Next month I will be travelling abroad and leaving Little Chick alone with the Other Mrs Reed Warbler for over a week. It’s not something we would have planned this early into ‘placement’, but, when the trip was initially planned, we expected to have been parents for much longer than we have been. Having agreed after much discussion that the trip should go ahead, we planned in a weekend of just Little Chick and Mama time so we could all get used to it.

I booked in a weekend with my best friend and travel companion so that we could finalise plans for our trip and enjoy a catch up. My wife made a list of things she and Little Chick could see and do. Everything was set for a great break.

8pm on the Friday evening, having only been with my friend for a few hours, I received a garbled message on my mobile. All I could decipher was ‘X-ray’, ‘hospital’, and ‘blood’. Never have I needed a message to be clearer. I cursed the mobile reception gods for choosing that moment to just give up.

It was several hours before I was in full possession of the facts. Those hours seemed endless. I’ve waited for news before, but never about Little Chick while away from him. My mind went into overdrive fearing the worst. I feared my tiny cuddle that morning (keeping things low key so as not to unsettle him) would have been my last. My phone kept receiving answerphone messages without alerting me to incoming calls. The messages continued to be broken by interference, enabling me to only pick out a few key words. This only added to the frustration and anxiety. Adding further to the confusion, the messages received were arriving chronologically out of order.

Finally, just shy of midnight, I stood outside in my pyjamas and spoke with my wife. She sounded broken and my heart sank. But it was simply a combination of tiredness and guilt.

She and Little Chick had been in his room saying goodnight. I’m usually the giddy one and she had tried to fill this void. They both enjoyed frolicking and being silly; unfortunately, neither she nor Little Chick realised he had misjudged a bounce until his front teeth came into full contact with his wooden bedstead. He screamed for five full minutes, blood pouring from his mouth, before he could be soothed, but the Other Mrs Reed Warbler quickly bundled him into the car collected a friend (who’s fortunately also a neighbour) and headed to A&E. They were seen relatively quickly and there was no permanent damage. But they were both badly shaken.

As my wife recounted the sequence of events, I reassured her that it was an accident, that it could have happened any time, and it was much better she were there. I don’t drive so that would have made things trickier and resolution slower. It was deeply unfortunate that it happened only a few hours in to her solo parenting stint but was no reflection on her abilities.

Edit: Months on, Little Chick still shows visitors the teeth marks left on his bed frame. The Other Mrs Reed Warbler visibly recoils, but we have put a positive spin on it. It’s a reminder of all the fun we have, the importance of listening to instructions and warnings, and that Mama will always keep him safe.

We have learned to leave better, more concise, though more detailed messages. The risk of repeating ourselves outweighs the worry of the other being confused, panicked, and fearing the worst.

Our biggest fear was that ‘hospital’ would become a scary, foreboding place; especially problematic since we attend regular appointments with the eye clinic. We have worked hard to show Little Chick that planned appointments are good: the lady helps him see better, he gets to play with new children in the waiting room, and we normally go somewhere fun on the way home. When we announced his next hospital appointment, we half expected backlash. Instead, he smiled, saying ‘see better’ and ‘toys’. Optimistically, he even asked ‘Donald’s?’, hoping to be treated to a burger on the way home.

No, thank you

Little Chick has, unwittingly, devised a genius plan to not do anything but not get in trouble for not doing it.

Each and every request is now met with a very cheerful “no, thank you”. The sing song phrase is concise, polite, and frankly delightful. But it’s infuriating. Obviously, the nub of the problem is that we’re asking him to do something rather than telling him to do something. I have always chosen my words carefully, selecting the most appropriate phrase or term for the occasion, but I never come more unstuck than when communicating with Little Chick. Previously, I have communicated with many young children but never for so long, so often, or covering so many varied topics (though many tend to be questions about specific episodes of children’s TV programmes and the minute details contained within).

Every time Little Chick replies “no, thank you” it is a reminder of how well he is doing and how hard he is trying. His language is developing and his communication is ever improving. And it’s a reminder that I need to think more carefully about my word and syntax choice before I correct his. I need to model it better.


Little Chick seems to have the most candid conversations with Grandma. He cherishes the 1:1 time and insists that each visit incorporates a walk, ideally just the two of them (well, three if you include the dog). On their last excursion Grandma managed to gain this nugget of information, which she helpfully passed onto us.

“What makes you happy, Little Chick?”
“Full tummy and getting bigger.”

As far as we know, Little Chick has never gone hungry, quite the reverse. However, he does have a complicated relationship with food. Already I can see that he comfort eats when he is uncertain and in unfamiliar circumstances. Knowing this, I am not surprised that a full tummy brings happiness. Though we are still working on his understanding of what full feels like (but he is demonstrating clear progress from when we first met him).

Getting bigger is very important to Little Chick at the moment. He’s younger than most of his classmates at nursery and short for his age so some do tower over him. Neither myself nor my wife are tall, nor do we come from tall families, so he never seems out of place at home. But when he spends time with his cousins, most of whom are several years older, I can sense the frustration that he can’t run as fast, climb as high, or perform as acrobatically as them. His cousins have been amazing and have welcomed him with open arms. We really could not have hoped for more. But the more he sees of them the more he looks up to them and sees that they are bigger than him. Only one cousin is younger and smaller than him (though he’s catching up in height) and I think this reassures him. You can see that he enjoys being bigger, the biggest even.

It made me happy that Little Chick was content with things that we can provide. That we are meeting his needs. That we are good enough. We will strive to ensure this continues as he gets bigger.