Here is what a baptism of fire looks like.
We intended to get rid of the dummies gradually, honest. I mean pacifiers, binkies, whatever you call them in your house. We call them ‘dodies’ in ours. Whatever they’re called, Henry loves them like they grew alongside him in the womb. (They did not.) But once he could ask for them, he did nothing else. He was getting more attached to them, not less. It was time to bite the bullet of tears, and bite it good.
We posted them all off to babies who needed them on Monday, and went to buy him a cement mixer in return (the loves of little boys are mysterious things). He was fine with it until I wanted the one in his mouth. That’s when he realised I was serious, and I realised we’d be going through a proper grief cycle. Here we were in Denial. There was a lot of this.
He screamed all around the supermarket, through naps and bedtime, in the middle of Battle Library, and for many, many hours in our living room. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a forty-eight hour screamathon in your ear, but it makes you feel like a skinned rabbit. The back of your throat chokes up until you can’t swallow or breathe. There were several moments where I genuinely wanted to leave him on a doorstep to be raised by nuns, and only didn’t because nuns are harder to find than they used to be. But I worried, quite seriously, that all of his previous good nature was only down to that thing in his mouth, and without it he’d be a demon forever and ever.
On Monday afternoon, feeling like I was being strangled by scream, I bought a day’s worth of Hay Festival tickets as an act of faith that we’d be able to leave the house again someday. On Tuesday afternoon I drove around grim-faced until he’d gone to sleep in his car seat, then bought an apple pie and a strawberry milkshake from McDonald’s and sat in the car park till he woke up. When I found myself wishing vehement holy hell on anyone walking past and talking above a whisper, I realised I was a little highly strung.
Three days later, and we’re almost there. Putting him in his cot with a toy was the accidental masterstroke, so now we’re down to five minutes of bedtime outrage at most. He only asked for a dodie twice yesterday, and when I reminded him that we gave them away, he remembered and said ‘babies!’. I think this means we might be approaching Acceptance stage in the grief cycle, though we keep flipping back into Anger and Thrashing. Especially, for some reason, before breakfast (because 6.15am is precisely when you want to be thinking about time out, I can testify).
I have not even contemplated church, or a restaurant. I don’t have a strategy ready for the times he wants something in public that I can’t or won’t give him. Ug. I wish he came with a manual, or helpful signs on his forehead.
Yesterday afternoon we walked to the park. He is always much more interested in the journey than the destination, and wants to balance on every wall, pull every hedge, bang on every street sign. A fire engine drove past, and bless those lovely men and women, when they saw him staring they all waved at him out of the window. He was thunderstruck. When you take forty-five minutes to walk half a mile, you get to notice things. There were buds on the trees, and a few flowers shivering in corners. It felt like Spring was trying hard, for a moment. It felt like a promise that we’d get back to better things soon.
Here’s hoping for a good Thursday.