At half term, I decided to put one of my kids in clubs while
the other had 1:1 time with me. The elder went first and all was well, as I had
expected. After a day away from his brother, with whom he is locked in war, he
felt nourished, attended to, happy. I had been able to let him make more
choices than usual and he really rose to that.
The youngest, however, presented me with a very different
Usually, he is delighted to have a bit of time with me and is a
delight to be with. But not on this day. It was such hard work that I honestly
felt like running away by the end. However, as I write this I wonder, how can I
explain what he was doing and saying without you thinking I’m making something
out of nothing?
How can I explain that when he refused to spend time looking
at any animal at the zoo he’d asked to visit, I knew he was sabotaging our
relationship. That sounds mad, right?
How can I explain that when he ran off and hid, then
proceeded to just forget about me and play with other kids for 20 minutes, it
was not just excitement and kids playing, it was a finger up to mummy.
And if I then explain that in the car, instead of finding
his singing and babble funny or charming, I experienced it as an assault, it’s
starting to sound really bad.
Even reading this back, I can’t quite believe that my
interpretations were right, but they WERE. The intricacies of a relationship
that has, let’s face it, some pretty vast grey areas, sometimes can’t be put
into words. There is just a feeling, zip-wiring along a nerve in your head,
that makes you know that something isn’t right, something is loaded, there’s a
My instinct tells me that my little boy was telling me that
I was giving him too much. A whole day out without having to compete with his
brother? A day where he could choose to do anything he liked? A day that was all
about telling him he was special? Too much, Mum. I want it, but I have to somehow,
subtly, spoil it.
I spent that day reminding myself again and again about how
unspecial that child must feel all the time, so that I didn’t lose the plot as
he sent in zip wire after zip wire of conflict, insecurity and mistrust to run
amok in my head, just as they were in his.
Well, what was I expecting, a healthy child who could just have fun?
I’m glad he besieged me with his stuff, because he was quite right that I
needed a reminder.
That night, I sat him on my lap after the millionth wind-up
attempt and said, ‘I know this day has been full of good stuff… but also, it’s
been very difficult and tiring for you. It’s time for a lovely sleep, and back
to normal tomorrow.” And we had zero resistance to that, which is just as well –
my fuse is only so long!