They say that a change is as good as a rest.
You do hear a lot of unmitigated bollocks*. It is emphatically not a rest. It is not remotely close to a rest. It is, pardon my vulgarity, exactly the same shit in a different toilet.
(Apropos, Harry, bless his 2nd percentile soul, generally shits like a Great Dane. His progress towards potty training consists of sporadically attempting to remove his nappy concurrent with urination or shrapnelling defecation, resulting stickily in catastrophic overflow.)
Harry slept in our caravan exactly as well as I expected him to: reasonably badly. Answering, as ever, to the name of Lucky, he rapidly acquired a sleep-annihilating cough, probably due to the spectacular pea-souper that thickly wreathed the so-called English Riviera for our first 2 days. (Not unusual. During a previous trip to the Minack
I had marked difficulty in discerning the actors, and at no point saw the sea.) Harry was also difficult about his naps – too much new stuff to look at, mainly – so this, paired with poor night-time rest, resulted in a particularly prickly young pear.
Even though it is always Harry behaving like a monumental and complete arse, John and I, without fail, manage to blame one another for whatever family crisis of overwrought nerves Harry’s relentless, single-minded pursuit of trouble has landed us in. We are clever like that. Our bitter mutual castigation harmonises nicely with Harry’s ululating screams of inarticulate rage, and the juddering blows/protesting squeaks/sickening thuds from whatever unfortunate surroundings are currently suffering the full force of his directed fury.
I’m honestly not sure how much of Harry’s behaviour is a result of our joint genetic legacy, or his individual… lets call them… issues. I waver daily between fearing his behaviour is a pint-size, highly concentrated sample of our worst character flaws – or believing him to be simply a toddler with an iron will, an iron fist, an iron skull, a steely glare and sadly limited communication.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Thwart this child at your bodily, mental and marital peril.
It is, I fear, only a matter of time before Harry breaks my nose with his furiously lunging skull; I never expected to receive my first Glasgow kiss from my son.
He still has no speech. Proto-words are emerging, sporadically, unreliably and slowly. He knows dozens of signs, but simply does not understand how to use them to communicate. I see 10 month old babies communicate more effectively than Harry, and my sadness for him – and for myself, truth be told – is profound. We will never be here again. I can’t redeem the time – too much time – that I spend exasperated, grappling, struggling, coaxing, crying, furious, swearing, persuading, embarrassed, manhandling, dejected, out of breath, really fucking annoyed… and beaten.
The beauteous Amy phrases it perfectly: ‘a meltdown at a playground is different for us, that it’s not the kind of meltdown *your kid* has, no it’s just NOT, that it’s like someone set our child on FIRE, that there’s no redirecting or soothing, there is only FLEEING.’
Come 6pm, I would rather face down a hungry bear** than cross my ferocious – fabulous – flailing little bundle of determination. I am sometimes asked if I think he might be somewhere on the autistic spectrum – to which I used to reply No. Lately, I say… I’m not sure. He is a social, smiling child (when things go well; by which I mean: his way) who seems to be growing away from some of his odder quirks (fear/anger at certain noises/frequencies, some texture aversion) but he remains, in ways, a strange child, and a challenging one. Until we break his communication log-jam, I – glumly – expect no improvement.
He was not feeling or behaving his best this week, and we were fairly strained in consequence, but I didn’t set out to moan quite as much as I actually have here. I am, when you get right down to it – and not very far down, either – wholeheartedly and emotively thankful for every last one of my bruises. The sound of his giggles lifts me. I beam when he beams. The comical little ‘uuUMM!’ noise of interest, pleasure and surprise he makes when confronted with something new and deeply intriguing makes me radiate happiness. I would slowly disembowel myself with a spoon – a rusty one – if it saved him from pain.
Mind you, after about the 45th minute of doleful howling from the back seat in protest at his Wrongful Carseat Incarceration, muttering from the front seat, and with over 100 miles of motorway still to go – disembowelling myself sans anaesthesia began to seem like a comparatively attractive distraction.
But we did have fun, in between the squalls. Look! Smiles, and everything!
But not at the waves, which Harry is highly nervous of, possibly due to witnessing the severity of our disgusted recoil from the filthy foam topping the waves at Weston Super Mare a few weeks ago.
John taught Harry a fascinating new game: putting large handfuls of cold, wet shingle down the ample Mummy-cleavage.
Hubby seemed oddly vexed when we fed pebbles down into his jeans in reciprocation. Apparently they got wedged in his underwear.
Harry shot through most of Plymouth Aquarium like a bored torpedo, but he particularly liked the sharks, and is consequently now the proud owner of a foot-long cuddly specimen.
I did actually manage to get one of the five books I took read, although I had run my fingers through my hair so much (as a result of wall-to-tiny-fucking-wall Peppa sodding Pig. Now there’s a porcine family that needs sausagizing, stat.) that it began to look like an Old English Sheepdog crossed with Spinal Tap; I did well to make out the words at all.
And now we are home: the laundry mountain is visible with Google Earth and Harry is sleeping beautifully again in his own cotbed.
He starts nursery on Tuesday.
We can’t actually afford to send him to nursery. Not even the two measly mornings that he is booked in for – but I can’t afford not to send him, either. He needs to be surrounded by more speech than ours, he needs to learn to share toys, he needs to learn not to hit, and he needs to become accustomed to the school site in which he will be educated until he is 11 years old. He will begin a hefty 5-half-days-a-week-all-or-nothing preschool there in a year’s time; the year after that… he will begin school proper, a whole year earlier than his conception date entitled him to expect.
And I need him to go, so, so badly. I need a kitchen that isn’t a continual heap of clutter, and a bedroom floor that isn’t a swirling morass of toppled laundry heaps interspersed with ankle-crippling lurking toys. I have a young business that I need to spend time growing – which reminds me in turn that I have a sadly neglected garden. My to-do list is, in fact, impossibly long for the 6 hours a week that I am consigning him to daycare for – but no matter.
I need to draw breath.
*often on this site
**I have incidentally, faced down a bear, albeit a really rather titchy one. I was walking across a Lake Louise car park; I had yummy-smelling food and the bear was obviously keen to partake. But so was I: stony broke and hungry, I convulsively clutched my bag of goodies defensively and glared with all the venom I could muster. The bear, recognising a stiff fight when he saw it, obligingly buggered off. I heart food THAT MUCH.