Snails

Little Chick loves puddles. The only thing he loves more than jumping in puddles is splashing then stomping on snails. At least that was true at the beginning of the week.

If there was a snail on our route the Other Mrs Reed Warbler or I had to distract Little Chick while the other moved it to safety. The crunch of their shells as he crashed his welly-booted foot onto them was music to his ears. It rang alarm bells in ours; we didn’t want to condone accidental cruelty and we absolutely would not be party to deliberate brutality.

Our initial pleas had absolutely no effect. If anything, he seemed more determined to defy us. Fortunately, a visit from Grandma provided timely intervention. She convinced Little Chick that it wasn’t a kind action and she expected better from her best boy. We use disappointment sparingly, but it was right in this situation. Little Chick takes pride in being kind – he sees how much it delights us – and the satisfaction of pleasing Grandma outweighed the feelings gained from stomping.

Within a few days he had stopped crushing snails completely, instead looking after them. He gently picks them up and lets them slide on his hand, giggling at the sensation and the trails they leave behind. If they look hungry or thirsty, he relocates them by luscious blades of grass or fills a saucer to create an insect watering hole, sometimes carrying them gently, other times transporting them in his dumper truck now exclusively available to his snail friends.

This has been an important lesson for Little Chick. He has learned to look after other creatures and respect nature, the first steps of stewardship. Additionally, he has learned to look at nature, to see the beauty in it. He will admire the snails’ shells now, tracing the swirls with his fingers then replicating that pattern in his drawings. Should a snail perish – from natural causes – he will collect the shell and place it with the others. A touch macabre perhaps but better and kinder than needless destruction.

It has also deepened his relationship with Grandma: she and snails are now synonymous, both eliciting joy from Little Chick.

This blog post is dedicated to all the snails who perished under Little Chick’s boot. May they rest in peace.

Thank you

My parents always impressed on me the importance of manners. As an adult I am still complimented on being polite, which is strange because 1) I am not a child and 2) I expect everyone to be well mannered so that the exception should be remarkable. The latter point led me to think not just about manners and their apparent decline but my expectations of other people. These ideas meshed as I considered the expectations I generally place on Little Chick and specifically the expectation to be polite.

When Little Chick first moved in, I was careful to not ‘correct’ him if he forget a please or thank you. His speech was limited and forcing language seemed unnecessary. Forcing him to thank me – for anything – when his whole world had been turned upside felt cruel. As he has grown more confident in us and in his speech, I have started adding please to requests and thank you when these are fulfilled. I’m not entirely comfortable with this, but perhaps I am overanalysing (not for the first time) and I should treat him like a typical toddler. Typically, I would encourage manners, knowing that they are learning the words and will understand and, hopefully, embrace the meaning later.

This week Little Chick has started saying thank you more readily and with little or no prompting.

Possibly this is prompted by encouragement from nursery staff. Or because he is settling more at home. For once I’m not going to overthink it. I will just enjoy hearing those two wee words and remember how thankful I am for Little Chick.

Seaside

Waiting to be matched, we took the opportunity to have one last holiday, a final foreign fling. It turned out that waiting took longer than we expected or hoped and that we like travelling more than we realised. One last holiday became several, taking in various holiday hotspots across Europe, including the Canaries, multiple city breaks, and Greek Islands. Heeding the warnings that we may never holiday abroad again – and certainly not in the same way – we made the most of our time as a couple, enjoying lazy days by the pool, exploring art and culture, and eating and drinking whatever we fancied whenever we fancied.

Since Little Chick has been with us, I haven’t missed many of the things from my ‘old’ life. I certainly watch far less TV and while I miss the shared conversation about last night’s viewing it’s no great loss. I can opt for quality over quantity and in the golden age of TV there’s plenty to choose from. But when we booked our family holiday – probably our only break of the year – I knew that my life had irrevocably changed. Four nights at Butlin’s in Skegness had never featured on my travel wishlist.

But our break has been brilliant, and this has genuinely been one of our best holidays. As our first ever family holiday there is a danger that I am viewing it through rose tinted glasses, but we all enjoyed it and, so far, there has been little fallout upon our return.

We were blessed with glorious sunshine for most of the week. I have always argued that I would happily holiday more in the UK if the weather was better and this week was testament to that. Butlin’s mid-week mid-term is good value (booked in advance, using discounts, and opting for self-catering): it is also quiet. Having the run of the resort and being able to enjoy everything it had to offer was incredible, though likely unrepeatable.

