It took me some time to realise a fundamental truth that would help me to understand Small and the way he acted: Small was the centre of the universe. Everything else in the universe was there to satisfy the needs of Small. There was no other reason for anything else to exist.
Small did not care about me. I was merely there to provide Small with the things he needed. The only importance I had was as the main provider of the things that Small needed.
Small was totally selfish. He was the epitome of selfishness, the ultimate egotist.
That may sound a tad judgmental but it is not supposed to be. It is merely realistic. To adults, being selfish is seen as a bad thing. This is because adults have had time to learn what is right and what is wrong. That is, what our parents and society as a whole have taught us is right and wrong. From that platform we can look at a selfish person and judge them. A Small has no concept of right or wrong. They have not weighed up their behaviour, seen it as bad and then decided to act that way anyway. They are, in fact, acting completely naturally, using default human behaviour. Survival means looking after number one. Thinking about others is a learnt behaviour that will develop over time. The problem for the parent is that it takes a long time to learn. Some pick the habit up early. Others never manage it completely. Most get the idea once they reach adulthood; a bit late for the parent. Incidentally, the appreciation of a good view follows a similar evolutionary timescale.
Having no concept of accepted protocols, Small displayed his selfishness loudly. When he had a need he let me know. And Small was constantly in need.
As a baby most of Small’s needs were predictable: food, changing, sleep, too hot/cold, not well or just wanting entertainment. If I kept going through the list, over and over, my job was done.
Once Small started to understand his environment and had more stimuli he began to realise that he had a lot more needs than he had previously perceived. Or at least, he now needed much more specific things within the same broad categories. When he was hungry it was for a specific thing, normally something he has just seen advertised on the television. If I didn’t see the advert and had to translate the need from Smallish I was in trouble. Even if, by chance, I had such a thing in the cupboard I might never have realise it. The only solution was to put Small in front of the cupboard and let him find what he wanted. He either found it or forget about it as he emptied everything onto the floor.
Thoughts and needs could flit through Small’s head with alarming rapidity. For example, he may have communicated a desperate need for his favourite rice cakes. I would go to the kitchen, grab a plastic plate, dump a couple of rice cakes on it and hurry back only to find that whilst I was away new thoughts had sparkled into live, eradicating any old thoughts, and he now needed chips. What did I think I was doing bringing him rice cakes? Rice cakes were so 30 seconds ago!
As a result of the inherent self-centred nature of Small and my own, learnt, self-sacrificing nature I spent a large proportion of my time dealing with the needs of Small. When Small 2 appeared (and so on), that proportion grew exponentially.
In order to deal with so many needs I had to be efficient. Each need had to be dealt with immediately and rapidly, which was fine, providing I could decipher what the need was. All too often things turned ugly because either I did not understand what Small wanted or he didn’t actually know what he wanted, just that he needed something. Hopefully the thing he needed was a good shouting match, because that was invariably what he got.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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