When I had my first child I found instant comfort in the words
of child guru Penelope Leach and her book on all aspects of
babyhood and early years was my constant companion.
When four years later my son was born, I didn’t feel the
same urgent need for Penelope’s advice – I was, after all, a
seasoned parent confident in my ability to cope with any problems
my daughter and new son threw at me.
Eight years down the line, I would pay a lot of money to feel
that way about parenting again. My son James is troubled and
troublesome and, I must emphasise, loved and loveable. He has
progressed from a baby desperate to walk and talk into an eight
year old who sees no reason why any boundaries should be put in the
way of him doing exactly what he likes.
He is bright and intelligent, but uncompromising, and finds it
difficult to make friends and socialise with other children. Added
to this is an iron will that brings him into frequent conflict with
his dad and me. His speciality as a three year old was tantrums in
the supermarket, or playing dead on the pavement if he didn’t
get his own way.
James is extremely big for his age, and this sets him apart from
his peers. We have seen a range of professionals from
paediatricians to a genetic disorder specialist (scary moment) to
try and find out if there is a medical reason for it (there
His physical differences have caused him many problems socially
– he was first called names by his peers at our local playgroup
when he was just three. Now, in the first year of junior school,
James has few friends and has been pretty much ostracised as school
where he has had to cope with name-calling and his classmates
When James was six we realised that he was hiding food in his
bedroom. I looked, but there didn’t seem to be a chapter in
the manual for that one and I realised that we were out of our
So more than a year ago we went to our GP who referred us to the
children and adolescent mental health team to see a child
psychologist. We’re still waiting. Our son, meanwhile, is
making himself sick rather than go to school. Our GP has chased up
the referral and, apparently, we are near the top of the list.
Watch this space.