Plane awful

“Sorry but can you please get that little girl to stop screaming?”
Master Nine and I looked at each other in horror.
The voice floated over the back fence and landed on me like a lead weight.
“It’s not a girl, it’s a two-year-old boy,” I called back stiffly.
She (and therefore I) was referring to Lil Fatty, who was on the trampoline with his big brother.
Santa’s gift had been both a source of pleasure and pain, granting Learner Dad and I free time to get things done but also causing fights between the boys.
On this day, in this week of this month, Lil Fatty was probably about halfway through an excruciating screaming phase.
They were piercing, relentless and awful.
They were almost always emitted in the vicinity of Master Nine.
And, if I were my neighbour, I’d be going nuts too.
“I’m doing my best,” I said sadly.
I heard her back door bang shut.
Master Nine just stared at me.
Lil Fatty kept bouncing and babbling, unfazed.
I carried Fairy Floss back inside, put her on the floor, and went and cried on my bed.
I’d felt the sadness in my neighbour’s voice too.
She’d hated doing that.
So why did she?
It reminded me of the time friends flew in from interstate and complained about a crying baby on the plane.
“I don’t know why its mother didn’t do anything,” one said.
I’d had Master Nine by then.
I knew that mother would have eaten an air hostess if it would have made her baby stop crying.
I know this because recently Learner Dad made a huge sacrifice himself.
He actually abandoned a flight because of a screaming Lil Fatty.
Petrified from the moment he’d stepped on to the tarmac, our two-year-old had stood on his seat (35E), pointing frantically at the door through which he’d embarked, and screamed.
I couldn’t bend him in half to put on his seatbelt.
A traumatized Master Nine was crying and Fairy Floss was arching her back in fury.
Amidst it all, Learner Dad’s eyes found mine and he stunned me with: “I’m going to take him off.”
Within seconds, I knew he was doing the right thing.
Passengers who’d been shifting obviously and deliberately, passengers who’d been shaking their heads at us, watched amazed as my brave husband and terrified toddler walked back down the stairs (which had to be driven back in) and across the tarmac.
The lady in front of us, who’d made a show of blocking her ears during the chaos, suddenly doused me with sympathy.
They all did.
“Oh, you should have kept trying, he would have calmed down.”
“Poor little darling, he would have been fine.”
“I can’t believe they let him leave. They could have taken him to the cockpit or something.”
I felt shaky.
And vomity.
At the time, it was a very big deal.
But I’ve buried it at the bottom of this post lest people think our tot a true terror(ist?).
A naughty brat who had a tantrum so big it delayed the plane an hour.
He’s not.
He wasn’t.
He was just scared.
Inconsolably so.
For now, apart from the occasional still-loud squeals of joy, Lil Fatty’s screams have abated.
Embarrassed that day on the trampoline, Master Nine has laid off on the teasing.
And, a late talker, Lil Fatty is finally replacing sounds with words.
I’ve been told I’ll laugh at the plane story one day.
By his 18th birthday, I’m sure I might smile.
But I’ll always think of some of those people on that plane – and my neighbour – with a tinge of sadness.
For parenting is like handling little explosives.
You can wire them so they’re as safe as can be.
But when expert detonators – siblings – and unknown detonators – in this case, aeroplanes – come in to play, they just explode.
And you can jump on your little bomb, take as much of the physical and psychological trauma as possible.
But you can’t stop it happening.
Ever.
People who haven’t had kids would do well to know that.
And people who have would do well to remember.

