Wednesday 25 July 2012

The Painful Tooth of the Matter

And the next drama is upon us. Teeth.    Decaying ones.  Past the point of no return.  Five of them.  Milk teeth.  Baby teeth.  To be extracted.  Oh. My.  God.  I still feel sick.  I am heart sore at this latest piece of news.  Is religious brushing not sufficient anymore?  It seems not.  Diet today, it transpires, is a huge factor in tooth decay.  Much worse than when I was growing up.  There are all sorts of hidden horrors within.  Added to that, today’s children have greater and ready access to juices, fizzy drinks, junk food and sugary snacks. Who knew that the occasional innocent 10p mix up was so safe?   Ironic then that fizzy drinks are never given to our boys.  They do, however, enjoy a drop of the diluted stuff.  That stops today.  It is now strictly reserved for a special occasion.  I’ve been assured that sometimes milk teeth are just that little bit weaker and the current condition of Conor’s teeth bears no indication on the future wellbeing of his adult ones.  Little solace.  The decay is so bad in some of his molars that it could very possibly cause nerve damage which is bad news, very bad news indeed, for the dormant adult teeth.  There are a couple of options, however.  He could have them extracted in the clinic one by one via the usual Lidocaine route or have them whipped out, one through to five, under a light general anaesthetic in the hospital. Oh, goody!  Which one will I pick? Neither of them are good options as far as I am concerned.  Conor complained of a tooth ache a couple of months ago and was quite upset about it.  I am not without empathy despite never suffering from an “ache tooth” myself.  My child was upset, in pain and crying hard.  It doesn’t matter where that pain is coming from; it hurts me as a mother when my child is distressed.  So I took him to the dentist.  I was fully expecting it to be the same scenario as last July; a temporary filling.  Not so this time. The dental nurse checked off on a score card, how good, or in this case how bad I had been in relation to my son’s dental care.  At the same time the dentist expected a six and a half year old boy to answer silly inane questions when his gloved hands were in the child’s mouth.  The first time I heard the word extraction I mentally gasped.  My hand tightened into a fist the second time.  The third time, I can't remember what my reaction was.  And when he reached the grand sum total of five and launched straight into how my baby’s baby teeth needed to be whipped out while he would be asleep, my heart was racing, my mouth was dry and there was a roaring in my ears. You’re joking, me!  Please tell me you’re winding me up!  But no, there it was; in blue biro, hard evidence that Conor’s mother, which would be me, was extremely remiss in the care of his baby teeth.  Conor’s first tooth appeared when he was just 12 weeks old.  It appeared after a small fussing session, one I attributed to the hot weather we were having at the time.  That was the one and only indication that he was getting his teeth.  He sailed through the rest of the teething process after that.  A perfect, teething baby.  People told me he had an early tooth because I took calcium supplements when I was pregnant.  They also say, the later they get their teeth, the longer they hang onto them.  Please, no more advice or old wives tales.  It’s not worth it.  I can beat myself up all by my own self thank you very much.  I don’t need cod ology to help me.  Then the out of body experience was being reversed by the dentist asking me in his abrupt manner if that was ok? He was handing me a card with an appointment date on it and an antibiotic.  Ok?  No, it bloody well was not ok to whip out five milk teeth just like that.  And what’s that antibiotic for?  Almost as if it was an afterthought, he explained Conor had a gum infection and this was why he wasn’t sleeping at night.  First I heard of his insomnia.  I pulled myself together, put an end to the goldfish impression and asked if I could get a second opinion.  Monday 9th July I got that second opinion.  I was very much aware this paid for diagnosis could well match the first one but I was fervently hoping otherwise.  Oy vey. It was not to be on this occasion.  The only difference was the new dentists better bed side manner, approach and attitude which, despite the crap verdict, put me at ease and reassured me somewhat.  I still cannot believe I had to pay thirty euro for that, something the school dentist could have, no, should have taken time with.  His rushed and impersonal manner made me distrust him.  So back we had to go to be told “I told you so.”  This time I had no other option but to bring all four boys with me. It is an emergency clinic which means you are required to be there before 9.30am.  