Tom is friends with a boy who likes to tease him just a bit more than I am comfortable with. This boy is not a boy he went to primary school with and he hasn’t grown up with Tom. He sees Tom and his quirky ways and I believe he thinks Tom is odd, instead of being the boy that just does that stuff he always does. This boy tries to get Tom into trouble, telling the teacher that he has said or done something when he hasn’t because he likes to see Tom get flustered and worried, telling Tom that he’s going to tell me so Tom thinks he’s going to get into trouble with me. The other day he kept blowing at Tom’s neck and distracting him in class and when Tom complained the boy protested so much that the teacher gave Tom a negative mark for making things up. This week he distracted Tom and Tom didn’t get to write his homework in his planner and the same teacher didn’t upload the homework onto the school app so I didn’t know about it and couldn’t organise Tom to do it, so he got another negative mark for not doing homework that I didn’t know about. Tom thinks the boy is just teasing him or trying to be friendly. My husband says his friends used to get him into trouble at school with silly pranks and it’s not as bad as I think. I don’t know, I was never a boy but my instinct tells me that if it’s causing Tom to get into trouble with the teachers then it’s not a good thing and that good friends don’t lie to get their friends into trouble. My spidey senses are tingling like crazy about this.
My heart sinks because it’s just a little bit too weird for these almost-teenagers
The boy has a gang of friends that Tom wants to be part of. They walked to school with him for a few weeks but suddenly stopped calling for him. Now he hangs around at the end of the garden path to say hello to them as they pass by on their way home and I can hear their puzzlement as they ask him what he’s doing and he replies “saying goodbye to you”. I’ve tried to explain to him that goodbyes are done when leaving somewhere, it’s not normal to wait specifically to catch people as they go past but he wants to do it and he won’t be deterred. So he looks out his bedroom window until he sees them, runs downstairs, throws on his shoes and rushes down to the gate to yell “Bye!”. My heart sinks because it’s just a little bit too weird for these almost-teenagers who never knew him before and I can hear them laughing. I worry that they’re laughing at him, not with him. He wants to hang out with them after school but they live across the woods in another part of town and he isn’t mature or independent enough to get there and back on his own and I don’t trust them not to lead him into something that he isn’t ready for. He can’t even tell the time properly yet, he doesn’t have a mobile phone, he wouldn’t be safe out in the evening or know when to come home and wouldn’t be able to find his way back.
there’s something different and innocent about him and as his peers grow older the gap is widening between him and them
In short, I don’t trust them and I don’t think they’re a good influence. That old parenting chestnut. I’m not convinced that they don’t see him as some kind of weirdo amusement and it breaks my heart that he can’t seem to find “safe” close friends. The two boys he does spend time with the most are in the special needs unit of his school. They like to run and play chase because they are a little behind in their development, as he is. The other close friend he has is a girl. He wants to be friends with boys, he wants to belong to a gang of boys but he isn’t like other boys, there’s something different and innocent about him and as his peers grow older the gap is widening between him and them. He is still a boy, not a little boy but a boy. They are more like teenagers, there’s an air of maturity about them and their movements are more mature, their interests are more mature, their speech is more mature. Tom still looks and acts like a boy. Even in primary school he never had a close male friend; the one he did make friends with felt smothered by Tom’s possessiveness when they were younger and his mother complained to the school and got them parted. After that his best friends were girls who took care of him, although he did play football with boys at break as he got older but they were never close friends.
He stands in two worlds, neither neurotypical enough to have close friends in the mainstream world nor disabled enough not to feel isolated with just special needs friends
I know he’s lonely. He cried once about not having close male friends. I suggested he played football with the boys he used to play football with in primary school. I said that the only way he would make close neurotypical boy friendships is if he hangs out with neurotypical boys and as they already knew him and liked him it wouldn’t be too hard to start hanging out with them again. Unfortunately his loyalty to his new special needs friends is causing him to feel torn. He stands in two worlds, neither neurotypical enough to have close friends in the mainstream world nor disabled enough not to feel isolated with just special needs friends. I suggested he spend one day with his unit friends and one day with his mainstream friends but so great is the relief of playing chase and laughing with the boys who accept him exactly as he is that he ends up spending most of his time with those two boys. I’m happy for him to play with them and to have good friendships with them but I want him to be able to have mainstream friends too, so he can fulfil his desire to be part of a group. I suggested he get the phone numbers of the mainstream boys he hangs out with the most so we can call and arrange for them to come over for dinner and play some console games but he doesn’t seem to be able to remember to ask for their numbers or maybe he’s too shy. It’s been weeks and every day he sighs and says “I forgot” or “there wasn’t time” or “I didn’t know what to say”. Something that would be so natural to me is simply impossible for him and now there’s no group of parents waiting at the school gate I can’t step in and talk to their mums or dads directly. He has to find a way to do it or not, it’s up to him.
And so he continues to hang around the children who walk past his house and get him in trouble at school and who I think are laughing at him. He continues to be neither fish nor fowl and my heart breaks just a little for him but this is something he has to resolve for himself. The one thing I cannot do is make friends for him.
I hope it’ll work out in the end.
Image by Wokandapix on Pixabay.com