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The Care Factor, part 2

‘Ok here we go,’ I thought, as Learner Dad’s name flashed on to my phone.
I’d been waiting for this call.
“How did he go?” I asked nervously.
There was only silence.
And then a sniffle.
“Are you there? What happened?” I asked in a panic.
More silence.
Then… “I can’t do it.”
It was Lil Fatty’s first day at childcare and it seemed it wasn’t Lil Fatty who was struggling with it.
“What do you mean?” I whispered, glancing around the office and covering the phone slightly.
“He just doesn’t suspect a thing,” Learner Dad said between sniffles. “I feel so mean leaving him here.”
After weeks of debate, Lil Fatty was enrolled for one day a week of childcare.
Learner Dad didn’t like the idea one bit.
I liked it a lot.
For a start, I’d been ready to take on another day of work a week.
And secondly, Master Nine had loved childcare.
He’d learned more about sharing and hygiene than I’d ever taught him.
And it filled the arts and crafts component of parenting I had always lacked.
“Do you want me to come and walk him in with you?” I asked my husband. “I’m sure Nathan would understand.”
Nathan was my boss.
And Learner Dad’s.
There was no way he was going to let me tell Nathan he was crying in the car outside Lil Fatty’s childcare centre.
“No, no, I’ll do it,” he said.
And, to his credit, he did.
Two hours later we were called to collect an inconsolable Lil Fatty.
Both flat out at work, we picked him up and took turns looking after him at the office.
Over the following weeks, things barely improved.
Learner Dad had the ugly job of dropping Lil Fatty off.
I was the hero who picked him up.
Learner Dad would leave him waving tearfully at the window.
And I’d find him in the same place seven hours later.
Of course he didn’t spend the whole day at the window.
A large portion of it was spent on the toddler room couch, clutching a rainbow abacus and screaming at any kid who came near him.
And so, by the time I was heading off on maternity leave for Fairy Floss, I was under the assumption Lil Fatty would be taking a crèche sabbatical too.
But the tables had turned.
Learner Dad was starting to see social improvements in Lil Fatty.
He no longer cried when his daddy dropped him off.
He’d begun venturing outside to play.
And he was, of course, a big fan of the hot lunch.
“If we take him out, we’ll have to go through this all over again,” Learner Dad said, referring to my inevitable return to work.
“You shouldn’t put him through all this again,” Lil Fatty’s carers reiterated.
And so he stayed.
I doubt I’ll ever feel comfortable watching Lil Fatty and his dad roll out of the driveway on a Friday morning.
But he waves cheerfully to me now as he leaves and he no longer cries when he gets there.
And nor does Lil Fatty.

Care Factor part 1 was written prior to my return to work in 2013

Don’t poke your nose in

“How do you like it, hey?” I heard from the car.
Standing at the boot, I looked through the rear window to see the woman poking my seven-year-old in the face.
She wasn’t doing it aggressively, but it wasn’t affectionate either.
Master Seven had been poking Li’l Fatty in the face only moments before and this woman clearly thought it her place to teach him a lesson.
I hesitated, taking a half step forward.
But then she stopped, and resumed installing the car seat, a humbled Master Seven sitting on the back seat next to her, red-faced and unsure where to look.
I didn’t know how to feel.
It wasn’t a question of whether her tactic – doing to Master Seven what he had been doing to Li’l Fatty – was the right way to teach him.
It was a question of her being the teacher.
I didn’t even know this woman three minutes ago.
I’d come across nosy parkers before.
Even among my own friends and family.
Most of them stopped sharing their parenting tips the moment they actually became parents and realised how hard it can be.
Like the one who couldn’t believe I’d let my child have a toy at the dinner table.
And then, when she had her own, had to make a dance out of every mouthful to get hers to eat.
Then the one who protectively shielded her baby from the other kids, only to have him burst out and become the playground bully.
And we all have friends who’ll frown, sometimes even growl, at our children in order to protect their own.
My Master Seven has always been a gentle child so I’ve usually been taken aback if a friend tells him off.
Is that just me being a protective mum?
I’m not usually.
I’m ashamed to say I’m actually one of those weak parents who instantly apologises and then quietly warns poor Master Seven to back off anyway.
Then, when my friend’s child gets aggressive, I’ll not only fail to berate their child, I’ll make it seem like a good thing.
“That’s ok, I’m sure Miss Six didn’t mean it,” I’ll blurt out. “Master Seven could use a bit of toughening up anyway.”
At which point he’ll pick himself up from the ground and stare at me open-mouthed.
“But Mum, I didn’t do anything,” he’ll say on the way home. “She whacked me around the head.”
“I know honey,” I’ll reply, reminding myself to set a better example next time.
We’ve all seen or read The Slap by now.
I’m not sure I’d take a man to court for slapping my child (a swift kick in the balls and a slap around his own face ought to do it) but it brought up an unspoken question.
Are there any circumstances where a stranger can discipline your child?
How about an acquaintance?
A teacher?
A friend?
A relative?
The grandparents are allowed full reign on our boys.
In fact I don’t think they discipline them enough.
But maybe that’s why it’s never been a problem.
And as far as teachers are concerned, what happens at school stays at school.
We have to trust them on that one.
I won’t be prosecuting the woman who poked Master Seven in the face.
He did kind of deserve it.
But I just might install my own car seat next time.