All I ever seem to do at the moment is say negative things to the kids. And I don’t mean I’m just hurling abuse at them and saying nasty things – well, perhaps a bit. No, I mean all I’m ever saying is ‘no’ or ‘stop that’ or ‘give up’ or ‘put that down’ or…
The problem, for us anyway, is that they refuse to learn by their mistakes, so instead of understanding that what they have done is wrong, followed by them stopping doing it, they just do it again. It may not be that exact day, but they will inevitably repeat it.
Hitting each other, leaving rubbish everywhere, not doing what they are told, hitting each other, not tidying their rooms, interrupting people when they are talking, fidgeting ALL THE TIME, talking too loudly, being disrespectful, hitting each other…
I’ve been working a lot recently, in a travel and tourism office, and so my partner has had the kids to herself full time at the weekends, as tourism offices have family-unfriendly hours. This has led to her experiencing what I am only too familiar with: being bored by the sound of your own voice.
It’s generally after lunch that it hits you, after you have spent all morning with the kids, telling them to stop doing whatever it is they shouldn’t be doing. You sort of step outside of your body and start hearing what you sound like: a stuck record. A stuck record that just drones on and on and on in a Yorkshire accent.
I know some people may be thinking things like ‘why don’t you try to be nicer’ and ‘it’s your own fault’ and ‘what’s Yorkshire?’. And I wish I could be nicer and I know it’s my own fault to a degree, but I’m just not that sort of a parent. Oh and Yorkshire is a county in England.
Sometimes I see ‘positive reinforcement’ parents babbling away at their kids, in soothing tones, talking about ‘unkind words’ and ‘unkind hands’ and calling their kids things like ‘angel’ and ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’, and I want to be them.
But then I see their kids kick them in the knees two minutes later, before running away after refusing to eat their fruit-based-snack and I realise that they are just the same as I am. They are just fighting the natural order of things. But they will learn, they will turn to the dark side once Tarquin or Felicity has drawn ‘Mummy is a Dog’ on the wall in their own faeces.
I wonder if there will ever be a day when I get through a full 24 hours without shouting at my kids, a blissful day of no arguments, and no fighting. But that day will never come to pass, and I know why.
Because they are my kids, and they have my spirit flowing through them – and I was an even bigger dick in my day than they are.
And you know what, after all that moaning that I’ve just made you read? I don’t think I would really want to have it any other way…
…OK, maybe a quiet Saturday morning once a year would be nice. One can but dream…
What would we have gotten away with? A pleasant Christmas break, a pleasant half-term holiday, an enjoyable trip to the swimming pool, an incident-free trip to the park, a shout-free bath time routine, ten seconds of peace, the ability to blink without something going wrong…
Yes, our children are at that wonderful age where they are a complete nightmare.
When they are together.
They are like some kind of horrendous combining Transformer (a Decepticon, to be clear). Mildly threatening when on their own, and a menace to society when they join to create the fearsome Maxi-Whine, or Moanzee – or maybe Greyhair-Makor. I don’t know, I’m not fixed on a name for the monstrosity they become when they ‘play’ together yet.
Play. Ha. Ha ha ha. Sigh.
I remember back in the good old days (last year) when we could leave them together and the worst that could happen would perhaps be something got knocked over, or the TV would be turned off, or they would build a fort. Now everything is violence and pain.
I suppose it comes with the increase in body mass = the bigger the kid, the bigger the problem.
And it’s never their fault, always the fault of the other one.
So when you reenter the room you will get some cock-and-bull story from my daughter about how no, it was actually her brother who took off his own glasses and snapped the arm off on one side. Or it was actually my daughter that punched and then kicked herself in the head.
I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get what I mean.
Individually, as a rule, they are quite easy going and manageable. But together, these days, you can mentally set a clock in your head from the time you exit the room to the time it takes them to start fighting/break something/open a door/activate a nuclear weapon silo.
Sometimes I don’t even get out of the room before mayhem is ensuing.
This means that, at the moment, all holidays are a constant battle of maintaining order via separation, and the constant search for newer, better, and pain-free options of how to regain/maintain control. Oh and by pain-free, I mean for us, not them – the only damage they receive is from each other. Can’t say the same for us – especially if we get caught in the midst of the chaos.
I often used to see parents in the park during the day smelling of alcohol – grandparents too – and I mentally despaired that someone could be in that state at such an hour.
I don’t despair so much these days. I empathise. But don’t worry, I won’t be reaching for any alcohol.
Because it’s just a phase, isn’t it? That’s what I keep telling myself. It’s just a phase.
I’m trying to integrate into my new community here in la belle France. It’s easier when you’ve got kids as you can talk to the other parents and offer your services at their school. If you don’t have kids and you do that you just seem strange.
And when I’m not offering my services my partner is offering my services. Which is why today I found myself escorting a group of four and five-year-olds to the local park, so they could learn about the rules of the road. Except not actually on the road, because that would be madness, no we just set up a few obstacle courses that effectively mimicked things they would need to look out for when they did eventually ‘hit the road’.
