Many of my family and friends kids are older than my 2 year old son which can make for unrelaxed socialising for all concerned.
On entering new premises my baby-man immediately gets going on making friends, trying to infiltrate any gang of little people already in situ. It’s an impressive effort, a trait he has inherited from his equally outgoing Dad.
Mr R and I keenly get stuck into the drinks and nibbles safe in the knowledge that Bobble is scoring cute points with his mispronounced words, pudding bowl hair and dirty cackle of a laugh, but both of us know this will be a short lived hiatus.
The other kids dutifully do the responsible thing and look after him as instructed by the elders but give it an hour and they’re marching downstairs to announce that my little darling has wrecked their Lego Ninjago or he’s standing in front of the TV or he’s pulled all the clothes out of the drawers. Meet Bobble, the loud, boisterous, cheeky, bull-headed, super strong, exhibitionist that is my son…polite circles would call him ‘lively’ but to other kids, he can be just plain annoying.
I see it over and over again. After various attempts to keep up, Bobble soon realises that his mono-syllabic chat and compromised hand eye co-ordination is just not cutting it with his new found posse so he resorts to extreme attention seeking behaviour.
I completely empathise with the 5 year old girls who got cheesed off when he plonked himself in the middle of their sophisticated imaginary princess castle and I pity his exasperated cousin attempting to read quietly with Bobble pressed hard up against him. I fear for the mild mannered kids on the playgroup trampoline and physically shield the tiny babies he longs to hold tight. But most of all, I feel for Bobble.
He’s akin to a big hearted, lumbering labrador puppy who hasn’t grasped the notion of personal space and doesn’t yet know his own strength. Not everyone loves dogs as much as I do. I try really hard to teach him tenderness but when the excitement of new people and places causes testosterone to rush around his little body, no one can stand in the way of his fun.
Sometimes the only option is to extract him (kicking and screaming) from a situation or as I learnt recently, take him out of his depth. I witnessed a rare show of vulnerability from Bobble at a 3 year old girl’s birthday party. Far from his cocky little self, he clung to my side, talked slowly and quietly and paid 100% attention to the party host. He was seriously outnumbered, everyone was floating about in Elsa from Frozen dresses and he’d never played pass the parcel the parcel before. Groups of girls can be really intimidating, even at 3 years old. Men are from Mars and all that…
I know Bobble means business when he does his ‘bum dance’…a signature move that precedes any kind of physical combat with another small person. I have learnt to make judgement calls on whether he’s in the ring with an equal opponent. If he’s punching above his weight I let him carry on. It’s trickier when he’s the instigator of a wresting match with a kid not versed in play fighting. Do I pull him away? Do I wait for the other parent to intervene? Do I wait for the other one to lamp him?
When the other parent stands next to me on the sidelines, I feel a sense of relief – it’s a sign that Bobble has met his match. Let them be. We know that rough housing is play. We know that no one is being mean. We know that they’ll pick themselves up and dust themselves off. We know it’s loud. We know it might look brutal. We know some people will think we’re lazy, arrogant, irresponsible parents.
But we also know that spirited kids like Bobble are just programmed to be on or off, there is no moderate setting, believe me, I’ve pressed every button! Most of his days are spent laughing, rolling around and gasping with delight at the world, Bobble is a true lover of life – no one stays annoyed at him for long.