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.