They don’t open shop until 10am.  We were the only ones there.  There were a couple of magazines on the table going back to June of last year to occupy parents and not so much as a plastic rattle to amuse waiting children so I didn’t appreciate the cranky security guard from downstairs taking it upon himself to roar up at my boys to sit down and be quiet when all they were doing was walking around.  So I ignored him with just a little bit of a dirty look. That day was not the day to mess with me.  Eventually I was given a couple of forms to consent and if it wasn’t bad enough, to add insult to injury there was the possibility that any other loose teeth might need to be taken out too.  Conor has three wobblers in the front.  Genuine tooth fairy ones.   I kept telling myself, it’s teeth.  It’s only teeth. Baby teeth at that.  But it all seemed so dramatic. I was traumatised by the image of five bloody holes in his mouth even if he wasn’t.  And then I had to catch and deal with another curveball thrown at me.  The stupid car is acting up.  The clutch that, for one shaky minute, almost threatened our seaside holiday is still crook and the car is looking likely to be admitted into its own hospital thus rendering it impossible for me to travel with Conor to the hospital.  He will be in perfectly good, maybe even better hands, those of his daddy’s, but aren’t mothers supposed to be with their children when they’re in hospital.  The fact that it was all one big adventure for Conor made it much easier for me.  In the end he climbed into the jeep with his daddy’s phone in hand, ready to amuse himself with a new game on the trip to the dental hospital.  I stood at the front door with his three brothers and we waved him off.  I was greatly reassured that morning by other people who had found themselves in the same situation and had first-hand experience with the dental hospital.  I am most grateful to you all.  We mothers are own worst enemies but I made damn sure Conor was never made aware of my nervous disposition.  My relief was almost tangible later on when I received the phone call I had been waiting for. In his own words Conor told me that it stung a little when he woke up but they gave him special medicine and he was fine after that.  He was even able to eat the yogurt I had sent up with him.  I was greatly relieved at his joviality and bounce-back-ability but still got a jolt when I saw him.  To me he looked pale and there were definite traces of blood on his lips.  He didn’t get to see what his mouth looked like but he still delighted in showing me.  Yep, there they were.  The five bloody holes I had been dreading.   He was none the worse for his ordeal. Clearly none the worse as his next question proved:  how much money will the tooth fairy give me for my teeth?  We went to the shop that afternoon to purchase mouth friendly treats like ice-cream and the man at the checkout took all of my money.  I didn’t think Conor would accept that so I toyed with reminding him that he left all of his teeth in the dental hospital.  But that would that be really mean so I settled instead for a small pile of coins under his pillow.  Clearly, I was also over my fright!  I think it’s fair to say there is a new OCD trait in the house:  that of teeth brushing.          

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Mister Husband and I celebrate 10 years of wedded bliss tomorrow, 19th July 2012.  And if you believe that, you shouldn’t be let out by yourself.  The 10 year part is true, but as for the bliss?  Ftttt!  I know all the sensible, realistic people in the same boat understand exactly what I mean when I say it hasn’t always been plain sailing.  But 10 years and four kids later we’ve both come out the other end smiling.  Most days.  When I was young(er) I had a few commandments of my own.  These were in keeping with the black and white view I also had of the world.  It was all nice and simple really, I had it all mapped out and as far as I was concerned that was the end of that. My first commandment:   I was never getting married.  I told this to everyone and anyone who didn’t want to know.  It followed naturally that kids were not part of my life plan either.  What would I want one of those for?  Commandment No. 2: Anyone worthy enough to be my boyfriend could not be younger than me.  In fact, it would be preferred if he were slightly older.  6 months older would be nice.  Commandment No. 3:  Beards were definitely not allowed.  Untidy, scratchy, bristly things.  And commandment No. 4:  Anyone who inhaled carcinogenic substances into their lungs needn’t bother to apply for the boyfriend position either.  Oh dear.  A wise person once said that rules were meant to be broken. Along came Mister Husband and smashed all of my black and white commandments to bits.  