My son has always had tonnes of energy and has always been keen to do his own thing. For example, the baby, who for most of his first year was in the 25th centile for height and weight (i.e. diddy), rolled at 16 weeks (front to back & vice versa), was crawling (at speed!) by 6 months and was walking unaided at 10 months. By 11 months he could run (sort of). So people who know him, know him as a runner, an escape artist, a child who is off! They don’t know him for crying and for the most part neither do I. Never having been one for major melt downs however, my son treated me to a blinder last Friday. In public. Eugh.
I should have seen it coming I suppose. He was tired, possibly a little stressed (our local soft play tower does that to him) and frustrated. He wanted to run around the leisure centre foyer and, if at all possible, under the barriers and out of the doors. And yet here was this mean woman holding him back, stopping him from feeling the joy of running, keeping him safe for goodness sake. I mean, what was her problem?!
So he flipped. Good and proper. Screams and squeals so loud I worried for my ear drum. Writhing like an eel in my grasp. Flailing his little arms like his life depended on it. The lot. So I hoicked him up under one arm, grabbed the buggy with the other hand and headed to a corridor I thought might be quieter. WRONG. I ended up in front of more people. I put him down for a second and he ran into the squash court (being set up for children’s play I have to add – phew!) and I had to run in and get him. In front of a glass wall of people staring. Oh the joy!
That was it. I’d had enough and in the absence of knowing what to do next, I carried him, screaming, into the baby changing loo. I tried talking to him, but by this time he, and I, were perhaps beyond talking. I started to lose my temper with him (OK, OK I’m not proud of this bit, but hear me out). I started to shout, to tell him off. Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror next to me. I have to recommend it. Lose your temper in front of a mirror. It’s awful and ridiculous. You cant stay mad when you realise how stupid you look. I stopped. He stopped. We just stared at each other in the mirror. In that split second I felt us both say to each other “why don’t you understand me”.
And so it begins.
Afterwards I felt drained and miserable (the come down of anger will do that to you). I also felt confused. What had just happened? Who was that boy? Wheres my placid if energetic baby? Is this going to happen again? If so how am I best meant to deal with it? If he’d had a tantrum at home I’d have pretty much just ignored him, but I cant walk away from him in public at 18 months old. Can I? I realised, with some sadness, that we are entering the world of the unknown. The world of the Toddler (think dramatic music and Hammer Horror type sound effects). Its frightening!
When I later mentioned the situation to friends and in various social media, I was amazed and touched by the number of people who came to my side and told me it was going to be OK or told me about their own “incidents”. I realise that Oscar is not alone in this behaviour, that it is a normal part of growing up and pushing boundaries. I also realise that I am not alone in feeling helpless and frustrated. All first time parents do (if there are any of you who don’t, would you be interested in running classes to share your knowledge?). It just seems cruel that right when I started to feel confident as a parent of a baby, like I’d reached 98 on the Snakes and Ladders game of parenthood, that I rolled a one and slid all the way back to square 2.
Everything’s a changing.
New balls please.