Eight Year-Olds Don't Know
By Simon Barget
My name is Alexander Beardsman and things are just about starting to go wrong in my life.
If I could say how I felt, things might be alright, but I’m only eight, nearly nine, and I don’t know how to get the words out and I get so upset sometimes I wish I could die.
If I was older, if I was a grown-up I could say how I feel and maybe Mummy and Daddy would take notice of me and not just take what they want to make themselves feel better and maybe I wouldn’t want to die. But I do want to die. Maybe I wouldn’t grow up with such a rage. I don’t understand that yet. If I was older perhaps I’d understand how grown-ups are always trying to make things ok for themselves because they don’t feel good inside. But I don’t understand yet about not feeling good, not in the grown-up way, because I’m eight, nearly nine and I don’t understand why they feel like they do.
Maybe if I was older people would take notice, but people don’t take notice of eight year-olds much.
My younger brother is called Gabe, and he’s only four and I love him, but sometimes when I’m upset I say horrible things and tease him, and once in a while I will punch him quite hard if he takes my football, and I can see that it has hurt him and he cries for a few seconds then punches me back as hard as he can because he feels hurt and I don’t want him to be happy if I’m not happy too, like when Daddy is cuddling him for being cute and I want him to feel bad like I do. Not all the time just some. Daddy doesn’t really cuddle me anymore, but I wouldn’t let him anyway. I don’t want him to be upset but I don’t feel good and it’s not fair.
When morning comes on school days I feel this feeling in my stomach and then like as if something is coming up into my throat and I know I can’t say anything to Mummy because as soon as I speak she tells me I do want to go or because I’ve already missed three days and if I’m not downstairs in five minutes then I can’t have the iPad and she means it this time and she gets in such a state and I don’t honestly even care about the iPad I just am really scared about going to school. Really truly scared and I wish they would just forget it’s a school day. But then I know that I would have to go in the next day anyway.
I live in London in a big house with my Grandma and my Mum and Dad and my little brother Gabriel.
Why am I scared about school? I am scared because they ask difficult things and I don’t always get the right answer and lots of boys put their hands up so quickly and then I feel stupid and I know my teacher will say something to Mummy about it and as soon as she says something Mummy will talk to me like I’m stupid again and she says I can’t believe you don’t understand that, come on Alexander you’re really clever, I know you are and she makes me feel like I am pretending, like with the long division last week that I kept getting wrong or not being able to write as neatly as Raymond, and when she stands over me and tries to make me do my homework I feel like kicking and punching her really hard so she actually takes notice of me and I don’t want her to be there making me do something I hate and can’t do very well because it makes me feel stupid.
Now if I could work out what I was feeling, if I was older and could say it, I could say I feel anxious and over-pressurised worried. I would say that I feel inadequate, that I’m not good enough at English and Maths and I feel like they are going to push me into a hole and that they want to do things to me that are too much for me that the other boys in my class can do and that I don’t want to do and they always say that it will be fine but they’re lying because it isn’t.
And now I don’t believe anyone, not even Daddy. I don’t believe the promises. I mean sometimes they do buy me things to get me to finish my homework, but Daddy will get very angry at Mummy and shout at her and say ‘FOR GOD’S SAKE BUY IT FOR HIM THEM, DO WHAT YOU WANT’ and I get quite scared. When they say something I know it’s not true anymore and I don’t know who to trust and I don’t know who is on my side.
Last week I wanted to run away but I couldn’t and I just went out the front door and I wanted so much for someone to come and find me and be worried that I was going to run away, but I was too scared to go too far and I just stood by the tree in the drive waiting and waiting and waiting and I waited for about ten minutes for someone to come and no one came and so I just walked back in and Mummy and Daddy and Grandma were in the kitchen talking as if nothing had happened.
If I was older, which I’m not, perhaps I could understand that this is the start of something that this is how it starts though quite what that ‘it’ is I can’t exactly say but it is something like just always feeling unhappy. And if this is how it starts I just want to say that it is not my fault. It is not my fault that I actually really wanted to cut Mummy with a knife, it is not my fault if she keeps on lying to me and if I don’t know I can trust and she is always making promises that she doesn’t keep.
I love Arsenal and football but even when I play in the garden, or when I play at the league in Mill Hill I always feel like I’m going to do something wrong, or I haven’t done something wrong so that even when Marco tells me ‘good shot Alexander’, I look up and inside I feel funny like I feel happy for maybe one second and then I don’t feel like he means it anymore and then I feel worried again and a bit sad that he didn’t really mean it and although I don’t really know it yet, but I will in the future, that I’m not quite good enough.
Sometimes even when we are just playing in the garden and we are practising shooting and then once I was trying to hit the ball up and volley it and Daddy told me just to shoot when the ball is on the ground and not worry about volleying all the time, well then I tripped up when I was trying to get my leg round and I fell and almost hit my head on the path and Daddy came over to me and I was crying and I didn't want him to be right next to me than and I told him to go away and then suddenly he got really angry with me and said IT’S BECAUSE YOU DONT EVER LISTEN ALEXANDER, and it scares me when he suddenly shouts like that but if I was older which I’m not, I would know that no one listens to Daddy now, that Mummy for example never listens to him, at least not in the way he wants to be listened to, and that if he cannot even get his son to listen to him as a last resort then he is going to be very pissed off, and I would perhaps understand what was happening here and not grow up so confused.
If I was older and I could see myself now, see myself as I am and walk around, if there was a video of me and if I could compare myself to when I was really young I would notice how I have this awkward look on my face now, like I am always very close to a sulk or still in one, or like I’m worried about something, and I would see that I look scared all the time that something’s going to happen and I would also see that I don’t smile properly like I used to do when I was four and I’m just waiting for something bad to happen but I don’t know what that is.
And if I was older maybe I would try to talk to Mummy, maybe I would say to her one day can we talk Mum?, when she is not hyper and running about everywhere all the time or on her phone, maybe I would tell her how I feel but she is always saying she’s busy and I can’t right now Alexander and it is too difficult to get her to listen so I don’t think I’ll bother.
And if I only knew it wasn’t my fault…but then I don’t know because I’m only eight, almost nine, and eight year-olds don’t know though, do they?