This week is a break week from school. M woke up on Sunday feeling ill and spent most of the morning throwing up. He felt better as the day went on, but would bounce around, hang upside down off furniture and then feel sick again. So he’s spend the next 30 mins with his head in a bucket, lamenting how awful he felt.
On Sunday night, he went to bed and slept for 14 hours. A first for him and a sign he was not feeling like himself. He was enrolled in a drama camp for the week and although he missed the morning, he decided to go for the afternoon. This was a brave decision on his part, since it is hard to come in to something half way through the day. Plus, the program he was attending was not his first choice; we had signed him up for circus camp but it had been cancelled due to low registration and he had been given a spot in another drama camp.
M doesn’t do well with change. March break is a change in his routine and is hard enough. Being is a different programme made it all that much harder. He knows the instructor who was supposed to do run the circus camp. His favourite drama teacher isn’t teaching over the break. He didn’t know the person in charge of his camp. So the first day was challenging. In fact, in his words, “it sucked.”
He had nothing good to say about the day – the play they had chosen was the “stupidest play ever”. I shouldn’t come and see the performance on Friday afternoon because it “was going to suck big time.” The instructor for the circus camp was “teaching little kids” this week. No mater what I asked him, it was all doom and gloom. His dad had a long talk with him about being sad – everyone gets sad, it’s ok to be sad – and tried to get him to come up with one good thing that had happened at camp. No luck – it just “sucked”.
We got him into the shower which helped calm him down (plus he smelled a lot better – stale sick child smell is not at all pleasant). But he was clearly still upset. Normally, he falls asleep himself in his own bed, but last night, he struggled to fall asleep. At one point, he got up and I put him in our bed and lay down with him.
M is a child who struggles to express his emotions. Sometimes he will confide in his dad, but he rarely tells me what’s bothering him.
Maybe it was because it was dark or because I was just lying beside him not asking any questions, but he started telling me how sad he was and why. Mostly, he was sad because he doesn’t think he has any friends. Most of the kids he plays with are away this week. He used to play with a couple of older kids who live across the street, but his dad and I decided he couldn’t go over to their house because they mostly play video and/or computer games and there is little to no supervision. They are allowed to play games that are not appropriate for a 10-year old. Moreover, we aren’t convinced that the dynamic between them and M is 100% healthy – he usually comes back from playing with them in a total rage. But this is hard for him to understand – despite the fact that he knows they are not always very nice to him, they are generally accepting of his behaviour and they live close by.
I found it hard to know what to say to M to make him feel better. He was clearly sad and lonely. A couple of his friends will be home this weekend and he may be able to see them. But the larger issue is that he doesn’t have a lot of friends, even though he desperately wants them. He’s insightful enough to know how this made him feel.
I could have told him that it will all get better, but that seemed to be the easy answer, as opposed to an honest one. M is not an easy kid and I have no idea if he will ever have lots of friends. I did tell him that his cousin, who is now 15, didn’t have tons of friends when he was M’s age. I tried to reassure him that he is a terrific person – funny, smart, curious. I also told him that chances were pretty good that he would feel better in the morning.
It was a struggle, but he eventually fell asleep. Sure enough, today was a better day at camp. There wasn’t anything great about it, but there wasn’t anything bad either. Given that M tends to see the cup as mostly empty, we can put a check mark beside today, instead of an x.
I have a strong sense that this won’t be the first or the last conversation about sadness that I have with M. I hope that eventually we can help him look on the sunny side, rather than going straight to the dark side. I wish I could wave my magic mommy wand and make it all better for him. But I have had more than a passing acquaintance with sadness and loneliness in my own life. I’ve learned that while other people can point out the path, you have to find your own way.
For now, I will tell M how much I love him and how much other people in his family love him. I’ll scratch his back when he asks (he tells me this calms him down). For as long as he lets me, I’ll lie with him in the dark and listen to his secrets.