In an effort to keep J entertained this half-term (and therefore make half-term less stressful for all involved) I decided the best option was to keep him busy, so I decided we'd go to my parents. It also works out better for me, as it means I have someone there to look after J while I’m getting on with work – at home alone with him on half term while I’m trying to work is next to impossible as he is interrupting me every five minutes and it makes everything take ages longer than it should to get done.
He broke up from school on the Wednesday, and while he was at school I packed our things and got the car ready for a long journey. After collecting him from school, he got changed and we got in the car. Having done the trip many times before, I prepare thoroughly – he had a small lunch bag containing various Tupperware boxes with nibbles for the journey and two bottles of drink (I also take an empty bottle with me in case of emergencies!) He had his backpack containing his (fully charged) Leappad, a notebook and pencil case, a couple of toy cars and some Lego pieces. I picked up a very handy car organiser in Aldi a couple of weeks ago for £5 and in this I put other small bits and pieces which would help keep him entertained. For me, up front in the drivers seat for 113 miles, I had a thermos travel mug of coffee and a bottle of strawberry water along with a packet of sugar free mints. We got in the car and set off for the journey.
J is very good at car journeys – he always has been, right from when he was tiny. His first ever car journey was home from the hospital like most babies – it takes about 40 mins and he slept the whole way in his CabrioFix carseat. We travel this particular journey a few times a year, normally just J and I, and we stay with my parents for a few nights and visit family and friends we don’t often get to see.
|The Queen Elizabeth II bridge - Image by|
Our journey is by default 2 hours door to door, however there is normally some kind of hold up on the way making it longer. On the way there we encountered a silly man who failed to realise the person in front had braked by the toll booths at the Dartford crossing on the M25. Police were on scene but the two damaged vehicles, plus police cars, made a bottle neck style squeeze right before the toll booths to get off the Queen Elizabeth bridge which delayed us by about 40 minutes. J was brilliant the whole time, chattering away to his invisible friends (there are many – it varies who he has with him, but at that point it was constantly Emmett and Lucy from The Lego Movie) He was building with his Lego and pretending they were helping him, I had Radio 1 on the car radio and it was all very civilised and relaxed despite the hold ups. We arrived at mums later than planned, but it wasn’t a big deal and we ate dinner as soon as we arrived then J went to bed.
Our first full day there was Thursday, and I had to work – Once mum had been to the dentists and come home again, I disappeared upstairs to work in the loft room (my old bedroom – it’s always very surreal sitting there working) Mum kept J entertained and they had a great time. The following day I came downstairs for lunch and J played up as soon as I appeared – once I went back upstairs again he was fine. It’s weird how he gets like that when there’s more than one person about.
On Saturday we piled into the car with my dad, and we drove another few miles to visit my brother, his wife and their daughter. J is obsessed with his cousin R – he loves visiting them all, and when we’re there he wants to cuddle and kiss her all the time. The trouble is, R is not a particularly tactile little lady – yet – she’s only six months old and she’s unsure of us because she doesn’t see us very often, so she tends to be worried about J’s constant affection and seeking the reassurance of her mum and dad. Since J does get himself so over excited about visiting them he does tend to go off on the deep end a bit – he starts running around, getting louder and louder, and sillier and sillier. After some work checks I suggested we all went for a walk, so we got R in the pushchair and went out. J held onto the pushchair nicely and we went to see the planes nearby, but on the way home he started getting silly and didn’t want to hold hands to walk nicely. His Uncle J and myself ended up grabbing a hand each and almost dragging him along as he screamed about wanting to hold the pushchair again – we explained if he wanted to, he’d have to walk holding hands til we caught up with his Auntie E and the pushchair, but he continued screaming and struggling the whole way. By this point my dad was beginning to understand the difficulties I have with J as he’d never really witnessed much before and it’s difficult to explain to people in a way that they realise when you say you can’t do something it isn’t for lack of trying. J held onto the pushchair and walked nicely again. Then, for reasons best known to himself, he let go, and he raced off down the road.
The road is very quiet, but it’s a turning off a busy, fast road and while the chances of him coming to any harm in their road are remote, if he’d got as far as the main road and tripped over into it or raced out to cross it in his silly mood, it could have been disastrous. Fortunately my brother can shift when he puts his mind to it and he stopped J getting any further, then held his hand back to their house. Once there, J and I went into the back garden so he could carry on running around without causing damage to their home – for a while we had a great time.
One thing about J is that even if he’s boiling hot and red faced with sweat pouring off him, he won’t think to take his sweater off or pause for a drink and catch his breath, he’ll keep going. So as he started getting hotter and sweatier, Auntie E asked him to stop and take his sweater off and have a drink. He wanted to have a drink first, and went indoors for it. He then came to the backdoor with a mouthful of squash and spat it out onto the patio.
I was so upset. We’d had a big chat just a couple of days before travelling to mums house about him spitting. It certainly isn’t a habit he’s picked up from myself or Daddy P – I think it’s absolutely disgusting and I’ve been known to tell off friends of mine for doing it! There’s no reason for spitting and yet J for some reason has always gone through phases of doing it. (Last time was when he was about 3 and he would hang over the edge of the sofa in the front room and spit onto the floor, saying he couldn’t swallow the spit in his mouth because swallowing meant going uphill due to the position he was in) My brother told him off for spitting and asked him why he’d done it. At this point, J had a meltdown.
