Children being comforted

Nature, nurture and the hidden cost of parental absence

A lot is said, has been said, will always be said, about parents who leave the family unit. Vilified, justly or otherwise, we see Fathers for Justice, we see stereotypes, we see absent mothers as disproportionately lambasted in contrast to fathers and castigated from communities. It goes on.

Money, love, first casualties for all parties.

One thing that is rarely discussed is the destiny of nature/nurture, especially with regards neurodiversity and mental health conditions. We are not all the same and understanding ourselves throughout life is not something that can be understood by tracing a map of experiences.
Sometimes it is our DNA, or injury, that change us. Sometimes it is passed on from parent to child.

The biggest benefit of close parenting is that you develop a hormonally based bond that intrinsically makes you care, empathise and want to help. (In some cases, this is damaged, by trauma/mental health disorders etc. etc.) and the key benefit of that is that you can look within yourself and see yourself in this little person. You can see their behaviours, their similarities to yourself. You have a unique, and new, viewpoint to see why you were the way you were. That actually, to some extent, you were just naturally prone to certain behaviours. Getting hyperactive I am particularly thinking about right now.
You can’t go back in time and correct any ways you were treated, but you can support the little person in your life to live with it. Manage it. Learn about it.
To some extent this is the power of diagnosis.

We all experience emotions differently, some of us with alexithymia do not, some of us who gifted but emotionally intense, some of us are very calm. Shame is a huge shaper of our lives. We may start ‘masking’ and with that, and other responses, we find ourselves taking steps up a ladder of responses that can before too long make us lose track of what lead to what. A guide is what we need in those moments.

A parent who understands what happened because something similar happened to them. And if both parents are together, there’s a much higher chance of your behaviour being understood, and mentored…. parented.

Bedtime stories

I feel your sharp elbows dig into my chest as you clamber over, getting closer to the page. The ceiling light is off and the walls are dimly lit from a bedside table. You slur your speech with the dummy you’ve outgrown in your mouth as you explain your fast thoughts about the images. I let you fill the blanks in the sentences you’ve assimilated so quickly. Your ravenous mind a sponge.

I am warm and cosy under the duvet in my bed that you sleep in whilst your baby brother needs a sleep companion. Giving mummy and me more rest than if we had to see to you in the night. And we cherish taking turns sleeping with you.

You flit and twist about, putting your head on my chest as I read, sitting up on your haunches leaning your forearms on my chest when an exciting page happens, getting close as I wrap my arm around your torso, holding the other side of the book again. Your warmth an exchange of energy like no other. Your hot little torso. Your warm hands. Your head and hair blocking the pages so I have to peep around you to read the words most of which I can recite from memory. You’re still awake, though you are ready for sleep and keep rubbing your eyes

Your inquisitive intonation and your utter security make me proud. Of myself, but more so of you. Sometimes I try to imagine what it feels like to be with a parent you feel so secure with, going to sleep with them there under the duvet. It must feel so comforting. This caring giant sharing warmth and love, every night.

You barely look at the pages of your old favourites as we read. Instead you fiddle with your cup of milk, or your toy car that you brought into the bed with you after your bath. You love to read them all the same. But the new books? You are transfixed by them and emotionally swept up in them.

I put my fingers through your curls as you lay your head on the pillow. I turn off the bedside light. I wish you good night and tell you I love you. Sometimes, you say ‘I love you, daddy’ in return.

You are nearly 3. We’ve been doing this for over a year and a half, and I will hold this with me forever. It is some of my most special moments.

Poem: cliche life

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it;
so go find someone who can tell you if it’s broke,
’cause it might need fixing.
Time heals all wounds
that can heal.

8 week vaccinations + crying + wow

My baby had their 8 week vaccinations recently, and their mum was AWOL, well that’s not true–she had pre-planned many months previously to be away–at a spa evening (banter points: Dad) and we knew beforehand that this meant one of two things: extra sleep, or extra tears.
The vaccinations in question? Here in the UK the NHS gives a real cocktail of wallop: the 6-in-1 diphtheria; tetanus; whooping cough (pertussis); polio; Haemophilus influenzae type b, another for pneumococcal (PCV), another for rotavirus, and finally meningitis B. I’m totally for vaccinations, after all these guys are scientists.

I was working from home (can’t complain) but started early in the day and worked through lunch to be around earlier, and fortunately didn’t have to witness the injections themselves–which apparently were heartbreaking.

Baby was OK to begin with, was behaving fairly normally, and then sometime in the late afternoon it all just kicked and they wouldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t put them past vertical unless they were leaning forwards on me.

But then something wonderful happened, it all just occurred to me that they weren’t just trying to get into a comfortable position, or needing winding, or needing nappy changing, it was that they wanted to feel safe and secure because they were feeling so mixed up inside. Wow, it sort of just hadn’t occurred to me that this was going to be one of my roles. I don’t know why, I guess it makes so much sense…. but I didn’t think of it. So having him utterly unwilling to be put down for six hours was a lesson for me that this little human trusts me, and wants to know things are OK in a time of crisis. Shit! What a thing…. this was definitely the first time I felt like more than just a nappy/milk/wind/sleep/stimulation servant, and instead like a … well … a parent.