I had heard about Soulla’s Saturday morning library years ago, just after Alex was born. Whilst, it is not a library in the true sense of the word, it is the closest thing we have to an English library here in Larnaca.
I rarely venture out with Alex and Emma on my own as Alex can take flight at any given second and trying to chase a 3.5 year old and a 2.5 year old isn’t really my idea of fun. But in recent months Alex has become much better and we have implemented a red and green light system so that he can walk without holding our hands but knows when we say red light he must stop immediately. Alex actually came up with this himself last summer. We think that it is from watching so much Thomas! He is given a quick reminder before we go anywhere that if we say red light he must stop and the majority of the time he listens.
All last week I kept reminding them both that we would go to the library on Saturday morning to hear a story and pick out some books. Saturday morning arrives and Alex has a tantrum. It is at this point that I know things are going to go the way I had planned. I just know that Alex will find listening to what I have to say difficult. He is so strong-willed and stubborn – just like me!
The library is in a classroom in one of the international schools in Larnaca. As we arrive, I explain to them both that because this is a new place we have never been before that they must both listen to me and if they don’t then we can’t stay. We decide we will get some dinosaur books and some monster books. As we walk through the door, the strangest thing ever happens. Alex clings onto both my legs for dear life and starts shaking. This has never, ever happened before. Alex is the happy, confident outgoing child who introduces himself to every single person he meets and would literally talk the hind legs off a donkey. I crouch down to ask him what’s wrong and he continues to shake and tell me that he is terrified. I try to distract him (all the while Emma is doing her standard ‘new situation’ dance by shoving her hand down my top and asking for the yellow boobie) but nothing is working. It’s at this point I wondered whether I should leave or not.
Alex decided he wanted to run outside until storytime started, so we went outside and they played with some of the other children there. When we went back to listen to the story and sing some songs, Alex was very uncomfortable. He sat in my arms (which he never does) and then decided he wanted all the toys that other boys had brought with them. He was like a wriggly worm trying to get into every corner. We just got through story time when he started throwing all the books on the floor and running in circles around us all. The final straw was when he took off his shoes and socks – I knew it was time to leave. It had escalated so quickly.
Alex refused point-blank to leave. In the end I had to pick him up and carry him out. He screamed the entire way down to the car and for a good 10 minotes more. Emma decided to get in on the act and started crying too. I felt like such a failure. Michael happened to call and I cried down the phone asking him where had we gone wrong? Why does it appear that all the children that we know listen to their parents, but Alex is wild? The Internet has been my saving grace during pregnancy and the early years of childhood, but I have to admit that there are times when it makes me feel like an inadequate mum.
When Alex stopped crying we had a quick chat about what made him feel so sad. He couldn’t tell me what was wrong but he did say “I’m not naughty mummy, I’m a good boy”. My heart broke. Should I have realised that even was uncomfortable in the situation and that he was truly frightened? I think I sometimes forget that even though he is a big brother, he is still a baby. I think I expect more from him than he is currently able to give.
Even though Emma is 17 months younger, she definitely is more advanced than Alex. Her language skills are at least equal to his in both Greek and English. I don’t think that Alex is not reaching his goals, but I do think Emma far exceeds hers. And herein lies (what I perceive to be) the problem with having children close in age – the comparison never stops. If there was a larger gap between Alex and Emma would I compare them as much? If I wasn’t in a birth group for Alex, would I be constantly comparing him to the other children’s developments? Or would I just except that sometimes 3.5 year olds can decide to be scared of a new situation, or just feel like throwing the mother of all shit fits!
We eventually went back to ensure library and Alex apologised to the lady running it. He was so happy to be there that he helped scan books in and out and learned all about how the library works. Emma picked some Quentin Blake books and Alex found all the dinosaur books. There was some discussion as to which books we would take this visit, and which ones we would take the next time.
Alex was so much happier leaving the second time. They both sang the whole way home and were so excited to tell Michael all about the library. We will definitely be returning, but I think Michael will be coming with us next time!