Whether it was because it was so unexpected having my brother tell him off, whether it was because he realised that Uncle J is a force to be reckoned with (he’s a mild mannered, laid back character, but he is a stubborn and strong willed man too) whether it was because he realised as soon as he’d done it what a big mistake it was and felt silly, I don’t know, but J literally went off on one. There were tears, screams, he was struggling to get away from Uncle J’s grip, kicking out at him, yelling, he was asking me to help him because he didn’t want Uncle J to have him, all sorts. Uncle J was calm and firm, kept repeating himself to J “Why did you spit? Tell me why and I’ll let you go” for ages all J kept doing was screaming no and mummy help and it took a long time to realise that wasn’t getting him anywhere so he eventually gave Uncle J a reason – that he’d taken too big a mouthful of squash. They had a chat about taking smaller sips of squash and not spitting.
The meltdown was a fairly impressive one, considering he’s never done it in front of J and E / at their house before. Usually his really spectacular behaviour is reserved for myself and Daddy P, sometimes in front of my parents and rarely in front of Grandma and Grandad P. I was really impressed with the way my brother reacted – he kept calm, he got down on the same level as J, he spoke calmly and firmly and repeated himself and provided reasoning and everything that you’re meant to do but which sometimes, when it’s the fifth or sixth time that day and I didn’t sleep too well the night before, the things I find so difficult to do. My dad started to get really concerned with the degree of meltdown after the calm-down time and the conversation, and then without warning J suddenly revved up again and was yelling and screaming. My brother wanted to explain to him why we didn’t spit (us civilised, well mannered human beings in developed countries) and J was done listening. This meltdown I was the one trying to hold onto him as he went beserk. He landed several punches, kicked me in the stomach (I was sat on the floor trying to wrap my arms and legs around him to stop him running off or hurting himself and he managed to get me several times and with a lot of force) He started pulling my hair to get me closer to him and smack me round the face or headbutt me. He grabbed my jumper and pulled at it to expose the skin on my neck and shoulder and then grabbed it with his hand and dug in his nails. At one point I tried to wrap my arm around him and control him and he grabbed two fingers of my right hand and bent them in opposite directions as he squealed in my ear. His transformation from Jekyll into Hyde was complete, and all in front of his Uncle J, who continued dealing remarkably well, but who was obviously surprised by this behaviour.
In total, not including the five minute breather after the incident and before part 2 of the meltdown, J was screaming / yelling for two hours. It started around three, just as his cousin R went up for her nap – it didn’t finish until twenty past five, when I said to him he’d wasted our time there and it was time to pack up and go. He was upset and started getting worked up about that – I told him if he hadn’t wasted all our time being silly and having a tantrum he could have done much more playing with Lego with Uncle J, more reading 10 Little Fishes with Auntie E, more watching In The Night Garden with cousin R. I eventually had to carry him, still screaming and yelling and kicking and hitting at me, to the car and put him into the carseat then wrestle the seatbelt around him. He continued for a short time but soon realised he was getting no further reaction from me or my dad, and he calmed down. Back at their house, he kicked up a fuss about dinner and refused to eat, so he ended up going to bed with hardly any dinner but he was so exhausted by that point after such a stressful day that he fell asleep exhausted relatively early. My dad couldn't believe it – he was in total shock about the behaviour. (More about that in a later post) I may have gone to the supermarket once he was asleep (with mum and dad at home with him, obvs) and got a bottle of vodka and I may have got a little drunk that night. It wasn’t a successful day – and more than a little challenging.
Sunday I woke feeling apprehensive. After the meltdown of the previous afternoon I wasn't sure how J was going to behave and I wasn't sure if he would still be in the frame of mind where he wanted to go home. I needn't have worried – he’d slept well and woken up in a good mood and gone downstairs with my mum. He didn't mention coming home again, and we had a lovely day. On Monday I worked in the loft room again – mum’s sister, my Aunt M, came round and spent the morning with mum and J. Once again at lunchtime I went downstairs and J immediately started acting up – Aunt M had to leave, J continued to tantrum throughout lunch so eventually mum left me with J. One thing we've found when J starts acting up is that it’s made worse by having more than one person there. If you’re left with him to get on, chances are he’ll come down and it’ll be fine pretty soon. Sure enough it worked and soon we swapped, so I could go back upstairs and carry on working and mum spent the afternoon with J.
On Tuesday I was off work but mum and dad both went to work. J and I had a lovely morning – we did some crafting (we made a book!) and we watched some Thomas and some Scooby Do. At lunchtime we were treated to a visit from an old friend of mine. A is not a parent, but she adores Star Wars and Lego and her and J are good friends. We spent a wonderful afternoon with her and then J had an early bath and was ready for bed by the time my mum got home from work – I headed out for the evening, leaving mum to babysit. Mum reported that he was absolutely fine and went to bed with no arguments *relief*
We made our return journey on Wednesday. Again I loaded the car carefully to make sure J was well entertained for the duration. Once more the Dartford crossing was stuffed and added almost an extra hour to our drive time but we made it and got home by mid afternoon. It had been a tiring but on the whole a lovely time with my parents. I’m sure they needed a rest from us as much as we needed to get back to our own home by the end of it!