Well, I'm back. Mummy's home and did I mention the six-year-old is getting bullied at school? "Crisis? What crisis?" I want to gnash my teeth in rage and push someone smaller than me over. I was thousands of miles away and my husband revealed the six-year-old had told him he likes school, he loves his teacher but that "sometimes the other children aren't nice to me." He is heartbreakingly reasonable about it: "Some people aren't nice to other people. That's just how it is." Cor blimey. Maybe the world is like that but you do not want your six-year-old awake to that fact.
We appear to have several things going on. Possibly more disturbing than anything else is exclusion from playground and classroom activities. Children not wanting him to work in their groups, while at break: "Sometimes I don't play. Sometimes I just walk around the playground and sometimes I sit on the bench." This is your cue as a parent to drop your head onto the wooden kitchen table and groan loudly.
I am trying very hard to be as reasonable as my six-year-old about it. Let me make the point, that I am, perhaps, not as impressed as I might be, all things considered, at the level of supervision in school. Separately and almost as disturbing as the bullying, since he started at this teeny tiny church school, he has sustained nine injuries to his head in a variety of incidents, some of which appear to be entirely accidental, some roughhousing and some aggression. The headteacher wondered if he had something wrong with his ears or may be his eyesight. He does not fall over at home; apparently though he is like a young Norman Wisdom at school.
On Thursday, he was swung round and hit his chin. (On the upside, at least he was playing with someone.) On Friday, an older and bigger boy kicked out at him hard enough for my boy to fall over and hit his head. Monday, he had a day off for good behaviour but Tuesday he was pushed over by an older girl in the playground while today he was bitten on the cheek by someone. We now have a little collection of notes home from school. Today's note read that one boy had "hurt" my son's cheek and "apologised" for it. That's alright then. Friday's note bears little relation to what my son says happened. It says he "overbalanced on his chair" and "fell bumping his head slightly." He was standing beside his schoolmate when he was kicked and fell to the floor. This happened at 10.30am. The larger boy along with another girl went on to berate my son at lunchtime for taking the last morsel of something when he was queuing for his lunch. The berating went unwitnessed by staff but after it, my son refused to join in normal school activities. I am being to steam up. Perhaps it is the heat. All this in the last week.
But it is not just the last week. During his time there, he has also fallen over playing horse which won him a massive lump on his forehead; he was hit soundly in the middle of his forehead as he walked behind a boy swinging a rounders bat (another lump); his eye was also cut when the older boy involved in Friday's incident managed to poke a broom into it, (this required a stitch). There was also a bump on the head from a cupboard. According to the cheery note home, my son "forgot it was there". Oh and earlier this month there was another tug of war, fall and bump. It is like the parachute regiment's "P" company for tots. We have had to take him to hospital three times. If these incidents had happened at home, the social workers would have been round by now.
Not that by son is blameless in all of these incidents. Leaving aside the occasional clutz-like walk behind a rounders bat or hapless push-me, pull-you with a skipping rope, he has a nasty habit of intervening in the world around him. He was bitten after telling the boy not to swing on a fence in case he hurt himself. He got pushed over trying to help a younger child get her skipping rope that older girls were standing on, while on Friday, he was only kicked over after the older boy told him his work was scribbly and my son kicked his chair. Fair do's, he would perhaps have done better to kick the chair and run away.
If this was happening at his former East End primary, it would be more immediately understandable. There, classes are crowded and some of the children are from difficult inner-city backgrounds. This is a tiny village church school with a church spire visible across grassy fields. It has fewer than 45 children in the whole school - five in his class. We are hardly talking a culture of hoodies with knives here.
I have always taught my son to take responsibility for his own actions and that he has a duty of care to his little brother and baby sister and to look out for younger children. Big mistake. His father wants him to slide into playground oblivion. Stop telling other children what to do for a start. But I do not want the sort of boy who turns into an adult who crosses the road when a teenage gang picks on a young mother waiting with her buggy at a bus-stop. I want Henry Fonda in "Twelve Angry Men." I wonder if Henry Fonda got bullied at school. How to survive at school? They should give lessons in it. How to teach your child to survive at school? They should give lessons in that too.