When he was little, only five years old, my oldest son came home from school one day. We had just moved to a new town in the middle of the school year, and introduced him into a group of students that had already spent a year and a half of schooling together. From a social aspect, breaking into such a tightly-knit group of kids would have been hard for the most outgoing, gregarious child.
My oldest son wasn’t the most outgoing, gregarious child. While he was (and still is) very bright, and has always had a grasp of mechanical and mathematical things that staggers the mind, he also spent the first three and a half years of his life deaf. Though this had been corrected and he could hear fine, it meant it had to endure some very intense extra-curricular speech and language therapy.
Now, as a cheerful 12-year-old, he speech and language abilities are enviable. The kid reads books like most people drink water. He makes me very proud. But back then, when he had just started attending this new school, he had only been hearing for 18 months at the most. He processed language differently than most other children – a trait which often confused adults, who didn’t think he was paying attention. I worried about how he would fit into his new social environment.
One day after school, he was playing around outside with his little brother and sister, and to my horror, I heard him singing the same small snatch of verse over and over again:
“Nobody loves me, everybody hates me…”
Over and over. My heart broke, I was overwhelmed with pain and concern for my little guy. My mind raced. How dare they hate my child! No child should ever feel like he is hated, let alone sing about it! I talked to him about the song, and he explained to me that it was a song the other children in class had taught him. They would go around singing it at recess time when they were outside playing.
I asked him what the whole song was, but he didn’t remember. He just said that he only knew the first part, the part he was singing. It also became clear that this was a song his teacher had taught the class, not something the other students had imposed upon him. He seemed happy enough, so I left him to his playing and eventually the worry passed. Years later, I now know he was just singing a song.
Yesterday, just as the children were preparing to return home from a weekend with me on the boat, I overheard my girlfriend sing that same first line of the rhyme and it made my heart clench with that same old feeling of worry and pain. It also reminded me of what amazing people my children are, and how very proud of them I am.
Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, Think I’ll go and eat worms. Long ones, short ones, fat ones, thin ones, See how they wriggle and squirm.