Some Perfectly Adequate Crying

One of the Piddle Mums is a proper sweetheart. Really and absolutely a sweetheart. Every time I’ve looked a little down, a little stressed, a little distraught at babygroup – she’s been on the phone or texted that night. She is absolutely the type of friend I would like to be to other people – and know I never could measure up. 

Late this afternoon she rang my doorbell, prompting John, who often divests himself of his diesel/chemical/shit covered trousers in the hall, to dive entertainingly for a pair of baggies. 

‘I can’t stop,’ she said (and the frantic sounds of trouser-fighting behind me subsided), ‘but I thought you deserved these.’ She held out Thornton’s chocolates. ‘I felt so sorry for you this afternoon. I followed you out into the street when you left, but Harry had gone a bit quieter and I didn’t want to set him off again.’ I choked back the fast-rising FLOOD OF SELF PITY and sadly told her he had merely been taking stock of the change of surroundings. It took me several minutes – and some reasonably forceful handling – to insert him into his car seat and get the straps done up safely. Longer than it should have done, because he’d ripped my specs off and thrown them in the road – whizzy with cars – behind me, and I couldn’t rescue them because that would have entailed actually losing my tenous grip on the spitting hellcat that was my child. She twisted her mouth in sympathy. ‘If you ever want to talk… I know it must be hard…’

Bless the woman. She’s right. It is hard. He has dozens of smaller meltdowns everyday, and it’s by no means the first time I’ve lately been obliged to bodily remove him during a Harry ‘Special’ for the safety of the children around him, not to mention his own. I tend to have to carry him out past a row of wide open eyes, all watching in silent amazement at the sight of a child who has absolutely and spectacularly lost it.

But… plenty have it much, much harder. He fills our lives. That’s my actual son headbutting the door over there, everyone! He’s fabulously lovely, really; a tiny knight continually charging off to do battle, or at least prod some serious buttock with his lance.

lance 1 

His Portage worker came today, and I took the time to explain to her how awful his behaviour is becoming. I empathised with his communication frustration and she pursed her lips. ‘Well… he does point… and tow you about… ask for things… signs a lot better now… I suppose it could still be frustration, but perhaps… I don’t know… he’s a bit young, still… don’t usually do anything before 3… it might be worth exploring… referral to a behavioural psychologist?’ 

So I’m now back with the worry that Harry’s communication delay is incidental to the rages and he is actually simply a particularly cross toddler, with an extra-concentrated dollop of our worst character attributes to boot. I can… ummm… see ourselves. In him. Clearly. I am generally at least as furious and indignant as Harry is when I don’t get my own way; I am also, under the fluffy babble, a high-handed and imperious bossy-boots. John… cannot count altruism among his good points.  He frequently has minimal regard for anything or anyone that does not directly benefit his own sweet self. Come to think of it, we sound just like a pair of classic toddlers ourselves.

John surprised me a little this evening by accepting the suggestion of a paediatric psychologist without demur – but on the other hand, he has been kicked an awful lot lately. Whether we manage an NHS referral is another thing altogether, as I rather expect Harry’s Paediatrician will be slaveringly keen to discharge us when we see him next. Physiotherapy, apparently, can Do Nothing For Us.

I walked out of his physio assessment last week completely bemused. I couldn’t shake the feeling, paranoid ol’ me, that I was being fobbed off. She let slip knowledge regarding Harry’s background that made me suspicious that she had spoken to Harry’s Paediatrician already, as by the physio department’s own admission, the referral he made to them had contained hardly any information.

He did fall during his assessment, often. Mainly, as the Physio correctly said, through not looking where he was going, or simply not taking any care not to fall. Such face-plants make up probably 60% of his total overall but were maddeningly predominant that day; his inexplicable collapses and sinuous wobbles he didn’t really exhibit properly. She put him on a ball and swayed him about to test his muscle tone, and he actually responded wonderfully well. I mused as I watched them: lately, he never knocks the back of his head coming down slides – he has greatly improved the muscle strength around his tummy and neck without me actually noticing it.