He brazenly refers to me as the Elder Lemon because my 6 month rule about the man being older goes the other way for us.  But at least I can throw it back at him sometimes and tell him to obey his elder.  He also has facial hair.  At one stage though, Mister Husbands beard was so long and unkempt, he went a whole year with me kissing his cheek only.  There was no way I was getting any closer for a bigger smooch; god only knew what might have jumped out of that bristly appendage at me.  I used to comment that he was hiding food for later in there.  Grizzly Adams had nothing on him; even Ronnie Drew had a contender.  It all went in a Shave or Dye sponsorship a couple of years ago.  Sometimes he talks big and mentions growing it back again and I tell him he’d better sleep with one eye open if he does!  Alas, he also smokes and at this stage I know he will be a smoker for life.  I’m not sure how many people know this but when he proposed I thought he was joking around so I agreed.  We were in a pub (how romantic!) and I had a terrible thirst on me so rose mantic talk was just an impediment.  Unbeknownst to me, I was then officially “engaged” and Mister Husband diligently scrimped and scraped for the next few months to come up with the readies for The Ring.  Imagine my surprise when he brought it up on the eve of my happy birthday.  That was the real and proper proposal for me; in a brown carpeted rented house in Ranelagh over a pizza dinner.  I made sure I paid full and proper attention to his musings after that and if he had his way, Mister Husband would have been waiting for me at the top of an aisle somewhere 6 months later.  In the end, we tied the knot exactly five years to the day after we first started officially going out.  I like to think I was not a Bridezilla.  We organised the entire wedding over two weekends and then told everyone to keep the 19th of July free in their diaries.  Not one for fuss, I had mine and my two bridesmaids’ dresses made.  The most expensive part of our wedding was our honeymoon in Italy which was lovely but frankly, I was glad to be home and back to normal. Returning briefly to the “no kids” part of the arrangement.  Mister Husband was well aware of my no kids, go to jail, do not pass go, do not collect 200 pounds, mind-set despite him always seeing them in his future alongside the woman he would marry after 6 months.  He’s like that, Mister Husband.  I’m the thorns on his rose.  He accepted me for all of my thorns and I still suspect there was a bit of clever subliminal pester power at play because our first son came along about four years later.  He still claims it took him bringing me (bringing me?  Get out of your cave will ya!  I was working Outside The Home back then!) to earn him a child.  Luckily for him, Conor made me broody and much to his delight, I put up little or no resistance when Talks about going for Number Two started.  And Three and Four.  Let the games begin and may the odds be ever in your favour.   I will admit to seething with silent resentment on a number of occasions at my perception of the unfairness of it all.  My life seemed to have changed on a grand mall scale and Mister Husbands continued as usual.  Which wasn’t and isn’t the case at all.  Both our lives changed very much. And very much for the better, all giving out and sob stories aside.   Even on the worst day I wouldn’t be without any of them and I like to think I know Mister Husband well enough to know that he would be of the same opinion.  I’m sure there is a nice twee expression out there about how it’s not the miles under your belt that matter but what matters is what you do along the way.  I take those who claim they never fight with a pinch of salt but Mister Husband and I have never had a “blow out.”  Yes, we disagree, of course we do and we do it a lot. He made the grave mistake once, of calling me Mammy and I almost Cut The Legs Off Him.  It’s a slippery slope, that one.  Before you know it, you’ll be in your dotage, kids will have flown the coop and it’ll be just the two of you rattling round the house calling each other Mammy and Daddy.  I’ve seen it happen and it’s not for me.  When he does that, knowing how much I dislike it, I wonder if we’re on the same page at all but the good thing about pages is you turn them and keep turning them until you are on the same page.  We might celebrate our anniversary with a meal or we might not. Either way we’re not too bothered.  I couldn’t even tell you what flower, metal or jewel represent a ten year wedding anniversary.  If we can get out, sans kids, for a nice meal and maybe even a bottle of wine, that will do me just fine thank you very much.      Happy anniversary, Mister Husband.  You’re alright, you are!               

