Bits from pieces

1) 10dpo. The innernet 10mIU cheapies say no. Tesco wundersticks say no. There is a distinct absence of any cramping, which is completely diagnostic in its own right with me. I feel cheated and depressed.

2) Harry, while no longer the voiceless enigma of his toddlerhood, is still an almighty puzzle to me. He is the most perplexing mix of the confident and the fearful, and while I realise that the spectrum of anxiety to brazen is a contextual moveable feast for all of us, I really am mystified. There’s the odd book he doesn’t like, but TV is the primary source of his panic, in that he is unable to tolerate the slightest suggestion of dramatised peril. He is becoming gradually worse, only able to cope with the most anodyne of preschooler programming. He turned against his former favourite, Come Outside, 18 months ago, suddenly citing the ‘bad dog’ – this, from a child who calmly and regularly faces down an erupting, boiling tide of 3 chunky labradors next door, one of whom generally approaches at chest height – my chest height, and who also loudly bosses our own two hounds around. He was sanguine over the rest of cBeebies’ output until the last few months, when he began to run away at the merest hint of jeopardy, and couldn’t be jollied out of it. He can’t even put up with ‘Grandpa In My Pocket’ anymore, for God’s sake. Neither can I, as it happens, but for entirely different reasons.

I deliberately kept him away from Toy Story 3, knowing full-well that the initial train-wreck scene, containing suspense, a scary pig and the tide of monkeys would send him bolting from the room. He ended up watching it in a children’s play area recently, with predictable upset-fleeing results. He saw a little of Cars at a friend’s house a couple of weeks ago and liked the look of it, although expressing some anxiety about a brief glimpse of a scary harvester chase scene. I bought it, but wasn’t confident. We sat together to watch it after school yesterday, and he lasted until Lightning is ejected, asleep, from Mack (what, 10 minutes in?) and disappeared into the dining room at high velocity, where a sad little voice could be heard complaining about the ‘bad bits’.

Last week, he began a cheerful sentence ‘When we killed the sheep yesterday…’ (last month, in fact, and he only saw the sheep after it was dead) and proceeded to chat merrily about eating up all the yummy lamb in the freezer himself; he has taken to school and new friends with great gusto; he is physically adventurous to the point of outright risk; he seems, in fact, fairly well adjusted to life. Except for this. I don’t know what to think: either that he has an unusually maturely-developed concept of menace, coupled to no ameliorating cognitive context of the likelihood of it actually occuring, or that we’ve simply bred a child who has led such a sheltered existence that he can’t cope with the level of threat contained in pre-schooler TV programming. Neither of which seem likely: I think his upbringing with us has been fairly normal, albeit mired in rural clartiness; and even if John and I were toting odd ideas about infant exposure to The Scary – which I don’t think we are – Harry has spent the last 18 months spending 3 hours a day in a nursery setting, which would presumably right any skewed mental balance. I’m stymied. Perhaps he just can’t stand bad acting…?

3) My hens, which I have more time to actually be cluckily among since Harry has started full days, have stopped laying, the blighters. I have 12 at present – 3 lovely French Marans, 3 Old English Game Birds (a feisty cockerel and 2 hens, one of which is a mightily determined house-invader, despite me booting her unceremoniously outside on several occasions) and 6… well, it’s probably best to call them wee brown laying hens. I assume they are ex-batts, poor ladies, and I have nothing intelligent to suggest regarding their provenance or age, except to say that I greatly suspect it varies widely, despite being recently auctioned as a group at our local poultry sale. (I took Harry twice to the poultry auctions and gave up: he spent the entire time sticking his fingers up his nose and uttering loud protests about the ‘SMELL, Mummy! Bad SMELL! There was a faint fragrance of chicken shit, admittedly, but the child spends a significant amount of time rolling around cow & sheep shit with nary a complaint, and our house is, furthermore, regularly odiferously blasted by the prevailing wind from the pig farm, 5 miles or so away. Which, let me fervently assure you, is no distance at all where pig slurry is concerned.) I went up with a bucket of grain this morning to give them a severe talking-to about the lack of eggs, but after a while, I noticed that one hen has gone lame, and nearly all the Browns are sporting grotty, nodule-ly legs. Google told me I have a classic case of scaly leg mite, so I have promptly bought remedial spray, and am awaiting lunch time and John’s assistance to tackle the problem.

There’s nothing like a little chicken shit around the trousers to endear you to fellow parents at the school-gate, after all.

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16 Responses

  1. Maybe you need to turn off beebies and put on kill it, cook it, eat it instead? Sounds more up his street.To be fair Grandpa in my pocket is too much for anyone, my eldest one quite like river cottage though.

