I’m sat in a coffee shop early on Thursday morning writing this so really it should be called ‘Notes from a coffee shop’ rather than notes from the kitchen table. I’m here rather than at home as Henry has a vision therapy appointment a little later and there’s not much time to go home and back in between. I have to say I don’t really mind, a cup of decafe coffee (they don’t do decafe tea??) and a custard pastry on my own with no children is a little luxury especially as I’ve been stuck at home due to the ice on the lane and having a beautiful, but useless in these conditions, Mini.
I just had a quick chat with Henry’s teacher as I had to arrange when to pick him up for the appointment. She told me that although he does find writing hard, which I do know due to his eyes, he really tries. Now this is something that makes my heart burst because we’ve been trying to get Ollie (our eldest who has the same problems with his eyes) to face up to things he finds hard, not to be scared when there’s a chance of failing with mixed results. (Having a go at the ‘cello he’s fine but get him to write a story and there’s your problem…) We found out about Ollie’s eye problems much later than we did with Henry and we’re really wanting Henry not to get to the stage that Oliver did where he wouldn’t write, wouldn’t try and would fall apart.
Henry is my fiery child, my ball of anger and passion. He’s the one who literally explodes and I’ve written quite a lot about this in the past, about how I find this difficult –especially when he shouts he hates me and tries to kick and punch me. He’s big for his age (people often mistake him for a couple of years older than he is) and because of this he’s very strong and he began to hurt me and not just mentally. When he’s calm he’s the most wonderfully thoughtful and amazing chap though. He’s the one I would take shopping for something for me. He picked out a lovely dress once and then found me a scarf to go with it. He did this whilst his brothers were diving in and out of the clothes rail and laughing at the knickers. He would normally be distracted by anything ‘knickerish’ but that day, looking for something for his mummy became more important. When I wear ‘his’ scarf as he calls it he remembers, he comments, he shows he’s still very thoughtful.
Henry likes to be about and about. He’s not great when he’s tired or hungry and cooping him up in the house with nothing constructive to do brings out the ‘thug’ side of him. He is a real candidate for the saying ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’ as he’s been known to trip his little brother up, smash his older brother’s model and other such aggression and when you ask him why he just says ‘I don’t know…’ like we’ll say ‘oh okay then, never mind.’ We don’t say this and he gets stressed and we get stressed and things escalate…
Having said all that there is progress and I wanted to write this update to let you know that there is progress as after a couple of my blogs about Henry I had lots of emails and messages from worried Mums who were going through the same thing and also looking for the same answers. Writing this update may give a little light at the end of the tunnel to say that for us anyway, things are getting better.
How are they getting better? What did we do? What was the magic answer? I would love to sit here and say that we did a certain thing and that cured it all but I know that it was a mixture of things.
Henry wants to be a good boy. Under all the aggression, stress, crying and lashing out Henry actually likes people and company and fun and friends. He doesn’t want to get angry and enjoys being with people. This is something that I had to remember whenever he was upset. That this was his emotions, his passion that was making him act the way he was not that he actually enjoyed it and I know this from the many cuddles I had with a sobbing Henry afterwards were he said ‘I’m sorry for being horrible Mummy’ he wanted to be less stressed. I also loved the way he would build a model for me and put it in my bathroom quietly and the next day or so he would ask if I’d seen it. When I said I had he was pleased and told me that he’d made it for me to say sorry. I had a fabulous collection of these models and I left them there for ages.
Henry can also take on board chats about how we talk to people, what we do when we’re angry and he has a couple of things that he knows he can go and do when he feels things are getting too much. He goes to his bedroom to calm down and then comes back downstairs when he has. He tells people how he feels now and tries very hard to do this before he gets the ‘red mist’. Now this doesn’t always work but we are on hand to show him when it has with ‘Well done Henry I can see that you were getting upset but telling Ollie about it means Ollie can help you’ We vocalise his actions so he can see that his words do have consequence. Now this doesn’t always work as we are still at the very beginning but it has worked so we’ll keep on doing it.
We now make a consertive effort to let Henry choose activities that we plan or things that we do. We’d forgotten about Henry’s need for autonomy in a family of 3 as previously we’d plan ‘for the baby’ or something would be ‘for Ollie as he’s always tagging around for the 2 littlies’. We’d forgotten that Henry, although only 19 months apart from Tobes (the youngest) still needed to be counted in his opinions. This weekend Hubbie is playing a Warhammer game with Ollie and this can last up to 2 hours so he asked Henry what he would like to do with daddy to have some daddy time and Henry said he’d like to watch a bit of the game (be with the big boys) and then have a Playmobil battle just with Hubbie (have daddy to himself for a bit) he’s happy with this. He knows the plan and he knows he’ll get some daddy time too. Tobes chose to do some drawing with daddy so it’s now just a case of letting them know when all these plans are going to happen.
So our angry boy is slowly getting better through a mixture of developmental maturity, ideas we’ve come up with and an inner want to get on with people. I know that some parental books say there is a surge of testosterone and I’m reading another book that insists that all angry boys are emotionally stunted (our boy isn’t at all, he just can’t control the explosion in him. He’s always been very emotionally literate when he’s calm) and I’m not too sure of either of those points of view. For me Henry wants to be calm and ‘good’ and speaking to his teacher this morning he’s really managing to do this more and more at school. She recognises that his eyes are still a problem and even after these vision therapy sessions have finished he’ll need more as he’s incredibly young to have them, he’s ‘lucky’ that his older brother has the same issue so we could recognise it very early. But she says that he wants to write, I’ve found that the he tries to write too and he leaves me little notes around the house that he’s written but the best thing she said this morning was that he has other talents that need to be recognised, she said that his knowledge of the world is really quite remarkable so I know that when those eyes work properly he’ll have so much to write about it really won’t be a problem!
I’ve learned and are still learning that all my boys are totally different and parenting them in the same way using the same book or parental trend just wouldn’t work for us. Ollie is placid but unconfident, Henry is fiery but silently taking it all in and Tobes is the power house of the children in that he can read a bit but says ‘I don’t want to show them’ when it comes to nursery so he’s going to get my thinking cap back on again when it’s time for him to be sitting and writing at school! They are all different and need totally different approaches which keeps both Hubbie and I on our toes constantly but it’s fun and I’m learning on the job all day every day. I have we found that the most important things Hubbie and I need to do is listen to our boys, look at their behaviour and then talk about what we as parents and a family are going to do to make things better. Singing from the same hymn sheet is the key and every new behaviour the boys throw at us means another chat at the kitchen table over a cup of tea talking about how we’re going to approach this new situation!
We don’t always get it right but we try and we have let the boys into the biggest secret of the parenting world; that we aren’t perfect and don’t know all the answers!
But I’m still very proud of my angry child and how he is trying and do you know what? I think he’ll be just fine…