It’s one of those phrases synonymous with parenthood: This, too, shall pass. It’s reassuring to know that every baby has teething pain. Every toddler throws tantrums. Every child goes through periods of refusing to sleep, or only eating yellow food, or not letting go of your leg at the nursery drop-off. It’s a phase; ride it out. It will be gone before you know it.
It’s not quite so simple when they get older. The ‘phases’ are less predictable: when children are babies you can pretty much predict periods of unsettled behaviour to the day – the six week growth spurt, the 6 month sleep regression. The older they get the less obvious the cause of the disturbance can be, yet you know your toddler is going to stop being clingy just as soon as they figure out whatever is bothering them. So you wait, patiently (gritting your teeth and drinking wine as and when needed), as they cling vice-like to your legs while you try to cajole them into joining in with the nursery group.
Older children, it appears, still go through ‘phases’. M went through a phase of answering back and refusing to accept responsibility for her actions, even if she just accidentally trod on her sister’s feet, it was never her fault! E just put her feet in the way! And Mummy’s bag was there so how could she be expected to watch where her feet were going all the time? You get the picture…
E has ‘phases’. Or possibly habits. Nail-biting, chewing things (coats, teddies, muslins), and, recently, needing the toilet all the time. Not ALL all the time, just at certain times of the day. She will go every time we sit down for dinner, without fail. She will suddenly have to go just as we are about the leave the house for school. She will go about three times as we are getting ready for bed. But the rest of the day she is fine – not at school, nor drama class, nor swimming lessons, nor at home on the weekend. It’s purely habit, and I roll my eyes and smile through gritted teeth and say “Yes of course you can go to the toilet” while muttering “just be quick we needed to have left the house five minutes ago…”
This, too, shall pass.
Sure enough, this morning she didn’t ask to go just as we were leaving for school. I won’t say anything to her – it’s not a ‘bad thing’ to have to pee, after all, or a ‘good thing’ to hold it in. But I did a little inside happy dance to thing that this habit may be ebbing now.
Just the nail-biting and chewing to stop now…
(NOTE: naturally we did consider whether there might be a medical reason behind the habit, but the pattern of it suggests not.)