“Back?”, he asks, tentatively.

This is a reasonable concern for all small children, but especially for one with Little Chick’s start in life.

Since the Other Mrs Reed Warbler returned to work after adoption leave, we have worked hard each day to make it clear that while we sometimes go away, we always come back. We are vague on times (we can be until his concept of time improves) and try not to show our own anxiety or frustration when someone is considerably later than expected.

As his confidence has grown, Little Chick has started saying ‘back’ more. Now though, it is not a question but a statement. As he leaves the room he cheerfully hollers ‘back’, trying to reassure us that he will return shortly. He is considering how he feels when others leave and applying this to others. This is major. (I don’t have the heart to say that I’m not worried because I know I will bring him back if necessary and my only concern is what he’s going to do, usually look for food outside meal times or find a quiet spot for a poo.)

‘Back’ represents development. It shows growing confidence, deepening attachment, and newly found empathy.


Lately, Little Chick has been physically lashing out. A lot. We are beginning to unpick the reasons why and understand that much of it has coincided with further changes in his life, notably disruptions to his sleep, caused by transitioning from a cot bed to a ‘big boy bed’, and the Other Mrs Reed Warbler returning to work. We try to empathise and appreciate that his behaviour is him trying to communicate. But it’s hard.

Being physically hurt several times daily is exhausting. And painful. I feel ridiculous when I articulate that a two-year-old has hurt me. I feel worse that I know it is because he is unable to regulate himself and I can’t always help. It becomes as emotionally draining as it does physically.

I understand that much of this behaviour is beyond his control and that he is hurting. I appreciate that punches, slaps, and kicks are a form of communication. I empathise. But I do not want to normalise this. Without shaming, I want him to feel remorse for his actions. I want him to know that it is unacceptable to hit, kick, or bite. We do not behave like that in our family.

I want him to say sorry.

Maybe this is unrealistic of me and my expectations are too high. But I feel that I need to try. If I model empathy and sympathy, then perhaps he can learn how others feel and regulate his own feelings better. Possibly he will want to say sorry and, in time, show sorry.

But sorry is such a loaded term. I know I overuse it – and have done for years – often because of low self-esteem. In my well-intentioned efforts to help Little Chick be more empathetic and emotionally intelligent, I don’t want to fill him with shame or guilt. Equally, I think he is owed far more apologies than he has needed to give so far and that taps into my own emotions.

Sometimes he will say sorry, in a flippant way that shows me he could be saying anything (probably a glimpse of his teenage years). But I can see that he is thinking. The word itself may not mean much to him right now but he is starting to think about feelings, his own and other people’s. I’m sorry too; sorry that I can’t make everything so much easier for him. But I will keep trying.