She conceded that he had hypermobility in his joints and ‘floppy’ muscle tone. She told me he had done well to hit his physical developmental milestones on time: she saw children with this degree of hypermobility and floppy tone not walk at all until they were 2. Generally she would prescribe exercises to increase muscle strength – but Harry is already unusually and ferociously strong. I may have rubbed my bruises reflectively as she said this. She commented that he was a quite exceptionally high-energy child, and consequently: his own best therapy. A less active, driven and determined toddler would have been significantly less mobile, which did make sense.

She told me she could see no evidence of any neurological complication – and could see nothing to support our impression of low trunk muscle tone. Which puzzled me no end, because floppy muscle tone IS low muscle tone; I understood them both to be terms for hypotonia. Her explanation of her explanation confused me still further – something about him being congenitally floppy in tone, but it not being anything to do with his brain. Ummm. Ok. She wasn’t clear, and neither was I: doubtless his Paediatrician will give us a precis when we see him.

A part of me thinks I should relax and play the watch&wait game. Irrespective of what’s causing Harry’s wobbles, a paediatric physiotherapist has told me there is nothing we can do to improve his walking. The other part is screaming in frustration and considering a private referral to Second Opinion Land. When Harry goes to nursery, he has to walk holding my hand along at least 200 ft of pavement. Harry doesn’t do straight lines or exciting outdoor situations very well, so he generally falls about 6 or 7 times during that walk. I notice people noticing. And then I think they must be noticing all his bruises, too. On Tuesday, he fell about every 10ft and a waiting Mum asked me if ‘he’d hurt his legs?’ 

I came home and sobbed, because I don’t want my son to be the one that everyone looks at because he can’t walk properly and can’t talk, or be the mother that people feel sorry for and give chocolates to. And then I decided I’d better snap out of it because A) all I wanted was a child to love and care for – I don’t remember making conditions about exactly what sort and B) John wasn’t taking a blind bit of notice, bar a quarter-turn away from his on-line bridge session* and a vague pat on the leg, so it seemed a waste of some perfectly adequate crying. We had a bit of a row about that. (And… umm… about Mandatory Forcible Toothbrushing Being A Bad Thing For Children, too… and about the fact that John thought we actually didn’t need a fireguard because, a-ha, get this… Harry (just two) COULD BE TRAINED not to go near or touch the incandescently hot woodburner. I usually reserve the exclusive right to criticise my spouse, but feel free to tell him what you think about that one, coz the daft old sod still thinks he’s in the right.)

*Incidentally, if you happen to frequent at all, and you encounter Big Hairy, DHairy, or The Hairy One, or some hirsute equivalent… yeah. It’s him. He’s quite good: even his genial soul of a father remarked dryly one day that ‘his beady eyes can see round corners, I reckon’. On our neighbour’s annual Whist Drive, watching John’s eager scramble to leave any table where he has been landed with me as a partner is… priceless.

Where was I? Oh, yes! Moaning! Which is a bit misleading really, because, bad afternoon today aside, things are Really Not Too Bad. I have cheerfully and shamelessly told a whopping great Untruth to the nice lady from Portage, telling her that I am reducing Harry’s daycare Tuesday and Friday sessions to just Fridays (I am… come next month. Or the month after. The new year, say. In the new year.  At some point.) and taking him to his special needs nursery on a Monday (which I totally, totally am, they having most obligingly agreed Not To Mention To Anyone about his cough Wednesday session). It might not work out, as, together with his visiting Speech Therapy and Portage, it’s a lot of input, and my calendar is a bit scribbled-on, but Harry does seem to thrive on excitement and activity. There’s none of it we can’t decide just not to do for a few days if it suits us to take a break.

I’m sat here munching the chocolates – having already lost Not One Jot of pre-laparoscopy weight – and occasionally coughing like a blocked machine gun, as I have a cold I can’t shift. I had planned to catch up with my commenting or sort my delivery out, but I’m actually going to go and watch Scrubs with John instead, and remember, today, to feel thankful for the fact that I am able to take photos like this

Whizzy car

and revel in the fact that I can take half an hour out to ignore the housework during the day while Harry naps and play with frivolities like this instead


while the tiny chap upstairs in bye-byes land gears up for another full-throttle day tomorrow.Shark!


14 Responses

  1. Get a fireguard. Forget the teeth cleaning. Talk to that nice friend.

    Is my advice.

