The Adventure of More Than Tantrums

My Noah is going through one of those phases again. The naughty phase. The angry phase. The phase where he flat out refuses to get dressed in the morning. Where he holds off going to the toilet for hours on end and sometimes does poo in his pants because he waits so long, he doesn’t get to the toilet in time. The phase where I have absolutely no idea what to do or how to help him.

But why? Why does he go through these phases? Yes, young children are notorious for having tantrums. But at times like this, I can’t believe that Noah’s anger, frustration, temper and aggression are within the realms of normal four-year-old tantrums. Yesterday, he pulled me across the room by my hair because I pressed the pause button on the iPad when he wanted to do it.

He has everything. What’s missing in his life that makes him so angry? What can I do to make him better? Telling him off makes everything worse. What is going on in his head? Should I go and speak to the doctor about him? Or is this just how some children develop?

I have returned to work two days a week. My Mum and Dad take him to nursery and look after him for half a day each. He is particularly difficult getting dressed for my Mum. I usually send her a message just before I go into my first lesson at nine o’clock to see how the morning has gone so far. Last week her response was “don’t ask”. When I got home there was toothpaste all over the armchair. My Mum had brought the toothbrush and flannel to him after failing to get him to wash in the bathroom. He had taken the toothpastey toothbrush and rubbed it over the chair. Yesterday he was hiding in the corner refusing to get washed and dressed when he was due at nursery any minute. I found myself standing in the middle of the staffroom shouting down the phone, “Noah, get dressed immediately or you won’t be able to watch and television for the rest of the day!” To which he replied, “NEVER! GO AWAY!”

The slightest thing can set him off. He is engulfed and powerless in the clutches of his own temper.

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Mid rage

Last week, he picked two daisies on his way out of nursery. In the back of the car on the way home, he dropped one of them. Because I didn’t immediately pull the car over and retrieve it, he started doing his nut, kicking the seat in front, trying to get out of his car seat. When we got home, he refused to get out of the car, lashing out at me as I tried to unstrap him. “GO AWAY!” he screamed at me. So I did. I locked the car door and went inside and watched him out of the window. He stopped crying, managed to wriggle out of his seat belt, climbed into the front so he was sitting behind the steering wheel and pretended to drive the car, merrily switching the hazard lights on and off whilst he was at it. Then he suddenly started screaming his head off, even worse than before. I bolted back outside and dragged his thrashing body from the car. He stood on the pavement, frantically swiping at his eyes, his screams so high pitched I am surprised I could even hear them. He was genuinely distressed and panicked. The problem seemed to be that his eyes hurt. I didn’t know what to do. Did he have something in his eye? Was he reacting to the light? Did he have some sort of migraine? Had he developed meningitis because I left him in the car? I got him to the bathroom and bathed his eyes with a damp flannel. If this didn’t work, I was absolutely going to put him back in the car, drive him to the doctor and insist on being seen. But it did work. He calmed down. I noticed his hands were filthy. He must have rubbed his eye and got something in it. Afterwards, we sat on the bathroom floor, him gripping on to me for dear life. “I will never really go away when you tell me to,” I said. “I will never, ever leave you.”

I decided to devise a reward system for him. I went to Wilko and brought five toys costing £1 each – finger dinosaurs, glitter, a craft kit, two boxes of their own brand lego and a book. I wrapped them all up individually and put them in a bag. Then I drew lots of houses on a sheet of A3 paper. Each house has five windows and when he is a good boy, he gets a smiley face sticker to put in a window. When all the windows of a house have a smiley face in them, he gets to choose one of the presents. I thought this was a genius idea…

As I was explaining the workings of the chart to Noah, he wanted to draw on it. He picked up a pen. I stopped him: I am Controller of the Chart, not him. And that was it. All of his pens were flung across the room. He bit my hand. Everything on the table was swept on to the floor. His tower of DVDs was knocked over. He was screaming. He bit me. I felt the very blood bubbling in my veins. I was about to lose it. “Why are you so naughty?!” I asked him, not at all calmly. “GO AWAY!” he screamed. So I put him in the garden for time out. If I put him anywhere in the house, he wouldn’t stay there and his rage would continue to make his behaviour destructive. And I needed to calm down. So he sat on the back step glowering at me through the glass door whilst I picked up all the things he had thrown on the floor. He didn’t attempt to come inside. He needed a wee so he pootled over to the bush and pulled his swimming trunks down and relieved himself right there. Then he picked up his tennis racket and starting pushing stones into the holes.

