The check shirt

image

I blame Woody from Toy Story.

That fantastic film that captures the hearts and minds of children and adults alike has caused somewhat of a wardrobe malfunction in our house.

Because from the age of about 3.5 when Jonah first got into these films, all he will wear is a check shirt. (Trousers too, that would be too weird to just wear trousers.)

When it first happened I didn’t really get it and would wrestle him into a jumper or T-shirt only to cause him to have a huge tantrum.

Only when he was able to articulate more he could explain to me that he just preferred shirts.

This would cause disagreements at home. My mum couldn’t understand why I just let him wear his beloved checked shirts when we had a whole wardrobe of clothes for him.

But as someone who also loves clothes, on a very superficial level I thought, why not let him wear what he feels comfortable in. Or in his own words what he felt was smart.

But looking back at it, I think it may also be about him having
control over this one area of his life.

So I would say quite simply, pick your battles and don’t sweat the small stuff. And perhaps even go with it a bit.

The joy when I found check shirt pyjamas was something to behold. In fact we have check shirts for every season and anyway he looks good rockin’ the cowboy look.

Plus it could have been worse, he could have wanted to be Buzz Lightyear!

Chop-Chop Man

image

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.

The silent protest

image

Starting nursery school can be a bit traumatic for many children. Some cry, some refuse to go in, some have tantrums and some trot along happily. How your child reacts is in my opinion very little to do with you as a parent or even the actual nursery.

In Jonah’s case, he just didn’t want to go but was savvy enough to realise that this was non-negotiable. For 3 mornings a week, he was there come hell or high water. So what did he do? he only thing really in his power, he stopped talking.

This took me by complete surprise. He would talk at home, talk to his friends, talk to his toys but for half a term at nursery, he said nothing. I like to refer to this as his silent protest.

Luckily for us he went to a wonderful Montessori where the teachers work with the individual rather than lumping them all in the same age bracket and questioning why they are not hitting ‘targets’. His silent protest quickly passed but this was the start of discovering some of his other little quirks, like his best friends ‘the hands’.

‘The hands’ were in fact my own hands that Jonah likes to pretend were separate entities. Apparently this is quite common with toddlers but most like to play with adults’ feet. I know this sounds like a strange fetish but when you think of it, it sort of makes sense.

Toddlers spend most of the time playing on the floor and most of their eye line is at people’s legs and feet so it is not that surprising that they hone in on the feet. What apparently is more unusual is for them to react to people’s hands in the same way. So much so that when the area SENCO came for a visit, she was fascinated.

‘The hands’ would give Jonah hours of fun (and me slight repetitive strain injury). He could tell them to jump, do a silly dance, cry, tickle, be excited, laugh or pretty much anything else that I could make them act out. Looking back, I think it is all about control.

When you are 3 years old, the world surely seems pretty crazy. There are a million rules that for many children don’t come naturally. You can run and jump in some places but get told off if you do it in another environment, you can make loud noises sometimes but other times you are told to be quiet.

Your choices, if you have any are incredibly limited and you are made to do lots of things you simple don’t want to. While I believe the majority of children simply accept this, for others, like Jonah, life’s restrictions are suffocating and having some sort of control is imperative.

At the time of writing, Jonah is 5 and three quarters. ‘The hands’ are pretty much a distant memory, now replaced by various cuddly dogs that I make come alive.

For Jonah, I’m sure having this control is a real comfort. He is learning that no matter how much he shouts how many tantrums he has, he can’t control everyone. Teachers, his sister, family, friends – none of us will do things just because he says so, and quite frankly why should we?

But every morning when Jonah scampers into my bed for a cuddle
with a couple of his little cuddly dogs, I’m happy for him to be the master and to control his little ‘pets’ for him. We all want to have a voice and to be heard and for five minutes every morning, Jonah is the king of his castle.

Escape artist

Sleeping bag

 

Baby sleeping bags, otherwise known as grow bags seem to be de
rigour these days. Nothing quite so satisfying as snuggling your little one up in their weird duvet/dress combo ready for a night’s sleep.

When we had Evie, we seemed to acquire quite a few of these in
various shades of pink but they were hardwearing enough to still be in good shape when we had Jonah.

Now whether it was the pink that he objected to (surely a one-year old is not that sensitive) or perhaps it was the whole I’m in a weird duvet/dress, Jonah did not like these things. But we persevered because we were assured that they were the key to sleeping through the night.

Most of the flimsy ones with poppers at the top were just useless. After a sweaty struggle to get him in it, within a few angry flailings, he would be out again and we would have to repeat the same painful process (the pain was all ours) all over again.

But then I found one that I swear even Houdini would have had
issues getting out of. his one was industrial strength with a huge zipper at the front that required a two-man effort to do up. No silly poppers and there was literally no way anyone was getting out of that thing, or so we thought.

The 3am shouting started but we were determined to let him cry it out for a bit, he was safe in his grow bag in his cot, eventually he would just lie back down and go to sleep.

But we were wrong because what we heard next was a loud thud
and a sort of victory grunt. We ran in. here was Jonah in his vest and nappy on the floor mid tantrum and in the cot the grow bag, zip still done up. he boy had got out of it escapology style.

To this day I have never worked out how he did it. Did he manage to undo the zip, pull it off and do it back up to freak us out or was he that angry about being in it, he acquired superman type strength to get out of it? We will never know I guess but that was the night we decided no more cot, we will face whatever a toddler in a bed could throw at us.

Love or hate?

photo

 

Ok, so why this blog and why The Marmite Kid?

This is for my 5 year old son Jonah and also for his older sister Evie who may one day look back and understand why mum and dad were a bit cranky some days.

Jonah is affectionate, creative, sensitive, dynamic, energetic, bright and good fun. He is also a challenging little boy at times. He can be pushy, aggressive, quick tempered and not always focused, apart from with anything Lego related.

That first lovely year of starting reception has been without doubt one of our family’s most challenging times. But it has forced me and my husband Gordon to really look at ourselves and make us if not better people, at least people who are willing to learn and develop.

But it has also been an incredible eye opener and led me down some very interesting paths, questioning our education system and why some of the brightest kids simply can’t fit within it.

It has also been incredibly funny, in a ‘if I don’t laugh I will cry’ sort of way and perhaps this blog can help other families with their very own Marmite Kid.

Originally this was just going to be a blog about my son and family but the more I spoke to people the more I realized that there are lots of Marmite Kids out there, you know, you either love it or hate it.

When you have a difficult child, quite frankly it is easier to pry into other people’s lives as you are in no position to judge so others tend to open up to you.

Children, behaviour, education systems and parenting are without doubt hot topics of conversation. This is just my take on what it is like to parent a child that just won’t sit on that naughty step no matter what Super Nanny may say.