I went into my son’s bedroom yesterday and it wasn’t the tears that scared me or what he said. It was the look of hopelessness on his face. I felt my heart stop beating. “Please no, not you too,” I said in my head. Please don’t have a brilliant soul that comes with a price tag of despair. Not you too. Don’t let it become a family curse.
“I miss Tiney,” he told me and then he said, “I don’t know if I am good enough any more mummy.”
“I miss her too Archie, I miss her too.” I did not know what else to say. I crawled into bed with him, which is something I rarely do, and whispered in his ear. “You are more than good enough Archie, you are so good that you make my heart hurt.” I scratched his back and tried to pour love into his soul. “I see you, Archie, I see you.”
I see you, I say to my son. To let him know that he is loved. There was a time not so long ago, that I closed my eyes. I was lost in agony and I forgot to see. I see you, I say to him. My eyes are open and they will never shut again. I see you and the way you went to school, even though you were scared. You did not breathe a word to me. You did not want to add to my pain. I see you. You were teased and taunted, pushed and jabbed. You were tricked and tripped. You were threatened; killing you was part of a dirty game. I see you. It is not your job to be brave, it is mine. I see you.
I see you, I want to say to one kind mum. After the Sports day, she sent me a text telling me that in Archie she saw a kid who never gave up. He ran, he tried, he ran and ran. I see you and your kindness. You did not know how kind you were. On that day, things went from verbal to physical. My son was pushed down a hill. He was tripped when he tried to stand. They laughed and laughed at the loser who could not run. You can’t run fast enough, you can’t run long enough, you can’t throw hard enough. Despite all this, he tried, he never gave up. And this lovely mum, she sent me a message of kindness to let me know she saw my son. I see you.
I see you I want to say to the kids who laugh at a boy who sings. He sings and they laugh. They laugh because he is the only boy in the choir. He must be gay. Dirty faggot. Look at him, a singing poofter in his faggot pants. They do not know that he sang because the choir was the one place where he could get a moment’s reprieve. His sister was there and he could breathe. In the lunch time, they would hunt him down to those places where the teacher’s eyes did not reach. I see you. I don’t think he can sing, but one kind teacher let him join in. I see her too because she was kind. I see my son who marches to his own beat behind his sister with the showgirl’s hips. I see him smile. He loves to sing his own song. I see you. I want to say to those boys, that one day you will want to sing, you will want to dance and you will find that there is no music left in your soul. I see you.
I see you to the little girl who I thought had it all. I see you and the way you no longer stand so tall. Sometimes you want to extinguish your light. You want to hide your brains behind a brick wall. You hunch your shoulders to make you small. I see you, you are a tall poppy and you are divine. When we are babies, we love the things that glimmer brightly. But something happens around seven or eight and we learn to fear those people who make us feel mediocre. Let’s cut them down into something insignificant. Let’s crush the spirit out of them and make them feel alone. This lovely girl sits by herself. She waits for her friends to decide if she can join in today. I see her wondering why today is not the day. I see you. I want to tell her not to hide her beauty. One day she will create, she will invent, she will cure and she will heal. She might stand on a tiered block with a gold medal around her neck. She will do many things. But most importantly she will remember how those cruel kids made her feel and she will be kind. One day she will stand tall again and she will realise that it is the tall poppy who dances in the breeze and is the first to feel the warmth of the morning light. I see you.
I see you to those girls whose friendship is fickle. Not today. You can’t be my friend. You are a loser today. You are mean. I see you. You strut your stuff, you think you are great. You wield your friendship like a weapon. You giggle, you cackle. Oooh – she is his friend, he is hers. They must love each other. How gross. I bet they have SEX. I see you and can’t believe you are only nine. Boyfriend and Girlfriend. Boyfriend and Girlfriend. You wanna be my friend? Not today, I have no time. Cause you are a loser. Look at his glasses. He reads a book. He is a freak. I see you. I see you and you make me sad. By seventeen you will be knocked up. That boy who impregnated you will be at the pub, he will be drunk with his mates again. He will try to pick up the girls you used to spurn. Eventually, he will come home to you and make you feel small. When he is gone, your child will cry into the night, and you will wonder when did things stop feeling right. I see you.