  2. Some kids don’t like make-believe. It’s too stressful to worry about made up crap, when there’s plenty of real crap that must be dealt with. Or maybe the resolving of the animated characters is as far as his imagination can stretch at this point in time. Find him some sports or animal documentaries. My sister’s friend swore that her boys would not watch anything animated. And don’t forget – emotional responses may not actually be directed to the things by which they appear to be triggered.

    Hope your chickens improve – those things sound like more trouble than they’re worth!

  3. Well, I would suggest an option #3 for Harry’s fears–that this a developmental stage that may not have anything to do with your parenting! At least, not all that long ago (maybe at age 4.25) my son went through a similar phase. Everything on TV was too scary–even the Care Bears. (Although that gigantic evil Care Bear with the red glowing eyes, I shit you not, was unexpected and may have had something to do with it.) Overall I would say that his fearfulness (bad dreams, talking about “ghostses”, and concern about scary parts of some books and movies) has increased a lot in the past half year, and I figure that this has something to do with his increased capability to understand that bad things happen and bad people exist. But that period of extreme sensitivity to the slightest hint of scariness, especially on TV, was thankfully brief, and after a few weeks of it we returned to more normal levels of concerns. I hope and suspect that you will find the same as well!

    I read somewhere that children of this age are particularly prone to nightmares and I wonder if that prompts more sensitivity as well. And some of my son’s concerns flared up again when he changed classrooms during the fall, so it might be that Harry’s big transition to school may be an influence as well. (Which is not to say that it’s a bad transition, just that change is always hard at that age… heck, I am not a big fan of it either!)

    I’m so sorry to hear that the IUI does not appear to be transpiring as hoped. Of course I am hoping it turns out to be a stealth pregnancy, but since you know your body quite well, I am preparing you metaphorical cups of tea as well. Hugs.

    • I left out a piece about the nightmares, so my comment might not make sense there. I do know that S. has been having more nightmares in the past few months as well–he wakes up crying–and perhaps occasional sleep paralysis or hypnagogic hallucinations, as most of us do at one point or another. But because I know this age is commonly prone to nightmares (and I remember ones I had as a child, and how terrifying they seemed then), my interpretation is not that they are resulting from daytime anxiety, but that rather he experiences more daytime anxiety due to the nightmares. At this age he’s not quite developmentally able to say “that was just a dream, it’s not real”. TV, like nightmares, is semi-real, and so I think there are a lot of parallels between scary dreams and scary TV.

      I do really like Sarah Lynn’s description of anxiety taking the shape of whatever container is available; and I am totally going to use her phrasing when trying to address future fears. You would not believe the lengthy arguments I have had with S. about whether ghosts are real. His friends say they are, so they must be. This is complicated by the fact that I don’t completely dismiss the supernatural in my own beliefs, but I’m not about to get into my little complexities and nuances with a four-year-old who will shape any hint of “ghosteses” into half an hour’s worth of exaggerated assertions about what he saw going down the hall the other night.

  4. I have a theory, unsupported, of course, by actual science, that children’s anxiety takes a shape like water takes the shape of a glass. I am trying to say that anxiety exists, particularly as they get out into the big world, and then something gives it a “shape” for the child. If it takes the shape of television programs, that is fairly easy to avoid. Also, if one program is frightening, then it is easier to see the fright potential in the next one. Harry, I would think, would have plenty of company in this. Or at least he would in my family. Also, in my family, a child cannot take a big, bold step into the world without exacting a price from himself and others in some other area. I don’t think it has much if anything to do with your parenting, but now you do have the dilemma of validating his fears by agreeing that these things are scary and making him content to be fearful or telling him to pull up his socks and get on with it, thus crushing him “forever.” My own approach is along the lines of, well, this may seem frightening, but when you are older, it won’t bother you so much, and for now we just won’t watch. In a matter of fact way that does not in any way suggest that you are a baby or anything immature. The parental tightrope.
    Very sorry about the disappointment.
    Sorry also, although appropriately less so, about the chickens.

  5. I can’t remember the age but my youngest went through a very fearful stage too – I think it was between 3 and 4. Now he is 10 and still likes to keep the light on at night even though he is bullet-proof confidence-wise in all other areas of his life. He does have a VERY GOOD imagination which I think is why he has always been very susceptible to any suggestion of menace. He will lie awake at night thinking about things and then get anxious as a result. I would think that Harry’s anxiety is a combination of personality and age and and I’d be very surprised if it caused any long term problems for him. I think the previous commenter’s advice to keep reaction to it very matter of fact is spot on.

    Very sorry for your other disappointments. I shall channel good vibes for you over t’Internet.

