What are little boys made of?
‘There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad, she was HORRID.’
My younger son has always been like the little girl in the nursery rhyme. Even by pre-school standards, he is volatile. While my elder son is engrossed in his lego and deaf to all human interaction, the younger will be flinging his arms around my neck, telling me I am the bestest mummy in the whole world and daddy is the bestest daddy in the whole world and he loves everyone in the whole world because we are all so lovely and scrummy. (So that means you too!) He smothers my face in kisses, and at mealtimes he will lean his head on his hand and look at me with soft eyes and say, ‘Mummy, you look absolutely lovely today.’ Works every time. But oh, my goodness, his bad moods are a force of nature.
I had a session with a cranio-sacral therapist yesterday in an attempt to address the tedious chronic pain and cognitive difficulties caused by that head injury a couple of months ago. Despite the fact that she was gentle and professional and seemed barely to do more than hold my head in her hands, I feel today as if I’ve been in a wrestling match. At least, I’ve never actually done any wrestling (I know that this may come as a surprise to you) but I imagine that this is what it would feel like the next day. Everything is aching or tender and my thumping head seems to be hanging on by a thread. Dear husband took a long look at me at lunchtime and announced that he would fetch the boys from school this afternoon. What a honey. So I have spent the afternoon lying on the sofa under a blanket, indulging in two entirely un-achieving hours of perfect silence.
All changes in the instant that the boys get home from school. I hear younger son before the front door has even opened. ‘But DADDY I just SAID that I’m too TIRED to walk myself so I need a CARRY!’ he is roaring. He has been playing at his best friend’s house: clearly it has been a long day. Elder son comes in quietly and says, ‘Hello, Mummy.’ Younger son burst through and spots me on the sofa. ‘But MUMMY I just SAID I need to lie down on the SOFA so GET OFF now it’s not FAIR!’ He stands in front of me, tearful and furious and red in the face. Hello my darlings… Elder son drifts off to do ‘stuff’ by himself. A long cuddle with younger son and a chat about the day only seems to make things worse. When I ask what he had for lunch at his friend’s house, he insists that her mum forgot to feed them. I know that this is nonsense. I know that he will have had a better and bigger lunch at friend’s house than he’d ever get at home. But he works himself into a frenzy of indignation at his poor starved state, culminating in a full-on screaming, foot-stamping tantrum (amazing – they really do stamp their feet) in which he curses his parents and his brother and all the horrible, nasty, not-kind people who have been neglecting him and who are now trying to persuade him into the kitchen to eat the tea which Daddy has put out. I know that he is four, that he is very tired and that he is coming down from the high of playing with his friend. I also know, guiltily, that his mother has been somewhat lacking in the parenting department since her accident. But he really is being utterly poisonous.
By this time, I am almost ready to rouse myself from my torpor and come and give him what for. Should I drag him into the pantry for time out? Is it time just to shout louder than he is shouting? (See what reserves of constructive parenting I have.) But before I can start, I hear a soft, kind voice from the kitchen. My elder son has left his book and is coaxing the little one along, holding his hand, leading him gently down the steps into the kitchen, deflating his temper with gentle words and light humour. I watch in humbled astonishment. Often, when the elder boy is being particularly obtuse, I have observed that he is entirely his father’s son. Now I see it again. How fortunate am I and the little one – the two ‘girls with curls’ – that the ‘other’ side of our family have such reserves of patience and gentleness. They are, in the truest sense, gentlemen.
See also: Obviously, I’d never do this