Tim Baker - The Early Years.
I was four years old. We were packing the car with stuff, more stuff than just the usual groceries or a trip to the dump. Mum was calm, dad seemed sombre.
I was strapped into my little booster seat in the back of the car and mum handed me one last item we would take with us, a clock. I remember my mind being blown at that moment, wow, I can see the minute hand moving! Time moves faster than I ever thought it did.
We moved from Napier hill onto the flats, I don’t remember exactly what street but it was near St Patrick’s school, that’s where I enrolled and spent the first 6 months of my education. I was a wild child. I’m not sure what happened at that school that saw me leave, although it might have been the time when another kid was building on the mat, while the rest of us folded our legs and sat up straight... the kid bent over directly in front of me to adjust something on this tower of blocks he was constructing, I took exception to his butt being an inch from my face, so I gave him a gentle push which sent him crashing into the structure of wooden blocks. Into an understandably loud crying fit. Oops.
Around this time I changed schools, and homes and mum had a new boyfriend... so we moved in with him on Napier Hill again. Not too far from where dad lived.
Mum's new bloke was a big dude, but I was 5, so literally, everyone was big to me. But he was bigger than my dad anyway, and kind of fat.. and strict! So strict. I got sent to my room for not finishing my dinner, that never happened before. When I was in my room this man, should I name him?.. yeah I’ll name him, you can sue me if any of this is untrue Robin Hicks, good luck.
When I was in my room he would come in and deliver extra-curricular punishments, and beatings, mainly with his hands and belt, he would grab my toys and poke me with them. I remember one time very clearly he kept jabbing his fingers into my ribs while I lay on my bed crying, begging him to stop. I look at 5-year-olds now and how small they are and think, wow. Imagine thinking it's ok to beat the crap out of one of those little creatures.
Well, I didn’t tell mum because I thought she already knew. So I accepted it as how my childhood would be from now on.
One day I think she must have confronted me about it, I don’t recall exactly what she asked, I remember saying “he’s mean to me” or “he hits me” or something along those lines... but we were out of that house so damn quick, I don’t even remember any packing up any stuff that time.
Mum moved my sister and me down to Palmerston North while she studied teaching at university, we lived in a small 2-bed flat on Pascal street opposite the stadium. She worked nights and studied during the day, I suspect my headmaster must have had a crush on her because he really wanted to expel me but it never happened. I’ll always admire my mum for what she did during this time. Most uni students can barely look after themselves, let alone two kids.
This is where the Captain came in. My future stepdad. He and I have had disagreements and a few mutual physical altercations in our past lives but he’s a really good man, not perfect, but no one is. I’ll always respect him for doing the best that he could for me and my family.
I’d already been to 3 schools at this stage. The next 3 would be Port Ahuriri, Westshore and Napier intermediate, that’s where the accident happened which gave me the scar I still wear on my forehead today.
One fine day, my best friend Ahere Scott and I, accompanied by Whelan, my nephew of the same age, were being our usual bat shit crazy selves. We were whizzing around Napier hill on my bike, I was on the handlebars, Ahere was riding. We came whizzing down Napier Terrace and, according to Whelan who saw the whole event we went straight through the intersection of Milton road while a car came hurtling at us from the side.
Ahere and the bike went flying in one direction and my head was bashed open by the windscreen, lobbing me like a tennis ball arms and legs flailing with blood spraying in all directions onto the roof of a house on the corner. I rolled across the awning, falling onto a wrought iron fence finally falling again into a bloody heap on the footpath.
Whelan panicked, thinking I was a goner, he raced straight home on his bike flying through the door and he yelled to my mother, something she was probably half expecting for years - “TIM’S DEAD!”.
Meanwhile; I’m back on the footpath unconscious with a burst artery and blood gushing from my head thanks to the laceration the windscreen had bashed in my forehead.
