The Boy hates standing in line. Queueing. Some schools seem obsessed with it. I understand it can be difficult to get 32 five year olds to walk in an orderly fashion to assembly, but some take it to extremes. Children made to line-up to go to the toilet, the playground, to breathe... And in my experience, there's a direct correlation between how much the school want children to stand in lines and how crap a school they are. The worst schools, and we've been through a few, seem to be the ones trying to create their own Foreign Legion, where conformity and lining up mean far more than creativity and expression ever will.
I'm bound to say that, given I have a kid who refuses to line up. I remember his first school, they were never happier than when the children were all in a line, filed alphabetically, marching in single file. But if there's one thing The Boy hates, it's a line. A queue. It took them eighteen months to realise that if they took him out of the line the scratching, hitting and biting of other children stopped.
At first the SENCO (Special Needs Coordinator) told me my son was just 'bloody-minded'. That he always wanted to be at the front of the line, he was spoilt and was just trying to get his own way. But for The Boy it was never about being in the front of the line. All he wanted to do was avoid the middle. The middle of the line is awful. People in close proximity, crammed in, claustrophobic. Nowhere to go, no escape. Just people. Everywhere. With their noises and smells and breath. Awful, terrifying people. Trapped front and back.
For the whole school year The Boy was forced to stand in lines. The words weren't there to tell people it HURT. Physically hurt. So he did what our instinct teaches us to do when we feel cornered and vulnerable. He hit out. Went wild. The urge to preserve himself and protect himself kicked in. And then eventually he learnt that if you keep hitting out people won't make you stand in the line anymore. He didn't hit out to hurt people. He hit out to make his own pain go away. And he hit out because it was the only way he could make himself heard.
It became a battle of wills before a new teacher took over the next school year. And on the first day she suggested to The Boy that he stand at the back of the line. That day the hitting stopped. He could dawdle a bit, put some space between himself and the other children. He could breathe again. And the pain went away.
I'm not sure why I'm reminded of this today. It started because we went shopping to ALDI and The Boy was once again faced with the queue to eternity. But it's also because for a long time I wanted a child who would just follow the others. Who would stand in line. Who'd conform. Who wouldn't embarrass me with outbursts, quirky behaviours and strange noises.
But The Boy will forever dance to a different beat. And surely that can only be a good thing. Children shouldn't always be made to stand in line and conform. They have a lifetime of that ahead. Let them find themselves first. And once they have, let them run free awhile and dance among the stars.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.