I remem­ber lying in my cot; I was about a year old. The lady who cared for me was kind­ly but I didn’t know her that well. The lead teacher in the small school my mum­my had just opened in our house had told the lady car­ing for me: “Put Peter to sleep, he’s tired”. I don’t think either of them knew if I was tired or not.

Her hands were gen­tle and her voice wasn’t stern as she laid me face up in my cot. I at least had my dum­my in my mouth for some com­fort. I focused on the ceil­ing as she gen­tly rubbed my tum­my; per­haps that was when I first start­ed hav­ing seizures, I think they call them ‘absence seizures’ now — when a child can tune out the world as I did. Next thing I knew her hands weren’t touch­ing me, just pass­ing over my body from my head to my toes. I haven’t got a sense of time but it was a long time before I felt able to safe­ly close my eyes and go to sleep. 

Still, I woke up cry­ing – what scared me so much?

When I get seizures now, usu­al­ly with high tem­per­a­tures, my mum­my pays atten­tion to me – I even get tak­en to the hos­pi­tal emer­gency room. Mum­my says “Daddy had seizures for the first five years of his life so it’s real­ly OK” but she always goes into a great pan­ic when they hap­pen. I find it very con­fus­ing; if it’s OK to have seizures why does mum­my become so anxious?

I’ve found tun­ing out to be quite con­ve­nient over the last four years that I’ve been attend­ing mummy’s school. Some­times I grind my teeth when a teacher is talk­ing to me in what they call their ‘firm’ voice. I use tun­ing out and grind­ing my teeth when life at school gets too hard for me; when I don’t under­stand what my teacher expects of me. I know I don’t under­stand the way oth­er chil­dren seem to. When we lis­ten to songs telling us to clap our hands, then jump, then skate, etc. I don’t under­stand so I just clap my hands to every part of the song. 

Last week a teacher was telling me it was impor­tant to drink more water because it was so hot out­side. I sup­pose I don’t see my flushed bright red cheeks like they do. I think it’s fun to take water and spit it over the front of my clothes, at least I feel cool­er. If I wail enough for water before we take a nap one of my teach­ers always brings me a cup.

My baby sis­ter came, final­ly. Mum­my had talked to me about her arrival for months. Was I no longer impor­tant? Since we’ve been in our new school and my sis­ter arrived mum­my often for­gets to take home my lunch­box and my wet clothes. She’s always in a hur­ry say­ing “your sister’s cry­ing” or hun­gry or tired. What about me?

I’ve been the cen­tre of her world for so long and now I don’t seem to mat­ter so much. These last four years have been very con­fus­ing to me. I hard­ly recog­nise teach­ers at school there have been so many changes. Of course when I screamed loud enough mum­my always came to res­cue me when we had the school in our house – now that we have a real school build­ing she’s not always around. I cried very hard the first day I was back at school after my sis­ter was born. Dad­dy dropped me at school, which he nev­er does. I was cry­ing so much that my teacher had to take me out­side to calm down. I real­ly wish mum­my had planned it better.

But she still lets me climb the fur­ni­ture and cof­fee table, at home and at grandma’s, and I have space to kick a ball around inside my house. It’s so nice not to have as many rules at home as there are at school. I won­der if my friends at school miss me when I’m not there. It’s real­ly hard to have true friends when my mum­my owns the school. 

My only free time with oth­er chil­dren is when I’m out in the play­ground at school. That’s when I like to play-act all the films I’ve been watch­ing. There are love­ly pieces of wood to become swords and guns and I like that. It seems that the teach­ers at school don’t agree because they always take them from me and tell me not to ‘shoot’ peo­ple. They also don’t like it when I grab my friends’ arms like I’ve seen peo­ple do in films.

I’m not sure why I always feel hun­gry and thirsty. Mum­my packs my lunch box but I don’t always eat what’s in there. I usu­al­ly like to talk to my friends at the lunch table even though my teach­ers keep telling me to eat and not talk. My teach­ers are always talk­ing about some­thing called ‘nutri­tion’ and eat­ing foods with­out too much sug­ar or corn syrup or colour­ing in them. Those seem to taste the best to me, maybe that’s why mum­my always packs those for me. I know how to get a cup of water from the cool­er but don’t usu­al­ly drink it, maybe that’s why I’m thirsty.

Life’s hard when you’re only four years old. I wish I had more words to explain what’s hap­pen­ing in my life. Most of my words I’ve mem­o­rised from the films I watch. Could that account for the strange looks I get from teach­ers when I’m talk­ing? I haven’t even thought about the changes to come when I might have to go to a real school someday.

How will that work out?