It’s Time to Talk About Frankie
“Please stop crying, Maisie. You don’t mind if I call you Maisie, or is it Maisey?” asked the young professional in her neat and organised office. Sitting aside from the desk with a plant pot and sign reading ‘Brigitte Hamilton, Youth Mental Health Counsellor’, she tried to engage the parent’s dipping expression. There was nothing between them now but a nervous yard of carpet and Maisie’s confidence, which had already dipped. They could talk.
“No, that’s okay. It’s a silent y. Me dad’s got a y. He’s called ‘arry.”
“Do you have a concern about the welfare of a family member?” Brigitte asked. “Only, that’s why parents at the school usually come to me.” A pause, but Brigitte waited, wondering if her office needed more Hygge.
Stifling sobs, voice quivering, Maisie with a y nodded. “Yes. I think… I think it’s time to talk about Frankie.”
“Your son?” Brigitte nodded in understanding, waiting for the waterworks to evaporate.
“He’s not like the other boys. He’s not like our family. He’s different.” She stared through the plant, the person, the desk, everything, until her mind hit the wall.
“Tell me. I can help, provide guidance.”
“He doesn’t play with his cousins down the breaker’s yard no more”, huffed his mother. “He says lessons are slow and he doesn’t like time in the playground neither. Forgets to go to lunch with the others ‘cos he’s writing things or drawin’ lines and counting. He always keeps adding stuff up!”
Brigitte realised this could be an easy one. “Socialisation skills can improve rapidly if your child is introduced into welcoming situations with others, built around things he already likes doing.”
“He doesn’t like motorbikes. Or hanging around with other kids at the bus stop. He wants to play alone, see? It isn’t even play, when you look at what he does, staring at the sky and stuff. He fills his little books with crabby little notes. Some of it’s written back to front.”
Brigitte tried again: “It could be disassociation, or a protective mechanism like a dyslexia work-around. Perhaps just an unusually active imagination.”
“I wanted to know what he was starin’ at with the mirrors out of the bathroom and he said he was measurin’ stars, I ask you. I said he should stop wasting his time and go sit with his Dad by the telly, get some chips in ‘im. There were game shows and footy on but I can’t get him to sit still five minutes.”
“Do you suspect Attention Deficit Disorder?” Brigitte continued, exploring her way to a diagnosis.
“I think it’s more, you know, something wrong with his thing, Frankie’s leanings. We don’t want anything like that in our house. There ain’t any history of that. We ain’t got no foreign monkey blood so ‘e didn’t catch it from us.”
Brigitte straightened a little in her chair. “I should advise you that orientation is not a genetic characteristic nor a virus. It isn’t specific to a population.”
“It aint that! The Maths teacher gives ‘im more homework than the other kids.”
“You suspect discrimination?”
“What are we going to do? There’s no compensation neither. It’s shameful.” Maisie shook a little and scrabbled with her the back of her hair.
“Can you describe the behaviours which first made you think there was a problem?”
Maisey shuffled at this, trying to remember. “Frankie came home one day…”
“Yes?” Brigitte prompted.
“He’d got himself a library card” complained Maisey, plaintively.
“A library card?” At last, evidence.
“He wanted shelves for his birthday. Shelves, I ask you! Then he said all people are born equal and the only tang-able difference is what you do. Well, I said he should shut his mouth because he has no respect for his dad and he said he respects people who have earned respect and if he respects the ones who haven’t it devalues the currency! My poor boy. Lippy sod. He’s started using deodorant and using weird words like lumy, lumyness…”
“Luminescent?” Brigitte sat back, decisively. “Yes, I think I know what’s the matter with your boy. As you suspected, he isn’t like your family. He won’t fit in and will leave you and go on to do things which you will struggle to understand. I’m very sorry, Maisey, and I know it will come as quite a shock to a mother.”
“Please tell me. What’s the matter with ‘im? What has my boy got?”
This story now has an audio version, with real actors! I hope you like it: https://youtu.be/2dekBmgJ_pE