You know that moment..?

You know that moment where you're standing by the side of the road, in the rain, over an hour from home and holding a child who is laughing like a maniac and has been for the last twenty minutes? The reason you're beside the road and not driving home is because that maniac child has just undone his seat belt for the second time since leaving the car park, only this time you were on a main road instead of approaching the car park entrance. The shock of this had made you yell at the child, or perhaps it was the panic that you didn't quite know what the child was going to do next and while you were in sole charge a big lump of metal that is capable of killing people, there was very little you could do about it.

So you yelled at the child, but the child just laughed harder. This child is so embroiled in anxiety that the only safe coping mechanism is to lose oneself in never-ending mirth. This child is waaay past displaying fear of adults. This child knows adults aren't safe, they're unpredictable and inconsistent, they shout, and they hit. It's not safe to show fear, it's not safe to be present at all, so let's disappear inside for a while and laugh until we know we're safe again.

After a minute you saw somewhere safe to stop the car, and grabbed the child out of the back. You don't speak, because you don't know what to say.

It takes about ten minutes to get yourself under control. You still don't know what to say. 

Eventually your brain cranks in to gear. You can't stay here forever, and the child is not calming himself; he needs more from you. Always more. 

He's laughing because he's anxious. He's anxious because he doesn't feel safe, and he thinks you're going to hit him. You say - firmly - "I'm very cross with you at the moment. I'm cross, but I'm not going to hit you." He freezes. "Yeah" he whispers.

"I'm never going to hit you." 
"I'm cross, but I'm not going to hit you."
"I'm going to keep you safe"

The laughing starts again, but it's not as wild as before.

You rock, and repeat. "I'm not going to hit you. No one is allowed to hit you. [Laughing gets louder] I'm your mummy and I'm going to keep you safe. You're safe. No one is allowed to hit you." And so on.

After five minutes or so, the laughing has subsided a little and the child has returned - you can see it in the eyes. You explain why it's important to keep your seat belt on, elicit promises not to unbuckle again, and tentatively place child back in to the warmth of the car. Raisins are administered - unashamed bribery but at this stage you'll do anything just to get home.

The raisins last about half an hour, after which the child begins to poke his by-now-fairly-fed-up sister. 

"Leave her alone please." you say firmly. The laughing starts again.


And repeat.


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