Another ‘Snow Day’; the schools are closed and we are out of our routine. This is one of our less ‘normal’ days.
Everything’s a fight.
‘Toothbrush time, Freddie.’
When I persist he starts to thrash about and is in danger of hurting himself. I put my arm around him to hold him still, and he begins to pinch, harder and harder the more I ignore it. I give him my best ‘Mummy is not happy’ look; in return he looks me right in the eye abd pinches me with both hands at once. Eventually I get his teeth sort-of-brushed — he is rabid with toothpaste and my arm is bleeding.
He refuses to sit on the potty; instead he lies on the floor, limp and heavy like a dog that does not want to go walkies in the rain. I try in vain to persuade him to get up voluntarily. I give up and attempt to lift him: he squirms violently, twisting round to sink his teeth into my knee. In the end all I can do is hold him firmly but gently where he is until he calms down. Hugs and kisses follow, but by 11.00am I am exhausted.
Luckily Big Sister is at home too. She comes to sit with him and they share a bowl of homemade popcorn while I try to get some coursework done. She ‘weighs him down’ by placing a cushion on his knee with the bowl on top.
Then the phone rings. It’s Daddy — all his sites have been shut down because of the snow and so he’s finishing work early; he tells me to be ready in half-an-hour, he wants to use the opportunity to go and stock up on groceries because the weather is forecast to get worse.
How am I supposed to manage Freddie in the overstimulating environment of a supermarket in this mood? Perhaps the key lies in keeping him occupied, giving him something to concentrate on, Like Lucy did with the popcorn. But simply taking a toy for him to play with in the trolley presents its own problems; the temptation to throw it overboard, repeatedly, would be just too much for him. Since Daddy was coming too maybe they could go and ‘find’ things for me? But I could see that he would soon lose interest — unless he was actively engaged in the process, perhaps ‘spotting’ familiar products whose packaging he could recognise.
I hit on the idea of making him a small ‘visual’ shopping list, using lids, labels and box-tops, putting them all in a zip-lock bag, from which Daddy could invite him to choose items to go and find.
It works well for the first few items. But then, it seems, he decides he wants to be with Mummy and daddy together, and says ‘trolley’. We thread him and he sits nicely, begging kisses and saying ‘Mummy’s turn’, ‘Daddy’s turn’, and between us we push him around without incident. Until we get to the checkout.
It’s way too tempting, that big glass bottle of golden, gassy beer, sticking up, just within reach. Mummy and Daddy are distracted, putting things on the conveyor. He snatches it … and drops it over the side; it explodes on impact. A cleaner comes and begins rounding up scattered fragments.
‘Hmmm,’ says Freddie. ‘Smells nice’.