Luckily for me, however, the house I flew into belonged to a retired nurse who hadn't forgotten her training. There’s no doubt in my mind she saved my life while we waited for the ambulance to come from Hastings Hospital. Napier Hospital had shut down a few years earlier. Not the quiet retirement this nurse had been hoping for I’m sure. Oops again.
Shortly after I headed off to Napier Boys High School with a sweet new scar, the kids called me 'Roadkill', I would’ve been more upset about it if I didn’t think it was such a clever nickname.
My following record of schooling reads like this:
- Napier Boys High School
- Community High School
- Whanganui Collegiate
- Colenso High School
- Tamatea High School
- Taradale High School
Now, just so you know. The reason I kept getting kicked out of so many schools was a tough one for me to figure out. My record always cited “continual disobedience”. I wasn’t violent, foul-mouthed, late, absent, or any of the usual things which require someone to be removed from school. I have thought about it a lot.
I was misdiagnosed with ADD for a time, but the Ritalin they gave me had no effect so they stopped prescribing it.
I would say, simply I was just a nightmare for any teacher who was trying to get through the curriculum in the timeframe they had. I asked far too many questions, pointed out anything that to me was contradictory, and generally had a flippant attitude toward the formality and structure of the schooling system. If I were a teacher I would have removed myself too.
But it was when I was being disciplined that my worst behaviour came out. Discipline meant anything from sitting outside and writing lines, to sitting in the dean's or headmaster's office, this was the 90’s too, so corporal punishment was recently abolished but teachers were a lot more handsy than they are today, the odd slap across the face, grabbed by the neck and marched out of class, these things weren’t uncommon and didn't bother me. What really upset me was the confusion, being treated as if something was very wrong with me. Nobody ever had any conversations directly with me. Instead, they would relay some information to the person now responsible for me and that person would decide on a suitable punishment. Removal.
I would sometimes share my punishments with other kids, kids who came from broken homes, who were sexually abused, physically beaten, neglected, and malnourished. We were all serving time for our “bad” behaviour. These schools were probably oblivious to the real reason why we were so erratic, angry, defiant, uncontrollable, unengaged, and underachieving. What I know now is that we all had one thing in common. We were all living in fear of something.
Some of us were going home to domestic violence, and some of us were being raped. Some were from affluent families where the child was neglected emotionally or never given any hugs, any number of things could have been going on. We came from all walks.
It took me a very long time to figure out why I caused so many perceivable problems at school because, apart from my year of living with Robin, my childhood was actually pretty good. Despite my parents separating when I was 5, they had a great relationship. Both my mum and my dad were loving, engaging, and caring, and gave me plenty of hugs.
My trauma wasn't as obvious as some, but it still had me living in real fear, same as all the others, and fear is fear no matter the cause.
My dad, bless his soul, would be turning 100 next year if he was still with us. So from about age 5, I think I figured out that old people die sooner than younger people. Not necessarily true, I know. But pretty reasoned logic for a 5-year-old don't you think? I was very close to my dad, he taught me a lot of things, and he still does. I idolised him like most little boys. He was my hero.
My trauma was living in fear every day of losing my best friend. My idol, Daddy. That fear crushed down on me until the day I'd been dreading my entire life finally came. I was 20 years old when his soul finally left his body and became infinite. I can empathise with anyone who has ever had a loved one diagnosed with a terminal illness, that's the same feeling I had for 15 formative years. Knowing your loved one's fate but being completely helpless to stop the inevitable.
I don't write this article to shift blame for any of my past actions onto my dad's being old, if you think that is my intention you've missed the mark completely my dear reader. But in any case, I may not have been clear enough.
The point is this; If your child is “misbehaving” it's because they are living in fear. It might not be an obvious fear but I urge you to take the time and imagine what that fear could be, and why it carries meaning for your child.
Some traumas are not obvious.
Find your child's trauma.
Heal your child's trauma.
Do it now with all the love and attention you have. Love heals fear.