I am not a great one for New Year’s resolutions – I figure why wait for an arbitrary day to start something new. However, having had a business background for the two decades I am a great one for setting objectives. When I look back at the parenting objectives that I set myself as a father over the last twelve months I am proud to say that I have met most of them. The problem is: that is just where the trouble starts.
As most of you will know, my main reason for being a stay-at-home Dad is so that I can provide as much support as possible for my three year old son Arun who has cerebral palsy. Unsurprisingly, most of my parenting objectives for the past year have been developmental objectives for him. At the start of my year I set myself the goal of teaching Arun how to walk, talk and feed himself.
On the walking front Arun has done brilliantly. His physiotherapist is amazed at the progress that he has made. Whereas just over a year ago my wife and I were starting to look for a house that could accommodate a wheelchair and a lift, we are now thinking about converting the conservatory in our old Victorian semi into a playroom. Arun is scuttling around the house and up and down stairs with huge freedom. The problem with this is that he is also taking his toys and random objects with him and leaving them in the most bizzare places. Within the last week we have found spoons in the under stairs cupboard, stacking cups in the oven and bathroom ornaments in the washing machine. A whisk attachment for our food processor is still missing and Clare estimates that about £100 of make-up and toiletries have gone missing in the last three months. All very frustrating but we are just delighted.
Arun is now chattering and singing away like the happy little toddler that he is. However, in an attempt to encourage his speaking we adopted a policy of giving him what he wanted if he asked for it nicely. This is great for re-enforcing constructive communication (I think that what the Speech and Language Therapist called it) but a nightmare when it comes to setting boundaries. Arun is now having to learn that there are some things (like his eighth Petit Filou of the day) that he just won’t get no matter how nicely he asks for it. His response? To ask for it again but just louder (proper little Englishman abroad). Having a toddler scream “Petit Filou please!” at the top of his voice twenty times is not that endearing.
When it comes to eating Arun is not quite there yet. He still needs a lot of assistance to feed himself but he is starting to show a lot of interest in doing for himself. When it comes to the famous petit filou he will put a spoonful in his mouth if you help him load it up. However, when it comes to other food he is mostly interested in exploring it through the medium of messy play (I think this is what his Occupational Therapist called it). However, this means that he sticks his spoon and / or his hands in the food and then waves them around. A lot. The walls and the carpet (not to mention the dining table, stereo and TV) in our house will need some attention very soon. Meal times are a very, very messy business. By the time it gets to 6pm I am usually wearing my five a day and I personally think that the petit filou is doing wonders for my fast receding hair.
So, I suppose that I must now look forward to the coming year and set myself some objectives for the next twelve months. Hopefully in a year’s time Arun will be feeding himself, be nappy trained and be starting to read basic words. Seems innocent enough but I can assure you that my little boy will figure out a way of turning even these simple things into carnage, confusion and mayhem.
Bring it on.