As a parent, you have to take the rough with the smooth, the downs with the ups and the bad with the good. I know this. But it doesn’t make it any easier when you have a child who looks forward to a particular day of the week about as much as I look forward to a trip to the dental hygienist. For Isaac – and therefore for us – Tuesdays are rapidly becoming our least favourite day of the week.
Why Tuesdays? It’s the one day of the week when he goes to after-school club, that’s why.
For weeks now he has stated a desire not to go on Tuesday afternoons. On several recent occasions after being picked up in the evening he has been moody and uncommunicative, spending the evening wearing a pout that would have made Marilyn Monroe proud. Those of you who know our eldest child will know that isn’t like him at all. Isaac is usually a happy and smiley boy who is more talkative than a politician embarking on a filibuster.
Not on Tuesdays, though.
Last night (Monday) he went to bed in tears at the prospect of having to go to after-school club today and needed quite a bit of consoling before he could sleep. This morning I find myself hoping that he’ll be okay when I get home later. It’s a helpless kind of feeling and obviously not an enjoyable one.
Neither Heather nor I have managed to get to the bottom of it. The one thing he doesn’t talk at length about is school – his standard response to being asked: “Fine” – and that’s something that we know he actively enjoys and looks forward to. So our chances of getting him to open up about after-school club are, I think, somewhere in the region of the square root of bugger-all.
I’ve only ever picked him up once on a Tuesday evening, but it was enough to shatter any illusion I might have had that after-school club would be like some idyllic version of the defunct children’s TV show Why Don’t You?, with kids participating in chummy games, ‘makes’ and other jolly japes. (The geeky-eyed among you may have recognised a still from the show’s title sequence at the top of this post.) The reality, of course, is somewhat different, namely a small number of adults trying to keep a lid on a large group of tired, excitable and loud primary schoolkids – a bit like a rugby scrum in which no one is listening to the referee.
I can understand why Isaac might not like that kind of environment. He is an outgoing soul at heart, but one who likes his own space and to be in control of doing what he wants, when and where he wants. Being a five-year old among a group of mostly older kids doesn’t help. And I can just picture him wanting to take himself off into a corner because he wants to practice his current favourite activities: writing and drawing diagrams. (At the weekend he helped me assemble some Ikea furniture and promptly produced a complicated-looking diagram which he proudly handed to me as “your instructions, Daddy”.) That’s probably not the easiest thing to do in a relatively confined space where most of the other children are haring loudly about, playing games or watching DVDs.
If that’s the sum total behind his dislike of after-school club then I’m not too concerned. As the oldest child in our house, he’s become used to having his own way and bossing his siblings around (although Toby gives as good as he gets). So to spend some time around older kids and learning the interpersonal skills to cope and thrive in that environment can only be good for him in the long-term.
The real concern, of course, would be if he is being picked on by someone. I hasten to add that there’s no evidence of that, but as a studious boy whose nature is to use his mental rather than physical abilities to negotiate his way out of trouble, there’s always a danger of it happening one day. Having to tackle the thorny subject of bullying is not a prospect that any parent would relish.
As for the effect on Isaac, I’ve written elsewhere about how sad it is when our children lose their innocence. Once it’s gone it’s gone, and the point at which he is able to articulate and fully understand the concept of bullying will be another milestone where he sheds another layer of that protective skin of naivety.
Anyhow, all that is (I hope) hypothetical for now. What is real is the fact that Isaac – for whatever reason – intensely dislikes the prospect of Tuesday afternoons. And that’s enough to make me dislike them too. To paraphrase the Boomtown Rats, it’s enough to make me want to shoot the whole day down.