Monday, March 26, 2012
This evening I decided to take advantage of the extra hour of daylight and go for what the Victorians used to call a perambulation. It was a lovely evening - almost t-shirt weather - and the sound of birdsong and horses hooves made me feel as if I was in an episode of Midsomer Murders, without the murders.
It almost made up for an otherwise shitty day, during which my wife and I decided to pull our oldest son out of the school system.
It has taken me a while to realise what a difficult time we've had. I've known several people with autistic children and compared to them, our life was a breeze, so I think I turned a blind eye to the fact that my son struggled to cope with normal, everyday situations and I kept looking for easy answers.
It was confusing. My son doesn't neatly fit into any category, but exhibits symptoms of several syndromes. Sometimes I think he has something that hasn't been named yet. At others I'm more inclined to agree with R D Laing's view that mental illness is a social construct (I'm not denying the existence of full-blown nutters, but there is a general consensus that neurotic and psychotic illnesses are exacerbated by modern, urban life).
Would my son's behaviour be regarded as problematic if we lived in a traditional community? Judging by his skill at computer games, he'd be an excellent hunter-gatherer.
It does feel as if we're in a big sausage machine sometimes, where people are sucked into a system that squeezes them into the right shape so that they can function in a modern, urban, post-industrial society, and if you're a square peg in a round hole, then you're diagnosed with a syndrome.
I don't know; I feel more confused than ever. If I hadn't had a second child I might have gone to my grave thinking that I was one of the most useless fathers in existence, but my younger son is completely different. Indeed, if he'd been my only child I might have been unbearably conceited.
I've met those smug parents who seem to delight in telling you how Lily or Hector love visiting the Tate Modern (when they're not busy having viola lessons) and then go on to show you the Matisse-influenced drawings they did when they got home. It always gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when they have a second child who turns out to be a complete 'mentalist': welcome to my world,.
I'm not quite sure what's going to happen next. Obviously my son's education is important, but his mental health comes first. Getting him out of the front door is the first challenge (and I think that getting a dog may be the answer), after which I hope that my son will rediscover his curiosity about the world around him.
Meanwhile, his brother is downstairs doing maths games and designing a birthday card for his former childminder. His only worries seem to center around the number of people who want to be his friend. Also, the schoolwork isn't challenging enough.
Life is such a lottery.
PS - Feb 2013. Almost one year on, I can see that the decision to remove our son from school was the right one. The last eleven months have been a struggle, but there has been a gradual, steady improvement that fills us with hope.