Last minutes of his eleventh birthday. I am not quite sure why I feel the need to write this tonight.
He has always been his own little person. His English grandparents said of him, when he was a toddler, that he had his own agenda. Yet he was not really stubborn – on the contrary, a docile and gentle boy. His French-Vietnamese grandparents thought that, as a baby, he looked like a wise person.
English school. Quiet child. They thought he didn’t listen and worried he wouldn’t know his phonics. Then they tested him and were surprised. They said to me : yes, he can read well, but does he understand ? They put him in one of the bottom sets in maths. They said it would be better for him because there were fewer pupils in that set, and he needed the attention, being a day-dreamer. They asked doubtfully : “Were you thinking of a grammar school for him ?”. Then they tested him. He scored very high in the assessments and in the barbaric Eleven plus (I was surprised!). They admitted : he was clearly in the wrong class. His first teacher at the Saturday French School had said to me : you’ll see, he is very advanced. I didn’t think he was, but felt there was something about him, even though I coudn’t put my finger on it.
Two years in a Parisian school. He didn’t like it as much as the English one. There was more agressivity, more boisterous behaviour at break time. Adults cared less. He had told his English classmates : I’ll be back when I am eight.
In England, the hospital had delivered a diagnosis of ASD. The examination had been very questionable, but the diagnosis sort of made sense. In France, they shrugged and told me to treasure his originality. They helped him gain confidence.
He isn’t hard-working. He avoids efforts. He isn’t driven. He can’t read his musical notes properly, counting on his fingers. He resents practising. Yet he plays the piano at grade 5 and sometimes in a soulful manner.
When a little boy walked to him and said : “I bet I can run faster than you”, he shrugged and replied “I know.”
He is very good at building and rotating shapes in his head. He builds beautifully with materials. He loves to draw intricate details. He has a taste for tiny things. Every evening, he reads in a Bible which belonged to his Dad. I think it’s because it is a very small book bound in red.
Objects are always potential building material or prospective pieces of artwork. Especially his food. Drives me crazy.
His bilinguism both orally and in writing is remarkable. He learns easily.
He is shy and very easily scared. Many books I would like him to read, as they enthralled me, he finds too frightening. Drives me crazy.
One teacher noticed he was often on his own and expressed his concern. After him, other teachers said that he was well liked and had a mature sense of humour. In truth, it is a very peculiar sense of humour. He loves plays on words. The more absurd the better. He is able to laugh at himself.
Still, making friends isn’t his strong point (not helped by parents who don’t do video games) but things are improving. His style will be more appreciated in a few years.
His heart is clear, clearer than mine ever was. He picks up the forget-me-nots that I have pulled at the end of their season and tries to replant them in pots. He is upset when I explain to him I need to thin the tomato seedlings. “Why did you need to tell me?” He is extremely delicate with insects. He has long thin hands.
By his love of birds, my sky and my garden were populated. Now I recognise some, feed those who will favour my garden and talk to them.
He never had to learn to be attentive to living things. He taught me.