Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Best of the Little Things

A strange, disturbing and equally wondrous thing happened in our house yesterday.  My child was momentarily possessed by a demonic force hell bent upon chaos and destruction.  In fact, I’m fairly sure his head spun round a couple of times. I may have to start looking into holy water.  Alternately, there’s a teeny tiny chance that this was a tantrum.

And I frikin loved it. 

I loved the leg slamming, the infuriated ‘how DARE you’ face, the open mouthed anger wail.  The fact that this was all over a refusal to wear any trousers on a winter day.  I love the fact that if I had produced a pair of flimsy shorts and a sombrero he would’ve let me put them on him without question.  In fact, I just loved the fact that he was being an indignant little…….well, two year old.

You see, two year olds are irrational and troublesome little creatures.  They are easily angered and should be treated with caution at all times.  And that is what my little boy was doing.  Being two.

TWO.  Not another baby milestone that we should have hit over a year ago.  He was just being two.  He was telling me what he wanted.  He was demanding that I follow his rules, in his house.  He was telling me that I know jack about fashion and that these vile trousers from the only-use-when-haven’t-done-washing pile simply wouldn’t do AT ALL.  He was being a toddler.   And that takes us a little step closer to him being able to tell us what he wants, what he needs and how we can help him (most of the time, if it’s another fashion criticism he can forget it). 

This got me thinking about the little things.  The things that I thought were going to be terrible about parenthood.  Those niggly little things that you read about in books, or hear from exhausted parents.  The things that I was dreading with a two year old. And how, in fact, sometimes the worst of things turn out to be the best of things.

1) Mess:  

I admit it.  I have a minor touch of obsesiveness about mess.  I have to mentally categorise my house in order to accept the existence of strewn clothes or unstacked plates.  I have ‘mess zones’ and ‘tidy zones’.  Inside the cupboard – mess zone.  I can’t see it so I don’t care.  The porch – mess zone.  I had to strategically abandon this frontier area to save more populated rooms.  The bedroom….no. no. no. No mess here.  Don’t like unmade bed.  Don’t like clothes on floor.  Same goes for any part of the kitchen apart from the mess outpost that falls within the confines of the sink.  That started off as a tidy zone, but the gradual daily rebel uprising has proven hard to quash.  But…if you overload the bin so that food mess (Why ALWAYS yoghurt?) hits the kitchen floor, then prepare to feel the full force of my wrath.

Only here’s the thing about children.  They just don’t respect the zones.  They drag mess EVERYWHERE.  They have an inexplicable ability to be constantly covered in a sticky ectoplasm like substance that finds its way onto all surfaces.  They also have an unfathomable amount of stuff.  Plastic stuff that breeds and spawns new plastic stuff.  A plastic army worms its way into a room you aren’t expecting, guaranteeing that you will step on its smallest, sharpest edged soldier.

You don't wanna mess with this army....
So when I was pregnant, I was concerned about the mess explosion headed our way. I was ready for a food seeking, cupboard opening, toy obsessed toddler that would roam from room to room, smashing all items in its path like a sugar seeking Godzilla; dropping toys and crumbs in equal measure.

It didn’t happen. Instead I have a little boy with no independent mobility aside from rolling.  He won’t redecorate the walls with my lipstick, or re-design the carpet with finger paints.  Because he can’t.  Our mess is a different kind.  The kind that gets delivered by a rep from a mobility company who teaches you how to adjust your newest piece of offensively coloured equipment and hands you an allen key (which you toss into a bowl with the others whilst cursing the fact you didn’t do an engineering degree).

That was until now.  Little J has a new trick.  When being spoon-fed a bowl of non descript mush he has this telltale little look on his face.  A little smile, quickly hidden and a ‘oh yeah, just keep it coming’ mouth opening.  Only if you look closely, you will realise he isn’t swallowing.  Only you’ve looked too late.  There’s no stopping it now.  He then blows an enormous raspberry, splattering mush all over you and any surrounding surface. Then proceeds to laugh his little head off.  He is demonstrating anticipation, forward thinking and oral motor skills.  So who really cares that our white wall looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.  Pah…I’ll just declare it a mess zone.

2) Constant talking: 

'Mummy.  Mummy.  Mummy.  But mummy.  Why mummy? Why mummy?  Why? Why? Why does the bus have wheels? Why is water wet? Why does that man smell like cabbages?  What’s wine o’clock?'

This is what I expected.  And I admit, was slightly dreading from a toddler.  The inane nonstop talking.  The immense pressure of giving them the right answers and not royally screwing them up for life.  The moments when they get you with a question that you should know the answer to, but actually don’t have a clue about like, ‘where does lightening come from?’

Instead I got something else.  An awful heartbreaking silence.

The sound of a child who cannot speak.  Who cannot even babble.  Little J was getting there.  Last year he had transitioned from constant crying to a slight babble, there was a clear ‘dada’ there and emerging ‘mama’.  Then before Christmas he took a downward turn.  He began to have suspected seizures, up to fifty times a day.  And all of a sudden there was no babble, just crying.  His voice was gone.  Just gone. 

