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Unfortunately this post is a little on the heavy side – as usual it’s full of the mistakes I’ve made and how I’ve probably made things worse for our kids. But on the plus side, there’s no poo in this one, just bath time shenanigans, so that’s a bonus!

Having read the various therapeutic parenting books that my wife has forced upon me kindly asked me to peruse, the overwhelming advice is to stick to a routine where possible. Kids like routine, and for looked after kids this is compounded by an order of magnitude.

Obviously my wife and I know better, having been parents for a couple of months now, we know everything there is to know about parenting. We got this shizzle nailed! Or not…

So our oldest started school a couple of weeks ago and he’s settling in really well. Far better than we expected actually; so much so that last week he was invited to his first birthday party. Lucky for us no parents were invited due to COVID, so we were able to dodge all the awkward small talk (probably for the best given my recent performance in such matters).

The party was after school one evening, so my wife and I agreed that he could go to the party (after much begging from our oldest), she would take him and I would stay home and bath our youngest. All good. Best parents ever!

Party time

The big day comes – our oldest finishes school and comes back home to get changed. He’s a little wobbly and anxious, but we talk him through it with our Colour Monster analogy. He’s able to label his feelings and the overwhelming one is excitement, albeit with a bit of worry and fear thrown into the mix.

He gets into his Sunday best, which compromises of a pair of jeans that don’t really fit him that well anymore, but they’re “super duper cool!” and a t-shirt with glittery things on it. Looking sharp, with his aftershave on and his hair waxed, off he goes to his first party.

Side note: We later found out that this was his FIRST EVER party, not just his first party with us. Poor kid, no wonder he was so excited!

Right then. Time for a bit of nice 1 on 1 time with the youngest, I thought, and off I went to run the bath…

Bath time

Bath time is Dad’s time with the kids. I’m in work all day, so it gives me a chance to have some alone time with them. Plus, it gives my wife a chance to tidy up their mess from the day little break. When they were first placed with us, they were pretty bad in the bath – neither of them liked getting water on their face and the whole thing would be a frustrating affair.

With the help of some children’s goggles, a lot of patients and attempts to make it fun, things are now much better. But on this particular night, our youngest seemed to have reverted back to his old ways.

I wondered if he was tired, as he’s a right little grump when he hasn’t had his full compliment of kip. This felt different though. He wasn’t grumpy, he was upset.

I thought I could snap him out of it with my usual playfulness, silly faces and pretend farts, but nothing worked. Let me tell you folks, if pretending to do a gargantuan fart doesn’t get a laugh from a little boy, something is seriously wrong.

His behaviour continued to deteriorate to the point where the poor little guy was just sitting in the bath whaling. He was inconsolable, he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong and any attempts to pick him up and comfort him just made things worse.

At this point I could feel myself starting to get frustrated; he was picking up on it too as things were escalating. I’m now in a situation where I have a bellowing little boy that needs something, goodness knows what, but he needs something! But as well as this, I need some space too otherwise my frustration was likely to escalate and make things worse.

Deep breaths, Daddy!

I stop pissing about with my own frustration and get a grip of myself, by which time he has also calmed slightly. So I take the opportunity to colour monster the crap out of the little guy to see if we can name his feelings and get to the bottom of this. He sees right through my cunning plan and kiboshes the whole things. I’m back to square one.

I want Mummy! Where is [oldest son]?!

I explain that our oldest is at the party and that Mummy has gone to pick him up, but both of them will be back very soon. I thought this would help reassure the little fella and we could get back to having a fun bath…

WRONG!

This made him altogether worse and he started whaling more than before, to the point where he was uncontrollably sobbing. If I even attempted to move toward him at this point, he would go mental. It was like he was petrified of me. I felt so bad for him.

Twenty minutes later and things are still just as bad. I can’t get him out of the bath and I can’t comfort him. He’s just sat there, in the bath looking at a toy and sobbing. My wife and our oldest return, and he immediately snaps out of it. A huge smile beams across his face and he’s back to normal.

To be clear here, when I say “immediately” I literally mean immediately. It was like switching a light off. He was my best friend again and was so happy to see Mummy and our oldest.

The aftermath

My wife and I had our evening debrief once the kids were in bed and I recounted the whole horrid ordeal. We sat and reflected on what may have caused this, and we think we know. You see, our normal evening routine goes something like this:

  • 16:00 – Wife and kids home from the school run.
  • 17:00 – Tea time as a family.
  • 17:45 – Bath time (me and the kids).
  • 18:30 – Story time.
  • 19:00 – Bed time.

However, on this night the routine was way different, looking something like this:

  • 16:00 – Wife and kids home from the school run.
  • 16:30 – Wife takes oldest to party.
  • 17:00 – Tea time for youngest, wife and myself.
  • 17:45 – Bath time (me and youngest).
  • 18:30 – Oldest returns home.
  • 19:00 – Story time.
  • 19:30 – Bed time.

This is a huge departure from the norm, but not only this, our youngest was missing the only constant he has had in his entire life – his big brother. So not only was he wobbly because of the massive change in routine, he had also lost the person he looks up to – the person that shows him everything is ok.

For all he knew, I could be another dishonest adult and his brother has been sent away, just like they were in the past. No wonder he didn’t want to come to me for a cuddle! Ah, I feel so sorry for him.

My wife and I tend not to worry about our youngest as much as our oldest. I wonder if, subconsciously, we think that he’s hasn’t been exposed to as much as our older boy, given his age, and therefore we think he’s somehow more resilient. That’s obviously wrong and something we really need to work on.

I suppose it’s just another step in learning what our boys are comfortable with, and what we need to be acutely aware of. In general things are getting a little better every day, but then things like this happen that bring us back down to earth with a very hard bump. We will get there, we just need to take it one day at a time.

This was a pretty heavy one today, so I’ll end this post with a dad joke so we can finish with a laugh…

What did the the drummer call his twin daughters? Anna one, Anna two!

And with that extremely crap funny joke, I’ll leave this one there.

Until next time, folks. Dad, out.


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