I assume that most people probably hear the phrase ‘high demand child’ and think ‘come on, aren’t all children demanding?’, and yes, I presume that most kids will have high expectations of their parents and want/need a lot of stuff done for them on a day to day basis, however, I believe that the way my eldest son, JJ, is hardwired means that he takes ‘demanding’ to another level.
The thing is, he’s always been like this – as a baby he had colic and cried non-stop so I could never switch off and think about anything else. As a toddler he was unable to play imaginative games on his own and didn’t much like TV so I couldn’t do what other people seemed to be able to do and pop him down in front of cbeebies for five minutes while I had a quick shower or tune out with an hour cuddling up and watching a Disney movie (he’s still not much of a one for feature length movies).
Once he reached school age and became interested in his Kindle tablet and all the myriad entertainments, games, TV, stories and music it was a little easier to leave him to his devices (device?) for a while and get on with some cooking or other business but with his little brother in tow invariably I would (still do) only get short bursts ‘off’ full on parenting between demands for drinks and snacks.
This afternoon after decorating 12 cupcakes for them to take to school in the morning, I cooked sausages, carrots, broccoli and baked potato for their tea, served up and did the washing up and despite the fact that JJ was out on the estate playing with his friend for quite a while I had to agree to EJ having some time out too which meant aimlessly following him around the place (I refuse to let a four year old out on his own without supervision).
It seems to be the evenings nowadays that tire me out the most. I stick to the routine of bath, milk & cookie, reading books/story time and songs with EJ between 6 and 7 and I guess during that time JJ really has no option but to entertain himself. When I finally get EJ off to sleep I stagger downstairs to make my dinner and on nights like tonight I find that I am unable to even eat in peace as JJ wants to interact with me immediately.
Tonight it took longer than usual to get EJ off to sleep so I came downstairs at 7.35. From that point until 9.05 JJ wanted my attention. I helped him with some homework, he read a couple of pages of a reading book. We talked about the art he had made at school based on Kandinsky’s famous ‘Concentric Circles’ painting. I read him the next chapter of Demon Dentist (the chapter book he chose for bedtime). I made him toast. He asked me if he went to a Christian school and whether or not everyone at school was meant to believe in God. He told me he doesn’t believe in God because the earth was made by a big collision in space.
I guess I’m just lucky that he didn’t want to play a time-consuming board game tonight and he didn’t have a big time meltdown.
None of this is a bad thing per sé. Its good for him to have my attention and he needs one on one time – it’s just a shame it has to happen between 7.30 and 9pm when I am at my most knackered and just want to pour a large glass of wine and do some mindless scrolling.
I guess it’s times like this that I wonder what it’s like to have a partner around to take some of the pressure off and be there for one child while I take on the other. Having someone to cook for you or help out with the homework or just pour that glass of wine for you would maybe be just enough to offset the feeling some days of that crushing weight of expectation all on my shoulders.
I struggle with the constant presence of others (the kids) when they’re around because the introvert in me craves isolation for at least an hour or two so maybe it’s not all JJ but the combination of our two personalities clashing. I have been guilty of getting cross and frustrated with him which, I assume, is what leads to his defiant tantrums, but I know that if I go with his flow there will be less conflict.
And I do realise that a high demand child like JJ is a child with an enquiring mind and lots of energy – positive traits. He is a typical boy in many ways. I just wish I didn’t feel the need for balance in my life and could give myself up entirely to parenting because inevitably parenting would be easier if I did, but unfortunately I just can’t let myself vanish into this Supermum. However good that is, there is more to me than that.