Little Glimpses of the Boy I Forgot

There’s a boy in my house. I met him for the first time last Friday, just for a few hours. He’s back again today, out of the blue. He’s agreeable and charming – he reminds me very much of someone I used to know; someone I forgot existed. Because for months now, we’ve been on eggshells. Not all the time, but often enough that it has started to feel like that’s how it always is.

When it’s time to go to preschool, he wants to play trains. He is utterly astounded, every single morning, when I tell him we can’t play trains, because we have to go. I distract him toys and jokes and “You won’t believe this…I’ll tell you in the car” stories. And then he decides he wants more breakfast, despite spending twenty minutes ignoring his bowl of porridge and my repeated requests to eat it. Deep breaths.

As we walk the girls from parking spot to school, sometimes he cooperates and holds my hand. Sometimes he stands in the middle of the path, waiting to be carried. Sometimes he runs back to the car, because I said something wrong or didn’t listen or walked on a pavement crack. I never know which way it will go. Eggshells.

eggshells - office mum


After preschool comes middletime – his name for that period in between collecting him and collecting the girls. Luncthime to you and me. This is the eggshelliest time of day. If I want to leave preschool by the front door, he insists we go out the back. If I push the door open, he makes me close it again so he can do it. He wants to walk on the wall, no matter how long it takes. He wants to pick up stones. He wants to bring giant, unwieldy branches home in the car. He wants to do up his own car seat straps. By the time we start to drive, there’s only thirty minutes left of middletime and I’m hankering after gin.

At home, I take a deep breath, and get ready for lunch. I offer him a sandwich, he says he doesn’t like sandwiches. I offer him a wrap. He checks the fridge and sees an open pack of wraps. Happy with that, he goes to the cupboard to take an unopened pack. “Yes, I want a wrap but it has to be one of these,” he says, his eyes challenging.

“Sure,” I say, well versed in reverse psychology, three kids in. “I’ll open that for you now.”

“You mean, I don’t have to take one from the open pack?”

“Nope, in fact, I really want to open a new pack for you.”

“Actually…” he says, “I want one from the fridge.” Right so. It works, but doing it forty-five times in thirty minutes is exhausting.

We argue over where lunch should be eaten, how many slices of cheese go in his wrap (he wants four), how many yogurts he can have, and not leaving a big spoon sitting in a small plastic cup because it will fall over… and yes, there it goes again. I’d be crying over spilt milk if there was time but there isn’t – the clock is ticking towards the school run. I take another deep breath and get ready to coax him into the car. Or failing that, carry him screaming into the car.

And sometimes it’s just little inconsequential things, like eating soup with a coffee scoop. But sometimes it’s non-negotiable stuff, like wanting to pour boiling water or climb up to take biscuits or throw his uneaten lunch in the bin. And then, a no means a meltdown.

coffee scoop spoon - office mum

But last Friday, there was a very different boy here. He took the lunch I made for him and thanked me, then ate it without quibble. And today was the same. Before eating, he came around the table to hug me, and told me he loves me. He took two yogurts out of the fridge, but one was for me. He got me a spoon, and kissed my cheek. He ate his yogurt and spilled nothing, When it was time to get into the car, he put on his shoes and walked to the door.

This has never, ever happened. Or at least, not for months.

Because I remember now, this is how he used to be – this was the real person I saw every day, before he was taken over by a contrary, hard-to-please dictator. And the changeling has been in place for so long now, I forgot all about his chilled-out predecessor. Until Friday, when I met the new boy. Or the old boy, who was always there underneath. Underneath the eggshells. I hope he’s back for good.

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11 thoughts on “Little Glimpses of the Boy I Forgot”

    1. I have to love both boys equally and unconditionally of course, but I’m enjoying the ongoing glimpses of the cheerier one 🙂

  1. Oh you can’t understand how reassuring I find this – I think T is about 6months younger than him. And he’s a mini dictator in a way his big bro never was. Life has never been more eggshelly (I love your use of the word eggshelliest). I can do nothing right for him, until I do it 6 ways wrong, then the right way is usually the way I had offered it in the first place. He wants to be carried everywhere unless he wants to run fast away from me.

    So I’m very happy to hear he can grow out of this!
    Jill recently posted…Achievable Romance in the Average HouseMy Profile

  2. I love this, we’ve an eggshell boy, but then some days we have that lovely boy who holds me with his pudgy hands and tells be he’s my ‘bebee’, I fear i’ll see more of my eggshell boy over the next while….sigh…at least there’s wine….

  3. Wow sounds like it has been tough going. The joys of the developmental leaps. But sounds like you are hopefully out the other side. Well done you, he sounds like such a sweet boy 🙂

  4. You give me hope that there might eventually be light at the end of this tunnel! And that my child might not have permanent OCD. The crazy things that I end up doing according to his bizarre rules that change every second… just because it’s less hassle than the tantrum if I don’t…
    Stuff and Nothing recently posted…Netflix: Making a MurdererMy Profile

  5. I really enjoyed this picture of your little boy just growing up! Learning where the boundaries are. I had forgotten about this. I hope it helps others who are don’t know where their pleasant little people are gone. They will be back too and feel more secure. Patience and doing things 45 times in 30 minutes without loosing your cool is very very important in helping them grow and figure things out for themselves!

    1. A week later, I’m not sure how long it’s going to be till he’s back for good – it’s been up and down since! But glimpses are good, and enough to keep us going.

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