I can remember quite clearly leaving school and thinking of the freedom that lay ahead, and thinking that I'd never have to spend another day of my life sitting in a Headteacher's office again.
How wrong I was...
Over the years with The Boy I've spent a fair amount of time in different Head's offices. Some straight out of the Ikea catalogue, others more Hogwarts. Some with papers thrown everywhere in a constant state of disarray, others as bare and clinical as an operating table. Regardless, it's still a strange feeling. A flashback to your own childhood. And still that sense of being in trouble.
Then the other week I found the tables turned... I was asked to speak at a conference for Headteachers of Special Schools in Hertfordshire. I performed the show for them, then did a Q&A session afterwards. I'll be honest, I was terrified. A room full of them...
I apologised at the start in case I swore, then proceeded to swear far more than I ever have. It wasn't really intentional, honestly it wasn't, it's just that I was goody-two-shoes at school, and so at the age of 42 I felt like I was pushing boundaries. Get me. The maverick. Yeh, Mrs Headteacher, I'm swearing and there's nothing you can do to stop me.
All my worries were unfounded, they were a great audience, even at 11am in the morning. One of them, we'll call him 'S', even danced and pirouetted like the ballerina he was born to be. Then after the show we talked about how parents could support schools more, and vice-versa. And the key word that kept coming up was "honesty". On both sides. Just to be more honest and open with each other.
The whole event was a bit of a revelation to me - as a parent of a "difficult" child I haven't always seen eye-to-eye with every headteacher. And that's probably because I always saw it that I was coming at a problem from one child's perspective, and by nature of what they do they're coming at the same problem from multiple perspectives. But listening to them talk made me realise what an impossible job they do at times. And how sometimes their desire to put the child at the centre of everything can be made so frustratingly impossible amongst the pressure of Ofsted inspections, endless bureaucracy and budget constraints. But ultimately, we all want the same thing - for children to develop, thrive and be the very best they can be.
Then driving home afterwards a thought occurred to me... there we were discussing how beneficial it would be if we all learnt to be more honest, yet the very best example of this was right there under our noses. One of the most incredible aspects of children with special needs is just that, their honesty. There's a truth in everything they do. No matter how severe the disability, you will always be acutely aware if a child with special needs doesn't like you. If they don't want to do something, they won't. And although that honesty can be tough to deal with sometimes, it can also provide so much of the joy and humour too.
Sometimes in life, the real lessons to be learned can come from those you least expect.
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.