Regular readers might have already picked up that my 9-year-old is a lad of few words. Certainly, when compared to his 13-year-old sister and to his mother, he is. But as he gets older, I am noticing that the few words that he can be bothered to chuck out in our general direction, are always given to us with sense of profound wisdom and fortitude;
IN THE CAR
ME: What’s up? Rubbish day at school?
ME: Oh. Why? Was your dinner horrible? Or was it that no one played with you today? Or is it that you’re just tired?
9 YR OLD: You know…
ME: Oh – was it those same… people again? I told you to just stay away from them. Some kids can be so mean. Was it the same stuff going on again?
9 YR OLD: Yeah.
13 YR OLD: Why? What people? What’s going on? What do you mean, Mum? What’s happening?
ME: Oh nothing – ask your brother. Well, no – don’t ask him about it because he probably doesn’t want to talk about it if he isn’t already telling us about it. That’s the thing with men – or boys – they often don’t want to chat about things that have just happened to them. And you need to pick your moments. You have to watch and wait and be patient and –
13 YR OLD: I hope he’s not getting bullied (to her brother) are people bulling you? ‘Cause if they are, I’ll be round there and be giving them a good old slap and a –
ME: No, he’s not getting bullied. The thing is – the ‘bullying’ word is a tad bit overused these days. It’s an important issue of course, but just saying something a bit mean doesn’t really FOLLOW that you’re a bully, or that if someone is rude to you – that you’re an actual victim of bullying. I do worry – that we’re creating a culture of victimisation these days. You know – someone doesn’t include you in a game and it’s all ‘oh wah wah wah – I’m getting bullied.’
13 YR OLD: Well, I don’t know why he just doesn’t deck them. He’s a black belt now. And I’m not so far off.
ME: And that’s precisely why you both go to karate. To learn self-control, but also to be…
13 YR OLD: … deadly fighters. And one day, when we’re on our second dan, we can really seriously hurt or kill, any bullies.
ME: No – that’s not it at all.
13 YR OLD: Anyway. (To brother) I’ll come to school with you, if you like. I’d scare the hell out of ‘em. All of the lads on our school bus are terrified of me. And I don’t see why a girl can’t stand up for a boy. Yeah – I’ll sort ‘em out for you! So – yeah – if you ever need it, just ask me!
ME: But he’s not being bullied. Still, it’s always nice to have a sibling to talk to. This is the thing with having a brother or sister. You’ve got them for life. Yeah – for life! Like a sort of a… life sentence. Yeah. It can be a nice life sentence though, if you let it be. Especially if you’re the younger one – to have an older sibling to talk to. It can be lovely. I was lucky you see – having an older brother. He was always there for me. Even during his Morrisey phase.
13 YR OLD: Well, that was all very nice for you – but I’m the older one and believe me, it’s hard! There’s no one there to fight for you. You’ve no idea how lucky you two are – you’re the younger ones, being the babies in the family. It’s been horrible for me from day one. Really awful.
ME: (incredulous) Well, I’m sorry to hear that – but at least you’ve got supportive parents. At least you both have parents who have put their lives on hold in order to put you both first. Imagine what it’s like being a child who has no supportive parents – or siblings – AND who’s getting bullied at school! Terrible.
13 YR OLD: You just said that he’s not getting bullied. So… is he then?
ME: No, he isn’t getting bullied – I’m just saying – that even if he WAS, he would have us to talk to as a family and he’d have you – a big sister – to chat to about it. And also…
13 YR OLD: You blog. And you’d totally NAIL those kids and make their lives – and their nasty, sicko-parents’ lives – a misery through … the power of THE BLOG.
ME: Gosh, no. I don’t like the term ‘nailing them’.
13 YR OLD: Okay. ‘Crucify’ then?
ME: No! I’m not about retaliation. This family isn’t about that sort of thing, we’re about… we’re about … building bridges. Not crucifying people. Even if it feels like they’re…
13 YR OLD: …Like they’re Boris Johnson. Or Donald Trump. And they’re total scumbag misogynists. And they sort of deserve it.
ME: Well… well – that’s your view on things and it’s probably more well-rounded and researched than a lot of adults come out with. But going back to your brother -it’s like this … so like- as his sister … You’d help him *practically*. You’d offer solutions and maybe create some strategies for dealing with it together. And it would help him in his confidence, you know, to feel like he had some friends that …
9 YR OLD: (somewhat dejected) But I do have friends.
13 YR OLD: Well it doesn’t sound like it. You sound like you’ve had a horrible day and that you don’t have any friends and that you’re being a right little misery-guts – and that you’re getting bullied.
ME: No, he isn’t getting bullied – but if he was – we’d be hear to listen to him, wouldn’t we? It’d be all about HIM – we’d totally, properly listen to him, wouldn’t we? And put him first!
13 YR OLD: Yes – even if he was getting bullied, he’d still have a nice family to talk to and who would help him. (To brother) So, will you do that? If you do start getting bullied – or if you want to talk to me about anything, you can you know – talk to me. Wouldn’t it be nice to confide in me?
9 YR OLD: I’d rather kiss a Pitbull.
13 YR OLD: Well. That told me.