We needed to leave and go to his swimming lesson (hence the swimming trunks). I didn’t tell him off. I didn’t tell him that he wouldn’t be able to watch any more television that day as a punishment (although that was his actual punishment). It was his first swimming lesson in a new class and we couldn’t miss it. I was completely drained.

When we got to the changing room and he took his clothes off, I suddenly smelt poo. Noah’s poo to be precise (I can detect it from a mile off).

“Do you need to go to the toilet?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied.

I sniffed the air. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure not.”

“Turn around,” I said.

And there was poo all over the back of his trunks.

I closed my eyes and tried to breathe, tried to think. Was this my fault? Was he so traumatised by me putting him in the garden for time out that he pooed himself? He definitely didn’t have poo on his swimming trunks when we left home because I put his jogging bottoms on over them and I would have noticed. And what the hell was I going to do? Miss the swimming lesson? Could I put his clean pants on and hope the swimming teacher wouldn’t notice?

I took him to the toilet and got the trunks off him. I wiped his bum and then wondered if I could rinse the trunks under the tap. But that was unhygienic. I might give some innocent person gastro enteritis or something from rinsing pooey trunks in a communal sink. So I drenched a wad of toilet paper in water and attempted to wipe the poo off the trunks in this manner.

We went to the poolside for the swimming lesson, Noah in soaking wet but not terribly pooey trunks. My husband (who took Noah for his swimming assessment the week before) had already informed me that they taught with floats rather than armbands which I wasn’t wild about. Then the teacher directed me to the viewing area to watch the lesson. So I couldn’t sit by the poolside and be ready to jump in and save my child if necessary. The viewing area was behind glass windows in a whole other room. I sat on the edge of my seat, craning my neck so I could watch what was going on. There was only one other little boy in the lesson. I watched Noah swim from one side of the pool to the other with a variety of floats. I was impressed. My husband has been taking Noah swimming and took part in his lessons while we were in Vienna. I hadn’t seen him swim for ages. He was leagues better than the other little boy. And then the teacher took his floats away. He started to swim across the pool with no armbands, no floats, only his two little arms and two little legs propelling him through the water. My heart was in my mouth. I stood up and squashed my nose and cheek against the glass.

He did it. He swam across the pool on his own. He can swim!

And just like that, all of his previous antics of the afternoon paled to insignificance. It didn’t matter that he had been naughty. It didn’t matter that he had taken a chunk out of my hand. He wasn’t enraged and screaming and distressed. He was a confident and brilliant little boy swimming without armbands for the very first time. And there were tears of joy and tears of pride hidden very deep in my eyes (because I’m not one to cry).

He is so very challenging and so very wonderful. And I am so very glad he is mine. I just wish I knew how to teach him to react to life a little more calmly. After all, life will test him far more than not being able press the pause button on an iPad.

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Noah’s first present from the chart – finger dinosaurs. They went in the bath with him and then to bed with him. I haven’t seen them since. 

 

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The Adventure of Extreme Weather in Vienna

It is so hot in Vienna at the moment, I can hardly function. I have never experienced heat like it. The cold tap runs warm. Sleep is impossible. It’s unbearable to be inside. Outside is worse. According to BBC weather, tomorrow it’s going to be 39 degrees. I am dreading it. Afternoons are mostly spent in front of the television with our wonky wretched fan attempting to circulate cool air. Noah spends all afternoon naked, apart from his Mickey Mouse slippers. I spend most of the afternoon arguing with Noah when he insists on turning the fan off or dragging my friend the fan around after me from room to room.

As Austria is land locked and there are no beaches, it compensates by having outdoor swimming pools. There are lots of them and some of them are beautiful, right on the side of a mountain with miles and miles of countryside around. I have only ever been to one swimming complex, Stadionbad, which is in the Prater (click here to see what the Prater is and what else is there). There is a bus right behind our apartment building which takes us straight there. Stadionbad is the more chavvy outdoor pool but I don’t mind. I’m an Essex Girl. I shop at Lakeside and like it. Stadionbad is the Lakeside of swimming pools, everything you need on your doorstep.

Stadionbad costs 5 euros for the day. Noah is free. It has an Olympic sized swimming pool, which I have never been near. It has a shallow pool which has a wave machine once an hour. It has two water shoots. It has a big curve shaped pool with a shallow end and deep end and it has an ankle-deep kids pool. Surrounding these pools is lots and lots of grass, shaded by numerous trees. People bring their own sunbeds, chairs, umbrellas, tents, plastic tables and they are set up for the day. On Saturday my husband had to work all day. I couldn’t face the thought of the whole day indoors, so I decided to brave Stadionbad on my own with Noah.