I see you to the teacher who gently closes her office door. I do what I promised I would not do and I start to cry. I was meant to be strong. “It is like fucking Lord of the Flies,” I say in horror. “We all know how that story ends, please don’t let my son be that story’s end.” She nods her head and her eyes fill with compassion. I see you. She is a good teacher and she will do what she can. Later she tells me that she has tried. She has tried and tried but her hands are tied. I see you. Her hands are tied behind her back by a system that is fatally flawed. I see you. That system has developed into something that shows the bad what they can do. If you shout loud enough you will be mollified. Know your rights and you will be fine. No matter how bad something might appear, nothing can be done. 1, 2, 3 warnings, that is not enough. While these bastards shout and scream. While they yell at the teachers about what they can do and how they know their rights, behind them, there is the deadly silence of good kids dropping through the cracks and disappearing without a word. I see you. This lovely teacher. I see you and I hope that one day you don’t get tired. That you don’t say enough is enough and give up your gift which is to teach. I see you.
I see you. That kid who is in every school throughout the world. She does not fit in, she stands alone. Other kids whisper behind her back. She has cooties, lice. She smells a lot. She looks lost and disheveled. She stands alone. When I brave the school yard, she knows my name. I know not how. I smile at her. I am kind. I see you. Later I glance out the hallway window and she is alone. That little kid whose shirt is old and shoes don’t match. Other kids slide around behind her back. They hiss and mumble. They are mean. I ask my kids if they know her name. I remind them that the greatest gift we can give is to be kind. Every day, she looks around and wonders how she can fit in. I see you. I want to tell her I see great things. But sometimes this world is just too mean. I see you. Please be strong. I worry for her; those cracks are wide. Her voice is low, she can’t scream so loud. I am so scared that she won’t be heard. Stay strong, stay strong. I see you.
I see you bullies. I see you. You have many faces, many names, but I see you. To those boys who thought it might be fun to make a little boy so scared that he tried to run. He was so frightened he did not look left or right as he ran across the road to his home gate. He thought if he could make it home, he would be alright. He was wrong. He touched the gate but so did they. They pushed him to the ground and just for fun, they kicked him until he cried. I see you. I stood on my pavement and watched you in the distance. I could hear your laughter and I felt so helpless. I see you. One day you both will be addicted to ice, or smack or crack, whatever the cheapest drug is that you can find. You will sit around with your mates in a drug induced haze reliving those glory days. Those amazing days when you were so strong that you scared a little boy and made him run. You kicked him and you made him cry. Those days were incredible, you were filled with power. Later when the high has gone, you will wonder why you remember those few years when you were young as the best years of your life. Life never got better than that. Kicking a kid until he cried. I see you.
I see you bullies one and all. I see you Lord of the Flies who commands others to do your dirty work. You play your games. ‘Guys! You hurt this lonely kid and you can be my friend. See how he cries. Dirty faggot, crying loser. That kid wears glasses, he loves a book. He runs like shit; what a gay sook.’ This little bullying lord, he wields his power, he is feared. He smiles, he swaggers and he thinks he is adored. I see you. I see a kid who will still swagger when he is 16. He jeans will be too low; his jocks will be too high. Later though, the swagger will make him look a fool. He will be alone outside the supermarket on a Saturday afternoon wondering where his friends have gone. Those kids he terrorised? They moved on. They will be learning, discovering, exploring and achieving. The lord’s low jeans and high jocks will take him home. He will steal money out of his mother’s wallet to buy his beer. He will throw the empty cans at the television when his team never scores. He will be alone, no-one will remember his name. Eventually, he will realize that he has no one left to blame. I see you.
I see you, my kid who reads better than he runs. I see you and hope that you don’t be ashamed of those books you read. You turn those pages and have a million worlds in your head. Your literary friends will jump off the pages and dance around the room while you sleep. Right now, you adventure with Julian, Dick, George, Ann and Timmy the dog. You ask me occasionally if I will make lemonade. I know why you obsessively check your pocket money; you are seeing how close you are to buying your bike. Then you plan to pack your bag, take Kevin and Rosie and go on a splendid adventure. I must laugh though as Kevin and Rosie are as mad as cut snakes. They will not behave like Timmy the dog. I see you and your love of books. I love you for it. One day you might fall in love with Bess the black-eyed landlord’s daughter who plaits a dark red love knot into her long black hair. Or you might be Rochester and find your Jane. You might ditch the classics for Alex Cross and hunt down serial killers and turn Washington D.C. back into a respectable city. You might be inspired to be wise and kind like Atticus Finch or completely self-indulgent like Jack Kerouac. Regardless, those words create worlds in your head. I see you as you read and know that sometimes you wished that you could run. I see you. In those books, I know you run straight and fast and true. I see you.
I see you. I closed my eyes for a moment, please forgive me. I see you. I will never shut my eyes again. It is my job to be brave, not yours. I see you.
You are strong, you are kind, you are brave and you are important.
I see you. I will always see you. I see you.