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The Return of Attila

I would be more envious of the Man's visit to Israel if my relatives hadn't turned up this weekend. As it is, while my head is still full of how extraordinary and fascinating it would be, I at least found myself with two of my favourite cousins, their partners and a four year old boy.

They nicknamed him 'Attila,' due to his destructive tendencies, and we were all dreading his arrival. His mother spent a week in London about 15-20 years ago. Despite the advice of her brother, who lives here, she brought her husband and son, which meant the weekend had to be a compromise. They arrived Saturday night and joined us for dinner; the next morning they hit the ground running; first Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, then the Serpentine, then Harrods, then Covent Garden. Though the little boy enjoyed Winter Wonderland it was not the thing that kept his imagination running. He fell in love with Hyde Park, running across the green, picking up sticks and throwing them, joining other small folk flinging leaves, or just flinging themselves into piles of leaves, and, to his greatest delight, meeting swans, ducks, geese and squirrels all ready - too ready - to take food from his hands. 'The duck bit me,' he said thoughtfully at one point, but he didn't cry or anything, he just carried on, and the next day his head was full of one question; when are we going to see the squirrels?

His squirrel mania continued even while his parents gamely rocked up the list of must-sees for tourists; Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Tower, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace - and here, the little boy gained his way. At St James' Park, armed with nuts for the squirrels, he promptly fed every bird he met and somehow managed to grab a pigeon. The bird was surprised, but Attila was gentle enough for it to waddle off unscathed and distinctly unimpressed. Meanwhile, the little boy found his beloved ardillas, though by now he was utterly bereft of bribes for them.

'He loves animals and this kind of thing,' explained his parents, 'He's a real Cleetus... and we don't have parks like this in Granada. Not so big or so green, not so many animals. Hardly any squirrels at all...' At this point we re-entered Pall Mall, found ourselves at Trafalgar Square and headed up to Leicester Square and Piccadilly.

Here was our real Hmm moment. Mother wanted to visit Top Shop, but little boy was apparently tired as was Father. I did not understand why Father and Son could not go home by themselves, whilst she and I could go on to Top Shop, but it was not to be. Barely able to conceal her disappointment, she conceded we should go home. We got home, the boy wanted to play play play, his fatigue mysteriously vanished. She packed cases, her husband sat there. Her brother was not very complimentary about her husband; 'I warned her she would not enjoy herself so much if she brought the family...' Seems he thinks his in-laws could help a little more with baby-sitting. My feeling is that she needs to sort out some ground rules fast with both the men in her life. If she indulges one, the other will grow up thinking he should be indulged in the same way. There is no reason why her husband couldn't have taken her son home, he just wanted her to forget what she wanted because traditionally Mothers are meant to live through and for and with their families - and because his son may have screamed the town down without her. Such a thing cuts personalities down by inches.

The little boy certainly is indulged, though was much better behaved than his reputation gives out; his main issue is eating. He is very finicky indeed, so much so that his parents bring baby food with them mixed with hot water, because he doesn't like to chew. This has the Termagent Aunt suggesting - with no malice - that perhaps he has some learning difficulties, though I saw no evidence of this over the weekend; All I saw was a clever somewhat spoiled confident little guy on the way to speaking two languages very well, with no interaction problems. Some family members suggest that he is just too lazy to chew. Certainly, when we stopped to eat in Wagamama's - a haunt of Mom's from her week here way back when - he wanted only flat noodles not round ones and he didn't want any noodles with bits in. Presumably he will grow out of it. Given the way he polished off my chips I suspect there is no physical problem.


So tonight, I have a very interesting talk to attend, and tomorrow it's time to return to work. Having said that, I'd rather be in Jaffa.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
nyarbaggytep
Dec. 8th, 2015 11:01 am (UTC)
The chewing thing might have to do with Sensory Processing Disorder particularly if his destructiveness is linked to clumsiness. Or it could be a weaning thing (where weaning doesn't go so well for some reason), it's unlikely to be a learning style thing I think.

He sounds rather lovely. I am glad you had a good time. And definitely yes to the ground rules. Much agreement.
smokingboot
Dec. 9th, 2015 09:56 am (UTC)
Thank you for the link, it's extremely interesting.

There is a real difficulty in mentioning the issue to his mother, because there are lots of opinions flying around already, ranging from the 'There's something wrong,' to the 'He's a lazy spoilt little sod.' If it comes up again, I might see if there is a way of inveigling SPD into the conversation as a possible explanation. I never even knew such a disorder existed.
nyarbaggytep
Dec. 9th, 2015 07:19 pm (UTC)
disorder
The main problem I have with it is the name, I think calling it a disorder and talking about treatment is unhelpful. If there really are as many as 1 in 20 people who could be diagnosable with this, then I would argue it's a style which might require adaption to (from the world/society as much as the person) rather than a disorder.

Most parents are sensitive to the idea that there could be something "wrong" with their child, and rightly so.

The difficulty with all of this is introducing the subject of something which could help which is named a "disorder" immediately suggests that there is something "wrong", which I don't think there is. It's also hard to introduce it without making it out that you are diagnosing the kid from afar which is also unhelpful and it sounds like there is too much of going on already. The poor mum.

In your position I might start with - I expect you are fed up with people telling you what they think is "wrong" with Attila - and I read something I thought you might find interesting and I want to give it you to read if you want, but I want you to know that I find him lovely and I don't think there's something "wrong" with him. And then ask her if she wanted to hear about it.
smokingboot
Dec. 9th, 2015 07:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your thoughts on how to broach the issue.
That's a gentle and subtle approach, I will try to use it. What you say about the language of child concern is very true. There is a lot of wording which at best seems to convey a sense of mild reproach. Or maybe it isn't the language. Maybe to a tired parent surrounded by family who are a)genuinely helpful and b)opinionated, everything said may seem to imply failure. I just do not know.

The impression I got from the Mum's brother is that the little boy presents no such eating problems at pre-school, but saves his tantrums and finicky eating for home - clearly Uncle thinks the boy is pandered to. Having said that, over the past few years there was a history of some peculiar behaviour, lashing out at other kids, a great deal of clinginess... less is said about that now. I don't know whether he has improved, certainly to my eyes he seemed a hearty and hardy little boy, not inclined to cry or cling, very ready to try new things.

I will see how things develop, and perhaps use the kind of phrasing you recommend if the issues have not improved by next June when we go out there.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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