As an example of what these obstacle courses amounted to I will tell you about the section I was in charge of. I was in charge of the roundabout, or ‘rond point’ as it’s called over here. This meant I had to stand there and make sure they went around it the right way. Which, depending on where you hail from as you read this, may actually be the wrong way for you. It used to be for me, coming from the UK where I went round it the other way. But I’ve adapted and now only occasionally go round it the wrong way. Which is the right way for the UK but the wrong way here. What was I talking about? I’ve forgotten…oh yes, the safety course.
So the teachers laid down the rules to the kids before we began, and ensured they knew exactly what they had to do. It boiled down to this:
The teachers said: ‘Children, this will help you understand the rules of the road and be better riders. The skills you learn today will set you up for now, and also for later in your life‘.
That seems pretty standard and straightforward to me, as it must do to you too. However judging by what I then spent two hours (they asked me to cover two classes, what can I say? I’m stupid) watching I don’t think that’s what the kids heard because…
The kids said: ‘This is our chance to get even with the other kids we don’t like! Smash into everybody! Run them off the road! THIS IS NOT SAFETY TRAINING THIS IS A RACE – AND ONE WE ARE GOING TO WIN AT ALL COSTS!!!!’
It was like Ben-Hur crossed with Death Race 2000 with a dash of Battle Royale. I felt particularly bad for the kids whose parents had forgotten to bring a bike, and so were relegated to using the school’s tricycles instead. They were slowly squeaking round that park like Danny in ‘The Shining‘. They did not fare well against the rest, and were picked off with ease by the larger predators.
My daughter was a keen participant in the ‘race’, I saw her take down two other competitors that weren’t actually competing but were just trying to navigate some bollards. She then discarded her jacket, ostensibly because she was too hot, but I think it was because it made her less efficient, as after that her hit ratio went through the roof. It’s very odd to see such a mad gleam in the eye of someone who is only four-year’s old, and is wearing a pink Disney’s Frozen safety helmet. I won’t say no next time she asks me for a second story at bedtime, I’ll be too scared to.
I got away relatively unscathed in my position at the roundabout. There were only four collisions, and one child who needed to have plasters and cuddles applied. I did have to move out of the way a few times though as some of the kids seemed intent on hurtling into me, as well as their ‘friends’.
I’m going on a museum trip next. It’s a museum full of old agricultural implements, you know: scythes and things with points.
I need to stop offering my services….
The following is an example of my daughter’s dialogue, spoken over the first ten minutes of pretty much any film that you could think of, that is suitable for children aged four. It doesn’t matter what genre it is, it will always follow the same pattern…
‘Why are they doing that?’
‘Is he the baddy?’
‘Why is he the baddy?’
‘Is he the baddy?’
‘Where has she gone?’
‘Can I have some chocolate?’
‘I have not already had some’
‘The baddy is a man?’
‘Why is the baddy a man?’
‘Why is he green?’
‘Are they the goodies?’
‘Why did he break that?’
‘Is it because he is bad?’
‘Can I have some more chocolate?’
‘Can I have some more chocolate?’
‘Where are they?’
‘What is that?’
‘Does the baddy want that?
‘Is he the baddy?’
‘I want a cuddle’
‘Are they the goodies?’
‘What is that?’
‘Is that a weapon?’
‘Why did it do that?’
‘What’s a bomb?’
‘Does the baddy want that?’
‘Can I have some chocolate?’
‘They are the goodies aren’t they?’
‘They are strong aren’t they?’
‘Daddy you smell bad’
‘And you need a shave’
‘Can I have some chocolate?’
My son is very, very creative. He’s seldom seen without a colouring pencil in his hand, drawing up a storm. He’s got a great unique style too, something I don’t have, but can recognise. I like to think I’m OK at writing, but he blows me out of the water when it comes to drawing. Lately he has been turning his attention to his large collection of Lego, and the results have been fantastic. I should add that he didn’t use any pictures, guides or anything like that, they all came from memory and imagination…
The two babies came downstairs one day to discover a very big surprise was waiting for them – their very own bath!
They were very, very happy about this and got in straight away!
They were pleased to be in the bath as they had been wearing the same clothes for over a year, and so they absolutely reeked.
They also wore those clothes in the bath, because that’s what you do in a bath isn’t it.
‘This is nice’ said Winky-Eye Baby, as he pretend-sploshed water all over his (her?) clothes.
‘Yes it is’ replied Onesie Baby ‘It’s about bloody time too. I thought my clothes were going to be classed as a biohazard if I let them get any dirtier’.
‘You do know there isn’t actually any water?’ said Winky-Eye Baby, with a worried frown on his (her?) face ‘It’s all just pretend. Don’t tell me you’ve been at the bleach again?!’.
‘It’s real if you wish hard enough’ said Onesie Baby.
‘Well, why don’t you shit in one hand and wish in the other, and see which one fills up first’ replied Winky-Eye Baby.