Now, a few months and a boat load of medications later, it is starting to come back.  The noise is becoming a constant feature in our house.  The strange babbly non sensical talk is free flowing.  And I love it.  LOVE IT.  I don’t ever want him to stop making noise.  Should it progress to words, which we pray it does, he can ask me every question there is and I will never object to the sound of his voice.  I even don’t mind his freaky whispered babble.  The one that he always seems to do when he is in bed at night and has scary lit up eyes over the video monitor.  The one that sounds a lot like Latin.  Um, yeah, I even like that one.  Really, it doesn’t freak me out at all.  (Though if it starts preceding the head spinning tantrums I may start asking some questions).

3)  Poo:  

Yep.  Poo.  I know, there’s no nicer way to put it, sorry.  I often try to think of another word when talking to doctors about the contents of Little Js nappy.  But I end up saying ‘bowel movement’ too slowly and it all becomes a bit weird.  I have learned that even the doctors say poo though.  Dr Ranj has a whole song….But, anyway, my point is that before I had Little J, I was deeply disturbed at the prospect of nappy duty.  I read how many they do in the early years with shock and disbelief. They produce HOW MANY?!? I seriously contemplated purchasing a face mask to help the process and then worried that my child would grow up with an irrational fear of surgeons.
At this point, I could never have imagined in a million years that a dirty nappy would elicit a ‘yeeeessss!’ from me…maybe even a high five.   I now have a very different perspective.  I have learned that the digestive system and low muscle tone don’t really get on very well.  Like many parents of medically complex children, we spend far too much time praying to the gods of poo, hoping that they will grace us with an offering today.  And when they do…well it’s high fives all round (& hand him to daddy immediately.)

4) General household destruction:  

‘So, what motivates him?’ Said the physio, whilst attempting to coax Little J into sitting from his position on the shiny padded mat. ‘Oh, that’s easy.’  I said, ‘electrical wires.’

The sudden passing of tumbleweeds suggested that she was looking for something like ‘toys’ or ‘food’.

But, you see, Little J has recently discovered the joy of danger seeking.  He is a nightmare.  If you are with him, he just hangs out nicely, does an occasional little roll about whilst watching Mr Tumble.  Step away for a millisecond and he develops the rolling ability of a military academy graduate, combined with the reflexes of a ninja.  He can spot, isolate and reach his target in record speed.  Think you can leave him safely near a small table with no sharp edges?  No no mummy, you will return to discover that I have added superhuman strength to my powers and I will mostly be found lying under it having lifted up one of the legs, which I am now inspecting for possible gingerbread man traces.

Worrying, yes.  Stress inducing, yes.  Completely awesome, definitely.

5) Defiance:  

This is one that I was dreading with a young child.  What if they just wouldn’t do what I wanted them to?  I hoped for an obedient little angel who would follow my every command with a loving smile.  Little J’s defiance is triggered by one key visual message.  Uniforms.  Specifically doctors uniforms.  Definitely physio uniforms, and if he gets so much of a whiff of antiseptic or spots a therapy bench, there’s no coming back.  Suddenly my child who has quite merrily spent the last two hours sitting and playing becomes completely floppy.  He lies on the floor practising his ‘death stare’ and refuses to engage a single muscle.   

Should a physio somehow manage to get him into a position and attempt to get him to reach out for something, the look of disdain usually heads in my direction.  Along with an anger babble.  A ‘How dare you allow this mother’.  An ‘I furiously object to this manhandling.  This lady has placed that toy clearly out of my reach.  I am fairly sure this breaches the Equalities Act.  You two need to start making some reasonable adjustments, starting with a warm bottle of Neocate.  Chop chop.’

It’s very frustrating.  It’s also an amazing reflection of will, and choice and everything that I so desperately want for him.  It shows his brain trying to win the war with his condition.  He won’t win the physio battle though.  Alright he might.  I’m pretty scared of the death stare.

I admit it, this may all just be a really sad reflection of the fact that our real ‘worst of things’ has been tougher than any of the things I ever considered about having a child.  

But those things aren’t my problem.  They belong to medical mummy.  She deals with hospitals; she holds him down for blood tests, says long words and reads the devastating letters.

Most of the time I’m day to day mummy.  The one that does cuddles and makes lunch (alright…and delivers a shed load of therapies, but we’ll ignore that).  But for this day to day mummy, it turns out that all the things she was worried about with a toddler turned out to be the best of things.

And if the worst of expectations turned out to be the best, then how amazing will the best of expectations be?

How will I feel when he learns to crawl?

How overcome with pride and happiness will I be to see him take his first steps?

How endless will the joy be when I first hear the precious word ‘mummy’?

...I think I’ll be the one who’s head starts spinning round.  And I hope it just keeps on spinning.


  1. Hi Sarah, I've really enjoyed reading your blog. Sounds like you are a great mum - i hope i do any where near as good job! Alice (leslie!)

    1. Thanks for such a lovely comment Alice & congrats on your impending arrival!

  2. What a beautiful blog...this post has just made me laugh and cry. I love the sound of defiant J. In awe as always. Lucy