The Imaginary Villain

There was a child in my son’s preschool who was more disturbed than he was. Which was shocking. This boy, who, for decency’s sake I will call John Doe, did every sort of physical violence imaginable on every being available. But not myself.

I loved him, so, so much. Every time I dropped off or picked up my son, he ran to me and hugged me, about the legs, even if I were standing. He was so full of emotion. Like my own son. He could not speak. I did not know why. He screamed and grunted to compensate. He was the same age as my fully verbal son. He was a smaller child, always had some sort of injury on his head or face, sometimes looking as bad as road rash. 

His little sister had a birthday party. We were lucky enough to be invited to this nice family’s home. We had birthday cake and the children shared all their yard toys with my children. They had a lovely time. At this party I found out the family was withdrawing from our daycare, as this little boy could not stop hurting other children and had put one child into the emergency room. He gave a teacher a black eye that day as well, and his mother had to be called to the office for the final word. The director was reluctant, but it was for safety. There were tears all around that day.

I knew I would miss him. I asked what sort of help they were getting for him. His mother looked at me, astonished. I explained that my son had been evaluated for physical therapy that was ruled out, was getting behavioural therapy, and was waiting to get into the psychologist. She had never mentioned to her doctor that anything was amiss. Indeed, she suspected nothing wrong. She said “boys will be boys’, and when he ran out into the street, she called him back. He did not listen to her. I had to pick him up for hugs, and walk him back to his house to get him off the street. They told me the week before he had been hit by a car, in that same spot. 

I do miss him. My son does, as well. But in a different way. He never did like him, they were at loggerheads, daily. When he gets any kind of scratch or scrape at daycare, I ask him what happened, or he will volunteer to me “John Doe did it.” I will tell him, “John Doe is not in your class, honey”. He will insist it is from the time John Doe was there, even if months before. If someone is crying or hurt, it is from John Doe. This loveable, frustrated little child has become a scapegoat for my son, to be blamed for all injuries and unhappiness, even now. 

This week my daughter started in that preschool, and my son has been out of it now for four months, moved up to the next level. In the back seat today, my daughter, at less than three years of age, is telling about how a boy has kicked her, pushed her down, and made her feel “owies”. I ask her, who has done this to her? “John Doe”, she says. And tells it again.

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