Pickle spends Saturday mornings watching Gherkin playing football with his local under-10s team. Well, he doesn’t watch of course, he’s too busy spinning around the field like a whirling dervish, finding sticks and bricks to lob at any small insect, bird, or child (he’s pretty indiscriminate), and bellowing at the top of his voice.
We’re learning to ignore this raucous, rowdy – sorry, of course I mean energetic and spirited – behaviour in many situations. Situations like the one above on the football field, where it’s seemingly acceptable for the impassioned sideline dads to proffer profanities at the pre-pubescent referee. In which case who am I – or anyone else for that matter – to chastise the 5-year old hellbent on committing insecticide.
I’m now even able to hold my head up a whole chin higher on the school-run and ignore the fact that Pickle will tear down the road howling incessantly, peeeowm-ing every car in sight, and knocking over wheelie bins (to be fair this only happened once). I no longer feel the need to walk sheepishly, eyes fixed to the pavement with that comfort-blanket sense of if-I-can’t-see-them-they-can’t-see-me.
In the beginning, mainly because of our own fears for his safety, we attempted to restrain Pickle and suppress his – erm what was it again? – ah yes, his energetic and spirited nature by affixing the trusty ol’ reins. HA HAA!! Reins. The failsafe reins. The when-in-doubt reins. The oh-my-go-why-did-I-bother reins.
This precious item was dutifully handed to us by Pickle’s foster carers, who said that if there were even a slight inkling of doubt that he might ‘not come back when called’, we were to use this effective method of restraint. So we took this ostensibly sound advice on one occasion and one occasion ONLY! It led to the most glorious tantrum that my little treasure has ever had. And we just so happened to be on a family trip to the zoo.
The butter well and truly melted in his fiery-tempered mouth. Pickle stamped better than any one of those resident heffalumps. He threw himself down on a soggy patch of grass and refused to move. Apart from to stamp some more, a lot more, 2 hours more in fact. The shoes came off, the socks came off, we really felt those twitching meerkat glares. OH, Gherkin and I perched ourselves on a wall for a front-row view of the shoe-tossing action. In all honesty, we would have willingly legged it towards the lion’s den given half the chance. He screamed he wanted his shoes back, he was cold. Of course he was, it was a cold, damp, drizzly day. His feet were sodden. Passers-by must have thought we were the worst parents in the world as I clung on to the offending shoes, knowing fine well that the risk of handing them back would only have led to a spade-sized hole in my head. You see, Pickle has what we call ‘grumps’ and he has to come out of his ‘grumps’ by himself. Only once the red mist has unmasked its tiny tearaway host are we able to communicate with him.
So in short – which this blog officially no longer is – sack the reins!! Allowing Pickle to exercise his personality and allowing him to burn off his energy unrestrained is the only effective method (in non-dangerous situations). By trial and error, we are learning to help him ‘manage’ his personality so that he may behave in a more socially-acceptable way. However, in doing so, my biggest fear is that we may quash his spirit, his foibles, and his strong-willed energy. All those things we have grown to love about him. All in the name of social conformity. I hope we don’t.