Fournado


Talking to other parents of pre-schoolers, they concur that first there’s the Terrible Twos, then there’s Threenagers. There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent when children hit four, but I recently heard the term Fournado and it seems perfect for Little Chick.

Fournado conjures images of a fast, furious force of nature. And he is certainly that. Perhaps it’s because his birthday had coincided with the end of nursery and the onset of big school, but he seems more wild than usual. His energy levels seem to have doubled and he can be like a whirling dervish with the least provocation. I’m praying it’s a phase and that life – and him – calms down soon. It must be exhausting him. It’s definitely draining me.

I think it is also a good name for a superhero, one who helps at breakneck speed. Again, this is a perfect moniker for Little Chick. He has always enjoyed helping, but now he is more determined than ever to do jobs and his trademark energy means we often spend as long tidying up after the job as we do completing the task. At the moment, I feel like his dysregulated behaviour is overshadowing his innate goodness and I’m perhaps forgetting what a kind, loving, super wee boy he is. He is extremely considerate of others and their needs, he is bright and funny, he overcomes all obstacles in his way, both literal and figurative. Sometimes I forget why his fears present in these ways; I overlook the causes for his behaviour. I need to remember that each and every day he shows superhuman strength and resilience by just getting on with things, by beating the odds.

To paraphrase, like Batman, he is the hero we need but don’t deserve.

4th birthday

Little Chick is four. Four years old. Seriously, how did that happen?! Suddenly we have a little boy in our household. A little boy who is adamant he is a big boy. Who believes he is strong and tall and almost a grown-up. And it is a delight. But it is also bloody hard.

It genuinely feels that not that long ago Little Chick was very small and babyish. He looked and acted younger than his chronological age. Now he looks every inch a boy. Not a baby. Not a toddler. A boy. He seems to have had a massive growth spurt lately (I wish I was better at recording such details). All the clothes we bought him just two months ago for our holiday abroad are that wee bit snugger and shorter. They will make it through the summer, but only just.

Not only does he look like a boy now he is acting like a boy. This is the first time that he has understood that his birthday is about him. And he has accepted and embraced that. He hasn’t been too bothered by presents but he has been keen to point out that its his birthday and we should do his bidding. Mostly we have. We spent the day ay the seaside – his favourite place and no hardship for us. We have eaten his favourite snacks and treats and allowed birthday cake for breakfast. This is the first time since he has lived with us that I have felt like a ‘normal’ family on a big occasion.

I have loved celebrating him and how special he is and how much he means to us. But the day is tinged with sadness, though I try not to share that with Little Chick. I recently read online someone’s argument that birthdays should not celebrate the person born but those who birthed him. On his fourth birthday I thought about Little Chick’s birth parents, and especially his birth mum, and how they must feel. Some occasions or anniversaries may not be precise for them (for example, they will know he will start school in September but will not know the date or details), but his birthday will always remain the same and be inextricably linked to them. We have not started Letterbox with his birth family yet and part of me wishes I could just let them know that he is happy and well. Not to rub it in their faces. Just to let them know that he is getting big and strong, that he is growing into a kind boy, that he is just a normal four-year-old.

 

Holiday!

We are fortunate enough to have not one but two holidays this year. The first was in May, when we travelled abroad with Little Chick for the first time. We are currently enjoying the second, in the UK. Aside from the locations, there are many differences. For example, I have found time to write on this holiday. Correction: I have made time to write on this holiday. I need to write, even if it is only scribbles that go in the bin minutes later. Often, I need that cathartic process of getting out the words, expelling them, then forgetting them.

This holiday has been more about self-care. I have been mindful that I need to feel happy safe and well to keep Little Chick happy, safe, and well. Yes, I want him to have a fab time and make memories, but I also need to enjoy it. And so does the Other Mrs Reed Warbler. And the rest of my family who are staying with us.

Our holiday abroad was, generally, a success. Though it was hard it has not stopped us considering future foreign holidays. Interestingly, Little Chick has said that he has enjoyed/is enjoying this holiday more. I think there are several reasons for that.

Whenever we go away – whether it’s for a night or a fortnight – we are careful to make it clear that it is a temporary abode. We always emphasise that we will be going back to Little Chick’s house – that we will be going home. This week Little Chick has voiced his desire for this to be his home. Again, I think there are a number of explanations: it is a gorgeous house, with lots of space and a flat, enclosed garden; it is near the seaside, his favourite place; it is filled with more people than usual, people that love him and want to spend time with him. This week I think Little Chick has begun to understand the concept of home as a feeling as well as a place. I think, because he cannot communicate this even if he is thinking this, that he is feeling happy, safe, and well and, above all, loved.

We are making the most of the heatwave and are spending as much time as possible outdoors. Living in a landlocked county, we all love the openness of the sea and Little Chick especially enjoys the freedom of frolicking on the beach and splashing in the sea. He is like a different child when he is in wide open spaces and I am thankful that we have so much outdoor space at home. But he truly comes alive at the seaside and his joy and giggles are contagious. Having the weather to truly enjoy it is a massive bonus. If we could guarantee the sunshine in the country, I would be happy to holiday here more often. The sun lifts my soul and, as I get older, I feel that I need those rays increasingly more. Good weather that lends itself to playing and eating outdoors for every meal is a little slice of heaven for all of us.

