First my disclaimer… I have never read a parenting book, I don’t subscribe to any one “style” of parenting… honestly, other than hippy vs. strict, I have no idea what styles there are. Parenting (in my own personal opinion) should be what works best for each family and each child. I would no sooner try and persuade anyone to adopt my style of parenting as I would try and influence their choice of pizza topping.
That said, I have found benefit in listening to people. My friends, acquaintances everyone has an opinion on how to parent and so do I; when it comes to my own children. I pick and choose bits of parenting that I like the sound of and morph it into my own style. For the most part it is working. My kids are ok (most of the time), but I have had to completely change how I parent for Seren’s sake. Things which I would never, ever have thought of doing for Ava, work for Seren. At times its hard, I have 3 children, 2 nieces and lots of other kids in my life, so I tend to run through a list of names before I get the right one, even for my own daughters!! Being chameleon-like with my parenting and disciplining can be exhausting – and confusing. It is especially confusing for Ava who questions my methods a LOT. I have to explain to her that Seren’s understanding is a lot less than hers and that she and (eventually) Violet have to be “told off” differently to Seren. It’s hard for a 5 year old to understand – or so I thought until I heard Ava yelling “NO SEREN!! NAUGHTY!!!” the other day, only to find Seren stuffing a whole roll of toilet paper down the loo…
I get frustrated with the “rules” that are now wrapped tightly around children’s service providers, for example, the use of the word “naughty” is now firmly outlawed in educational settings. I get it, I get it, but saying “that wasn’t very kind was it Seren?” is not going to have as much impact as a one-word explanation “NAUGHTY!!!!”.
At home, I have decided to group inappropriate and “naughty” behaviour into one explanatory telling off… I literally say “NO! NAUGHTY!” in a loud voice to stop whichever action she is perpetuating - usually this is attacking her younger sister. I accompany the word with the Makaton sign which is a flick of the little finger. Seren knows full well what kind of behaviour is naughty, but as most 2 year olds, she chooses to ignore the rules and continues to batter her sister whenever she thinks I am not looking. The problem with Seren’s learning difficulty is that if I was to say to her “no hitting”, she would only hear the word “hitting” and not understand that I was asking her “not” to do it. I have found that trying to over complicate a telling off is completely ineffective, yet the word “naughty” is simple and she understands it. Even if she does something new that is “naughty” she understand the word now and also understands that it is not appropriate behaviour. Interestingly, on a couple of occasions she has done something new (that she would have no idea was naughty) and I have only had to say “naughty” once and she hasn’t gone back and done it again, so I am certain it is working.
Along the same lines, I also repeat the word “good” when she is doing something well. We have issues with Seren walking – although she can walk, she is erratic and unpredictable at best. She has no road sense, no idea that we are walking with a purpose (ie to get somewhere) and will run off / walk off / have a tantrum / sit down / play with a pile of dog poo… whatever takes her fancy. So when I get snippets (and I mean SNIPPETS) of time when she is walking in a straight line, I repeat “good walking, good walking Seren, gooooood walking!!” in a loud and happy voice so she knows that she is behaving in a pleasing way. When she loses concentration and begins to misbehave I then say “choose Seren, good walking or pushchair” – this usually gets her up and going for another few seconds… the whole process is long and laborious, but the other day she managed 5 minutes out of the pushchair in a supermarket and stayed pretty close. It was a huge step for her (and me) towards her becoming a bit more independent when out and about. We do the same for eating – when she is eating nicely I repeat “good eating Seren, good eating!!” Or when she is sitting nicely in her car seat “good sitting Seren” or when she is waiting her turn for something “good waiting” etc etc etc….
I will always try and concentrate on verbally rewarding good behaviour – the word “naughty” is saved for relatively big misdemeanors – so I do find myself using the word “good” about a million times a day to reinforce positive situations. On the whole, I have to say that Seren is really very good. We have never put cupboard locks on the kitchen cupboards, even though they are full of blades / cutters / glassware. Even the under sink cupboard doesn’t have a lock on it (it contains chemicals, bleach etc). When Ava was a baby I was always of the mind that she should learn how to behave appropriately, rather than stopping her exploring and learning. My children are never unattended in the kitchen, so trust me, they are not at risk. I was saddened (but not surprised) when a couple of Seren’s regular home-visiting health care professionals told me that it would be different with Seren and that I should get cupboard locks. I stuck to my guns though and have tried (at a much slower pace) to teach Seren not to go in to cupboards in the kitchen. It has worked, and I am really pleased with how well she is doing with learning house rules and boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, she is 2 years old and will still tests me at times, but she receives the same response every time and I can tell it is sinking in.
So on to the rest of the family…
Ava won the Grand National. She put 50p on Aurora’s Encore because it’s sleeping beauty’s name and won!! I was trying to teach her a lesson in wasting money on betting and instead she won enough money to buy herself some much coveted pyjamas and a doll. It amused us all.
Violet had her first birthday on the 20th April. It was a sad/happy day, as with most family events that come and go since my mum passed away. We decided (very last minute) to invite friends over for a BBQ. The weather was gloriously hot and the kids had a blast. Violet had a birthday card written by my mum before she died, which we will treasure. My dad wrote his first “love from Gramps” card for her too. I am not sure we have ever received a card from him, written by him and signed only by him before. My mum was the queen of organisation so she did all that sort of stuff.
And finally… I think I very briefly mentioned in my last blog about the paramedic who attended my mum? Although I wont go in to graphic detail, there is something which I would like to share. I made a complaint to the ambulance service and to the HCPC (Health Care Professions Council). Both are conducting investigations and today I had 2 senior/managerial paramedics come to my house to tell me their initial findings. They concluded that the paramedic in question had not carried out enough checks on my mum. He did not do the ECG, nor did he re-check her vitals even though hers were in the “danger zone” of being too high. They had no explanation for why he didn’t do this and apologised profusely. They also apologised for his lack of empathy, for the way he came across and for the fact that he didn’t leave adequate after-care advice – in fact the advice he left us with probably had a huge part to play in my mum’s death.
Going forward my mums case has prompted a major overhaul of the way that paramedics advise ill patients who are not taken to hospital, and my understanding is that a standardisation and “aftercare” package will be implemented across our local ambulance service. I will receive a full report in the coming weeks. The paramedic in question is on a retrain, will be working with a shadow and will have his work scrutinised for some time. He is even doing a course on sepsis. He is (we were assured) really very sorry for what happened and for my mums death, and I believe that. He is after all a paramedic and I seriously doubt that any paramedic would wish to see one of their patients die after they had visited… I believe he has probably been totally rocked by what has happened. So this afternoon, in my kitchen, I sat in front of these 2 strangers and cried as they wholeheartedly apologised for everything. Everything. More importantly (and the reason why I did this in the first place) they have made assurances that every measure will be taken to stop this happening to another family. I can’t ask for more than that.
As for how I feel about the whole thing? I can’t live with anger being a dominant emotion in my life, so I am working towards forgiving the paramedic. I am not ready yet, but I will get there. None of us can change the past, but we can all influence and work towards a better future for ourselves and our loved ones and that is what I intend to do. I intend to live without bitterness. I intend to feel happy again.