Wednesday 11 July 2012

The Weaning Process

When our first son was born, I used to look at him as he was sleeping, literally willing him to wake up just so I could feed him.   I was head over heels in love with him and breastfeeding only served to make that bond stronger.  I loved it.  I loved the whole mental and physiological process of breastfeeding.  The feeling of utter relief as engorgement slowly reduced was only one aspect, the main one though, was a pure and unadulterated loved up sensation as the feel good hormones were released to aid relaxation and contentment.  Absolute bliss.  For me anyway.  Conor had a tiresome habit though of feeding for hours. My tail bone would hurt so much I resorted to walking or just standing up to feed him.  I learnt with him that the magical three month transformation was just a myth.  Another fabrication of the baby stage.  But we got over it and I developed a massive fondness for crosswords which I would store up to keep for the marathon evening cluster feeds.  There was a little gentle persuasion used for day time weaning with Conor.  But this was met with little or no fuss which made the transition easier, especially as I was pregnant. Knowing I was going to be feeding a newborn again was a big incentive to encourage our toddler onto the next stage in his development.  When our second son came along, I was a tad worried about his potential feeding habits, given the fine dining custom of his older brother.  My fears were unfounded.  The sling I invested in gathered dust as this child proved to be a very quick and efficient feeder almost from the get go.  I hardly noticed the six week growth spurt.  A far cry from the 14 hour feeding session our eldest enjoyed.  Iarla piled on the weight very quickly and continued to do so with very short feeds.  He also loved his grub which didn’t make much of an impact on his milk feeds either.   All babies are different and the contrast this time round manifested itself not in feeding routines but in sleeping ones.  Iarla didn’t sleep.  His frequent wakings quickly sent me into a downward spiral of depression.  As they say, this too shall pass, and indeed it did.  I was pregnant again and day time weaning was underway.  This time I found I could not sit down as it was a beacon signal for him to feed.  He never seemed to bother when I was standing so I stood a lot.  I was six months pregnant when Iarla went to sleep for the first time without his night time nurse.  He was 16 months old, weaned, and for the first time ever, he slept through the night and has continued to do so ever since.  I wasn’t sure if there was a connection but I certainly didn’t question it.  I embraced three full and glorious months of sleep before Liam came along.  Liam’s birth was different to the other boys; he was born via emergency section and for the first time as a mother, I truly thought breastfeeding may not work out for us.  Day two dawned bright and clear, I asked for that damned morphine drip to be removed from the back of my hand and we got down to business.  We never looked back.  Liam was a combination of the older boys, he went through his growth spurts and I noticed them but was very quick to feed.  For some reason things are a little bit hazy during Liam’s very early days.  I think this may have had something to do with a pending house move, changes in the economic climate and quite possibly, largely due to his being our third child.  It wasn’t new to me anymore and I was getting quite good at this mothering lark.  Liam had a hard time, a very hard time with teething and I experienced my first ever nursing strike.  He refused me for a little more than 24 hours and a four hourly cocktail of teething medicines barely cut a dent in his pain.  I was at my wits end until he finally accepted his very first and only bottle of expressed milk.  I was still very much engorged but it seemed his gums were too sore for him to latch on and I simply had to wait until he decided he was ready to nurse again.  One thing I can definitely remember, however, during Liam’s first six months of life, is a feeling of tiredness.  I loved breastfeeding, that never changed, but I was starting to feel that the end to all the stages and phases that are part and parcel of parenthood, would never come to an end.  I was hankering after some good old fashioned “me time.”  I had immersed myself into mothering my boys and hadn’t bothered to secure some down time for myself.  It made me reluctant to consider another child even though I knew I wanted one but didn’t know when.  I wanted a break from it all but feared that break would not find its end.  I was also slightly concerned there might be implications from the c section.  In the end I decided I was in the deep end anyway, and I may as well keep going.  Again, Liam was gently encouraged to day time wean and this too, like his brothers before him, was met with no fuss.  The night time feed was the last to go, and in keeping with family history, he was also 16 months old and slept the night.  