  6. I have/had a fear reaction to many suspenseful books, which lasted into adulthood, and finally calmed somewhat in my 20’s. At it’s worst, it covered everything stronger than ‘Little Women’ and anything with a picture of a dinosaur.

    It was (at least somewhat) a control thing. The strategies I had for “care less about how it turns out” were very limited – sometimes I did it by brute force, by reading to the climax of the story then putting down the book. It had a social aspect – I would more willingly read something dubious if I could do it in secret, because I was then less likely to be pressured/shamed over it.

    When I came to terms with it as an adult, it was via finding someone who I trusted to understand and make very careful recommendations, and who I trusted not to get frustrated with me over keeping control in my hands. The trust part was important and hard to find. The strategies I developed on my own were to work backwards (read the ending first), use detailed plot summaries, and otherwise dilute/distract.

    You might do best to find ways to give him more privacy and control. Volume turned off? Fast forward button in his hands? Last scenes only? Detailed plot summary beforehand?

  7. I have two children who are prone to anxiey, one social, the other more serious. I noticed in a picture of your lounge that your flatscreen is mounted on the wall and is good sized. (I remember as we have one as well, but have not wall mounted it, too complicated on brick we decided.)
    Anyway, I wonder if watching on a smaller screen that is at eye level might make him feel more in control. I also love the idea that you can verbalize to him what he is feeling and give him the option to turn off, fast forward or to turn the sound.
    As he feels more comfortable will he sit with you so that you can reassure him and get to the ending. Maybe seeing that everything turns out okay may help him.

  8. I hit publish before I had a chance to finish. My one child with the serious anxiety often turns off tv and other stressful stimuli.
    Harry is dealing with lots of new situations where he is not in control, which she always found stressful. Tv was an escape, but when things got out of control it stopped being that escape. Perhaps Harry is doing the same thing, he wants his tv to be about relaxing and when bad things happens he feels a loss of control.
    Giving him the remote to turn off the tv may help with this. Hope this helps.

  9. My daughter’s TV anxiety revolved not so much around ‘scary’ as it did around conflict.

    So…lambs off to slaughter didn’t actually have much conflict (as the lambs didn’t know what was going on, and couldn’t have done much if they did), On the other hand, two characters disagreeing even very gently was enough to send her out of the room.

    PS – Hello. Just started reading here having been sent over from KatyBoo. Your ‘Bound for Morningtown’ post was just stunningly good (as a parent of a daughter who’s also just gone to school).

  10. I have no solutions to the anxiety issue except to say that Come Outside? The programme that features tours of sewage plants and biscuits factories by the world’s most saccharine woman? I’d flee too, but for different reasons. And don’t get me started on Grandpa in my Pocket.

  11. Regarding the IUI sounds like your dark predictions of wrong uterus were correct, although give it a few more days before writing it off completely.

  12. I remember my older daughter being very fearful around age 4. I’m guessing it’s the increased comprehension that gets to them. Her thing was bears. I have no idea why, as we live in a city. I had to convince her we had bear-proof locks on the doors.

    I just watched some of “Grandpa in My Pocket.” The scenes change very rapidly. Perhaps Harry has trouble processing that? I have to say I find the audio kind of shrill. Between all the bright colours, rapidly changing video and shrill sound, perhaps it’s all a bit overwhelming for him? My younger daughter has Central Auditory Processing Deficit and she hated Sesame Street. I couldn’t figure out why at the time, but now realize it was auditorily overwhelming for her.

    Both that show and “Come Outside” have planes. Does flying scare him? Although he’s called Pippen ‘that bad dog,” he hasn’t said anything about the planes.

    Oh, they’re such a mystery at that age, aren’t they?

  13. 1. bah humbug. i am sorry. peesticks ought to come with a money-back guarantee if they don’t say what you like, i think. (typically american idea of fairness.)

    2. i admit i’m a bit relieved to read all these commenters recounting tales of frightened children: i thought it was just me. not much to add here except that i think images have a very different head-place and power from real life things. case in point: i have a childish phobia of snakes. we will not discuss it in detail, except to say that i am not actually destroyed by the presence of a real snake, but pictures of them completely derange me, and don’t get me started on what happens if i set about imagining them. reality is so reassuringly limited in its scope and relatively predictable in its behavior. tv is not.

    3. if the other parents do look askance at chicken-shitty trousers (and plenty of people pay extra for that kind of “authenticity”, i’m telling you), i suggest you cheerily shout to them something like, ‘not to worry! bit of a scaly leg mite going around, but i’ve sprayed myself; you won’t catch them!” just to set them at their ease.

  14. Thinking of you all and hoping all is well. x

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