Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spare The Rod

My youngest son, Tom, started school for the very first time on Monday afternoon and our two walks home along the canal over the last 2 days when I have collected him from his afternoon sessions have possibly been the most educational part of the experience.

Sadly not in a positive way.

On Monday we encountered someone who could invariably be described as a street urchin / little ruffian / miniature yobbo / future politician mouthing off to another child in the middle of the path. His choice of language would have made a rugby player blush if not burst into tears.

I really don’t want my 4 year old hearing language like that so early in life (I’d much rather he waited until next week when he is at school full time and can gain bona fide playground experience) so I asked the little thug to stop.

In retrospect this was a bad move. In retrospect telling him to “learn some manners” probably sounded hopelessly archaic and so far outside his normal lexicon he could inevitably only respond by telling me to “eff off”. And then repeating this singularly choice phrase until we were well out of earshot.

I wasn’t impressed but hoped it was a one-off. Tom just thought the boy was “a meanie”.

Sadly we had another run-in with the same kid yesterday afternoon. This time he was thrashing an expensive looking fishing rod into the filmy soup of the canal. Any hope of walking by unmolested was blown when one of his compadres remarked “there’s that man again.” Without provocation the airways were split by another round of expletives. This time God could be heard sighing expressively from somewhere within the lofty heavens as hellish epithets were once more rained down upon the good green earth.

I’d had enough by then. Lord knows it doesn’t take much to get my goat. My goat has been got and got on so many times I’m thinking of renaming her Marianne Faithless.

I made a point of reading the name of the school that was emblazoned on the lad’s jumper. When he demanded to know what I was looking at I told him I was making a note of his school so I could ring up his headmaster and talk to him. He responded with, “you’ll have an effing job ‘cos I don’t have an effing headmaster” by which, with superior intelligence and Sherlock Holmesian mental agility, I deduced that he had a headmistress.

I also got the fishing rod waved in my face which, though it made me feel a little affronted, was also largely comical. I do hope he got my size right when he told his parents about the one that got away.

Anyway, Dr Google soon furnished me information about the school and a little humility. It proved to be a school for kids with behavioural problems and social issues. It took much of the sting out of the situation. Plainly this very angry young man has many things to be angry about.

However, it’s not right that my 4 year old should have to endure such behaviour on his walk home every night when he is right at the very start of his school career. So I rang the headmistress and explained the situation. She easily identified the boy and said she would deal with it forthwith. She explained that the school takes an active approach in engaging with their pupil’s behaviour both in and out of the classroom and she wanted to be kept informed if there was any repeat performance though she hoped her talk with him in the morning would knock it all on the head. I admitted I’d all but made up my mind to take an alternative route home with my boy anyway. We agreed that I shouldn’t have to but we could both see that constant encounters with this boy are only going to inflame the situation and make it worse. It is unfair to expect him to show a forbearance that is plainly beyond him at this current stage of his development.

So Tom and I will take a slightly longer walk home tonight. It feels unfair but I can’t help but wonder how much more unfair life is for that very angry little street urchin...

After all, his chances of finding a live fish in that canal are absolutely zero.

And somehow that feels like a damning metaphor.


19 comments:

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

It's tough when you see kids like that, it's so easy to pass judgement. However, behavioural issues or not, I am guessing that he hears the kind of language that he was so freely spouting on a regular occurance at home.

Some kids, they really do have no chance.

Wanderlust said...

This is a really moving post, Steve. I often think the same thing when I encounter rude or violent behavior. It never exists in a vacuum.

I'm glad you called the school. Regardless of what the boy has experienced thus far in life, he needs to learn better skills for dealing with challenges.

Steve said...

Very Bored in Catalunya: they don't and, as heartless as it sounds, my priority has to be my own.

Wanderlust: yeah, I'm glad I called the school too rather than the local bobby. I think the school will have a far more positive effect.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I'm all in favour of these special schools, but why aren't they located on barren islands in the Outer Hebrides? The antidote to bad behaviour is wind and more wind.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: by that theory there should be no crime at all in Tornado Alley.

libby said...

