As a parent we’re supposed to love and support our children. It’s our instinct to go all “Tiger mum” and use our voices to “ROAR” away anything that hurts them, anything that causes them emotional or physical pain.
I love Beau. I loved him from the moment he was born. As he grew I loved him for getting into scrapes and climbing trees. I loved him when he started Junior school, and instantly made so many fantastic friends. I loved him for being the teacher’s “Star of the Week” time and time again, coming home with certificates for being a fabulous help, a wonderful friend, a brilliant reader, an excellent storyteller.
Report after school report, year on year, always saying the same thing – “Is a wonderful friend to so many”, “Tries their best” “Is in the top set for (insert pretty much every subject)”, “Is a chatterbox that’s easily distracted”…. I loved him for his courage and resilience, when we moved home when he was five, and he integrated immediately into his new school, then again when he was seven, and again, he was an instant hit with his peers.
I’d raised a happy, caring, loving, bright, friendly child, and each school report, each request for a sleepover, each well-attended birthday party further confirmed what I knew to be true.
Beau is still that child, the child that I love so deeply, but the child I was mistakenly told, at birth, was a daughter, is in fact my son.
Except he is no longer happy. He’s still caring (and has many friends that can testify to this), he’s still incredibly loving, though in an embarrassed-of-my-mother teen kind of way. He’s massively bright, and he’s got an amazing set of friends. He’s just not happy. He hasn’t been happy – oh don’t get me wrong, there’s still been laughter, and there’s been fun times, but these things rarely extend beyond the immediate, nowadays – for a long time. Far too long.
Hearing that your child is finding life so untenable that they want to die – is heart wrenching. Hearing them say that they WILL reattempt suicide, having already done so many times, makes me sick to the pit of my stomach, with fear, upset, sheer terror.
Taking my child to the doctor, at age 12, to be told that “It’s a phase, they all go though it, they’ll grow out of it soon enough”, and not having those fears acknowledged…
ut despite being a tiger mum who would do anything for their child, I am impotent. I can’t “ROAR” people into helping my child. I can’t “ROAR” bullies into leaving him alone. I can’t “ROAR” the school into fulfilling their role, acting in loco parentis, and protecting him when he’s in their care. I can’t “ROAR” the waiting list to the Tavistock and Portman away. I can’t “ROAR” away Beau’s dysphoria. I can’t “ROAR” things ‘right’….
I’m full of rage, of despair, my heart is breaking for a child that, every single night, as I’m falling asleep from a long day at work, I fear is lying in his bed, dead from an unnoticed overdose. Or that he’s taken to cutting his wrists instead of his forearms, a sign of his frustration at not being heard, having his cries for help go unheeded.
I get up, work-weary, world-weary, worry-weary, to go check on him. But seeing him lying there sleeping peacefully is not enough. I have to rouse him. I have to speak to him. I have to hear the tone of his voice – which nowadays is the only “tell” to what kind of day he’s had to endure, the only “tell” to indicate how he feels.
And sometimes, that tone is all it takes to keep me awake, all night, with gut-wrenching fear.