  2. Get a fireguard, unless you prefer third degree burns. Perhaps you could remind your husband that if you can’t talk Harry out of a tantrum, and you can’t talk him into a diaper (nappy), it’s unlikely he’s going to miraculously start listening just because you’ve pointed out something dangerous. He’s the moth, and you know where the flame is…

    Some kids are difficult for no other reason that they can be. Or because their genetics say that they’re going to be. My child, who is almost an exact clone of my husband’s personality, has no empathy. Just like him. You can tell her that she’s making you sad and she laughs at you. I’m used to my nieces and nephews, who get sad when you tell them they’re making you sad. You’re not alone out there, and you’re not the only one whose child can be uncontrollable at times. That’s what the chocolates were about – accept them in that spirit.

    Behavioural psychologist – well, it can’t hurt, I say. Whatever help anyone suggests, I would grab it with both hands. Good luck!

  3. The amount of people who told us that kids won’t go near fires was amazing.

    But even if you could train them not to do it on purpose (a big if), what about running past it and falling over?

    Luckily for me, hubby heard from a guy at work whose son of about 5 had burnt himself while drying in front of the fire and tripping over his towel. A bad burn, but luckily quite small.

    Our fire guard is huge and ugly, but it is worth it for the peace of mind.

  4. You say “FIRE” I say “GUARD”! “FIRE” “GUARD”….

    And that non-caffeine lovely warm drink sounds like it would do us both the world of good. Can do weekdays (if I can ahem….fix my work diary) or a weekend if it’s better for you x

  5. Well THAT economizing with the truth (to the Portage lady) was definitely the good sort. What could be a better reason?
    Good luck with all.
    Shame about the laptop, it’d be good for the coffee shop times. Hrmm. Pity no spare lying about here at the moment.. will keep in mind. And as for the chocolates, we all have our moments, don’t you think? When you have it, you give it, when you need it, you take it.
    I reckon, anyway.

    • Oh dear, I hope I didn’t sound beggy! I don’t imagine anyone has a towering pile of spare laptops lying around unless they are Bill Gates with a destructive ‘whaddoesdisonedo?’ toddler!

  6. Beautiful wreath.

    Your piddle mum friend sounds like just the sort of woman sitting down and having a natter with would help clarify things.

    take care.


  7. We have friends who never got a fire guard for their woodstove. Their son has always left it alone; they weren’t sure if he’d managed to touch it once or what. We got away without one around our bedroom’s gas fireplace–probably because there are so many other delightful things to meddle with in there–but we did get one for the gas stove downstairs and I haven’t regretted it for a second. I never even thought of seepi’s comment but she’s right: accidents are a concern regardless.

    I don’t remember if you’ve ever said what you or John were like as young children. Were you willful or prone to tantrums? I mean, certainly Harry is in the thick of the Terrible Twos anyway, so that doesn’t help. Or he could have SPD ( or some other issue or who knows. I hope the psychologist can help you sort out what’s going on.

    I am a big fan of Second Opinion Land. At the worst, they agree with the first opinion and you watch and wait. At the “best” (I know, not the right word) they say hold on, something here isn’t right, and maybe you get a diagnosis or help or resources that Harry needs.

    Your chocolates-and-sympathy friend sounds like a lovely woman–lucky you–a friendship to cultivate!

    • You know, I’ve come across this checklist before while googling (I know! me! googling! Whodafortit!) and I’ve just gone through it again and Harry does still have an awwwwwful lot of boxes ticked. He’s a quirky little kid. However, I’m happy to say that most of the oddest things he appears to be growing out of, albeit the emotional side of things is worsening at about the same rate!

      I was apparently just peachy as a quite young child, but was a dreadful, dreadful, dreadful slightly older child. Not as out-of-control as Harry, but about as vicious in the head, if that makes sense. Even now, I essentially sympathise with every last one of his ‘trums, because I can easily access in my own mind how he’s feeling. I simply have more doors built between that & the world than he has.

      John is a twin and although he is distinctly not a mercurial chap, he is very passive aggressive, often without realising it. His mother complains that he was always the ‘testing’ one, and she told him the other day that his father, a markedly genial old chap, had been tempted to murder him on one occasion. I have no difficulty in believing her!

