My 10-year-old and I had an argument on the way to school this morning over a Nike hat that he was wearing. He lost his sister’s Nike hat and this one had been left behind by his cousin. I didn’t want him to lose it too and doubted he could be trusted. He threw the Nike hat on the car floor, called me a dick and slammed the door, stalking off to join a selected cluster of children at creative writing in the library. I put the handbrake on and stormed after him, stooped to grasp his narrow boyish shoulders and search his eyes to place some love into them. ‘Don’t call me a dick, I’m your mother, you don’t call your mother a dick.’
I walk defiantly back to the car and drive my other son to school. We walk calmly to class, a brief meeting with his teacher, and I leave. On the way to the carpark I see a Room One boy whose name I don’t know. He is fighting back boy tears, the string of his book bag twisting around his little wrist as he wrestles with carrying two bags full of stuff for a whole day at school.
‘Are you ok darling?’ He wants his mum. She isn’t here, she has probably had to drop and drive. I don’t know his name but I know there are littler ones in his family. He’s a big boy now in Room One. His chin begins to wobble, I know my kindness has brought it on. It’s time for distraction so his grownup-ness can stop the tears. I ask him inquisitively to show me what Room One is like now…I know the teacher, she’s kind, I like her, but I haven’t seen what Room One is like for a while. Where does he put his bag? His name is written neatly on a little sticker above the silver bag hook. This is Angus’ place. This is where Angus puts his bag. What does he do now, can he show me?
I have a little lump in my throat now, as we walk into the classroom and he instantly relaxes at the sight of not one but two kind teachers. All the other kids are busy in different clusters, no-one has yet made it to the mat, no overwhelming pairs of huge eyes searching up to see who is late to class. Angus sees it is going to be ok now. As I leave, the play areas are deserted, and my 10-year-old’s class is in full swing without him. Where is my boy who wasn’t old enough to be trusted with a borrowed Nike hat? I’d left him sad and angry on the roadside by the library. The library wasn’t even open yet and he may have been stranded there on the shaded, cold concrete. The building was dark, there was no one inside, just travellers with more interest in their devices than the melodic resonance of tui birds in the trees across the road.
The travellers would have ignored the skinny brown boy who needs a haircut. He’d be feeling like a stranger in his own town. He would think about how his dick-mum didn’t let him wear the Nike hat. His day was planned around wearing that Nike hat and now his thick brown hair with no grooming product would be everywhere he went, in plain sight.
I drive past the library, the lights are on in the building, and I pull over on yellow lines to jog back to where the small group of creative writer kids are. He is walking around the desks looking at something on the walls, his tutor glances at me and smiles reassuringly, without pausing as she talks to the group. I make eye contact quickly with my boy and blow him a kiss. His face softens but he doesn’t smile. I can leave now.
My boy spent his morning writing and when I saw him after school, he had happily forgotten about the morning drama. Later, I got an email from his tutor to excitedly share with me my son's lively and imaginative story from that morning.
I love how writing is a street that you can walk down when you're feeling rattled. When you walk this street, there is so much to observe and ponder. Below is my son's story, a picture that he brought to life with his words.
Charlie the Peacock
The colours fade from lush green to a deep sea blue and then a dark night-black. A colourful peacock shows off his powerful coloured feathers. Why does it have the rainbow green to blue? The eyes glare at the top of the peacock, with the navy turquoise blue. The lime green and yellow fade through to blue…
Here he lives in the Tairua Library, jumping off the blank white frame getting ready to hypnotise all night and morning. He likes having a great big play, he is very cheeky I shall say. He reads lots of books you know, hoping to one day go to the snow. He loves Wednesday when the kids from creative writing come, and there he stays, still and proud, waiting to get to the end of the day.
If you're spending a lot of your day in bare feet, then chances are you have found the kind of balance that Hook & Arrow writer Alison Smith has found in life.