Before I had D I was probably (in fact certainly) one of those people who thought that bad behaviour in children was caused by ‘THE PARENTS’. That’s right folks – every time I saw a badly behaved child screaming on a bus, pushing another child in the playground, shouting in a cafe – I would inwardly sigh and hoik my judgey pants just a bit higher.
Until those judgey pants eventually strangled me.
My child became the one who exposed his penis in the playground. (and in the supermarket and walking down the street and on the bus) He had recently been taken out of nappies and suddenly he was free.
Consequently I had to endure the school run walk of shame every morning and afternoon. No one said anything to me directly – but their disapproval was felt in other ways. Conversations that stop when you come into view. Ushering their precious children quickly past whilst on the school run. Children who stop and point and proclaim ‘that’s him.’
D at this point had no concept of what he was doing. In fact the squeals and screams and shocked faces of everyone around him caused him to think this was a great thing to do. Cause and reaction – perfectly normal for a child of his emotional age. But he was a 3 year old trapped in the body of a 5 year old, in a mainstream school environment.
At home we banished the problem by ‘ignoring and moving on’. At school and out in the real world we needed a different plan (because we had no control over other peoples reactions to him).
Luckily he had a support assistant who just wasn’t phased by this development. (The same cannot be said of some of the other ‘adults’ in the school). And the very simple answer to our problem – dungarees! Hastily I sourced a few pairs of dungarees and for a few months this was all he wore when out of the house. This presented a few challenges of its own – being that we were also toilet training at the same time – but it worked. The penis stayed put and we were all able to breath a sigh of relief.
Putting him back into normal trousers went smoothy over the summer holidays and WillyGate was over. (for now)
WillyGate taught me many things.
(1) A barrier solution can be pretty effective when dealing with a child whose ability to reason is dysfunctional
(2) Some adults in educational settings need to grow up and remember not to project ‘adult’ reactions into a child’s world
(3) Working in partnership can make change happen quickly
(4) Mainstream settings struggle with special needs children – setting behavioural expectations that are defined by their peer group – not their delayed development. (In fact I wish they were academically inclined to do the same!)
(5) Look for the simple solutions in life.
(6) Don’t judge other parents – you don’t know what they are dealing with.