“I wish someone would tell me my son wasn’t bad, he was hyperactive”

“I knew from my pregnancy that Leo, my son, would be different from his brother. “He’s going to be a football player” they told me because of the kicks he gave me with the bat. The day he learned to walk, he never looked back; brave, quick, reckless and brave. He was just running really fast and mom and dad had to catch him before he crossed the street. Once he stopped and we could get close enough to catch him, he ran faster.

When we had to move to Sydney as I was doing my Masters, we realized that Leo’s personality was not well received by many Australians who are very respectful of their personal territory and careful not to encroach on it. Leo easily crossed that line and I, a rather shy and quiet person, had to apologize for his jokes. Leo wasn’t even two years old.

In Chile, we noticed that neither our extended family nor our friends wanted to invite us into their homes because of their hyperactivity. On some occasions, even my own sister would invite me to her house, but with “hopefully” only my eldest son. For birthdays they invited the other cousins, not us, because Leo, they said, “was bad.” The rest of the family called him “the earthquake” and whenever the cousins ​​made a mess, they blamed him.

I knew school would be even more of a challenge than family and it was; from Pre-kinder to fifth grade had the biggest problems whose personality soon became noticeable.

The first time the school called me was to say, “don’t worry, it’s nothing serious, we’ll find it”; He was missing for an hour and was searched all over the school, first in the pool and later in the front square. The whole time he was in the bathroom watching his teachers look for him. As a result of this and other incidents, he was placed on probation, which meant signing a letter of commitment, following school rules year after year. The teachers were nice, but always told me I should be more present. I just said that I work four different places and that I don’t have much extra time to spend with him.

When he entered first grade, I was doing my PhD in addition to working full time. I haven’t seen my two kids from Monday to Thursday as I got home at 10:30pm and was out since 7:30am. At that point, the teachers couldn’t understand that I wanted to continue to grow academically, have children, and be “more on top” of having a son like Leo. “He misses his mother”, “you should spend more time with him”, “maybe it’s time to think about your priorities” are some of the recommendations he receives. My husband, on the other hand, never received any comments. Among his friends, my son stood out as either crazy or nice, they said he would be good at sports, they took him as more playful. In my environment, they held me accountable and I also took responsibility for their academic, social, and emotional well-being.

One day I had an incident that left a mark on me. Every day I took him to the square in front of the school to release energy, and for the first time I let him go with an empty gun, that is, without cartridges. He played like every day, more intensely than the other children, climbing the slide on the slope, jumping on the swings, climbing all the trees, etc. I have always modeled his behavior, often thinking more of others than my own son. “Careful”, “Let the girl get on first”, “don’t shout, don’t worry”, etc. It always exhausted me, but I felt it was what I had to do to maintain social harmony and out of respect for all children, mothers and fathers. This day was different. I was tired, study and work had discouraged me very much, and for the first time I sat down on the ground, as in some kind of gutter, and Leo played to his heart’s content. At one point, he points his gun at a girl and pretends to shoot her, even though, as she mentioned, she has no bullets. At this point, the girl’s father yells, “That ass stood me up on a step,” and begins to utter a bunch of scribbles and clarifications about my son, who is standing still for the first time in his life. Then the man came up to where I was and shouted to me: “Look how you have raised your son, you are stupid and your son who always comes to this square and misbehaves, where are you that you do not control him? ‘ . I apologized for Leo’s behavior, but then defended him with claws. A few minutes later, the man’s wife joined me in scolding me, saying the exact same thing, this time adding that I was a “bad mother.” The man finished by ordering me to never take my son to that square again. The most painful thing is that the mothers who were with their children nodded, looked at me ugly and turned their backs on me. It hurt a lot. What do they know about all the struggles I’ve had with parenting? What do they know about the victims, those who get up at 4 in the morning to work, study and raise children at the same time? Why is it so hard for us to accept those who deviate from the standard?

Today, Leo, already in his teens, is a cheerful, sociable, funny boy. He channeled his energy into sports, which confirmed his self-esteem because he was valued at school. His personality was changing, he also calmed down with the arrival of his brothers and with the pandemic because we were together a lot more.

Now I think the guilt of not spending as much time with him as a child made me not put so many limits on him, I wanted to have a good time in the little time we had. Now I draw these conclusions, but the truth is that then I had to do what I had to do, I wanted to develop professionally, I don’t blame myself. Feeling guilty doesn’t help much in parenting. Parenting is a very lonely process, especially when children do not adapt to what is expected. In any case, I think I should have wasted less time accepting him and giving him more time, listening to his needs and looking for appropriate solutions instead of insisting that he adapt to the others. I would like to have the confidence that I was doing my best and that was enough. I wish someone would tell me that my son’s hyperactivity is not a bad thing, that it won’t last forever, that he will calm down. That he wasn’t a bad boy, he was just restless. Especially when they told me it wasn’t my fault and that I wasn’t alone.”

Konstanza is a linguist and is 40 years old.

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