This week Oscar hit me.
He lent back in my arms, looked at me, pursed his lips and slapped me across the face.
Yeah, it shocked me too.
Maybe I should give a little context. We have had a pretty tiring week. As Oscar moves closer and closer to the terrible twos his mood swings are starting to resemble the most petulant teenagers. Only, he doesn’t flounce out of the room, slamming doors in his wake, yelling how much he hates me down the stairs. No he freaks out right in front of me and makes me worry for his safety.
This weeks best effort, the one as described above, was made all the more baffling as I honestly couldn’t tell you what set him off. We came downstairs, I made his milk, we went to sit together to drink it AS WE DO EVERY MORNING, and kerblammo, he freaked out big. Screaming, crying, kicking – whatever had upset him was being felt in every fibre of his being. Which made it all the harder for me. I tried ignoring him, I tried talking to him calmly, I tried holding him – I wanted him to know that whatever it was, it was OK. That was when he hit me.
This maelstrom went on for half an hour, until the boy felt he’d finished whatever point it was he was making. Then he came to me, took my hand, walked me back to the chair, climbed on my lap and pointed at his bottle. As though nothing happened. I felt physically and mentally battered and he wanted his milk? WTF?
So OK, I didn’t keep my cool all the way through this episode. I tried being firm and I lost my patience. But the worst of it was seeing so angry and yet scared looking broke my heart. It made me cry, in front of the boy. Not helpful, not helpful at all.
Later on I started reading articles online about Intense or Big Reactors, children, particularly toddlers who feel things so deeply but don’t have the control or language to express these feelings. It sounded so familiar. The more I read the more I could relate. And not just for Oscar. I am probably an Intense Reactor by nature too and talking to my mum it would seem I always have been. Children like this don’t deal well with transitions from one state to another (waking, going to bed, moving from one activity to another). Every time we left a friends house I would scream so much my mum worried people thought that I was scared to go home. I only remember feeling so sad to be leaving. I’ve also been told my entire life that I always need to know what we were “doing next”. I’d get set up with paints or playdoh or whatever, I’d play for a minute then ask what we were “doing next”. My parents found it maddening I’m sure. But now I think about it, maybe I wasn’t bored, maybe I just needed to know what to expect. What was coming next? I’m still a bit like that now!
As well as describing whats going on, the internet also offers various coping strategies. These seem to revolve around two principles: keeping calm and giving these children the language they don’t yet posses. These are both things that will require practice and I know I’m not there yet. But I will be. I will practice my calm face and give Oscar warnings when things are about to happen. Lets see how it goes.
After reading these articles it all made a lot of sense. Oscar feels things deeply. And that’s OK. He’s going to be passionate and creative and sparky. I smiled. Then I looked at him and realised he’s also going to get his heart broken. Good and proper. It breaks my heart just to think about it. But do you know?
I wouldn’t have it any other way.