Our Fight to Fit In

Y, my son, has not been someone to deal with pain and hurt the regular way. From the day he got his first injection, other than a yelp, he was not one to cry. Neither was he a person to reach out for help when bothered. And when he cries, it usually has to do with the inability to control his emotions or the frustration that he was not in control. His temper is quick to take control of him and defiance is most natural. As early as he could speak, N…O – NO! were his favourite words. We quickly learnt that we could not bully him into doing things we wanted him to do but logic would most often work. 
It is not an unknown fact that he can be difficult. He almost carries the tag of being difficult with pride. Adults around him find his defiance threatening. To analyse and react to every situation with logic is not everyone’s forte. Not to say that it is mine.
So, when I head to any parent-teacher-meeting, it is often dreading the worst. 
Saturday was no different. But it had only been a week at the new school and I took the day lightly. So when the teacher spoke to us saying “she had been told to tell us that if Y doesn’t start writing soon enough or listening to us, he could be blacklisted”, I was shocked. 
I know what it means, but hey, let’s make sure. 
Webster makes it simpler than Wiki. Blacklist: a list of people, organisations, etc., that are disapproved of or that are to be punished or avoided.
How would it work for a six-year-old?
Wait, this can’t be happening. I told them he had started writing in July and he is extremely slow. I had been assured they would help him, they have two teachers per class. And now when I was told the world ‘Blacklisted’ I didn’t know how to react. I was shocked and as I left the room, tears rolled down my face.  
His teacher in Prep (UKG) had told me at the end of her year with him, “Ann, he is wonderful. He is not your average child and don’t let the system make you believe otherwise. He is also not one to follow lead easily. Things will not be easy as he goes from one class to another, so be prepared to fight.” I simply shook my head in agreement back then, unsure of what she really meant.
Now I begin to understand. 
Three days ago, as I stepped forward to take him off the bus, the driver and the caretaker jumped at me, “Madam, he doesn’t listen to us. He is jumping around the bus and hanging on the bars”.
He had told them “Main apni parents ki nahi sunta, toh aapki kyun sunoo?” (I don’t listen to my parents, why should I?) They looked so shocked, they were expecting me to smack him right then and there.
But I knew our man was trying to play cool. As we reached our block, I simply sat him down and explained to him how his actions could have consequences – an accident where people could get hurt; the driver and aunty could lose their jobs and their families would have no food and toys. The third day the driver looked at me and smiled, he doesn’t trouble us anymore and doesn’t even get off his seat unless told. 
It is also public knowledge that as protective as I am of my son, I am one of his harshest critics alive. I spare nothing. Cheekiness, adamance, abrasiveness, aggression, arguments, power games, we have been through it all and one day at a time, I tackle each one it. I have tried patience, anger, reason, emotional atyaachar and the simple “because I said so” to manage his attitude. 
I have also pushed, punished and penalised my son for failing to adhere to norms and social standards, I know he finds too complicated to deal with. I have been harsh umpteen times for the fear that the acceptance and understanding we show may not be replicated elsewhere. 
But this time, my frustration was not about Yehoshua. I have seen him calm down the past year. I am not one to make excuses for my son’s attitude and behaviour but here is a boy who has changed six schools, three cities and the many social fabrics that came with these changes. He has in six years dealt with circumstances some haven’t in a lifetime. Even if the situation is not as complex as it is, how could any individual assess another in eight days! Sounds like a mountain of a task. 
I know there are limitations for a teacher, for a school but I simply wish that they would give children time to understand their environment, accept new systems and social challenges; and if possible, maybe with time accept these children with their idiosyncrasies or differences. 
A month ago, Y left behind a first grade teacher who helped a boy, who was used to writing simple words, write sentences and passages.  While students wrote sentences, she taught him his first sounds in Hindi. Day after day, for six months she helped him, struggling with forty others in the class but never giving up on him. The day he received his marks card, I saw her eyes filled with pride. He had not let her down. Y told me she had tears as they said goodbye. 
And for a while, I had forgotten the warning I had been given. So here I am disturbed as hell as I send my son to the same classroom, where the teacher hugs A BOY SO NEW she has not had the time to add his name to the lists hanging on the wall, to the bus route chart or correct the error in his Identity card. She was willing to tell him she loves him just a few minutes before she threatens his parents of blacklisting him. 
My son dealt with my grumbling and correction all weekend. He even took the three reminders on “you shall not hurt anyone; if someone troubles you, find an adult and ask for help…list that I made” fairly well, repeating them after me and shaking his head in acceptance.

But as he reached the gate of our apartment, he murmured to me “Mummy, I don’t want to go to school.”
It was not a tantrum. It was not a defiant statement. 

To me, it was simply a whimper, a cry for help of a confused child who knew he may not fit in. 

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