I’ve just Googled ‘How to stop a toddler running off’. It’s giving me very sensible advice about how to keep your child safe and how “Most of the time, if you don’t yell or run after him, he’ll stop on his own, turn around to see your reaction, and run back to you when he sees you’re not coming after him.”
That has NEVER happened with my son. EVER.
I’ve seen my husband sprinting like an Olympic athlete to try and pull him out of the road and pretty much tried every trick in the book including using my belt to physically tie him into the pushchair – don’t judge me on that one.
So on a family holiday to Italy, I knew that I would need to get inventive in order to keep him alive. For the first few days we took turns being on Jonah alert, basically making sure we were in tip top condition to bolt after him at any given moment. But it wasn’t just about him running off, there was also the issue of being destructive pretty much everywhere we went.
So we had one child, Jonah, who really shouldn’t set foot in any of those pretty tourist shops stuffed with delicate things that children love to touch, and another, Evie, who was desperate to buy a souvenir.
So what’s a mum to do? In my case it was inventing ‘Chop-Chop Man’. This was sort of real as in the front of one shop was a whole suit of armour with a full size axe, perfect for capturing small unruly boys.
Of course when I returned home from holiday and told my friends they all shrieked with laughter and said how cruel I was. But it worked, it worked, he was so freaked out that for once he stopped running off.
But what I didn’t realise was that it was the start of a whole host of things that scare him, which multiplied when starting school. The irrational fears could spring up anywhere and at anytime.
One summer he loved a talking tree at an amusement park but by the winter it made him tremble with fear and a refusal to enter the park. This was tricky as we had promised Evie we were going. So we had to circumnavigate the park to find another entrance and then run like lightening past anything that slightly resembled a tree.
Then there was Panto. A lovely experience for any child and especially for Jonah who went to see Snow White with his whole school and his sister, Evie, who was performing as one of the dwarves.
Knowing Jonah could get quite freaked out I went to see Evie perform the first time and took a mental note of everything that could possibly scare him. The witch, the dame (strange man dressed up as a woman) or perhaps the loud music. But no, none of these things bothered him as much as the ‘dummy’ (mannequin) on stage. Why a dummy, who knows but try shopping with a child who doesn’t like dummies – they are everywhere!
So now when I see children having a tantrum, I don’t assume they are being naughty. Jonah often has a tantrum because he has seen a dummy or talking tree or something else that has caused him to have an irrational fear. With growing self-esteem and confidence, these fears are gradually disappearing, but it’s taking time.
In hindsight, perhaps Chop-Chop Man was not my finest moment but sometimes needs must and we did what we set out to do in Italy, keep Jonah alive, oh and have a holiday too.