“If you were a man, Mum, I’d be exactly the same. I’d still expect you to do everything for me”. I’d thrown out a casual accusation of sexism, something about not helping with the washing up, and always expecting me to make the tea. This had provoked an angry and vehement denial. For a moment I’d thought he was going to storm out of the flat. He’s right of course, I have to smile inside and acknowledge that I’ve been unreasonable. J is not sexist, just a bit lazy sometimes, and not any less helpful in the house than many other nearly 16 year olds.
J’s observations can be very acute. He talks to me sometimes about Christian and Muslim fundamentalism at his school, and the strange beliefs that go with it: stuff about the roles of men and women, desperate homophobia, the place of religion in this world. He waves his atheism there like a red flag. When I was his age, bullying and anti Semitism were commonplace but neither of these seem to have a place in his school*.
Teachers assaulted students in the classroom from time to time, when I was his age. I have talked to my sister about my memories of a deputy head who struck a girl hard across the face in my class, for answering back, and of another male teacher who became so enraged that he pushed a desk over and onto a boy, terrifying us all. This was in the 1970s. At one of my primary schools, my teacher taped up children’s mouths. We remarked on the fact that not only had I never shared what happened with her, but I had never told our parents either, in fact I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing so. I don’t think we had particular problems communicating. It’s just there were some things you told adults and some things you didn’t.
Terrible things happened to J in the years before he was taken into foster care. He was removed from home at a young age, but how many children continue to suffer in silence because there are some things you tell adults and some things you don’t?
Sometimes I wonder what the things are now that J chooses not to tell me.
* Correction from J: anti semitism is not diminished.
I am linking this post to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out #93 which this week is on the theme of Secrecy.