An Octagonal peg in a round hole

I’m sure you’ll have watched those nature programmes on the television. Personally I find them fascinating. I am constantly amazed by how diverse and adaptable life on this little planet of ours is. Even a three year old will be able to tell you that aside from land dwelling animals, among the creatures which inhabit the earth are birds which fly and fish which swim. Confusingly there are also fish which fly (or at least glide) and birds which swim. There are also birds which are not capable of flight, and mammals which are! We really do live in a bizarre, and sometimes contradictory world.

One of the common themes in these documentaries, aside from the commentator’s earnest narration, is the apparent existence of a hierarchy in many animal societies. Although there a few notable exceptions (elephant herds for example, have a matriarch), a group usually has an alpha male who is the head of the pack.

The alpha male must be careful, as he will have lots challengers, younger and stronger wannabes who want to be in control. He must fight them repeatedly to assert his position, and when he is inevitably beaten he becomes at best, a has-been, and at worst, is cast out of the group, and left to fend for himself in his dotage.

I’m sure you are finding this all very interesting, but you are probably quite reasonably asking “what is he going on about, and what’s this got to do with him?”

Well, if we assume that Team Fun is a herd of wild animals (not a bad analogy as it happens), then I am the alpha male (if only because I am the eldest and strongest male in the house). Up until recently my place in the pride was assured. The closest potential rival is 34 years my junior and not terribly tough so I didn’t see any problems coming from that quarter.

Never-the-less, I have a challenger, and most unexpectedly it is the youngest member of the family.  Yes at the ripe old age of 18 months, Jojo thinks he should be in charge!

It all started innocently enough. Boy-Boy has, for a long time really struggled with eating (see https://daddysphere.com/2014/05/02/going-into-battle-with-a-toddler/). Since he has been diagnosed as being autistic, this makes a lot more sense and we have come up with a few strategies for making meal times a little bit easier. If he blows off a bit of steam before he eats, he is often less fussy and is willing to eat a much more varied dinner than normal. So when I get home from work, my first job is to play fight with him. This usually involves us both being on our hands and knees and pushing each other’s heads with our own. Depending on his mood, this can go on for ten minutes or so, but usually he tires of it pretty quickly and more conventional fighting methods with chubby little fists (mine) takes over. He is pretty passive in the whole experience and just enjoys the proximity and physicality of the exercise.

A few weeks ago, Jojo decided he wanted to play the head ramming game, and he was welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately for me this was not the welcome he was looking for, and planted a well aimed (I am certain) head butt right on the bridge of my nose. We stopped playing then.

The following day he wanted to join in again. Even at such a young age, it is clear that he sees this as an opportunity to assert his dominance. He tries to force my head down onto the carpet, I think to gain submission. Of course I am too powerful for that, but as the days go by he experiments with new strategies to get one over on me.

I am content that I am not the only one who he will not concede defeat to though. His current nemesis is one of those balls which you put the shaped blocks into. You must know the ones I mean; there’s a circular hole for the circle to go in, a square one for the square block etc.

Jojo has discovered a way to force some of the shapes into holes which they were not designed to go through. The convex octagon (one of the first shapes every toddler should be familiar with?!?) for example, is in fact quite capable of going through the circular hole. True, it does require considerable grunting and straining (he’s never allowed this toy without a nappy on), but it will fit. Both Mrs L. and I have tried to perform the same feat, and it requires very good fine motor skills as well as a fair bit of brute force.

In many respects he is like a little terrier (although not as hairy), very determined and independent. These aren’t the only reasons he is like a dog though. Recently he has become exceedingly picky with his dinner, choosing to eat very little which has been prepared for him. But never fear. Unlike Boy-Boy, he is unlikely to starve; electing to forage through the cupboards (like a 21st century hunter gatherer), and rarely comes away empty handed. His greatest finds have been some dry WeetBix and some dog biscuits. Poor Mrs L. has become so frustrated with his antics that she has now resorted to putting his dinner in the cupboard in the hope that he will find it more appealing in “the wild”. This has so far been fruitless.

In other unrelated news, Jojo has now graduated from sleeping in his cot. At about 5.30am (or some other similarly antisocial hour) we heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet coming toward our bedroom. We assumed it was Boy-Boy who has been struggling to stay in his bed all night (groan!). This time however it was our youngest, who had scaled the dizzy heights of his cot sides, clambered onto the bed next to it and from there to the floor, before toddling along to our room. Please bear in mind this feat was accomplished with the added restriction of a sleeping bag. This is the equivalent of me trying to scale a 160cm fence (a challenge at the best of times) with my legs wrapped in a duvet!

With blatant disregard for his parents (in my case desperate) need for beauty sleep, he then began babbling to us with an excited, but sadly unintelligible monolog!

We have therefore given up trying to get him to sleep there.

He now sleeps in a kennel.

What a joy it is to be a parent of a strong minded child

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