This is quite a double edged problem really. Yes the child has issues and challenges but should Tom learn that bad behaviour is rewarded in a way? My parents were told to eff off by a five yr old the other day...when they told his nearby mother she said well done son...now eff off................What hope do kids have with parents like that?

Steve said...

Libby: that just illustrates a simple truth - in all these cases the parents are nearly always to blame.

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

Poor little boy, I don't want to think what his life must have been like to make him behave that way. He must feel very unsafe. Kids who feel safe and secure don't act that way.

The bike shed said...

In situations like the one you describe I was I was right wing , no messing, 'give em a good thumping' sort of bloke - but I'm not, "I'm a give em a chance and walk by a different route' sort of bloke...

Have you read Winston's Smith's 'Generation F '? - depressing, but insightful.

Great title for this post mind.

Steve said...

Kellie: that's how I'm trying to look at it... to forget my initial sense of outrage and see the world from his point of view. For him it's probably not a nice place.

The Bike Shed: yep, we went a different route home today. To do otherwise is to risk picking at a wound that doesn't really belong to me.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Such a good balance in this post Steve. Yes, there's often so much more behind any kind of 'behaviour' that draws our attention. It was a shock to be surrounded by the effing-at-all-costs type, when after the Earthquake last year, Bryony's school was re-located to share the site of a school for troubled youth.
Great to hear that the School didn't go on the defensive when you spoke up and was prepared to follow through. Hopefully they did and that lad's attitude will improve.
It is a pity though that your intervention and the likes of Libby's parents are just seen as interfering by individuals and their families.

Owen said...

Barbarians, they are not at the gates any more, they are among us.

And I'm afraid, in all honesty, that I don't have a lot of sympathy for the conditions that created the barbarian. I agree with putting them on the Outer Hebrides for a long stay, if not the South Pole, although that would be cruel to the penguins there.

PS I am glad to hear you recognized your long lost sock. Now you just have to make the trip to Toulon, France, find that window, and reclaim your property !

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: a successful outcome for me is very simple - I just want to walk my boy home, talk about his day and enjoy the journey.

Owen: I think I recognized the blue pants that were on the end of the line too. Not sure how I explain that one to the wife...

;-)

Being Me said...

Many would have retaliated with a violence to rival the boy's. Reacting to another is all our responsibilities to own. Your consistency and the compassion you've shown the boy (even if only to his principal) is going to pay off in the long run, because it will rub off on Tom whether he is privy to the conversations or not. And that, as you rightly say, is your main priority.

Keith said...

The urge to think you would be able to bring them round to see the beauty of the world with a little patience and a good book or two is always strong when I see kids like that. I am very Daily Mail in that way of thinking. Which is crap beyond measure.

Fran said...

Arrgh, the big wide world. If only our kids didn't have to see the bad stuff. But you've modelled what to do about it well. Agree with all the other commenters - there's no way kids grow up like this without someone behind it. Sounds like a good headmistress, though. Maybe there's hope for him.

Nota Bene said...

I'd say you handled that all with masterful aplomb...hopefully you can at some stage get to enjoy the peace and quiet of a canal walk again

the fly in the web said...

I do wonder what hope the school has of turning that young man's life round if he is still living in the environment that gave him the problems in the first place.

No father in his life to walk him home by the sound of things.


Steve said...

Being Me: to be honest having Tom with me probably helped me stay calm and measured. I may well have replied in kind were I on my own and not sought to investigate further. A useful lesson...

Keith: alas, anger cancels out any appreciation of beauty. The lad’s fury must be siphoned off and dealt with first. And that is a job for a better person than me.

Fran: I did have more hope after speaking to the headmistress. If nothing else it was nice to have someone take on board what I was saying and convince me they'd act upon it.

Nota Bene: it would be nice... .especially as it's the quickest way home and the alternative leaves me and my boy both dead on our feet.

The fly in the web: I suspect it's more of a case of a father he would be better off without.