I adopt a “don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach but supply issues, I feel, really played a massive part in the weaning process.  Again, I was 6 months pregnant and looking forward to the break before the new baby arrived and another stint of unbroken sleep.  That is, once the numerous bathroom visits and all the tossings and turnings to rearrange a huge bump were removed from the equation, it was as good a night’s sleep as I had been getting till then.  Brendan came into the world after a shaky start and once he got down with the business of being born, breastfeeding proved to be, once again, one of the best decisions I ever made in relation to my kids.  Brendan loved his sleep and when he was a few months old, he once slept an entire 16 hours.  He was sleeping the full night when he was two months old.  This was utterly unheard of for me.  Not only that, he enjoyed long naps during the day too.  He was so easy and chilled out.  Maybe he was using his innate baby wisdom to suss out the fact he was fourth in the pecking order and had no choice sometimes but to wait his turn.  Call me cynical but as much as I enjoyed and relished his lengthy slumbers, I didn’t take them for granted.  Things can change in a heartbeat where small babies are concerned and true to form, he began to wake at night in order to make up for what he may have been sleeping through during the day.  I didn’t mind too much as he was very quick about his business and I always enjoyed those cosy, relaxed night time feeds.  It takes a year, as far as I am concerned, to make a baby, and a year for your body to recover from that process.  It certainly took me that length of time, perhaps slightly longer to start feeling like myself again.  I admit, I was lazy in the getting back into shape after each baby, believing that I would be pregnant again within the year so there was no point.  I am blessed to have always found that to be the case.  After Brendan, I felt it really was time to take myself in hand, whether or not there was going to be another baby.  That last pregnancy, certainly the last trimester, was very hard.  I was unfit and very out of shape.  I think this contributed greatly to that heavy feeling for the next year.  That and the baby hormones that were still coursing through my body.  Those cannot and should not be forgotten or even under estimated.  I got busy and embarked on a new health and exercise regime and pretty soon began to see and feel real results.  Then the day arrived when Brendan celebrated his first birthday and I wasn’t pregnant.  This was a whole new planet for me.  I wasn’t sure how to take it.  I was in the middle of the “break” I had been afraid to take previously.  It was decision making time.  Brendan was very much enjoying his food and still fond of his breast milk.  He had continued his habit of waking at night for a feed, sometimes maybe twice.  It was a no brainer for me.  As there was no new baby pending and I was getting very close to the maybe never viewpoint, I was going to let Brendan take complete and total charge of when he wanted to wean.  When our first son was a baby, 6 years ago now, I remember actively thinking of the day when breastfeeding would forever stop and how I would feel about it.  I remember feeling a sense of loss.  The end of an era, a real sign that my baby was growing up and away from me.  At the same time, I knew I had loads of time left, that day was still far far away.  Not as far as I thought.  The child I thought I would nurse for a couple of years took me completely by surprise and all but dropped every single one of his feeds over a weekend.  I never thought I would be facing into a cold turkey situation.  Brendan, our smallest son, at 15 months old, “went off me” two weeks ago.  His day time feeds had been hit and miss for a while now but he still nursed from both sides before his sometimes two day time naps and always at his bed time.  Plus he was still waking at night for a quick sup.  It came completely out of the blue that he would decide this wasn’t for him anymore.  I’m still not sure how I feel about it.  He has become quite social and attempting to walk in the last month.  Our house is very loud, busy and active and as a result I have had to feed him away from his brothers since he was about 4 months old.  He is just too curious and busy at the moment for boob.  I have been replaced with raspberries, slices of apples and sips of water.  That first weaning weekend, I abandoned my “don’t offer, don’t refuse” tactic in an effort to tempt him to nurse.  He found himself almost being force fed over two days in an effort to help me out of a bind.   One of extreme discomfort.  I didn’t have lumps in my breasts, I had corners!  But instead of objecting with a wail, he laughed at me, struggled free of my grasp and crawled off at lightning speed to catch up with his older brothers.  He is happy as Larry and that makes it all the easier.  He has just lost all interest.  