Swimming pools really aren’t my thing. In fact, I hate them. I hate getting wet. I hate how your swimming costume bottom stays wet for the rest of the day, no matter how hot it is. And don’t get me started on public pools. I don’t mind proper swimming as there is a purpose and benefit to it, but larking around in a swimming pool is not my idea of fun. If I sound like a misery, when it comes to swimming, I absolutely am. Noah’s swimming education is my husband’s domain. He takes Noah to his swimming lesson every week during his lunch hour. So I was really taking one for the team when I told Noah I’d take him swimming on Saturday.

When I opened my eyes on Saturday morning, I’d changed my mind about swimming. Maybe we could go to the Prater instead? Maybe Noah could go on a few rides and go in the playground? Then Noah came running in and scrambled over me, settling his naked self in the middle of the bed. “Mummy, are we going swimming today?” he asked, bouncing up and down. “Yes,” I sighed, “We are.”

Before he left for work, my husband gave me a lecture. He told me Noah is capable of swimming on his own. I mustn’t hold on to him all of the time. I must let him jump in on his own. I must take him on the slide. I should encourage him to do his “rocket” and his “engine”. He only needs to wear two of the armband floats rather than three. “Maybe I’ll tell him the slide is shut?” I suggested hopefully. “Don’t be ridiculous,” my husband said, looking at me from underneath his lowered eyebrows.

The first challenge of the day was putting sun cream on my own back. I enlisted Noah’s help which resulted in so much sun cream going over my swimming costume that I had to change into a different one.

When we got to Stadionbad, I spread our picnic blanket out under a tree and we were ready for the pool. But wait…I had encouraged Noah to bring his scooter. I was worried about leaving it there for anyone to come along and take it. How could I live in Vienna without it? I draped our towels over it, trying to make it look like a chair rather than a scooter and hoped for the best.

All ready for the pool
All ready for the pool

We went in the big pool and it was cold. It was only ten thirty and the pool hadn’t warmed up yet, despite the heat. Noah clung to me. He refused to show me his rocket or his engine. He refused to jump in. He refused to swim. I was at a loss. My imagination stalled drastically. What do people do in swimming pools with their children? I tried Pop Goes the Weasel, which is all I remember from my own swimming experiences at three years old, but Noah wasn’t a fan.

So we went on the slide. I don’t know if it’s because I have such a flat bottom (I am the direct opposite of Kim Kardashian. She got my share of bottom muscle/flesh, I’m sure of it. No one has a bum that big), but I always find these slides uncomfortable. My sitting bones bomp uncomfortably over each join in the plastic (i.e. every metre). Although Noah is a big fan of the slide, he is not a fan of the steps leading up to the slide, which have soggy bits of grass all over them. He is not a fan of the black rubber mat you stand on whilst getting on the slide. He is not a fan of the water that rushes out of the top of the slide. But still, we went on the slide five times. It was then 11.30 and I could claim it was lunchtime. And my bum was bruised.

A small roll for lunch
A small roll for lunch

After lunch, I wondered what we could do next. Noah made a half-hearted attempt to play in the little playground (two swings, some springy chicken things, a roundabout and a sandpit) but it was too hot and he ended up sitting on the grass gazing at the other children, chewing the ears on his toy lion. I took him to the shop so he could choose himself a swimming pool toy to keep him occupied. He’d seen a boy with one of those long thin float tube things and coveted it, but he didn’t choose that, he chose a water gun. We went to the kids’ pool and he played with the gun happily for ten minutes, taking great delight in squirting me. But then he threw the gun down and sat on the side watching it drift away, elbows on his knees and his chubby fist pressed into his chubby cheek.

What else was there to do? We got an ice cream and went back to pack up our stuff. Noah laid on the picnic rug sleepily and refused to move. I felt his pain. There was nothing I wanted to do more than lie down on that rug and have an afternoon siesta. But if he sleeps at lunch, he is up till nine and I love the boy dearly but I don’t need his company till nine o’clock at night. So I picked up the rug and rolled him off. Then I put him on the scooter, which no one had stolen, attached the scoot n pull and dragged him home.

The moral of this story is, always leave the swimming to my husband. I am much better as a fond observer.

My Noah and I are looking forward to Thursday when it’s going to drop to a chilly 26 degrees.

A much needed new bit of tat
A much needed new bit of tat



The Twinkle Diaries