Lucky for some

My maternal family will have written on their collective graves “just my luck.” They believe in it, insofar that they have always seemed to believe that they are doomed to failure before they start. It took me many years before I realised that the family home was number 13. It’s odd that a family so entrenched in their belief that they somehow had “bad luck” never made mention of their address, or ascribed the way things turned out to that. Not that I believe that the number on their front door was to blame for anything – it’s just they seemed to believe in “luck” and as such I’d have thought it probable that they would have thought that too. But I never ever heard that mentioned. It only occurred to me long after they’d moved, when I was in my thirties.

I’ve never given the supposed unluckiness of 13 much sway either, really, and so when my consultant suggested I should probably have a caesarian and I ought not to leave it much longer (my daughter was ten days late) I did have the choice to have her the very next day (which would have been the 12th) or to have her on Friday 13th. Waiting until Monday 16th was pretty much ruled out. I cared so little about the 13th as “unlucky” that I opted for that rather than having her the very next day. I felt I needed a day or so to get myself ready, although I look back and wonder why – when I’d had 9.5 months already and she was 10 days late – I felt I needed an extra day! The point being the fact that it was the 13th barely registered with me, although it clearly did with the rest of the caesarianing mothers. Mine was the only elective (as in non-emergency) section arranged for that Friday 13th at the very busy, over-subscribed world-class South London hospital where I gave birth. I suppose it was lucky in the sense I had the obstetrician’s full attention…

Ever since her birth, 13 and especially Friday 13th now signify positivity and hope and good luck to me. When I notice it is the 13th that is. Still working on that mindfulness thing. Today was the 13th and I hadn’t realised that I had gone ahead and decided to undertake love-bombing with the Monkey-face today.

Things have been really tough with Monkey lately, and her behaviour towards me has accelerated. She has refused to let me do anything with her when daddy is around and goes so far as to head-butt, hit me and scream. I believed body and soul in positive parenting, but I’ll admit, I’ve lost my way with it. I always abandon faith in myself way too quickly. I’m too quick to worry about what people think and very quick to believe I’m a terrible parent. I wasn’t, but in fact I’ve become a self-fulfilling prophecy. She’s hit me and yelled at me so much, I’ve succumbed to smacking back. Actually let’s not call it smacking let’s call it what it what it is, hitting. I’ve buckled to those looks that say “you’re letting her get away with murder” and, in despair, I’ve stopped being the parent I wanted to be and ended up clueless. No wonder the battle was then utterly lost. My child needed me to lead and I had no idea what I was doing, having abandoned what I believed in.Things degenerated over December when she got whooping cough.  I was in no-man’s land and things were completely out of control in the sense that I had completely no control over my daughter and no idea how to get it back. I’d been thinking for a while about undertaking Oliver James’ Love-Bombing and the debacle that was being head-butted in the face many times a day when over Christmas and New Year bought me to the point when I decided that I had to try. The nearest date when I could do it was today: I hadn’t noticed that it was 13th January. If I had, I may have felt more optimistic. I could paraphrase Oliver James, but I’ll just sound like some ninny if I do. It was his words that inspired me to buy and read his book, which I did a while ago, and I did feel optimistic that it would help. So I won’t use mine when his do the trick:

First, you explain to your child that, sometime soon, the two of you are going to spend time together, one to one, and have a lot of fun. Your child is going to decide what they want and when they want it, within reason. You give the message that this is going to be a Big Event: It’s Coming Soon … How Exciting! The child then draws up a list of things to do: the key is that your child has chosen it.

Throughout the experience, you are trying, as much as possible, to give them the feeling of “whatever I want, I get” – of being in control and of being gratified, as well as bombed with love. Children who feel loved are likely to be less consumption-obsessed.

In the guidelines I offer, I suggest getting the child to give the experience a name before doing it, like Special Time or Mummy Time or Daddy Time. Often it helps to have a material object to remind them of the experience. 

I have had similar reports of sustained success – followed up one to two years after the love bombing – from parents helping children with violent aggression, myriad anxiety problems, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sleeplessness, perfectionism and even autism.

In many cases, I suspect that the experience stabilises levels of the fight-flight hormone cortisol. If too high, the child can be manic or aggressive or anxious. If too low – blunted – the child may be listless or surly.

Even a brief experience of love and control seems to correct that. Recent evidence suggests that children are far more plastic than was once thought and that the way they are is not fixed, for the vast majority of problems. (Full interview taken from The Guardian, 22nd September 2012)

About a week ago, I started talking to her about it and the time together chosen by her was supposed to be a trip to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs, but when today rolled around, I was surprised that she wanted to stay home. Mrbookandbed made himself scarce (probably delighted he had an afternoon pass to write music all by himself for the first time in about 9 months!) and I am astonished by how loving Monkeyface was towards me; how we had no tantrums as all for the first day in many many months; how responsive she was and how many books we read. I was very worried that I would find myself in a situation where she would have a tantrum and do something she shouldn’t and that I would be stuck in the love-bombing zone not knowing how to handle it yet it didn’t happen even once. I’m so grateful for a regular, fun, happy day. I’m overwhelmed that, given the option to do anything at all, she chose to stay home, play with her toys, eat sausages and mash and present me with book after book after book. I’m overjoyed. 13 rides again.

Despite the Monkey waking me up at 6am and giving her my full attention during this lot, there were a couple of viewings of Monsters Inc. (Monsters Inpor’era’ed to hear the Monkey request it in her South London brogue) during which I finally finished the last fifty pages of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I love Neil Gaiman, and I didn’t hate this but maybe it was just where we were at over Christmas, but my god this book felt like it took many years to read. In fact, I’ve probably read it over 10 days. It felt like longer. I like it far more now I’ve finished it than I did in places when I was reading it.

What a thoroughly fulfilling day.

We read:

The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child (both Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler should you be without a child born within the last ten years or living on Mars.) As every parent of a 3 year old will understand, we read each of these books at least 3 times apiece.

We also read The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr (the chief appeal of this book is that the tiger from the 1960s who has arrived and eaten and drunk everything in the house leaves the big brown teapot on the floor in the kitchen, which happens to look like a great big tiger poo.) We also looked through Just Imagine by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodheart. Committed Christians (of whom I would not imagine there are many) who may stumble across this blog and be turned off by my occasional profanity will look at me with furrowed brow when I explain that the Monkey is a bit obsessed by ghosts at the moment. I don’t know why, but there is a tiny picture of a ghost on the pages of this book dealing with what’s underground and basically the Monkey just likes the kick of making herself scared by the ghost in the picture of the crypt. She then spent about half an hour wandering around the flat with a towel over her head trying to scare us. Hey, whatever gets you through.

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