You know the expression ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?’ Is there a reverse equivalent? You don’t know what you were missing until, er, you get it? Or is that known as stating the bleeding obvious? Even so, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, particularly now that it’s six months since we took Harry, our 8-year-old, out of school and started home educating.
We’ve always been a happy family. We’ve always had a good laugh together and got on well. Yes, we had problems, of course – Harry would sometimes have shocking tantrums during which he behaved like a completely different child, unreasonable and angry, and I didn’t deal with it at all well. It was as if his red mist would trigger my red mist and in the blink of an eye we’d both be yelling and crying and wondering what happened.
I realised recently that, since he’s been home, that hasn’t happened once. He’s relaxed and happy and sweet. No meltdowns. Not one. Actually, that’s not true – there was one, a couple of weeks ago, and that’s what reminded me that he used to have them much more frequently. But this recent meltdown was entirely my fault. I basically insisted on something as a point of principle. Not something I particularly cared about – it was more that I asked him not to do something, he did it anyway, and I lost my temper.
It was one of those times that, even as I was shouting at him and threatening all manner of punishments, I was wondering why I was doing it. A voice in my head was saying “Does this really matter?” I stopped myself. I went and got a cup of tea. I calmed down and I apologised to Harry. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have managed to do this while he was still at school – I hope I would have – but somehow it was a lot easier.
I think it’s because we now spend so much time together that we just have to get on. But also, we enjoy being together so much that it seems worse somehow when things go wrong. Does that make sense? It doesn’t entirely make sense to me because I would think that while he was spending 6+ hours a day at school, I would have wanted to make the best of the time I had with him – and I did – but there are so many added pressures surrounding school (from the morning uniform row to the evening homework row) that it just didn’t seem to work that way.
Since Harry’s been at home we have changed the way we communicate. I’m much more likely to discuss things than I am to shout. I’m more likely to try to understand where Harry – and, for that matter, his 4-year-old brother, Joe – is coming from, why he might be upset, what I can do to make him feel better, than I am to send him for a time out.
It’s changed the dynamic of the family and, for me, that’s been one of the best things about having him at home.