This is a good thing. An excellent thing. This means my charming youngest son is not hitting someone, pinching someone, or killing a tree with a big stick. That’s been the catalogue of events last week, but a Spiderman glove sucked into the inside of a Miele cat and dog vacuum cleaner? Walk in the park……………
Last Tuesday my attention was caught by another woman at school pick up time, who asks me if I am Connor’s mother. This happens quite often and it never ends well. A long time ago, I should have learned to say “no, my son is Tarquin, over there” and randomly wave a limp wrist in the direction of some well-behaved angelic looking kid. Instead, I confess and have the usual story recounted to me of Connor repeatedly hitting some other kid even younger than him on the back until the poor kid had to be taken home. I mentally rewind to Monday and realise that this event was orchestrated by my son within 35 minutes of entering the park. For an over-excited 7 year old to get angry enough to hit someone else within half an hour of entering a park, in the sun, with lots of things to play on and a brook to lose your shoes in takes focus and energy. How does he do it? The parent of Monday’s target is very understanding, as I play the ADHD card and mentally seethe and despair. I promise to speak to my son, apologise profusely to her son (against all special needs parenting advice) and skulk away.
ADHD, however, doesn’t skulk. Thinking that I was safe to get on with some work and networking later that week, Thursday strikes………….A perfect storm of events has resulted in Connor being suspended for the rest of the day and I am called by the school at lunchtime to pick him up as he has “reached stage 4”. Unlike the DEFCON system, the stage severity increases as the numbers increase. So stage 4 is not like DEFCON 4 which is “above normal readiness”, or what we term “standard Connor management”, but rather more like DEFCON 2 “Armed forces ready to deploy and engage in less than 6 hours”. The preceding events to the phone call are explained to me as I drop the Sainsburys shopping and head to school rather than my desk:
It’s nearly the end of term and Connor’s tired, and he has had a head full of snot for a month now after an ear infection at the start of June. This means he can’t hear very well, which isn’t helping. Element number 1. However, the incident on Thursday started with his class going to lunch TWO MINUTES EARLY. This was the next element of the perfect storm. Bad move. This meant his assistant wasn’t with him. According to Connor, EVERY DAY, he is allowed to choose who he has lunch with and he stands in front of them in the queue so that he gets to choose the table they sit at. Today he chose Caleb and the lunch assistant pointed out to Connor that “as Caleb is already at the front of the queue, perhaps you’d like to stand behind Caleb?” BAD MOVE. We are now at DEFCON 3: “Increase in force readiness above that required for normal readiness: Air Force ready to mobilize in 15 minutes”. Connor hears “No, you can’t stand by Caleb” and this causes a very rapid exit, this time to decapitate flowers in the beautifully manicured school garden. No, I don’t know why they have a garden that has been designed, planted and maintained at above Chelsea flower show standards when they teach kids like Connor either….
Anyway, at this point, informed of the outburst, both his support assistants rush over to stop him, so he grabs a large stick and starts felling a small tree. He does this successfully, earning him the stage 4. The two assistants try and physically remove him from the garden as another adult arrives to “help”, suggesting to Connor that “perhaps you’d like to kill plants in the meadow near school instead with the big stick?” VERY BAD MOVE. The red mist has descended and Connor is quite happy destroying things where he is. Three staff members physically move him to the breakfast club room and so he deliberately pinches one his assistants. We are now officially at DEFCON 1: “nuclear war is imminent” and a stage 5 is issued (glad to see the communication between the staff and the woman who picked up the phone to me is working so well). As I turn up, four adults (the head has joined in) are standing and watching helplessly as Connor shouts and screams while throwing two tables, several chairs, and hundreds of books and pencils on to the floor.
However, they’ve called the big guns in and that’s what they get. I’m more than a little peeved that the expectations for that afternoon featured getting some paid work done in my office and I’m not afraid to show it. I ask for everyone to leave and march over to Connor. I drop to the floor and give my son a hug. He is hot, sweaty and broken. It takes another hour for his sense of fairness to subside to the point where he can leave his assistants to clear up the remaining two pencils and a phone he has left on the floor for them to put away. At home he eats a roast dinner and gives me many, many hugs and apologies. On Friday, the GP pulls a lump of green goo, faintly resembling plasticene out of his right ear; so at least his hearing has improved slightly.
I see the monster that ADHD can turn my child into, daily. We get the tantrums, the NO, NO, NOs when you’ve just asked him if he would like to eat his favourite food. Apparently, non-compliance in kids is a good thing. The argument goes: if you get a massive strop by asking your son to eat pasta, the chances he says yes to snorting cocaine later on in life are pretty slim. It does not take four grown adults to pull him out of of these strops though. It only takes four adults to intimidate him, to remind him when he knows he is behaving at his very worst that he has an audience, an audience that includes the head of the school. I wonder how many adults would behave if all their worst sins were laid bare on Facebook, secure in the knowledge their boss was watching? This is how headlines are made.
This same child went to bed tonight asking me, “How hot do you need to get metal before it melts?” When I gave the desperately vague answer “it depends which metal it is”, he pointed to the metal struts on his bed, and clarified, “well, just this metal then”. When I couldn’t give him an answer he went for an easier question: “how long can an astronaut breathe in their suit when they go out of their spaceship?” I didn’t know that one either, so he gave up asking. One night a couple of weeks ago we managed to get much further down his list of questions:
– if you could spin something round really fast would it get hot? If it was made of wood would it burn? If it was made of metal would it melt?
– I really like rockets because when they go up in the sky three bits come off them as they go up really high.
– if you had billions of spider webs all together, would you be able to hang on them? That would be really cool but I don’t think we have enough spiders.
– what’s the rarest metal, I think it’s platinium, something like that? It’s green.
– If I melted a whole load of metals all together, would the mixture be really super rare?
– If you squashed sand together really hard with a bit of heat, would you get sandrock? I think sand is just tiny, tiny bits of rock that don’t hurt you.
– how are rocks made?
This is when I gave up that night as the history of the whole universe was going to take a while. I’ve done the biological history, I’m going to have to leave the more physical world to my engineering husband. Connor sits at breakfast now, disappointed that he can’t remember being a dinosaur “back in evolution”.
Imagine your brain, that active, every night when everyone else is thinking of sleep. One day, I know my son will try and set light to his bed to see if he can melt the metal. He will try heating sand until you get glass and then spin it round really fast to see if he can make it even hotter. He will end up with a first degree somewhere, I’m hoping physics at Oxford rather than the burns unit. One day he will change the world, and it will never take more than 2 adults to support him to do it.
In the meantime, he is thrilled to hear the change in the noise of the vacuum cleaner motor as you suck up a Spiderman glove, and even more excited to see that you can get it back, together with one of his brother’s socks. So, this Thursday we are going to put a clean bag in the vacuum cleaner and suck up lots of stuff to see what happens to it. I’m looking forward to it.