He still loves his cuddles and hugs as much as he ever did and indeed, I cannot rest myself in a chair without him coming over to grab the tail of my top to hold as he sucks his thumb.  Then he’s clawing at me to climb up into my lap.  The self weaning process began and ended in under 48 hours.  This is what it feels like.  At least this is what it feels like when the child takes charge and not the mother.  Something I am well used to but not in this respect.  I did hope that the night time feeds would last a little longer but it didn’t work out that way.  I think it’s going to take me some time to get used to it.  After 6+ years of feeding my children this way, it’s an adjustment.  Time will tell.  He could start walking next week, discover it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and return to me.  He was never one for a comfort feed after a tumble or a fall.  Always satisfied with a quick hug and a kiss before he was back on the ground and off looking for more punishment.  He’s a tough little cookie and really finding his own personality at the moment.  It’s lovely to see.  It’s only the end of one aspect of motherhood and a part of me (ok a big huge part of me) is thrilled at the reality of more than one glass of wine every now and again.  I am looking forward to maybe the odd night out and feeling able to stay longer than midnight.  Cinderella always had to be home, not for the babysitter, but in case the baby woke and wouldn’t settle without a feed.  I am embracing going shopping for a decent bra or two.  Indeed, buying something that has buttons up the front and down the back, with zips everywhere and not having to be concerned about how I am going to “feed him in that!”  And last but not least, maybe now I will effortlessly shed that last half stone (plus some) that has been stubbornly hanging on.  It’s a well-known fact that some mothers retain an extra layer of fat whilst breastfeeding. Something about the possibility of a famine and the body having extra fat stores in order to produce milk in the possibility of such an event.    Breastfeeding is not meant to be complicated and I apologise if my ramblings have hinted at the opposite.  It is not the only part of motherhood and bonds have formed via smaller decisions, but for me, my husband and our family, it was a foregone conclusion that I would nurse any children that may come along after Conor, our first born.  None of them remember being breastfed, but hopefully two of them at least will remember that their little brother was.  I breastfed and I am proud.  Damn proud!                        

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Letting it all out

Something distressing happened last Thursday.  Our four and a half year old had a major melt down. It was the first one in quite a while.  We had been free of them, or that should be, he had been free of them for a long time but something set him off that day.    It may not sound like a lot but for those of you who have witnessed your child throwing the mother of all tantrums, you get what I mean.  Everyone is left exhausted and upset in the aftermath, least of all the tantrum thrower themselves.  The outburst was over something so simple and small I can't remember what it was but there was hot chocolate, a biscuit and a seating arrangement.      Although naturally it wasn’t small and simple to him, otherwise he wouldn’t have felt the need to vent so strongly.  I managed to diffuse the situation by distraction.  I showed him the pictures of the rented house on the beach we are going to in a few weeks. Unfortunately, his big brother was very enthusiastic and put his head in front of the computer screen to have a better look and things escalated again.   It was awful.  He screamed and roared, sobbed, bawled and snotted everywhere that he couldn't see the pictures. His brothers looked on in alarm and one of them even clamped his hands over his ears in an effort to drown out the noise.  I was shaking with the uselessness of it all.  There was no talking to him, no calming him down. He slammed doors, screamed and howled some more and threw things about in his fit of rage and frustration. He hated me and everything and everyone.   After it all he sat there sucking his thumb with a big red, shiny swollen face on him, his face still looking like thunder.  I wanted to hug him and I wanted to shake him.  I knew if I approached him too soon, it would only enrage him further so I sat there and waited.  He is extremely head strong, stubborn and at the same time, quite sensitive.  During that rampage, I saw him as a fifteen year old and it frightened the jeebus out of me.   He is starting school in September and as a baby, it took him months to settle into crèche. He was only there for a couple of hours each morning (it's his aunty’s crèche so he was with family!) and he would exhaust himself by crying so hard that he would crawl around looking for a beanbag in which to collapse and fall asleep. He had his hour in Big School two weeks back and was so quiet and shy I saw a different boy altogether.   