I guess the first sign I had that we had moved beyond the politeness of strangers was when he one evening lay on my tummy. All sprawled out. Legs bent up either side of him. Arms also bent upwards, along his sides. Like a small frog. He fell asleep like this. This seemed to me to be a position of a newborn or much younger baby. I asked his foster mum when we next met her if he used to do that with her. ‘He hasn’t done that for months.’ she answered. ‘How strange...’ I took that as a good sign of our bonding. And cherished the moments of going back in time. Time travelling.
I asked my friends, if their kids did the same. If they in any way regressed? Interestingly, those with kids of the same age as my son looked at me blankly. Shrugged. ‘Nooouuuu…’ They hesitatingly muttered. ‘Or at least I don’t think that is regression. But it is true… she doesn’t really do that any more…’ I think I should ask them again. Now. Another friend with a 12 and a 15 year old answered differently: ‘Yes. Sometimes. Less so now. Sometimes when they forget they are too old for holding hands or cuddling or sitting on my lap. It often happens when they are sad, or ill. But grab the moments with both hands! Cuddles from a teenager is like nothing else.’ I liked that answer. And that is what I still do. Grab such moments with open arms.
Why this now? Because we have just had the most amazing regression from son-o. Lasting over three weeks. All kicked off when he cut himself. Cooking dinner with me. With a children’s safety knife – not that that makes me feel any better about this episode, but that’s a whole other subject. While listening to funk – this I think is key to the momentary distraction that led to the part amputation of his perfect little finger tip.
It has been a nightmare. And we have seen some SPECTACULAR return of the toddler – or baby? – tantrum! Complete with a kind of crying I haven’t heard since he was a baby. The crying is different. Helpless but angry. So we have has to bring out all the tools from our therapeutic parenting book. Spanners? No. Alan keys? No. Hammer? Definitely no. Aha! The tweezers.
In our case the tool kit consisted of :
· baby bottles with warm milk several times of day
· re-introduction of pacifier
· carrying, lifting, helping, sitting on parent laps – especially during mealtimes
· singing, humming
· cuddles, sometimes of the extra hard grip, sort of exaggerated hug – holding him tight
· touching, holding, caressing, stroking, snuggling, patting,
· sofa time in piles of duvets and pillows
· ice cream, bananas, rice pudding, chocolate
· Ipad and TV and endless streams of books
· sleeping in our parental bed – for some of the time, we were a bit freak out, fearing we might end up rolling over on his bad hand, which we both did at one time, or rather I accidently sat on it! I have been an amazingly cack handed mum in all this.
· talking about and acknowledging his fears. Which was mainly: ‘Will it bleed again?’ Which it did. In fact that was the worst bit about it.
· more talk, pondering, wondering and acknowledgement and prep for hospital check ups. They were fun. Not.
I was given the advice to not look at it as trauma. To go over the whole episode with him. Think of the nice things in the hospital. We did that too. And it helped.
The first many days afterwards there was no play. At all. That’s only now returning.
There were times in the tantrums when nothing – and I mean nothing! – would help. So there was no option but to sit it out.
We had a babysitter in. And oddly enough, she who normally is perfect and funny and full of love, couldn’t handle it. So I handed her the tweezers and what ever else seemed to work a bit. I handed her baby bottle with warm full fat milk. Swaddled him in a rug like a baby and handed him to her. They too needed connecting. I told her that it was a compliment that he got upset and angry with her. She stared at me. ‘Huh? Really?’ ‘Yes.’ She got the hang of it a bit later. And he calmed down.
So I love regression. To me they provide fantastic opportunities to unstick some pent up feelings. In his case mainly fear covered by lashings of anger.
But don’t be fooled: it is f•••ing hard work. There were times when it was just like leaning into a gale force shit storm, telling myself ‘just keep on walking’ into the eye of the storm.
I am knackered. And so is my husband.
I just want to sleep. And I wonder whether I can feel this because we have turned a corner. And he and his finger tip will be ok. I can see that with my on eyes. Eventually. But perhaps more so because it has been nearly four weeks of this regression and anger.
It felt like there was much more to this than the finger tip. And I hope we have done right by him in the end. Cause this is all we could do.
He was so brave in hospital. Several times. At times ridiculously brave for a four year old. It seems he saved it all for us at home. Later. When the sense of emergency had gone.
He is now back in nursery. Today his teacher told me that he has kept the whole class spellbound telling them exactly how it all happened. A true blow by blow account. He was cutting a cucumber [parnips but what the hell], then snip! And SO MUCH BLOOD! EVERYWHERE. She told me he gesticulated. I could see it. Flapping his arms. Excited. He tells stories with his whole body. He is a good story teller.
I was delighted to hear that fragment of his day. There is life in the tale of the finger tip, his emotions around it and he is shedding stuff. When the finger has healed there will be a scar to talk about. An honourable scar. One to be proud of. Male friends offered that that may be the case. I cut one or two of them off with curtly 'I very much loo forward to that day.’ But I now see… they are probably right. That day is on the horizont.