When I arrive to pick Noah up from kindergarten, he cries “Mummy!” in a delighted tone, then runs up and hurls himself into my arms. Sadly, that is where the sweetness ends. He swiftly transforms into his alter ego, the Demon Child.
Adventure 1 – The toilet
Noah steadfastly refuses to go to the toilet whilst at kindergarten. We have tried everything – star charts, bribery – but it is now nine months since he gave up nappies and we have accepted the fact that it’s never going to happen. He goes to the toilet right before we leave home at 8.30am and then holds tight until I arrive to pick him up at 12. Needless to say, the first thing I do when I get there is take him to the toilet.
Without fail, when we walk into the toilet, Noah stands at the light switch flicking it on off on off on off… until I manage to get myself between him and the wall. He then spins on his heels and locks himself in the toilet. But it’s okay! These are kindergarten toilets: they are easily opened from the outside when locked. I then kneel on the floor (this toilet is for the older children and they have only just arrived therefore the floor is still clean) and attempt to pull his trousers down. Tricky. His counter attack for this is to drape himself over my head. He is so heavy and so strong now, that I am either sent flying backwards or crushed forwards into child’s pose. Using all of my core stability, I manoeuvre him on to the toilet. He wriggles and protests, shouting for help, claiming that I am putting him down the toilet. But still, the child is dying to do a wee so, eventually, he gets on with it.
Every single day I endure this charade. Every single day there seems nothing I can do to make it any easier. This week there has been an addition to the fiasco of taking Noah to the toilet at kindergarten: before draping himself over my head, he licks the side of my face. Dis. Gus. Ting.
Adventure 2 – Getting his shoes and coat on
Whilst I am washing my hands (and now my face), Noah darts out of the toilets and usually disappears. There are three options where he could be:
- He has gone into the room next to the toilets where the bigger kids go. He is usually expelled from this room quite quickly by one of the staff. Some days he is particularly persistent, in which case they will close the door on him. He sits by the door calling “knock, knock” until he gets bored
- He has hightailed it back upstairs to the kindergarten rooms. I hate this. These stairs are dangerous and he is distracted by the thrill of the chase (i.e. me standing at the bottom of the stairs telling him to get back down immediately)
- He has climbed into one of the alcoves where the children leave their bags. One day this week, he was doing just this when a member of staff came out and saw him. She had a right go at him. Neither of us knew what she was saying because she was speaking in German, but we couldn’t have failed to get the gist. Noah immediately extracted himself from the alcove. His lip quivered. “I’m allowed to do it at my house,” he said quietly. Of course he isn’t. We don’t have any alcoves for bags at our house so I don’t really know what he was talking about. Unless he was talking about when he climbs into a cupboard or a drawer…
Once I have retrieved him from his chosen hiding place, I face the battle of getting his shoes and coat on. In the past, I have had to struggle with him lying on the floor kicking his legs or rolling over and over. Or, if one of his friends are around, he might go and make a nuisance of himself getting in the way of them putting their own coats and shoes on. But this is now a thing of the past. Getting Noah’s shoes and coat on has suddenly become much easier thanks to a genius idea I had a couple of weeks ago: I now bring Noah one of his mini chocolate Easter eggs. Whilst he is focused on unwrapping it and putting it in his mouth, he is momentarily distracted from being the Demon Child and submits to getting dressed.
Adventure 3 – Scooting Home
We have a good system in place for scooting home. This system is based on trust: when I call “STOP!” Noah must stop immediately. Unfortunately, you cannot trust a three year old. Well, you can’t trust mine, anyway.
There are set points along our route to and from nursery that Noah knows he has to stop and wait: a bike rack at the end of our road, a sign in the park, a letter box, a phone box, a bin. He knows the rules and he knows how to be compliant. And yet…sometimes he isn’t. Sometimes he sails past the stopping point. Sometimes he ignores my “STOP!” even though it is repeated several times, each time more desperate and shrill than the last. And at these times, as I am stomping after him, screaming, I feel fear like I have never felt before in my life. Fear that he won’t stop at a road. Fear that a car won’t see him coming.
On one such day this week, I reached him, close to tears. I told him I was taking his scooter off him and taking it back to the shop. He was on his back on the pavement, howling, kicking his legs around in a fit. I was kneeling beside him. I told him he was naughty and couldn’t watch television for the rest of his life. He retaliated by screaming at me to go away and telling me I am a “Poo-poo”. People walking past stared at us. When I calmed down, I tried to explain how dangerous cars are and how much they can hurt you. But he has no concept of accidents and serious injury.
We eventually made our peace, clinging to each other on the pavement in a very un-Austrian display of emotion. And since then, he has stopped at his stopping points every time.
As my Mum would say, a car is a lethal weapon, my Noah.
Please note – it is not easy to run after a three year old on a scooter when you are wearing Birkenstocks. I recommend trainers.