Monday, January 30, 2012

Wild Horses

You probably didn’t notice but I’ve been gone for a week. I withdrew somewhat from the online world. I didn’t feel much like writing if the truth be known. I’m not even sure if I want to write this but plainly some impetus, lurking deep within me, still holds sway and here I am.

Following on from my previous post things have not been going well for our youngest boy, Tom, at nursery. He has been – in common parlance – resisting arrest for various 4 year old type wrong doings. Tom’s always been a bit of a monkey. He is the Just William of his nursery group. If a window has been broken or a child hit in the eye, Tom will be the one standing with his hand over his mouth trying to stuff the catapult down the back of his trousers.

Tom is the wild horse that refuses to be broken. A couple of the nursery workers managed to get him all but saddle trained last year but they left at Christmas and since then Tom has been kicking down the boundary fences until last week nursery announced he was out of control and they needed help.

I must point out here (ready for when Tom as a teenager reads through my blog and sues me for misrepresentation) that Tom is not uncontrollable. At home he is biddable and lovely. Which is not to say he’s an angel because he’s not. He has his moments but Karen and I can sort it out within ten minutes and bring him back to heel.

So it was initially hard to believe nursery’s reports of gnashing teeth, scratching, biting and kicking, etc. They made him sound like a Tasmanian Devil. In the end Karen and I spent a day at nursery last week to observe and give the staff some pointers on how to corral our wild, young stallion.

Lunchtime saw a flashpoint – I won’t bore you with the details – but, suffice it to say, even mummy and daddy were granted no quarter from the wild thing that fought tooth and nail to not be put on the ‘naughty mat’. It seemed that home based loyalties were meaningless in the nursery environment. As far as Tom was concerned there were no boundaries at nursery. No boundaries at all.

Within 20 minutes though Karen and I had got him calm and biddable again. Proof that it could be done without the aid of tranquilizer darts. But we were both deeply shocked by the experience. And in tears. Was this really our adorable little boy? The same boy who comes home every afternoon and sits and watches Waybuloo so cutely?

Yes, it was. We had to get with the programme.

And so we’ve shed tears, sighed through sleepless nights and moped through stressful days but battle plans have been drawn up between us and the nursery. Tactics are in place. We are working in unison. Reward schemes have been set up to encourage positive social interaction. The importance of the naughty mat in the overall scheme of putting things right again has been explained. And a tent has been erected in the nursery hall to act as Tom’s chill-out room for when colouring-in causes his frayed temper to snap.

We’re not kidding ourselves that this is going to be an overnight fix. It is going to take weeks and weeks of sustained effort and a cohesive approach. Tom, of course, is still resisting – he’s trying diversionary tactics now; he’s not stupid – he is a horse who can feel the reigns being put over his head and (to quote a poet whose name I cannot remember) knows that once they are in place he will never run as freely again. Karen and I are “on call” should the nursery need us or find they cannot manage our bucking bronco. I was called there at lunchtime today but – on a positive note – Tom was calm again before I arrived. Nursery are seeing this as a success. His rampages are already shorter which means a quicker recovery time for everyone involved – including Tom. I daresay we will take two steps forward and one step back for a while yet.

None of us want to break Tom’s spirit. But he needs to learn to gallop safely and to know the edges of his own paddock. And nursery... well they need to re-establish themselves in the saddle and learn to stay there without assistance.

It’s going to be a long season on the range, folks. If anyone knows a good horse whisperer then please do send him my way.

Until then – hi-yo silver away!



Trish said...

I'd started to worry about where you were! Isn't it strange, that we get so used to seeing our friends' posts and look forward to them. When I couldn't see you in my reader I sensed something might be up.
So sorry you've had such a traumatic week but it looks like you, Karen and the nursery are working well on this so I'm sure things will improve with Tom x

... said...

You said it all with - you don't want to break his spirit but you want him to understand boundaries - and he is only 4 so he is clearly testing those boundaries all over the place. Nursery is so different to home - no wonder he is a different child.
Just stay consistent and you will all come out the other end better for it. Most nursery workers are well aware that this is not 'bad' behaviour as such, and you certainly do not sound like those cringingly liberal parents who believe that ANY form of discipline will corrode their childs' soul.

Steve said...

Trish: we hope so... but it all feels like it is uphill... and so exhausting. We seem to be permanently stressed at the moment.

Ellesar: nope, Tom definitely needs and thrives under discipline. I think all kids do - knowing where the boundaries are and that they don't move makes kids feel safe.

the fly in the web said...

