Hannah

Hannah. Hannah. Hannah.

I am sick of hearing Hannah.

But I’m also grateful. It’s complicated.

Little Chick has started his new nursery. Having spent the last two months nesting, the timing is perfect for all of us. For 15 hours a week we will be childfree and able to catch up on all the things we have let slide since Little Chick’s arrival. We will even have time to finish a hot drink and have a grown-up conversation. It will be a good transition before the Other Mrs Reed Warbler finishes adoption leave and returns to work.

As for Little Chick, he will have 15 hours of playing with other children, sharing and fighting over toys, books, and the attention of adults other than us. Adults like his key worker – Hannah.

Hannah is lovely. She’s sweet, kind, and Little Chick thinks she’s wonderful. Rationally, I completely understand why he likes her and why every other word uttered is her name. Emotionally, I’m scared.

Some would argue, including Little Chick’s social worker initially, that it is too soon for Little Chick to be going to a new nursery. Others, including us and our social worker, would respond that he is used to nursery, he enjoys attending nursery, and nursery is normal for his – and our – routine going forward. The main arguments against centre on first building attachments at home. Attachment cannot be hurried, but we do seem to be making good progress, so, collectively, we agreed that the timing was right.

And I still stand by that. But every time I hear Hannah I panic. What if we’ve made a mistake? What if it’s too soon and nursery confuses him? What if I’m always second best?

But they are my concerns. About me. I’m doing that annoying thing I do and making it about me. I’m trying to be the star when I’m a supporting actor at best (in truth I’m the non-speaking extra who edges forward hoping to steal the limelight). I need to be better for Little Chick’s sake. I’m also worried that my anxiety will translate as hostility, to both Hannah and Little Chick, causing further, unnecessary problems.

I need to embrace the name. As a child it was a favourite of mine, used as it was as the example of a palindrome (a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backwards as forwards). Now I need to favour it as the name of the person who will keep Little Chick safe and happy when I am not there.

Deal

As Little Chick feels safer with us and in our home, he becomes less compliant. The so-called honeymoon period is over. On one level, this is great news. He feels comfortable and confident enough to show us his true self. He is lowering his protective mask. However, on another level, this is bad news for us. We now have a tiny tyrant trying to rule the roost. And we will not negotiate with terrorists.

However, we will make Little Chick think he’s getting his own way, by offering him two options. The key point is that both options keep us happy.

We have also added more complex transactions where Little Chick may think he is negotiating (and winning) by offering a deal. These generally follow the formula do ‘x and get y’. Again, the key is that we are happy to give y to Little Chick, because it is healthy (in the case of food and drinks), safe, or was due to him anyway.

Little Chick loves this, especially because we seal the deal with a firm handshake, a nod of the head, and proclaim ‘deal’. This makes him feel grown up. He feels consulted and included, which is better for him. He usually does what we ask, quickly and without fuss, which is better for us.


Edit: With hindsight, the playfulness of this exchange is core to the principle of PACE (Playfulness; Acceptance; Compassion; Empathy), which many place at the heart of Therapeutic Parenting. We find that we have the most parenting ‘wins’ with Little Chick whenever we are playful. Though it isn’t always easy, and we often need to remind ourselves to be a bit silly rather than too stern, especially when tiredness is affecting us all.

 

Away

Little Chick has told me to go away three times already this morning. And I am delighted.

Admittedly, he only says ‘away’, but the meaning is explicit: back off and give me some room.

Occasionally, I worry that we are smothering him, from a combination of desperately wanting to attach and from him being overwhelmed by adult attention. Sometimes I think we do, and will continue to do so, despite our best efforts. But now he feels able to tell us to give him space and let him be. He is gaining confidence daily.

The first time he said it I was taken aback. I almost argued back. But I stopped myself just in time. It is important that he can express his emotions. We have been working on this with him and it would be churlish to censor him now because we don’t like what he is saying. I did make it clear though that a raised hand was enough to accompany his request. Pushing is unacceptable, because we use kind hands in this family.

‘Away’ symbolises Little Chick’s growing confidence and attachment. He is already asserting his own independence but, importantly, he is doing so safely in our family within our home.

Noise

I knew toddlers were noisy. But I hadn’t appreciated how much noise one toddler could make. How one little person could be so consistently and impressively loud.

Lately, this noise has taken the form of music. Despite my best efforts to convince him otherwise, Little Chick identifies all music as noise and vice versa.

We have been encouraging him to sing, chiefly as a way of developing his language. His understanding of music and noise as separate entities is likely hindered by our terrible singing voices. We are enthusiastic but truly awful singers. But like many parents we persist because it makes our little one happy.

He also enjoys playing the kazoo; again, chosen in the hope it may help with mouth shapes and speech development. He’s good at this – even better than Mama, who cannot produce a single note – and this delights him.

We know that Little Chick’s birth father is musical, and we want to encourage this. In the future, he will have the opportunity to pick an instrument, take lessons, and hone his talent. For now, we are embracing the noise and singing our hearts out together.