Something happened to my son last weekend when he was with his dad. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know that my son has been more reserved, hesitant, nervous and clingy ever since.
My son is just over two and hasn’t got the language to tell me. My ex hasn’t got the courage to tell me.
I could tell straight away that something had happened. My ex delivered my son home as usual. I gave my son a kiss and a cuddle. Ordinarily, he would then run off into the lounge and check that all of his toys were there. Ordinarily, he would pick one or two toys out and show them to his dad.
Last weekend, my son would not let me put him down after our kiss and cuddle. He screamed and clung to me when I tried to release him. He refused to say goodbye to his dad. He refused to give him a kiss and a cuddle. He turned away from him and buried his head into my shoulder.
When his father had left my son started crying, but he was crying in a way that I had never seen him cry before. My son cries when he is having a tantrum and these cries are obviously fake. My son cries when he has hurt himself and these are genuine cries of pain. The cries of pain are always short lived, but my son has great stamina for a tantrum.
He had sadness written all over his face when he cried last weekend. I had never seen him cry like this before. He cried quietly. As I held him in my arms the tears welled up and started streaming down his face. He looked over my shoulder at the wall behind me.
I asked him what was the matter. After a bit of questioning we established that he had done something naughty. When I asked him what naughty thing he had done he said “throw mud”.
I’ve since established that he threw a car and that it hit his 13 year old cousin. I’ve also established that his cousin was crying.
My son wasn’t just with his dad last weekend. He was with the whole family. He was with all of my former in-laws. What I don’t know is how my in-laws reacted when my son threw a car and hit is cousin.
I don’t know, but I can imagine.
I can imagine that my ex’s twin sister, and mother of my son’s cousin, went berserk. She has always been volatile, and being around her is like walking on egg shells. I imagine that she screamed and yelled at my son and at my ex. My son is not used to shouting. This will have scared him.
I can imagine that faced with his sister’s yelling, my ex felt obliged to take a hard line with my son. Ordinarily my son is allowed to throw things, climb the bookshelves and jump on the sofa when he is with his father. He is not allowed to do any of these things when he is with me. I imagine that the sudden change in what is acceptable and my ex’s hard line approach, which could also have involved shouting – my ex has a short temper – will have scared him.
I can imagine that a conversation ensued about how I, as my son’s mother, am to blame and am doing a terrible job, and that my son is disadvantaged because he is from a broken home. In my in-laws’ minds I am to blame, because I made the decision to leave my ex. Although my son wouldn’t have understood everything, he understands some words and would most definitely have picked up on the atmosphere and tone of the conversation. This will have scared him.
I don’t know what I can do about this.
I can cuddle my son, and reassure him, and allow him to be clingy and try to encourage him out of his nervousness and reticence.
I can’t be sure what happened, because I know my ex will never tell me, and I know that my son can’t.
What I don’t know is haunting me.