Parenting is a Hundred Heartbreaks a Day

Tyger and Bear have a…tempestuous relationship – yeah, let’s go with that – but more and more they are ‘playing’ together.  It’s hard because Bear is only 16 months so is pretty limited in what he can do and Tyger is…Tyger.  His idea of playing is to roll on top of the other person, pile blankets on them or simply imitate everything they do whilst standing so close to them he’s touching them.

So, it was quite sweet the other day when Tyger tried to play with Bear and was desperate for the two of them to sit down on a mat together.  He asked me to ‘make’ Bear sit with him so I had to explain yet again about Bear having autonomy over himself and what he does now.  Tyger preferred it, in many ways, when Bear was still a very young Baby Bear and could be plonked somewhere in the room with reasonable chance of him staying there.  After lots of encouragement and coaxing, Bear finally got down from the sofa and toddled over to Tyger.  Tyger was thrilled…until Bear swerved just as he got to Tyger and waddled over to me instead.

‘Oh,’ Tyger said deflated.

It was awful.  This was not a defining moment for Tyger.  It probably wasn’t something he’s even thought about since.  But the fact he was so eager to have Bear with him and so excited when Bear seemed to give assent but so disappointed when Bear blithely revoked that assent was horrible to watch.  Nobody wants to see their child rejected – even if it’s by a sibling – and Tyger is so awkward with other people it just seems all the more poignant.

There you go.  I’m a neurotic mess of a mother who gets upset over her precious first born being a bit deflated by his brother wandering off.  I’m not sure if there are support groups for such things.

Then there was the Frozen incident recently.  Tyger loves Frozen.  I have mentioned how much Tyger loves Frozen before in my my first ever blog post (about potty training) and the one about his Elsa dress.  He’s a sensitive soul, though, and has always been concerned about the fate of Anna and Elsa’s parents.

For anyone who hasn’t seen Frozen (seriously, who hasn’t seen Frozen?), it’s not exactly a big spoiler – especially given the general fate of parents in Disney films – to let you know the king and queen die at sea in a storm near the beginning of the film.  Don’t feel too sad; they were pretty terrible parents anyway what with locking their daughter away from all human contact and telling her to repress any emotion she ever feels.

So, a few days ago we were watching Frozen again and Tyger asked more questions about Anna and Elsa’s parents and what happened to them.  I explained about a thunder storm leading to the ship sinking but – shockingly – this did not help to alleviate Tyger’s worries.  I didn’t want to lie to him but it’s hard to explain death to a three year old: especially one with ASD prone to obsessing over things and with very high levels of anxiety.  He uneasily pointed out we have thunder storms here so I reassured him as best I could.  This is when he said it.

Tyger: You’re not sinking, are you?

Me: No.  There’s no water here, anyway.

Tyger: (Quietly) I’ll try to keep you safe.

That was heartbreaking.

I explained it wasn’t for him to keep me safe, it was my job to keep him safe but he kept telling me he loved me for the rest of the film.

Yes, it was endearing and touching but it was also upsetting to see how anxious and earnest he was and I’ve noticed more ‘I love you’s since (which is nice but also a bit sad if he’s being driven to say it by the fear I may up and drown in a storm at any moment!).

I don’t know if I’m a super anxious and really sensitive parent or if all parents are like this.  I suspect most are to some degree, though perhaps not to the same extent as I’m describing.  I even feel heartbroken for Tyger when he asks for chocolate and gets upset when I say ‘no’.  I know he’s being unreasonable, his tantrum can be vaguely amusing and I know I’m doing the right thing by saying ‘no’ (he gets plenty – probably too much – in the way of treats before anyone thinks he’s deprived and I don’t just mean treats like rice cakes and raisins) but I still feel bad when he’s disappointed because it’s not a nice feeling.

As for Baby Bear, he has teething and nappy rash (although, not often) and an older brother who likes to use him for target practice but up until recently there wasn’t much else to worry him.  Now, he’s also starting to be able to express his desires (through pointing and grunting, he doesn’t really do verbal language yet) so disappointment at not getting his way is also becoming a thing.  Today he had a 45 minute tantrum (full-on screaming, kicking, thrashing, throwing things and gouging anyone who came near him) because I took him away from the Wolf’s computer.  At one point we thought he’d swallowed a key from the Wolf’s keyboard and was in agonising pain, which was why he was reacting in such a way, but the key turned up on the floor.  Despite his complete overreaction and the awful noise we had to endure for three quarters of an hour, I felt bad for him.  Bear was obviously distressed.  He was exhausted when he finally calmed down.  It wasn’t a nice experience for him, even if it was mostly self-inflicted.

And soon Baby Bear will have the same complex emotions and fears as Tyger.  Every hour will bring countless instances of anguish.

But they’ll also bring joy and amusement.  Today Tyger drew a recognisable face for the first time and I think Bear said ‘thank you’ to Tyger completely unprompted.  Both were awesome!  Maybe the disproportionate wretchedness I feel at all their little disappointments is balanced out by the just as disproportionate elation I feel at their minuscule achievements.

Or maybe I’ll have to up my antidepressant dosage.  You know, one or the other!

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8 Comments


  1. Wow! That is a great post! My youngest son is the one who gets upset when his older brother doesn't want to play with him. My oldest, who has Autism, is a teenager now and most of the time prefers to be alone. It's not that he refuses to play with his younger brother. In fact, he spends more time with him and has more patience with him than I ever did my own younger siblings. Every now and then though, Adam just wants to be alone. He craves it like I do and this hurts Conner. I do my best to keep Conner busy because I understand being the oldest myself that need for alone time. As for movies like Frozen or any other. Conner is definitely like me in the way that he hates to see small children or animals get hurt. He also got very upset with Big Hero 6 when the main character's older brother died. That hit too close to home for my baby bear. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Thanks for reading! Yeah, I'm the eldest and I know there were times I didn't want my younger brother (and my sisters, I guess, but that was different since they're so much younger) hanging around me and wanted my own space. I guess, as parents, we want to give all our kids want they want/need but it gets very difficult when what they want contradicts one another!

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  3. Happily, despite watching Frozen literally millions of times, our kids haven't dwelt on the loss of Elsa and Anna's parents. Our 3yo loves playing with his big 5yo sis, but it's not always easy to get her to include him… just life I guess. Enjoyed connecting with your blog via #AnythingGoes

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  4. Unfortunately, Tyger has always been very bothered by any death etc. in films. I think the younger sibling not wanting to be left out is the more 'normal' way round. Thanks for commenting.

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  5. My two boys are like this. It's hard to see your children upset no matter who does it. We have watched Frozen a few times and they haven't dwelled on the parent loss part. Thanks for linking up to #PickNmix

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  6. I don't think most children dwell on it (luckily!). Thanks for reading.

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