We were able to spend however long Little Chick wanted on each attraction, allowing him to try every ride and every piece of play equipment. Little Chick loves playing in water and the outdoor fountains kept him entertained for hours. If we hadn’t insisted, he was getting cold he would still be there, laughing loudly, and sidling up alongside the bigger boys, joining their gangs. Water, sunshine, a fairground, new friends, and ice cream – who could ask for more?

We ventured into Skeg itself: I’m a sucker for a British seaside resort. We needn’t have bothered. Skegness was pleasant enough, but, apart from high street shops, Butlin’s met all our needs. It’s private beach was better than the main one in the resort (cleaner, more secluded, and more convenient) and was the highlight for us all.

Watching the Other Mrs Reed Warbler and Little Chick run playfully in the shallow waves made me cry with happiness. I may not have the hormones associated with childbirth but becoming a mum has completely heightened my emotions, both good and bad. Hearing him giggle as we pretended to miss the ball and land face first on the sand was simply gorgeous. Alternating licks as we shared ice creams and watched the gulls, 99s have never tasted so good.

It probably helped that the holiday began and ended with visits to Granny and Grandad’s house, depositing and collecting the dogs from their own mini break. We had worried that it could all be too much, but breaking the journey into several legs helped keep us all sane and seeing Granny and Grandad helped further those relationships. Little and often has been key: two more meetings in quick succession has helped enormously.

Overall, our first holiday was a success. We kept things low key, maintained routines where we could (food, bathing, sleep), and tried not to overanalyse everything Little Chick said and did. We were aware that it might be tough, but we didn’t look for problems, making us all more relaxed. We were blessed with good weather and learned lessons for the future (book a ground floor apartment; the disco is great in theory but disastrous in practice; and don’t rely on the onsite shop for topping up groceries). Butlin’s was our holiday house (clearly distinguished from our home) for five days: it has given us hope that we can enjoy more family holidays together in the future.

Altogether now…

“Oh, I do like to be
beside the seaside
Oh, I do like to be
beside the sea…”

Mama

Mama is back at work: adoption leave is officially over. It’s all change for everybody.

Little Chick needs to adjust to seeing Mama less and spending more 1:1 time with me. He needs to believe that we are still a family unit of three, that she will keep coming home.

The Other Mrs Reed Warbler must return to a job she loves and excels at knowing that she is different. As well as respected colleague, she is Mama now.

I need to up my game. I need to do everything Mama was doing (during working hours), most of which I never noticed or acknowledged.

This is the point when I feel like everything might implode.

The keeping in touch days have given us all an opportunity to adjust to this new normal, with an overnight trip proving valuable. The Other Mrs Reed Warbler was able to enjoy adult company and be reminded of her skills beyond the home. I saw that I can look after Little Chick alone for 36 hours without too many tears (from him or me). Little Chick saw that Mama might go away but she always comes back. And she will always leave him with someone safe (in this case, me).

To help convince Little Chick that Mama will be coming back she has given him something precious. She has made it clear that it is treasured and that only someone special, someone she loves, can look after it until she returns. She has given Little Chick her cuddly Wonder Woman.

Originally a gift from me (back in the days when we exchanged cutesy love tokens), Wonder Woman will watch over Little Chick in Mama’s absence. She covers it in kisses and cuddles it each morning, ready to reassure Little Chick if needed. Although he can say Wonder Woman, he has renamed her Little Mama.

We will do more to reinforce their relationship and attachment (for example, bathtime will remain Mama and Little Chick’s exclusive fun), but this is the first step towards reassuring him that we are both his safe places and we will look after him always.

The next step is to cherish the time we have with her, as both Mama and as the Other Mrs Reed Warbler. After just one week at the coal face, she is taking a week’s annual leave. We’re undecided if this oversight will be a genius move – giving her a chance to better prepare physically and mentally knowing exactly what awaits her and is expected of her – or a foolish error that will undo our progress. For now, Little Chick and I look forward to seeing Mama return each day and spending as much time with her as possible.


Edit (September 2018): At the time and for the weeks that immediately followed, the Other Mrs Reed Warbler’s annual leave felt like a positive move. We all enjoyed the holiday and she returned to work refreshed and excited. Later, we wondered if the stop-start nature of it had caught her cold, contributing to it being even more difficult for her. There were two issues here: the pressures of work and being the sole earner and missing us and feeling like she was missing out. Both were expected and understandable. They were also overwhelming at times. We underestimated how much the Other Mrs Reed Warbler’s return to work would affect all of us; with hindsight, we would have prepared differently and asked for more help sooner.

When she feels able to, the Other Mrs Reed Warbler has kindly agreed to share her experience of this, in the hope that it may help other adopters.