An hour and a half should be enough. Thursday. Two more “get ups,” one more day of lunch boxes and only one after school activity. Totally doable.
Salami on white, no butter, sliced in half. Banana. Chocolate chip cookie (homemade of course). Ham on white, no butter. Cucumber, no skin. Lamington, homemade of course too. So far so good. Weetbix with a little milk. Special K with even less. Small glasses of water. Two bananas, peeled and halved. Orange cut into eighths with the pith cut off. Okay sorted. Coffee please!
A pretty normal start to a pretty normal day in a pretty normal family. It was a pleasant change from the war that had been this week. Bullying has been on the agenda and the consequences were being felt blow-by-blow at home. The playground for Liam was his own personal battlefield where the rules didn’t make sense. We had endured wounds, not of the physical kind, but the emotional and verbal kind that leave scars so deep that words and love cannot bandage them better. But the school had been good. An in-school suspension had been issued and a detention for the other sniper and lots and lots of supportive words and phrases.
Today was National Dress Day. No biggie we thought. A Bavarian dirndl for the blonde daughter who prided herself on being German! Liam wasn’t interested in dressing up in national dress. He would show his patriotism in the only way he knew how, a sporting kit. A matching sporting kit. School said that if you were going to wear a sports kit you had to wear the WHOLE kit. England wore red to play cricket in, so red shorts were needed.
An unknown conversation had taken place between Daddy and son in bed the previous night. The location of the red shorts had been confirmed. The red shorts were from a soccer kit from 3 seasons ago that had failed to make the thrift store cut and were still lurking in the cupboard.
What was normally a drama appeared to be going well. Dirndl clad daughter appeared and asked for her apron to be tied and her hair to be braided into the obligatory 2 braids. Anticipation and excitement were high. One dollar or two. It had to be 2. The kids at the sister school in Bali were poor and needed books.
And then he appeared. My beautiful son with his sun-kissed skin, pearly white smile, proudly wearing his England cricket shirt and THOSE shorts. Tears stream down my face as I am writing this. I calmly told him that those shorts were not a great idea. They were a bit small. His confidence and resilience amazed me. “It’s okay, Mum. They match. They have to match. They are red like my shirt. You have to have a matching kit. They said so at school.”
“Porn star” was screaming in my head. They would eat him alive. The previous days’ dealings of “faggot,” “constipated,” and “bastard” were nothing compared to what he would endure if he wore THOSE shorts to school. But how to break it to him?
Liam has anxiety.
Liam needs routine.
Liam needs rules.
Those red shorts were his anxiety, Asperger’s, routine, and rules all rolled into one. They sorted it all out for Liam. For me, I knew they would crucify him.
“Liam, you can’t wear them. You look like a porn star. They are too small and your chopper is getting too big!”
“Really? It’s okay Mum, I don’t mind if they are a bit small. They are red. They match the shirt. They must match the shirt. School said so.”
The conversation went around in circles in this vein for a few minutes until I thought I would put a stop to it and write a letter to his teacher. That would help ease the anxiety about the rules and his teacher is brilliant with Liam. She gets him.
So back to the drawing board. The cricket trousers, which technically met the requirements of the rules but were needed for the big Under 13s game on Saturday were ruled out. The possibility of wearing his normal school shorts was dumb, just plain dumb, which left only one option. The white shorts. And they were from another football kit of the same vintage as the others.
And so the morning REALLY began. Calmly I reinforced to Liam why he couldn’t wear the shorts and explained the very real possibility of the previous day’s calamities happening again. That didn’t matter. He didn’t care.
Okay, so gentle negation was not going to work. Kick in our parenting class. Apply the rules and consequences. Too easy. Except on days like today when nerves are fraught and feelings are raw.
The spiraling behavior quickly became a hurricane of “You don’t understand” and “I don’t care.” I could do this. Remain calm. Apply consequences. Move forward. Oh the peace of 10 minutes in the “time out” courtyard. If I shut the laundry door I couldn’t hear the banging on the glass and I could scoff down breakfast.
The blue shorts were on but he was like nothing we had ever seen, okay for the last few weeks. Suddenly my little boy was an aggressive animal with testosterone, fingers, words, and fists flying everywhere. No soothing words would work. No clear directions would calm. No consequences would control. There was nothing wrong with the red shorts.
And then it happened. My sanctuary was invaded. My personal space filled by this monster. I needed it to stop. I had nothing more to give. I needed it to go away. A slap. A really hard slap across the back. A cry in pain. My heart broke. No child deserves that and especially not mine.
And still he carried on.
But now it was not about the shorts. It was about not understanding. Not being clear. Being confused. My boy was broken today. And so was I.
And still he carried on.
Time was marching forward. School and jobs needed to be gotten to. Walking out of the door with the words ringing in my ears about needing to explain. I stopped. I screamed. I told him, “You can’t wear the red shorts. We won’t let you. Why? Because we love you and want to protect you from the kids who don’t get you.”
Peace. Peace at last. And then the tears came. Gently running down my face to the rhythm of the morning radio. I had hurt my boy when all I wanted to do was protect him.
I openly accept that the world needs people with the tenacity and attention to detail that my boy possesses. I am proud of the talents and skills he has. They are many. But today was not an easy day to remember all of this.
It was all about the red shorts.