I didn’t do very well with my response to Unordered’s question about the age of Tiddles, did I? I managed to cut and paste the actual comment, but my reponse quite quickly went for a Burton, whatever a Burton is, as soon as I clicked on “Edit”.
You are right, of course, that it is very much in the nature of mothers to experience their children as a variety of ages. I mean, I am sure that my father was around when I was born and does actually know that it was… cough… er… twenty-one-and-a-bit years ago (the “bit” is open to non-too-literal interpretation) but he still has difficulty sometimes remembering that I’m more than fourteen.
Actually, it is a key feature of the emotional damage that my children have experienced that their age does actually vary from day to day, sometimes from minute to minute. It’s as though they are trapped in the part of their lives which they didn’t quite get to live out properly, if that makes sense, and sometimes that little child just has to come out, especially at times of stress or anxiety or tiredness or simply things being out of normal routine. Thus life with Tiddles can be a case of mothering a toddler; it can be a case of mothering a chattering eight-year-old; it can be a case of dealing with a truculent teenager; it can occasionally even be the delightful situation of being in the company of a very normal thirteen year old boy with flashes of intense maturity. Trouble is, you’re never quite sure which you’re going to get at any given moment. It’s the combination of truculent teenager with the terrible twos that is somewhat daunting. That and the thought of him reverting to a little boy with the anxiety of changing schools in September – the child I took with me to visit the schools on the open evenings was wide open for bullying as his nerves lowered his emotional age by about eight years and he called me “Mummy”, held my hand and wanted to sit on my lap for reassurance in the crowded assembly hall.
The attachment disorder is interesting in the way it plays out so differently in each of them. On first meeting them it isn’t always apparent and some people are shocked at how strict I am with them, how I tackle relationship issues there and then (sometimes to the embarrassment of the adult as the boys can be overly tactile and I have to act immediately to reinforce the correct code of conduct with visitors!), how I give them responsibility rather than mummy them all the time, how they are expected to look to me for permission for certain things which other children might just take for granted.
Smudgelet is fairly consistently eight (nearly nine – my word, where do the years go?). His difficulties are more in the area of control, and of acknowledging that people exist outside his immediate sphere of interest. My sister had to explain to my brother-in-law that Smudgelet was not ignoring him or snubbing him, it was just that while buttering himself a piece of toast, the presence of another person in the room first thing in the morning was beyond his personal priorities. Hee hee! It can be really irritating, though. He has to be in control, subtly, all the time and has no grasp of the right and wrong moments for whatever is pressing to him at the time. So last week the two boys had been asked to keep themselves out of the way while my brother and I worked on the final day’s work on the doors. I was outside, painting a 4 foot strip of wood with quick-dry primer, manoevring it to try to paint it upright without getting covered in paint or putting it down on the ground. Not easy.
Mummy, mummy, you must come in the lounge now.
Why, Smudgelet? Is it important? I asked you not to interrupt me.
Yes, it’s very important.
Why, what is the matter?
I can’t tell you.
Will it wait until I’m finished?
No, you must come now. It’s very important.
Smudgelet, I am covered with paint. This paint dries very quickly and I’d like to finish what I’m doing first.
But you must come straight away, Mummy.
I will have to put the lid on the paint, wrap the brush in cling film, wash my hands. Are you sure it won’t wait?
Mummy, please. It’s essential that you come right now. I can’t tell you why.
Slightly impatiently I pack away, balance the strip of wood on the paint can, try to ignore the primer coating my hands, and make my way to the lounge. The dire emergency? Well…… on my computer desk was a basket with a note: “To a speashal mummy from the Easter Bunny”, complete with half of Smudgelet’s Easter eggs (quite something in itself as he’s not one for seeing any importance to sharing unless it’s someone else sharing with him) and a present he’d made for me while he was away. 😀 Extremely essential 😀