We were going thorough a truly terrible few days.
Relentless anger, door slamming and swearing, and the endless obsession with a need for an expensive IPhone.
Anxiety peaked on the return home from school and lasted well into the evening.
We’d had similar before, but this was worse than usual.
Normally, a different activity, change of scene or even a night’s sleep would ‘reset the clock’ and help us all regulate.
It was gruelling, and rather like The Battle of Britain in World War II, we had no idea if we were at the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning.
We dreaded the weekend, as the lack of structure just looked like an endless 48 hours of anger management and destruction control.
On Friday evening, the IPhone issue was raised, again.
We’d said ‘no’ for, what we considered to be a very reasonable set of reasons.
In no particular order, these were:
- He already had a phone.
- He broke everything, absolutely everything, either wilfully or absentmindedly.
- He was 11 and too young.
- We didn’t have the £853.
- You can’t give in to a kid’s tantrums. If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile, and as adults, we were in control. We considered this to be a sacrosanct pillar of parenting.
On Friday evening at 11pm, the battle was still raging.
I’d not been able to watch Gardener’s World or the Snooker.
Things were serious.
In a moment of quiet reflection, whilst hiding in the toilet, I considered the situation.
What we were doing, was not working.
This kid’s stamina and resilience was greater than ours. He had limitless amounts of adrenaline on his side. We were spent.
“I have an idea.” I posited, in the most casual of manners.
“There may be a phone at The Cash Converter. Would anyone like to come with me and have a look?”
The Little Man’s ears pricked up.
“Yes, this may be a solution. We should drive there, this very moment.” ( These weren’t his actual words).
I had banked on this reaction.
“Great. Get your coat and shoes on. We will go now. However, we can’t drive as I’ve had a beer and that is illegal. We will walk, but we must go now.”
The order of what I said was planned and considered.
I knew the urgency would appeal to him.
We set off.
I hadn’t had a beer. Drinking and managing anger never ever go well together.
I wanted us to walk and I took the longest route possible.
I knew exercise would dissipate some of the adrenaline in his body.
I’d learnt that on a course.
An hour later, we arrived at The Cash Converter.
It was shut.
I had anticipated this too.
After all, it was 1.00am.
The Little Man kicked the shutter.
“I’ve got another idea. We can make a phone. We have everything we need at home. We can print out a photo of the phone we want. We can use Amazon packaging from the recycling bin. We can measure it all out and cover it in sellotape. Will you help me?”
The use of “we” was important and deliberate.
By 2.00am, we were back home, printing, cutting, sticking and gluing.
I’m no Blue Peter presenter, but what we created was pronounced ‘good enough’.
Every parent of any type needs to know that ‘good enough’ is the only real measure of success.
By 2.30am, we were all tucked up and asleep.
On the following day, Saturday, The Little Man was going to a party.
He’d had an invitation from a kid in his class.
The Penny dropped.
He was scared.
He was scared that there would be strangers at the party.
He was scared that he wouldn’t recognise the food and that he wouldn’t know where the toilet was.
He was scared there might be a dog.
He was scared we would leave him, and he would be alone.
We think certain obsessions, such as phones, are merely subconscious strategies to keep us close during times of anxiety.
The week’s battles had been his attempt to keep us close.
Who had control in this situation?
Me? Us? Him?
No, Fear was in control, fear masquerading as anger.
If you can deal with the fear, the rest, is relatively easy.