For the personal column

Dot writes:

Male, eighteen months, strong opinions, enjoys mashing banana with his hands and climbing the furniture, lacks bowel control, seeks male and/or female, thirties, for unceasing devotion. Must be able to perform all domestic tasks with one arm and without trying to stop and read the paper.

We haven’t been having a good week.

Let an incident from last night illustrate. We had just sat down to dinner. Hugh seemed to be enjoying his food and was putting it away quite efficiently with a combination of fork, hands, and a little help from Mummy. Then a rather familiar dispute arose: Hugh reached out to indicate he wanted to try what was on Daddy’s plate, and Ken said, ‘no, it’s just the same as yours, you have your own’. Whereupon with a squeal of rage Hugh swept his arm across the table, tipping his entire plate onto the floor. I admonished him with a slightly anaemic ‘that was very naughty’, Ken with a much louder and sterner ‘No!’ Then, as Hugh began to struggle and cry in his outrage, I cleared up the food and took him down from his seat; I didn’t think he should go to bed hungry, but for the moment he needed to learn that if he threw his food away that would mean it was gone and dinner was over. I volunteered to look after Hugh while Ken finished his meal, with the idea we’d swap places later. But no, Hugh had decided this was all Daddy’s fault and he wanted to punish him. So, while he was treating me to the kind of angry cuddle where he arches and kicks and cries if I hold him but protests even more if I put him down, as soon as Daddy tried to take him he would turn his face away and reach for Mummy. He must have kept this up for a good twenty minutes, despite all attempts to distract or cheer him. And then he wouldn’t go to sleep and was still awake at a quarter to nine, even though he’d been up at 5.45 that morning. And he woke at 5.20 this morning. And he’s been really whingy all day today as well.

There are various possibilities:
a) he’s still tired from the wedding
b) it’s the stage he’s going through
c) he has some sort of bug (he does have a bit of a rash, but what with the eczema and the nappy rash and the bumps and scrapes and whatnot it has not seemed especially notable)
d) he has a deep-seated character defect or ADHD or autism or something (but the tantrum was very social in its horrible way – it was all about trying to manipulate us – shouldn’t that be a good sign on the autism front?)
e) we are terrible parents
f) it’s just too light in his room and everything stems from the lack of sleep.
I suspect a combination of (a), (b), (c) and (f) with lashings of (e). I daren’t contemplate (d), which is an alarmist interpretation, and what would we do about it anyway? I spent part of today trying again to make the blackout curtains actually cover the windows. (The windows are eight feet high so this is not too easy.)

He consoles us with flashes of cuteness. For example, this morning he was hiding his head behind a fold of the rug and then emerging with a shout of ‘bah!’ (his version of ‘boo’). He amused himself for quite a while after lunch by squirting himself in the face with the spray bottle that Ken uses for the plants. And on the beach earlier he arguably said a new word, ‘chine’, which I took to be ‘train’ from the fact he was pointing at a train. But I’m very tempted to post that ad.

Sprout, on the other hand, is a very good little foetus and has been doing his/her kicking most diligently today.


5 thoughts on “For the personal column

  1. FWIW, I don’t think the ‘boo’ game you describe is something an autistic child would be capable of. So my money’s on (a), (b), (c) and (f) (but not (e)!)

  2. Dot

    Thanks for that kindly thought, Gazza! Hugh can be very nice when he tries, and while he isn’t too interested in other children and has never been reliable about waving/saying hello or goodbye he does definitely do make-believe play, which is also a good non-autism sign, I think.

    Autism is the big worry of parents of our generation, isn’t it? I doubt it has got more common, but these days we’ve all heard of it.

  3. Belle Inconnue

    as far as i know sometimes having a really naughty week is totally normal behaviour for all children. He is probably tired, uncomfortable from rashes etc, and going through a phase where he wants what he wants, and wants to push the boundaries. You just have to keep on being strict and he’ll grow out of it – when he’s about 25 or so!

    btw my uncle has autism and has been in a care home since aged about 4.
    It was apparantly always totally obvious that there was something very wrong with him. He can eat and drink, and go to the toilet by himself, but that’s the extent of his skills. He can’t or won’t talk or communicate. definetly no ‘bah!’ games, ever, or any looking anyone in the eye. So I don’t think you need to worry – you would know.

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