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  • Writer's pictureZoë Benham

Your Banter’s Not Cool Bro.

Updated: May 9

It's just 'boys being boys’ was the response from the headteacher when my eldest was being bullied in year 7.

I didn’t know he was neurodiverse then, but I did know that he wasn’t your average boy. Probably didn’t help that he started the year with a purple (kinda pink) galaxy Hype backpack with his uncontrollable curly hair and crazy outlook on life.

I realised then, that not all boys like to be bundled on or enjoy the rough and tumble.

My boy especially. Although, after being bullied, punched, jumped on and put in a bin he toughened up, private kickboxing lessons helped the process too.

Cut to now, late teens and the complexities of ADHD in higher education and the workplace seem to be brushed aside with banter.

This week after bringing up his struggles about ‘builder banter’ and ‘lads lads lads’ culture to me during his day of work, my words of wisdom definitely didn’t solve anything as he completely fizzed over. Really. Really fizzed over.

Tears. Anger. Hopelessness. Aggression. Shouting. Swearing. Cried so much he got hiccups.

The banter had got too much, peer pressured into buying them lunch and after exploding and walking away, he was chased by an adult employee, grabbed and shouted at.

The boy that had arrived home in a fit of rage, distressed and wanting to kill someone was far away from the roadman image he portrays. He was vulnerable and scared, with uncontrollable anger, taller and stronger than me, as I tried to calm the tornado from completely losing control.

The aftershock of this, a bollocking from the boss and sacked which got me thinking, how often are neurodiverse folk punished for simply not being able to cope with archaic social norms because this wasn’t the first time Jacob had struggled with alpha male bants.

Because frankly, if you’re not all finding the banter funny, it’s bullying. Bullying disguised as schoolboy banter and it’s not cool.

Not everyone understands sarcasm or enjoys being made fun of, some humans are more sensitive and just don’t want to communicate with microaggressions.

Even though he has calmed down, he hasn’t gone out today, it’s a Saturday… He’s tucked away in his room, hiding from the world with no interest in socialising because what, he was the butt of the joke and overreacted.

Overreacted. Did he overreact though?

Or did he just react?

In the most shocking, awful way, as a cry for help as the only way he knew how.

The journey of being mum to an ADHD teen leaves me lost for words at times, this last explosion was the worst we’ve had in a year when he felt overwhelmed by GCSEs. It feels as though all the hard work of doctors and me, has gone to waste and we’re back to square one.

Mum and son on the beach

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