The Other Mrs Reed Warbler and I are more relaxed on this holiday. We still have a few issues to contend with, just by being away from home, but we also have more factors within our control. Little Chick has his own room and can maintain his own routine better. Noticeably, he is sleeping through so that both he and us are well rested each morning. We can control his meals and mealtimes more easily, making good use of the impressive kitchen facilities in our self-catering cottage. We have our car so that we can just nip out for an hour or two, if the mood takes us or Little Chick’s mood dictates it. We also have the benefit of lessons learned from our holiday in May, especially knowing what doesn’t work well. In many ways, it is a cheaper holiday (though I am always astounded how much you can easily spend) and I think that eases some of the pressure too. There is less resentment and/or disappointment if things don’t quite pan out. It is much easier to manage our expectations as well as Little Chick’s.

Our holiday isn’t over yet and there is plenty of time for things to go south, but for now I am enjoying it. I am thankful for the time with my family, thankful for the glorious weather, and thankful for the opportunities – those we have embraced and those we have let pass us by because we know that rest is just as important. This feels more like the family holidays of my childhood and those I imagined sharing with my children.

 

Transition days

We began the unofficial work of preparing Little Chick for the transition from nursery to school several weeks ago. Drip feeding information about the building, the uniform, the new opportunities. All this has been balanced against the reassurance that it might be strange and even scary at first, but it is somewhere he will be looked after. Like at home and at nursery, he will be happy, safe, and well.

Now the official transition has begun, with Little Chick enjoying two sessions in his new setting. Despite me setting him up for failure by being late on the first morning, overall, it’s been a success.

Home time on the first day prepared me for the next decade: when asking Little Chick what he had done today he replied “nothing”. Further probing failed to elicit any more details, but he did confirm that he had enjoyed his time at school. We walked home together, setting the precedent for our likely term time routine. During my preparation, I had found a more direct route that I hoped would be quicker: it was certainly shorter, but the new sights and sounds proved too much and the journey was long. Very long. Painfully long. I may need to rethink this come September.

The second session covered the school timetable from morning registration to the end of lunchtime, with parents and carers invited to share a meal with the children. This was a great opportunity to trial the food, see the school, and work out which parents you might like to befriend when term starts. After lunch, Little Chick’s class joined the other children on the playing field: it was a privilege to watch him play with his peers. He also palled up with a gang of Year 5 children, who happily followed him around and listened to his instructions. This was a stark contrast to nursery where he has often displayed shyness and been extremely reserved. Honestly, I was close to tears, but tried to play it cool.

School provided some information to help us for September and suggested some (optional) activities over the summer, to help with school readiness. We will see how we get on with these but won’t force anything. I can’t wait for him to start school as I think I will feel more involved than I have done with nursery. It will offer more opportunities and hopefully give me more chances to meet other parents and carers.

More importantly, Little Chick is excited for school. Long may it last.

End of nursery

In the fifteen months that Little Chick has attended nursery, it’s incredible to see how much progress he has made. There are no longer any concerns in any areas; he is meeting or suitably working towards all his expected targets. It’s gratifying to see his progress quantified in this way, but it’s not especially important. Or rather, it is the subtle differences the things that are hard to register and record that are more valuable in my eyes. I’ll try to give some examples of what I mean.

Table manners

When he first lived with us, Little Chick’s eating habits and table manners were poor. Partly, this was due to the inevitable regression caused by the emotional upheaval of leaving his safe person (his foster carer) and coming to us. Partly, this was due to his complicated relationship with food, which included eating lots, fast. Over time he has grown more comfortable with us and he has slowed down when eating, looking less like a competitive eater and more like a typical pre-schooler. He still needs to work on his cutlery skills (but he’s consistently competent). But his table manners are impeccable (well, they can be. He can also be a whirling dervish come mealtimes. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground). And we can’t even try to take any credit for this because he occasionally, but firmly, corrects us. When checking if we can all start or asking if we have all finished so he can be excused, he is showing a greater understanding of other people’s needs. Which leads me to my second point.

Empathy

He is much better at thinking of others. I realise that this is a natural progression with age, but the extent of his development has only been possible from the time spent with his peers. During drop offs and pickups, we have observed him consoling other children, usually with a gentle hug or reassuring peck on the cheek. With smaller boys he may affectionately ruffle their hair and this practice has extended to his younger cousin. He is generally well liked by his peers and, in part, I think this stems from his caring for others.

Confidence

People are often surprised when I say that Little Chick is extremely shy. His perceived confidence is either a result of faking it, to mask the fear, or borne of feeling comfortable with particular people in certain situations. At nursery, we can always tell which staff members he trusts and likes and those he still hasn’t measured up or knows less well. His behaviour with his key worker is joyous and boisterous. With the nursery manager, whom he spends less time, he is more cautious and reserved. When he feels comfortable (an alternative word here could be safe) he radiates confidence. He likes to try new things. Even if he knows he might not be able to do something he knows it is OK. Because of this he is liked at nursery and gets on with everyone. He gives everything a go with a smile on his face: what more could we ask for?

I appreciate that these do come under broader headings in the EYFS Curriculum, but they are grouped with other skills and targets and can be seen as less important than areas such as numeracy and literacy.
Probably the one area where he is showing slight delay, and especially when compared to his peers, is self-care, particularly toileting. But when I see how much progress he has made in just the past two months I’m confident he will be fine. I suspect there will be some regression when he starts school, but he is already in a better position than I imagined six months ago. He can afford to take a step (or two) backwards without it derailing the whole process.

His time at nursery has been invaluable – for him and for us. We will all miss it over the summer months. But I think we are all ready for school now. Crikey, I hope we are!