The Changeling Child
Light fading, road still busy. A man walks by staring into his phone screen. The daffodil heads have shrunken further in the hot spring sun.
The children ate ice-cream at my friends home. We stared into her pond at frog heads emerging from the waters surface. Flamingo pink camellia flowers float. A cookoo can be heard. We get her dry washing in from the line, fold it up and place it in the bag.
Days of hanging out in the park after school have begun. Naoise just loves to run high up on the willow scrub, stick in hand.
Syd played football after school, his team won the match. He was waiting on the step when I got home.
The light is fading. I had wanted to say so much, but my energy levels are low. I will manage what I can.
Need to write about another incident with Naoise refusing to go to school. I guess I should have thought that the first day back at school after the Easter holiday would have been challenging, but I didn’t. I suppose that I was focused on Patricks new job, making sure everyone was up earlier than usual and out the house on time. Everything was going so well. All was orderly, calm, controlled, organised. As soon as Syd and Patrick left the house he began to tell me that he was not going to school today.
I so wanted him to go to school. I was tired and needed my space after the holiday, I wanted to escape into the world of work and run the hills.
He clung tight to the runs of the front room chairs and refused to budge. I say chairs because as soon as I manoeuvred his small hands from one chair he simply clung to another. Naoise was not for going. He refused to get dressed, put on socks or shoes or coat or jumper. I stacked all the chairs on top of the table so he couldn’t get to any of them.
I chased him bare footed down the road.
I past my neighbour hanging out her washing, made a daft remark, felt embarrassed. Naoise threw his socks into my neighbours garden, I clambered over the fence to retrieve them.
I am very determined to get him to school. I must get him to school.
I try everything. Sympathy. Coercion. Positivity. Ignore. Praise. He is determined.
Naoise: My socks don’t fit, my jumper is uncomfortable, my shoes are too small, my coat is too big.
I am struggling to find the energy to describe this incident. Perhaps I shouldn’t describe it. Perhaps I should pretend that each day is easy. Perhaps its cruel to describe it. What will Naoise think when he looks back at what I have written what I have recorded here? What do you think?
The tantrum was horrendous. I walked down the road with his little angry body in my arms. It was cold. He had no socks on, no shoes on, no jumper, no coat.
A walk that usually takes ten minutes took forty five. Naoise writhed and wriggled and squirmed and fought me. He pushed his hands into my throat to hurt me , he pulled my hair so hard that it came out.
He was so distressed and so angry. A raging changeling child.
I struggled to carry the plastic bag full of his possessions. Eventually I stopped a couple of young women and asked them to help me by carrying the bag.
Naoise shouted put me down, put me down.
I felt dreadful. My back ached with his constant movements and protestations. I was worried that he was going to fall or hit his head. For a small child he is so strong. So full of rage and tenderness.
We eventually arrive at the gates of his school. The gates are locked. Naoise last piece of rebellion is to throw his red jumper over the high wall into the road. I watch as car and lorry drive over it. I am distraught and red faced with an aching back and heart. Naoise now realises that it wasn’t such a great idea to chuck his jumper over the wall and he begins to cry. I get out my mobile phone to call the school to get the caretaker to unlock the gate and to request help to calm Naoise down. Naoise grabs at the phone, its his last ditch attempt at trying to get me to give up and take him home.
A battle of wills. A battle that I did not want to fight. A tantrum for the first term.
His teacher comes out to talk to Naoise and me. She is kind and gentle and thoughtful. He immediately calms. He stops crying but is red in the face with distress. I inspect him for any injuries sustained. I describe the incident from my perspective. She is empathetic and understanding. Despite my clear distress and upset. I am crying. Crying out of relief and exhaustion and hurt and feelings of failure. She focusses on Naoise. She is right to focus on him. He is small and vulnerable and just a child. I explain that he may be hurt, though I have checked for marks and bruises and surprisingly there are none.
I admit my failure. I admit my vulnerability. She says she will talk to him. He says he was just tired, tired and upset. I guess he was just tired. I am tired now.
I bump into a friend on the way back up the road. I feel too exhausted to run now so I walk slowly with heavy head and heart. I feel a disgrace. I feel traumatised by what has happened. Need to do better than this, need to cope better. She tells me that she understands that her child also refused to go to school when he was Naoise age. She is kind, not at all judgemental, she stops and listens and has empathy.
I look back at all the images that I have taken of Naoise mid tantrum. I consider whether its ok to publish them here. How would I feel? He has no choice. Is this ok? Am I stepping over the edge?
I think that it is ok. Its ok to show our vulnerabilities. Its ok. When I look at the images I think of me and him. Ourselves. Wrapped up in each other’s rage and misunderstanding. I am the observer he is the subject. The taking of the image allows me to step back from a situation. Its good to step back. Perhaps I should have stepped back further.
Children do have tantrums. Tantrums don’t stop at two or three they continue on, least that is my experience. We all slip. We all loose control. We all have inner rages. Sometimes the rage spills out. Sometimes the anger has to be released. So hard to be a child. So hard. Few choices to be made that are his. He was just tired. I should have been more patient. I could have walked away. Calmed him down. I could have chosen to give in. There was no winning. There is no winning when there is conflict.
Mustn’t bottle up rage, should learn to teach the children about anger. Must learn better to deal with anger and frustration myself. Just running on the hills is not enough.
Need to turn conflict into calm.
I am not perfect. I am not a perfect mother.