Sounds as though the change of staff left him wondering whether the boundaries might be different.
After all he doesn't necessarily see it as a place...'nursery'...he sees it as 'people'.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: good point. Unfortunately the sudden absence of slightly more mature staff left a load of flapping young ones... and Tom knocked them down like dominoes.

Mrs Worthington said...

I had one of those.Terrible away from home biddable in it. always strong willed.always caught with his hand in the biscuit barrel whilst others smiled angelic crumby smiles. Good luck, and hope he maintains his character.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Steve I had certainly missed you and was wondering if you were okay.

I read an article a couple of days ago which aired research that shows that parenting may be an overall happy experience but the day to day business of it is stressful, anxiety-making and depressing.

I have to say that I am a great believer in keeping children close to mother while young, which isn't to diminish the work of early childcare workers, and I also realise that today's economics mean that both parents have to work.

But I see Tom's behaviour as an unnatural consequence of an artificial environment. And after seeing the different interpretations of current dogma (and look at those policy changes in education Steve - what's right for your little boy this year will be regarded as an unfortunate experiment in five years time)
in NZ's excellently conceived Parent and child Playcentre with No 1 daughter, I kept No 2 to myself as I got on with a busy life. She certainly didn't miss out on other children and she had consistant discipline.

A bit of a rant sorry and not meant to make you feel bad about your choice, but you are feeling BAD aren't you, so a different view point just in case you need it.

Lots of love and strength to your whole family.

English Rider said...

Unity (author unknown)
I dreamed I stood in a studio
And watched two sculptors there
The clay they used was a young child's mind
And they fashioned it with care
One was a teacher and the tools he used
Were books and music and art
One a parent with a guiding hand
And a gentle loving heart
Day after day the teacher toiled
With a touch that was deft and sure
While the parent labored by his side
And polished and smoothed it o'er
And when at last their task was done
They stood proud of what they had wrought
For the things they had molded into the child
Could neither be sold nor bought
And each agreed he would have failed
If he had worked alone
For behind the parent stood the school
And behind the teacher the home

My daughter is twenty-six. I've kept this poem for a long time.

London City (mum) said...

My heart goes out to you both. Not a happy place to be but I am sure you will come out of this phase stronger and more resourceful than you thought possible.

And armed with ear plugs by the dozen, most likely.


Gorilla Bananas said...

Twenty years from now, when you're an old greybeard, you'll enjoy telling your grown-up son what a terror he was in his infancy. As for right now, it might be worth checking the nursery for peculiar odours that might be affecting his behaviour.

KeyReed said...

You are going to hate me, but is there a naughty 'gloss' too? Perhaps he needs to right kind of paint...

AGuidingLife said...

I think you're lucky the nursery are prepared to work so hard with you on this one. Many others would have just said he has to leave. You'll get there in the end I'm sure. The upside with a spirit like that is he'll end up doing something really exciting like walking the amazon because he hasn't readily given in to social boundaries. It'll all turn out good in the end. I send you a bucket of parent strength xxx

Gappy said...

I'm sorry to read this - I know how worrying some behaviours can be in small children.

But honestly I think every parent has gone through a stage in which their childs behaviour really worried them. And the vast majority of us come out the other side.

Most things you want to happen with kids happen in the end. I don't know a single ten year old who's still in nappies for example but it doesn't feel that way when your three year old shows no signs of being interested in their potty!

It sounds as though you're doing all the right things. You and Karen sound like consistent and loving parents - Tom has what he needs right there.

Marginalia said...

Clearly you need John Wayne and the US Cavery to ride to the rescue.

But seriously could there be tensions at home that he is able to act out in the "safety" of the nursary group.

Heap Big Luck, Kemosabe.

Löst Jimmy said...

I can understand the enormity of the work ahead and the worry that it causes but I will say this, with some experience, that things are never as bad as the seem and all will be fine and more importantly the wee man will be fine!

Dicky said...

Oh Steve it will pass soon enough. He'll get over it. Then he will get older and he'll be stealing your beer from the fridge, money from your wallet etc. the joys of parenthood. No seriously, I'm sure he will get over it. They all go through this stuff. Try not to over analyse. Bloody hell! Is that me giving positive advice. Sorry Steve have to go take my pills...

vegemitevix said...

I had wondered where you were. I do understand how difficult everything can be and how depressing it is when your kids are going through a rough time, and pitting you through the wringer. I do have a question though - does Tom have problems transitioning from one activity to another? If so it might help if the nursery sets out his timetable for him so he knows what to expect and feels that he has some measure of control . Meanwhile sounds as if you and Karen need a decent bottle of dutch courage to get you through the tough time.

Owen said...

