Back in Blighty: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good

Inspired by an episode of Charlie and Lola, I decided to take Noah to a good old English Library. Before we moved to Vienna, we were library regulars. From birth, Noah went to Rhyme Time. When he got fed up of that, I started taking him to the library to choose some books. This was usually a disaster as he would run off and I would hurriedly slot some sticky picture books under my arm and set off in pursuit of him.

But now he is a mature toddler of three years old, I thought he would enjoy the process of choosing his own books and taking them home with him.

The library was almost empty when we arrived. There were a few people on computers. Noah tore across the room, instinctively drawn to the bright colours of the children’s area. My heart sunk when I realised the librarian was hot on our heels. Was Noah making too much noise already? Were we about to be reprimanded for not following the library’s no running policy?

“Would your child like some balloons?” the librarian asked.

“I’m sure he would,” I replied.

“We’ve just taken down a display,” he said. “I’ll go and get them for you.”

He returned with several shrunken, semi-deflated, blue balloons which were held together with a jumbled mass of sellotape. He handed them to Noah who looked at them sceptically. On no, I thought, what insulting comment is he about to make?

“Thank you,” he said to the nice man. And that was it.

He started to make a pile of books he wanted to take home. It happened to be a pile of every single book he picked up. We had a minor altercation when I tried to pare the pile of thirty books down to ten, but it was nothing major.

He has really enjoyed having these books at home. It’s warmed the frayed edges of my heart, seeing him carefully balancing a pile of books in his arms, taking them to the nearest available reader.

Long live the library and long live the Queen.

The Bad

I am not averse to bribing Noah to get washed and dressed in the morning with the promise of chocolate. It keeps my blood pressure down. By chocolate, I mean one of his mini eggs or a chocolate finger or one square of chocolate. What I don’t mean is a great big twelve inch chocolate Gruffalo. Yet, that is exactly what I gave him whilst trying to get him dressed one day this week.

What can I say in my defence? It was all I had to hand. My Mum was taking him with her to drop my Dad at his hospital appointment while I went to have my highlights done. We were in a rush. But still, it was a terrible mistake to give him the whole thing to hold. I should have broken him a bit off and put the rest away. But we live and learn. Of course, Noah didn’t want me to take it away when he had barely started gnawing the Gruffalo’s head off. Of course, he had a major tantrum. Of course, my Mum and Dad had to leave for their appointment and Noah cried the whole way there and the whole way back.

(Husband, I know you are reading this. Did I not mention the Gruffalo chocolate? It must have slipped my mind…)

When in the UK, Noah has his very own Mickey Mouse toddler bed. It’s in my bedroom. Noah is not a good sleeper at the best of times but add in the time difference, the excitement of being here, the knowledge that he is in the same room as me and my husband, and his sleep in entirely unpredictable.

On the day of the Gruffalo chocolate, he woke up at 2 am. He decided to practise his fake cough. We ignored him. He gave us some renditions of his favourite nursery rhymes. We ignored him. He told off his toys for making too much noise. We ignored him. I could not continue to ignore him when he stood on his bed and threw his pillow and duvet on the floor declaring, “Get away from me you poo-poo covers and pillow!”

I told him off. I threatened him with no phone, chocolate, TV. I got in bed with him to try and relax him. He was still wide awake at 4am. I gave up, put my pillow over my head to muffle his noise and went back to sleep.

I awoke at 5.30am. The room was flooded with light despite the blackout blind. Noah’s bed was empty. I stood up and scanned the room. He was nowhere to be seen. The covers were in a heap on the floor. I picked them up and there was my son, fast asleep with his arms and head resting on the bed, his bottom half on the floor.

I was amused by this; my husband (who now had to go to work after 3 hours’ sleep) wasn’t.

I am sure his nocturnal behaviour had absolutely nothing to do with the amount of Gruffalo he consumed. I am absolutely, positively certain.

The Ugly

My friend suggested Noah join her 4 year old son at his art class. It was a lovely little class called Petit Picasso, where pre-schoolers learn about artists and make things based on their paintings. Noah was looking forward to it all day. He enjoyed making a tulip, copying one of Manet’s impressions of a poppy field and making his own Manet inspired masterpiece. He was mostly well-behaved at the class.

At the end, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him barge past a woman who was kneeling on the floor putting her child’s coat on. She looked at me incredulously. I told him off but couldn’t meet the woman’s eye. Why does Noah do this kind of thing? A switch flips in him and he is suddenly a manic bully that I have no idea how to reprimand and control.

We went back to my friend’s house for ten minutes before I had to pick my husband up from the station. Noah did not want to leave. He had a meltdown. I had to put him over my shoulder to take him off the property. He screamed like he was being tortured. He kicked and thrashed. His wellies were sent in opposite directions. I struggled with him to the car. My friend followed with the wellies. He bit me on the neck and the ear. I tried to calm him down now we were away from the house. But he wouldn’t have it. He was beside himself. I attempted to put him in the car and get the seat belt around him. He clawed at my face. I gave him a drink; he deliberately tipped it over the seat. Although he couldn’t get out of the lap part of the seatbelt, he wouldn’t keep his arm in.

I gave him a snack and waited for him to calm down. By the time my husband got in the car, he was a different child.

I now have two scratches on my cheek, one under my eye and one by my lip. I find it impossible to discipline him when he is in that state. How can I put a hysterical child on the naughty step? What consequence can be given to a child who is beside himself with grief at being made to leave his friend’s house? I have read numerous books and looked at countless websites by so called experts on child behaviour. I have consulted the health visitor.

All I have learnt is that one size doesn’t fit all and one size certainly doesn’t fit Noah.

My Noah, if my failings turn you into a spoiled child with anger problems and concentration issues (and I have met my fair share of them in the classroom), I can only apologise. I can only do what I feel is right at the time.

Disclaimer – Noah did not consume sugar of any sort on the day of the ugly incident.

Enjoying a bit of Gruffalo
Enjoying a bit of Gruffalo

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