      So… yeah. Although we’re reasonably equable adults, we were difficult children, who both had mild language issues, too.

      I wonder how much consternation Harry’s Paed will display if I print that check list off & take it with me next time?! 🙂

      • I realized I might have made it sound like I am trying to diagnose Harry with SPD when I only have the faintest clue what it might involve. (That’s one heckuva checklist, for sure!) Rather I was considering how these diagnostics are often so nebulous. And, as you’ve pointed out, many people, including you two, just go through a period of being difficult children. So the function of a psychologist might be just to tell you sorry, he just appears stubborn and willful, see you in a couple years if things don’t change. But–hopefully they can at least give you an idea of whether they think there might be anything to diagnose.

        My son S. is, hmm, 31 months now and the time period from about month 21 to, oh, 30, and sporadically thereafter, were often just awful. I honestly wondered sometimes if he was a little psychopath, or if I was (at least a just plain awful mother) for getting so angry with him. He hasn’t been so much a tantrum thrower but he would so often do things just to tick me off, and everything was an issue of control, which was usually asserted by NOT wanting to do the smallest thing I asked of him. I guess you have a comparison group via the Piddle, although I would discount somewhat if they are more than a few months older/younger or (I can’t believe I am saying this as I began parenthood very much a gender neutralist) female.

        Your Paed. confuses me. He seems so adamantly opposed to considering whether anything could be wrong? I have an alarmist doctor and don’t like that either, but I do want someone who will keep his eyes open in the name of heading anything significant off at the pass. To mix a metaphor.

  8. About the fire-guard – shall I get Diva to come over and show John the scar on her palm from touching the stove when she was two (TWO, damn it, and perfectly capable of understanding ‘no!’ and ‘don’t!’ and ‘hot!’ and ‘ouchy!’)? Or even the scar on my arse from the same damn stove I got when I was nine, damn it, because my sister and I were messing about while getting dressed one winter morning and I backed into said stove sans nuddings on. No, wait, maybe I should not be offering to show people’s spouses my arse. But you can tell him about it, it you like.

    As for Harry being The Dark Lord of Tantrum, hugs.

    (Probably pointless and unhelpful anecdotage alert: Diva’s tantrums were completely epic, and she used to bite and head-butt too (being her sister rather than her parent, I managed to duck the worst of these by, err, by yelling for Mum. I’m so supportive). Eventually they stop. I promise they stop. In Diva’s case, they were because she had severe dyslexia and Aspergers and was a slow speaker and we all thought she was DEAF she was so unresponsive. She’s at University now. I am very proud of her).

    Hugs hugs hugs. So very glad that at least they are keeping his tummy and neck muscles nice and strong (your Physio – clearly paid for her physio skills and not her communication ones, eh?).

    I’m just bummed that the NHS system forces parents to tell porkies to get the best care for their kids. Gah. *Makes angry disillusioned socialist face*

    And anyway, the pictures of Harry on this post are so lovely (shark!). I want one. A child, that is. And a stuffed shark, but mostly, a child, even only one-third as cute as Harry.

  9. We had no fireguard until about two years ago and as there had been no toddler/fire incidents prior to that I have to be honest and admit is was just as much to protect family heritage rug as the small ones. Wood burning stove different to open flame though as I think toddlers are used to coming off ok when careering into stationary objects in living rooms and don’t treat the stoves differently despite their heat.

    Printed lists from the internet go down badly with the Drs I know.. I’d disguise it as a handwritten – I just need to remind myself what to ask you – list as those seem to be regraded more favourably and I am all for using cunning to get what I want!

  10. I *do* think Harry communicates to you what he wants, and I also know you work out what it is, and he also just takes/does it (climbing on the window-sills for example) – I’m not a big fan of the “can’t communicate = frustrated = behaviour problems” theory – I think parents are more sensitive than that and work out from the first time children use joint eye contact what their children want.

    Of course, you may not want to give it to him, but that’s a separate issue – and loads of children with excellent language have strops – as do adults of course 😉

    Looking at the checklist in the Prospective Adopters’ Pack, the only one we have a big FAIL on already is fireguards. They are pretty easy to do…

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