When Did That Happen?

When did my son turn into a miniature human being?

I remember when he was first born. We marvelled, as all new parents do, over his tiny hands and feet, his amazingly loud voice and how clever he was to be able to look at us and recognise us. But he was still almost like a different species. A baby, not quite a human being like the ones walking and talking around us. He couldn’t actually do anything. He couldn’t choose what activity he was going to do, where he was going to move to, what he was going to say.

Now, all of a sudden, he is not a baby any more. He is making those choices. He can choose, if he wants, to run backwards and forwards around our flat all day. He can choose to take out the animals from his Noah’s Ark or his little figures and line them all up, making them ‘say’ clever and insightful things. He can choose to copy what we say –  we’re not big on swearing but we have to watch every word we say. He chooses to walk in a straight line, a wiggly line, dance, run, fall over.

He knows what to do. When did that happen? When did he learn that if I say “Dinnertime” he has to go and knock on Daddy’s office door then climb onto his chair? When did he learn that to turn on the musical Christmas toys he pushes the switch on the back? How did he learn to operate the TV and DVD player more quickly than Daddy did? When did he realise that if we get the camera out it’s much more fun to smile adorably at the camera then turn away at the last minute?

He talks to me. He says things like “I’ve got an idea, people” and “Alright, Mummy? Have a nice sleep?” I can’t believe that two months ago I was worried about his speech – he comes out with the most amazing things now. Yes, it’s not always an unmixed blessing. Like when we were in the shop and he pointed at an elderly gentleman with a white beard and said, very clearly, “Look, Mummy, Santa Claus!” But he can, and does, also say “I missed Mummy” after nursery, or “Love you”.

He has strops. Nothing all that bad (see my post The Challenge of Loving) but he definitely has strops. When he was a baby he had four basic states: cry, sleep, smile, neutral. Cries had variations, smiles had grades depending on the cause (Grade 1 for mildly amused, Grade 5 for Grandma etc), but they were essentially the same state. Now, Daniel has all the moods that I or Daddy have and suddenly we see ourselves reflected in him. We’re allowed to be moany and miserable after a sleepless night with him, but find it hard to deal with him being the same. That’s because we’re just not used to it – all of a sudden he has adult emotions and can express them and we need to catch up with him. But on the other side of that he has also developed a wonderful sense of the ridiculous, and his laughter at something that is just too silly is infectious.

He experiments. He only has our word for it that climbing onto the sofa and rolling off will hurt, so he gives it a go. He sees no reason not to take the roof off his toy garage and use the frame as a hula hoop. He’s pretty sure that a big car will go down his slide with a big crash, but what will a little car do? And he doesn’t know, not for definite, that he’ll get caught every time he tries to take a bauble off the Christmas tree. May as well keep having a go. The baby we had, it seems like only ten minutes ago, couldn’t have even imagined any of these possibilities.

Now, we loved our tiny baby so much. We could not imagine loving him more, he seemed so perfect in every way. I’m sure when his little sister is born in April we will go through the same emotions. But the thought that she could develop into the same sort of miniature human being as Daniel, with all that potential and excitement, but entirely different again, is mind-boggling. And I can’t wait.

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The Challenge of Loving

My son has recently turned into a two year old. Not age-wise, his birthday was actually back in July, and we have been congratulating ourselves on escaping the Terrible Twos. But behaviour-wise, tantrums and selective deafness have arrived in our house.

To be fair to him, he could be a lot worse. He is not particularly aggressive towards other children (he saves it for us) and his worst behaviour comes when he is very tired; otherwise he’s actually a lovely little boy. To paraphrase: “When he is good, he’s very, very good. But when he’s bad, he’s horrid.” The trouble is, Daniel (who has never been a good sleeper) is not sleeping well and is consequently tired a LOT.

It has been quite a shock to the system. Our lovely, happy little boy has turned into a child who hits and kicks us, ignores us constantly, causes huge amounts of mess deliberately and screams whenever he doesn’t get his own way. In fact, I have seriously wondered if toddlerhood is training for adolescence, both for us and for him. My throat is sore from shouting and I only seem to have one phrase in my mouth at the moment: “Daniel, don’t do…”.

We have had two choices. We could choose an easy road and basically let him get away with it. It would certainly be kinder on the vocal chords. We could let him keep coming into bed with us at two o clock every morning and letting none of us get any decent sleep for the rest of the night. Again, no crying and tantrums. We decided not to do this, and at times I think we must be mad.

We have decided to have a crack down on behaviour and sleep, handing out ASBOs right, left and centre. The sleep plan at the moment is not working out great for me although Daniel seems to be gradually getting better – he is at least staying in his own bed, although this is under great protest, particularly if it is Daddy going in to settle him at two o clock and not me. For us it involves a good hour lying on the floor, and I don’t know about Daddy but it’s murder on my poor muscles which have apparently been softened by pregnancy and crushed by growing baby. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel but it’s a dim, distant spark at the moment.

Behaviour, hmmm. Being firm but fair is our guideline at the minute, and following every confrontation with a cuddle and an ‘I love you’. But the real challenge, to me at least, is dealing with the huge emotional swings that ‘behaviour modification’ brings. Not his – mine. I go from being at the limit of my patience, seethingly angry to doting mother and back again in a heartbeat, and it is actually exhausting. Not to mention the huge guilt you feel when it turns out you don’t have unlimited patience and tolerance after all. Experiencing negative feelings towards your child is, to say the least, heart-wrenching and has you constantly questioning your fitness as a parent. Not that how much I love my little boy is ever in doubt, not for a second, but the fact that I don’t constantly see him as a source of delight and satisfaction is, to me, disturbing, difficult to deal with, and makes the path of least resistance seem highly tempting.

I am saved from this by the strength of my husband – I guess we give each other strength, thinking about it – and the reward when our plan actually works, when he does listen or say sorry or do as he’s told. It’s still rare, it’s still early days but it’s happening and we are getting our beautiful boy back. Even if it’s only temporary.

 

Yearly reflection

It’s coming up to the time of year again where I look back and wonder where on earth the time has gone. My son’s birthday is next week, and I have barely adjusted to the idea that I have a son.

There is hardly a day that goes by without him inspiring the strongest,most overwhelming feelings in me. Yes, some of those feelings are frustration and annoyance – “why won’t he go to sleep? Why won’t he eat his dinner? Why won’t he let me go to the toilet in peace?” – but mostly I am amazed everyday at his miraculous development.

Every day he learns a new word, says an old word a little clearer, copies something new that we do, learns a new skill. He is the world’s best builder, a Brit-winning singer, the next Picasso/Shakespeare/Shaw. He can kick a ball better than David Beckham, he is funnier than Peter Kay. All this, and he’s not even two yet.

I look back at the first picture here, taken when he was minutes old. He is battered and bruised from a brutal forceps delivery, his skin is still blue from the cord being around his neck, he is only just calming down from the trauma of being born. I love that he is, even then, looking at me as if to say “You just wait and see what I’ve got in store, Mummy!” And then I look at the next picture, taken on my mobile on his first birthday. He is full of cheek and joy and life. The last picture was taken a couple of months ago at a friend’s birthday party, and I can see all the mischief he promised as a newborn in that smile. I wonder what the difference will be in a year’s time.

It’s been an exhausting, emotional two years. But I cannot imagine life any other way.

Happy birthday, Daniel x x x