Don't they make straightjackets in toddler sizes ?

Hang in there... he's going to grow up one day, and either get with the programme, or discover life in prison...

Clippy Mat said...

Look at all the positive comments and words of wisdom! I hesitate to add my own but I can strongly identify with what you are going through because of something close to home. you are right to be firm and fair, consistent and loving and as the wise Lost Jimmy so aptly put it, 'things are never as bad as they seem..' and 'the wee man will be fine!' I completely agree.
Good luck

Rol said...

I missed you.

Hope your plans come to fruition soon.

Nota Bene said...

Tough times for you...good luck - it sounds like you are working hard and doing the right things. On the positive side, if that energy can be channeled in the future you will be very proud of his achievements.

Unknown said...

Oh Christ, unlike others I have no advice. We're all just muddling through, aren't we? You know your child better than anyone else.
But I do have sympathy. And empathy and an I've been there recognition.
I always remind myself, what makes them horrid, hard to handle children is going to make them amazing adults. If he keeps his wild freedom then yes, he'll buck against the rider everytime, but he'll wind up going in his own direction, on his own sometimes-rough road with a free spirit. Isn't that what we all want in the end?

Steve said...

Mrs Worthington: that is certainly our goal.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: thank you. It's tough being a parent but then I expect that has always been true. And reliably so when so little else in this world is.

English Rider: thank you.

LCM: not sure about earplugs but an winning lottery ticket and an escape map would be wonderful.

Gorilla Bananas: you think he might be allergic to his careworker's deodorant?

Tenon_Saw: yes, the wife pointed out that slip too. Have changed all the "matts" forthwith. ;-)

Kelloggsville: thank you. If nothing else Tom will be one of those people that nobody ever forgets.

Gappy: thank you. We're both exhausted but you just have to keep going for the kids.

Marginalia: sadly all the tensions of nursery are now being enacted out in the safety of home... maybe that's the best way.

Löst Jimmy: hopefully we'll be laughing about it in a few month's time. Either that or bailing him out of jail.

Dicky: can I have one of your pills?

Vix: he doesn't like change when it affects something he's doing that he really enjoys - other than that he's quite up for spontaneity.

Owen: hopefully as the governor.

Clippy Mat: thank you. We're trying to keep our upper lips stiff.

Rol: I knew you loved me really.

Nota Bene: a future PM perhaps? Heaven help us all.

Readily A Parent: adn there is the challenge in a nutshell. Help them to become well adjusted citizens whilst maintaining their hot core of their individuality. Who'd be a parent?!

John Going Gently said...

the responsibility of child rearing awesome and frightening especially to an olf poof like me....
well done with your hard work
boundaries and consistancy.. thats what always works with animals....... I can so no real difference in little people!!!

Anonymous said...

I am sorry you are having problems but as others have pointed out, it is just a phase, and he will come through it (and find some other way to drive you nuts). But you are right that he needs to understand his boundaries - for one thing, he will have to make the move to school soon enough. Best of luck and I hope it doesn't take too long before he is the best behaved child in the place. Well, nearly the best behaved.

The bike shed said...

There's no sensible advice I can offer other than to 'come through', because in my experience that is what happens. With good parents, good values and plenty of care - they'll come through in the end.

Steve said...

John: maybe my life would be simpler if I batted for the other side? ;-)

Alienne: I'll settle for nearly.

Mark: that's what we are praying for. Thank you.

Katriina said...

Steve, I too was panicking a bit when, day after day, Bloggertropolis failed to appear in my blog feed. Good to have you back. Very sorry to hear of your struggle with Little Brumby. As someone else said, the kids with "challenging" behaviours often turn out to be the brightest starts later in life. It sounds to me as though you (and your nursery) are doing brilliantly in working through the reining-in (sp??) process, and that your little wild colt is destined for magnificence. Hang in there and don't lose your nerve, or (as I often do) your sense of humour!

libby said...

Try not to beat yourself up over WILL work out in the end...increase the peace!

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Nothing more to add than the wise words already left by others.

It will pass though and it's great that the nursery are being so proactive.


Steve said...

Katriina: no - don't you lose my sense of humour as well!

Libby: thank you!

Very Bored in Catalunya: yep... we're telling ourselves that things could be a lot worse...!

Jon said...

The horse analogy carries to an extent, but horses are easier. Good luck!

Steve said...

Jon: maybe we ought to build a stable?

Being Me said...

Already all so well said by others. I want to give cups of tea and listen but I cant. So instead, please give Karen a hug from me. Go gently with yourselves, yeah?

Steve said...

Being Me: will do, my friend, will do. And thank you.