Kurt and I reached our seventeenth anniversary together yesterday.
We’ve both changed a lot since that day seventeen years ago when he propelled his way out of my body and into his life, with little warning, no pain relief and lucky to make it out of the hospital lift.
He began his life with a tumultuous bang and has tried to maintain that pace ever since.
Kurt has always hated it when the party has to end.
Yet, we didn’t really notice Kurt’s different approach to life until he went to school.
School doesn’t really fit into Kurt’s ethos, because where the world according to Kurt represents an anarchic, ideological one to the rest of us, Kurt tries to make it work for him.
Nevertheless, he remains at school – just. Only a year ago, every day he remained at school felt like a bonus. Yet he’s still there. He’s that kid, the one with the label, clinging by his finger-nails and on first-name terms with all the staff – but he’s still there. He’s even passing his grades these days, which means he must be super-intelligent (like his mother) when you consider the amount of work he doesn’t do and how well he can argue the relative value of revision and homework with me (and no doubt his teachers).
And you can only revise for an exam when you actually remember that you have an exam.
There have been many changes in my son over the last eighteen months – some good and some as painful as eyebrow threading. And there have been occasions where I have felt sucked into Kurt’s emotional vacuum and it has emotionally drained me.
If there was ever a year to test our marriage, it has been this one. (Actually it might be next year, because I’ve just signed up for Foxtel again). We have camped in hell this year and I have no doubt that we will revisit our friend Satan at some time in the near future. Yet there has also been a discernible growth in our boy’s maturity over the past few months – I’m touching wood right now as I write this – because I think that Kurt is finally grasping the concept of accountability.
Which is a major part of growing up.
Where once he jumped straight into the pool without feeling the temperature, he now uses the traffic light strategy that he scoffed at when his therapist first gave it to him, and he pauses to think at the yellow light.
Which is a massive step in the direction of managing your ADHD rather than letting it manage you.
When he started his third new high school this year, he seemed to know that this was Last Chance Saloon, (or maybe we told him), and although at times he has still ‘fucked up’ (his words, not mine), I believe that he has really tried to make it work.
At the cost of his ideals.
You see, he used to look at ‘fitting in’ with disdain. After all, what had society ever done for him? But he has finally grasped an understanding that fitting into society does not necessarily mean ‘giving up’ your individuality, and it can come with rewards too – like friendship and support.
There are still issues that suddenly present themselves out of the blue and may relate back to those ‘wrong’ schools that facilitated the sinking of his self-esteem to somewhere around floor level. And sometimes that distrust of society and the anxiety it exacerbates makes him lunge like a snake if he thinks he about to be attacked – it is a hyper-sensitivity borne of being bullied, isolated and misunderstood in the past.
But on his seventeenth birthday, and in spite of shouldering the normal teenage issues of pimples, difficulties understanding girls, homework and stupid rules imposed on him by stupid parents who obviously ‘don’t understand’ him, he is the happiest I have seen him in a while.