This third part has been the hardest to write as it features my third and youngest child. This child has some mild learning difficulties and sometimes exhibits challenging behaviour. There has been a delay on early stage of his early growth development. His behaviour and attitudes are sometimes reminiscence of symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. Despite this and numerous medical examinations since birth, no clear diagnosis has ever been given. His gait and posture is very infantile and he displays frustration which quickly turns into vented anger when things don’t go right for him. School has always been a struggle for him.
His problems were one of the key factors that kept me in the abusive marriage for many years. I believed that my leaving would cause him further and greater damage and would severely affect his well-being.
A huge turning point for me was when he mirrored one of his mother’s attacks on me. A couple of days prior to this episode, his mother had turned violent, first of all she was verbally threatening. When I didn’t respond, she deliberated overturned her dinner plate over my head so that the food cascaded down me and then smashed the plate on my head. I had learnt that no response could calm her so I just sat there and absorbed it without making any response. Because this action hadn’t provoked me into retaliation of any description, she then grabbed my dinner plate and threw that over me too. She then stormed out the house and I started to clear the mess up.
A few days after this, I’d cook and served dinner for all the family and was in the kitchen washing the dishes. My son, who was 10 years old at this stage, brought his plate out and threw the remains over me. I was cross with him and shouted at him, he was visibly upset and had a look of shock on his face.
I realised that he thought his actions were ‘normal’ and okay because he’d seen his mother do similar just days before. It also dawned on me that my staying in that abusive environment and absorbing such violence wasn’t protecting the children from the impact of domestic violence after all.
Shortly after this, during another violent assault, I chose not to return to the marital home. It broke my heart to leaving all three children behind.
My son had always been close to the middle child who was like a second mother to him. He’d started playschool while she was still there and she took the parental instruction of “Look after your brother for us” seriously.
This relationship seemed to change once the eldest child came to live with me, and my second daughter has written in this blog about the events that led her to coming to live with me. Part of that was her own brother attacking her.
This is the situation that worries me most and I feel helpless about. My son still lives with his mother. He stays with me every other weekend. I know he feels a loyalty to his mother as he’s seen me and his two sisters leave, so he feels he can’t abandon his mother and cant come and live with me.
For the most part, he is a delightful young man. When he stays with me, he never hits out. There are occasions when he sulks, but either I or his siblings are able to bring him out of the mood before he get angry and violent. However, I do worry about the time he’s not in my care.
There have been a couple of episodes at school when his frustrations have boiled over. The school have been very good in managing him and have realised that the majority of the time, others have been provoking him to try and elicit a reaction.
I see in him similar behaviour to his mother. I’ve tried talking to her about this for I’ve questioned whether this is something genetic or learnt. When he stays with me, I always try to encourage him to talk. He will talk on any subject that he’s interested in but won’t talk about his feelings or emotional state.
Interesting, when he was staying with me, one of his sisters intercepted a facebook conversation with a school colleague where he was telling this other person that he was saw the Doctor every week for depression. I shared this with his mother, but when I asked my son why he felt he needed to tell someone this fabrication (although of course I didn’t phrase it like that) he won’t talk about it. To me, however, it was rather insightful because I think he recognises that he needs to talk to someone.
Recently, his school contacted me again because they are concerned about some of his challenging behaviour. There had been bullying in the past, so they do take things seriously. My son had complained to a teacher that he was being attacked and his descriptions were quite vivid. However, they had been watching closely and had seen nothing untoward taking place. When I spoke to my son about this he was adamant it was happening. When I questioned it, he got very aggressive and challenged whether I believed him or not. This tactic, I know, would stop his mother from seeking more information. However, I persevered and eventually he admitted that he’d make the whole thing up and told school that. He was then remorseful and contrite.
He needs some help but won’t talk to anyone. I have tried to involve other agencies. When his second sister left, I called social services and child protection because I was concerned. They did a quick onsite assessment, but because they deemed him not at any physical risk from his mother, they closed the case. No-one wants to assess the emotional or mental risk.
The only thing that gives me hope is that he’s fine when triggers aren’t breached, although he won’t recognise triggers or the impact of his behaviour. He does display some of the aggressive traits of his mother, although the one area where they differ is that afterwards, he is remorseful and recognises his wrong doing. I only hope that as he grows older, he’s able to talk through the things and emotions that he’s obviously bottling up. I just wish the help was offered and provided that I believe he needs.