Your reasons make no sense – they never make sense when you are uneasy. You cannot explain why you do not want to go, but I know. I have seen your anxiety bloom as we reach the gates. I have seen how tired you are when you get home, collapsing onto my shoulder, mute. I know the effort it takes. I know that following instructions and cutting and sticking and sitting quietly and listening and taking turns and understanding… I know how much they take, how much they diminish you.
I know, before I enter the classroom to collect you, that your teacher will want to speak with me. I know that you will have struggled, that you will have had some ‘tricky choices’. I know.
Those huge blue eyes look up at me.
I have been a good boy, haven’t I?
I know, my love, that they are barely choices. You do not have the resources to control your emotions.
You have been to school for exactly seven days. You have done so well. You have managed, even though most people will not see the achievements, the miracles, in every moment of your day. We have fought so hard, all of us. We have battled to ensure that you have what you need. You have a wonderful school. You have support. But what if it is not enough?
This is the first time I have been called inside, the first time that I must hear about how hard you have found it, how you have not done as you were asked. But it will not be the last. I can almost feel the weight of the meetings ahead pressing down on me. The mornings when you will sob, when you will tell me you cannot go to school, when you scream, please do not make me go – they line up ahead of me. They threaten to suffocate me.
I hope that I am wrong. Or, at least, I hope that it will not be like my worst fears. I cannot bear to see your pain. I cannot bear to hear others speak of you like you are a disappointment. What if going, trying to conform, trying oh-so-hard but often failing – what if it makes you miserable, my gorgeous boy? What if this is the best we can hope for and school becomes another thing to cause you despair?
I do not know how I will endure it.
Your future seems to flicker in front of me, changing moment to moment, guided by my fears – and my hopes.
Tears are splashing down onto your school jumper making great, dark blotches where they sink into the fabric.
I wipe your cheeks with my sleeve. And we walk home, hand-in-hand.