My little boy is hurting. I think.
I told you a little while back about the tears when we told him Merlin was going to die (who, by the way, is still well and truly alive. And nearly 17 in people years!)
A couple of weeks ago, his teacher called me, and said he'd 'changed'. That he was 'flat', and not as chirpy as usual. That he was regularly drifting off, and not snapping back to attention like he used to. That he was being a bit more 'silly' and 'naughty'. Mainly following others (how like my boys!), but still, somewhat out of character.
He's also lost some of his energy. He's more inclined to want to watch TV or play a video game than to head outside. Some of this is the horrible cold weather we're having at the moment, but I'm always looking for other signs.
Granted, he's been sick lately (the flu kept him at home almost a week), and seems to be still a bit flat after that (with big, worrying black circles under his eyes until a couple of days ago), but always in the back of my mind is that it's about Sam.
Which is fair enough, yeah? I mean, it's only been 18 months (last week) since we lost Sam. And Oliver was a lot younger then. I'm still having trouble understanding it, I can't even imagine how Oliver's processing it.
And the bizarre, tragic, pointless stuff doesn't stop either. Never do we get a chance to say to Oli 'everything's OK. No one's going to die today', everyone's OK.
Last week, a good friend of Anthony's mum was in a freak accident. Something you would never imagine happening. She's now on life support with little prospect of recovery (and no prospect of healthy brain function). Of course Oliver sees how this has affected his grandmother. How could he not? His cousin is also in hospital with complications (I'm assuming) from his recent epilepsy diagnosis. A kid in the class next to his has been in hospital for the last few weeks with collapsed lungs and goodness knows what else.
It's terrible that a kid so young has to see so much death. So much pain. So much grief. But how do you shield them from it? You just can't!
So what do I do? I told Oliver's teacher that I wasn't too worried if he fell a little behind. Which is kind of true. I've always thought that primary school was more about developing kids as people (social skills, communicating etc), so I can handle it if he's a little behind on his reading or maths. Plus I'm a teacher, so I can catch him up if necessary. But what can I expect from them in terms of mental health?
The school counsellor's not an option. They are only in schools once or twice a week, and Oliver doesn't really have an identifiable (by testing) special need, so it's not likely the counsellor will be able to do much.
She also referred me to the school chaplain. At first I baulked at that, because I'm an atheist, but she assured me that they had a non-religious approach to working with kids. So I'm thinking about that.
I think what I'll probably do is take him to my GP. Get him checked out - the full works. Perhaps from there a psychologist? I don't know.
But in the mean time, I've organised a special trip. Just for him and me.
In the holidays, we're going to drive down to Melbourne. We had a fairly nice time there last year, and I wanted to see my Grandpa, so I took some leave and decided to take him down. During our trip, I've booked a hotel near the city for three nights, so we can do some touristy stuff, like the zoo and the Tutankhamen and Lego exhibitions, and just hang out. The two of us. Days busy doing the running around, but nights at the hotel watching movies and playing cards. With no distractions. Just me and him.
Because a lot of how I react to Oli's situation is guilt. Guilt because I'm at work every day, and taking on study and gym commitments; which I know are good for my mental health, but I feel guilty about them because I'm not 'here' for Oli.
It's not like he's all alone. I mean, Anthony's here with him all the time, and he does a good job of it too. But still I have the guilt. It's probably not rational (and I know I shouldn't worry about Anthony thing, because he's not the same man that he was when he and Sam were in this carer situation - something I may write about one day), but it's there.
So to compensate, I do what I do best: overcompensate.
Still, I think it will be a nice trip. It will be nice for us to hang out, to talk (6 hours in a car together kinda promotes conversation), to do some mum/son things. I'm looking forward to it. I think he is too. Let's hope it helps. Even if just a little bit.