While he may tell the occasional white lie, Little Chick is generally very honest, especially when asked something outright. He won’t deny his mistakes or wrongdoing – he owns them. I admire this quality in him, and I hope it is one he maintains into adulthood.
When the Other Mrs Reed Warbler came home from work she asked him what he had done today, expecting a reply of playing in the garden, using the Kindle, going for a walk, or any of the other stock answers he gives based on our regular daily activities. “Hurt Mummy”, he replied. The Other Mrs Reed Warbler was surprised by the candidness but not the answer itself. Little Chick’s aggression and violence has increased dramatically and is now a daily occurrence. It generally begins around 2pm, when he begins to feel tired and in need of a nap. During the holidays we are happy for him to nap if that’s what his body needs, knowing we can adjust this pattern before school starts. But he fights it. Boy, does he fight it. And it’s not always clear if he is in control or not. At times, his little body is just a shaking ball of rage. These outbursts can last up to two hours, ebbing and flowing with punches, kicks, and hair pulls. Then they subside, often as quickly and as unexpectedly as they began.
The real outbursts come at night. As much as Little Chick is fighting us, he is also fighting sleep. Now, this is a boy who loves his bed, has always slept a minimum of 11 solid hours, and thrives on routine. So even just a few nights of eight hours sleep can greatly unsettle him. More than a fortnight of less than six hours is taking its toll on the whole household. The Other Mrs Reed Warbler is struggling most. Little Chick and I can lay in and catch up on sleep. It doesn’t help the routine but it just about maintains sanity. The Other Mrs Reed Warbler doesn’t have that luxury as she maintains her work schedule.
At night everything is heightened. We are conscious that our neighbours, working during the daytime, are home and trying to relax and rest. The cacophony seeping through the party walls must disturb them. This causes us embarrassment: worrying that they think we are hurting Little Chick and humiliation that he is the real aggressor. We try not to let this bother us, but it does, and the additional anxiety increases the tension in our home. At night we expect him to sleep. Being overtired and desperate for bed ourselves, we find it much harder to parent therapeutically, but keep trying all the same.
When we mention it to other parents, they reply, “Oh, all children do that”. Really? All children beat their parents, gouge their eyes, bite them? Certainly, there seems to be a whole cohort of four-year-olds who will soon start school who are acting out and showing more aggression than usual. But this seems more than that. This is full on and is becoming the norm. I don’t want that. For us or Little Chick.
As I pull him close, feed him milk with his baby bottle, I remember that I am parenting two children simultaneously. The four-year-old who “Hurt Mummy”, who is dysregulated, who is hurting. And the eighteen-month-old who is still finding his place in the family, who craves our full attention, who loves us deeply. Reconciling the two is tricky, but not impossible. I just need to find a better way of keeping them both happy, safe, and well.