At this stage his brothers had left the room and he was sitting on the chair at the end of the table. I went over, knelt down and gave him a hug. I asked him were we friends and he resisted a little bit but didn't pull away. I took this as a good sign and hugged him a little bit more.  I chanced getting rejected altogether and I told him I loved him and I know it's very hard sometimes.  No reaction which encouraged me and I kept hugging him and rubbing his back.  After a while he put his head on my shoulder and I decided to go for broke.  When all else fails in our house, toilet humour is your best bet so I unleashed my inner Dumb and Dumber comedian.   I was halfway through my bad taste joke and as soon as he heard the word “poo” I could feel him smile against my shoulder. I shed a little tear then I'll admit, from relief and realising I, too, was jaded after the showdown. I picked him up. The skinny little body of him!  The baby had just woken up so I carried my boy down to the bedroom.   I put him in my bed and covered him up. He began to talk to me about his various cuts and bruises and I listened for the umpteenth time as he showed me a scar on his hand from an old accident.  Something was ringing in my head.  His chat was so banal yet so telling.  He had my full and undivided attention and he was making the most of it, by any means.  The baby was bouncing around in his cot behind us, eager to be free of its confines but I remained concentrated on the small boy tucked up in my bed.  His chatter wasn’t important; I think he knew that too, it was more that he had me, all to himself, for that minute.  I felt like shit.   I always feel like shit simply because I haven't got the time to spend one on one quality time with them all. I love that they are all so close in age.   I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, do it any other way.  But a direct hard hitting down side is that the stages and phases are very close together. One of them stops roaring and another will start.  It's exhausting.     He’s a spirited boy, but it doesn’t mean he needs to be “handled” a certain way.  I took a long hard look at the situation that day.  That evening, Mister Husband had a late appointment and he took Iarla with him.  On their return, it was clarified that yes, all he wants is a little attention.  Again, the chatter from the boy to and from the meeting was repetitive but he was making full and proper use of there not being any competition from his brothers.  I spent a little time sitting on the side of his bed at bedtime, just listening to him babble on.  The same stuff he had already told me a couple of times that day.  My heart was breaking for him.  It was so obvious, so patently clear how ignored he had been feeling.  The bad form he had been in the grip of for the last few weeks was his way of vocalising his needs and I neither listened to him nor heard him.  I berated myself and for good reason.  It’s not ok to say and believe there are not enough hours in the day to tend to your child’s needs.  It is much easier to catch a problem, any problem, and nip it in the bud than wait till the matter develops to such an extent it spirals out of control.  I don’t think I am being too hard on myself over this, I think I needed that little wake up call.  One of my boys was floundering; thoughts of Big School were playing heavily on his mind, he was feeling a bit swamped by the natural capabilities of his older brother and ignored due to the primary needs of his two younger ones.  It was easier for me to tend to them and instruct Iarla to watch telly or read a book whilst I did so.  I took advantage of knowing that he would give up after a while and go off by himself.  Not good enough.  Not one bit good enough.  I see an improvement already.  A reaping of the rewards of that tiny little extra bit of time I spend with him at bed time.  That first night, I let him chatter on until he literally had no words left.  I tucked him in and gave him his Monster Kiss (our boys believe a monster kiss on the forehead keeps bad dreams at bay) had a little joke with him and finished up by telling him that I loved him very much.  The next morning, he sneaked into the bed beside me bright and early.  It had been his habit of late to crawl in beside his daddy.  Skinny little arms went around my neck and he tightened them as hard as he could, saying he remembered me telling him that I loved him the night before.  I don’t know how I didn’t bawl into the pillow.  I have made it a priority to spend that bit of time with him before he falls asleep now.  During the day when he approaches me with any one of his many thoughts, requests and Show and Tells, I take the time to stop whatever it is I am doing, turn to look at him and listen.  Even if I just repeat what he has said to me, and nothing else, he is happy and satisfied that he has been heard and more importantly, his needs have been acknowledged and met. The spontaneous hugs he used to give me, the ones that had had dried up without my even noticing, are back and being doled out regularly once more.  My head and heart are light again.