Yesterday I realised it’s not me. It’s not my fault. But best of all, it’s not HIS fault.
My son is 11. 11years 2months and 9days old, to be precise, because he would like that. Oliver was a beautiful happy, contented child. Just adorable. He giggled and smiled all the time. I only have memories of a mouth of gums smiling back at me with his eyes locked on to mine. It filled with joy when people said ‘He’s only got eyes for his mother’.
He arrived on his due date. Very precise. He slept through by 3 months, though it was completely led by him. He started blinking, rubbing his ears, and then a yawn would indicate to me he was tired. By the time I was halfway up the stairs he had nestled in my shoulder sucking his fingers. Was I smug? I don’t think so, because it was all so new, I knew no different.
And that was my downfall…I didn’t know any different. He was my first, but although he was happy, slept brilliantly, interacted, he was VERY demanding. Maybe I look back and think that, but he never sat still. I was told ‘That’s because he’s a boy, of course’. Of course! Boys can be demanding, and I can certainly attribute the first 12-18 months to that, but by 2years I kept wondering why is this such hard work? Small things like shoes, and clothes were an issue. He wouldn’t wear certain clothes; jeans, wooden jumpers, any layers. He would rather not wear a coat at all. But that’s normal I was told, and I think that can be true. He would only eat breakfast out of the same bowl. A small plastic bowl with the ants around the edge and the shallow monkey spoon. He only stopped at 10 and half because we moved house, and we had new crockery for everything. I discretely slipped the faded plastic bowl, and spoon into the loft.
But the main problem was physically getting out of the door. Sometimes it was impossible, but I certainly wasn’t going to be dictated to by a toddler. By then I had another baby girl to look after. On one occasion my friends were having a picnic just the other side of my house, with their children playing happily together nearby. He refused point blank and would throw shoes, take off clothes, scream, cry. I really wanted to get out, see my friends, and I know he would enjoy it…maybe…eventually?
I did…I forced him out. Every time. It fills me with guilt now. I marched him out the door, shoes on or not, to play dates, preschool, car trips. I mean not every time, because he wasn’t like that every time. Sometimes he cooperated brilliantly but that was always a surprise and it would totally confuse me. What was different about today?
What got to me was everybody said his behaviour was normal and their son, daughter, baby did that. Yes, but I wondered whether their child did all the tantrums together, ALL the time. The toast not cut in the right shape. Rectangles, not squares or triangles, The drink up to the line on the breaker. The same place at the table, same chair, same crockery, and nobody near his space. The same toy, and same t-shirt and trousers. I know, this doesn’t sound out of the ordinary, but he was very ‘ritualistic’ as my mother in law once put it. Then, in her next breath, ‘…his father was a bit like that’. Oh ok, and he’s turned out alright, so yeah, this is normal.
But did their children throw the shoes, throw the toast, cry, scream, jumping up and down in a fury that consumed his whole being. We called them ‘paddies’. Oliver was having a paddy. The same as a tantrum really, so quite normal.
By three and a half and at preschool, Oliver was obsessed with patterns, copied sentences from a poster on the wall, at a desk the other side of the room. He could do simple sums, he loved maths. Wow, what a clever boy. However, he did have his paddies. Somebody would interrupt his pattern, and take the hoop or spoil his pyramid of bricks. I joked with the preschool teacher…’ha ha…well, he’s probably a bit autistic!’. She didn’t joke when she looked me in the eye and said kindly, ‘well…actually…maybe it’s something you should think about, it occurred to me too’.
I don’t actually remember her exact words, but I remember her look, I remember where I was standing. I know there were people around me.
The bottom fell out of my world and I walked home crying my eyes out.
That was severn and a half years ago, and this is a diary of events that gripped our family.