After their bath the two babies had a lovely game of ‘High Fly’, a fun game which involved them being hurled as fast as they could be at walls and doors, by their boisterous Mummy. She was a very loving Mummy, but she loved in a quite violent way, and so if the two babies were real she would probably be doing about 25 years-to-life in prison for infanticide.
Though if they were real it would probably raise more questions about how a three-and-a-half year-old could have babies.
After their game the two babies decided to have another bath, but were shocked to discover it had been stolen!
Who stole it?
‘It’s that fucking cat!’ said Winky-Eye Baby ‘As if it’s not bad enough that we get used as a teeth and claw sharpener by that thing, now we will have to clean out its hairs before we get back in!’
‘And we might catch toxoplasmosis’ he (she?) added.
‘What’s toxoplasmosis?’ Onesie Baby asked.
‘Its that disease from cat shit that killed Tommy in Trainspotting’ replied Winky-Eye Baby ‘Mind you he was a junkie with AIDS, so we should be alright’
‘Plus we’ve got no central nervous system’ added Onesie Baby.
The cat did look awfully comfortable though, and the two babies worried they would never get their bath back, but just then he woke up!
‘Oh I do hope he doesn’t bite my head again’ said Winky-Eye Baby
‘That’s not the worst thing they do’ replied Onesie Baby ‘I’ve heard when they get older they hump you’
‘No I think that’s dogs’ countered Winky-Eye Baby ‘Plus he’s having his bollocks off next month so it shouldn’t be an issue’.
Just then Mummy arrived, and the two babies had beaming smiles on their faces at the prospect of getting their bath back. Or they would have done if in fact they could smile, and weren’t just moulded lumps of rubber.
‘She’ll sort that bloody ball of fur out’ said Winky-Eye Baby.
‘Yes we’ll soon be back in our nice warm bath, I can’t wait!’ squealed Onesie Baby in delight.
However the two babies were in for a shock…
‘What a bitch’ said the two babies together.
I go to the wrong door. This is the second time this week I’ve gone to the wrong door. That’s because today is Wednesday and it’s dinner-time. All the other days I’ve collected my daughter from her Maternelle at 4.30pm*. They move them after dinner-time you see.
They also change the teachers.
So the teacher I have met the other two days this week is not the one I meet today. Today is the day I meet her actual class teacher, not one of the other ‘cool-down’ teachers – the ones that seem to take them when all the hard, morning work is done, and they just have to keep them awake till their parents take them in the afternoon.
Or should that be evening? I only as as they keep saying ‘bonsoir’ to me. When does afternoon become evening? I would ask but I don’t know how to.
But I digress.
So this is the first day I’m meeting my daughter’s new teacher, and also the first day she is meeting me. As I approach the door a pleasant looking middle-aged lady is there to greet me. She looks at me quizzically at first and I peer in the door and pause.
She’s probably meeting lots of parents today for the first time, I think to myself. Lots of parents may not be able to pick their kids up at dinner-time, so it may fall to their other half, or grandparent, to collect them. I could trade her in, I think. Maybe get one of the less aggressive (when it comes to food) ones. Or the less violent (when it comes to cuddling me) ones. Or maybe I could get another boy? I’ve always fancied having two boys around the place.
My eyes scan the room. So many options.
But probably best not to pick one of the Chinese ones.
I’d save a fortune on biscuits, smoothies, marbles and psychotherapy-for-cats sessions (oh yes, I do believe that’s in the future). I wouldn’t have so many bruises on my arms, legs, torso, face etc etc. I would be able to eat my food, without someone else constantly monitoring the quantities consumed. Without someone else asking me, why I’m eating more of something? Why I’m having another one? Why am I wearing that top? Why am I having a shower? Why am I going outside? Why are we going in the car?
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
But it would just be the same, I realise. So maybe it’s better the devil you know?
Well, that plus the whole kidnapping another kid, getting arrested etc. etc.
So I admit who I am, forever dooming myself to coming to collect this bundle of questioning fun, that eats all my food, makes me buy her marbles, and gives the best – if slightly violent – cuddles.
Oh well, if I change my mind there’s always next year’s new teacher….
*In case you are wondering my partner always, always drops her off in the mornings, and I take my son to his school, just across the road. My daughter is very clingy to her mum in the mornings and my son likes me to chase him to his school. I’m better at running. My partner is better at being clung to.
We did try it the other way round once. We call that day ‘The Day Of Tears’. We won’t repeat that.
Let me preface this admittance of a failure in parenting with another admittance: I don’t do hair. And when I say hair, I mean my daughter’s hair. There are two styles that I can do for her, and that’s it. They are:
- The wonky pigtails/bunches – thus named because no matter how hard I try one of them is always slightly uneven, none of this cheerleader, perfectly balance business for me. I don’t even know how people do it, how are you supposed to see the angles? Multiple mirrors? The aid of aides? Robotics? Anyway so this ‘style’ will always generate quizzical looks from people.
- The Pineapple/Coconut – grab the hair, as much as possible, grab a bobble, stick the hair in the bobble, centre the mass of hair roughly in the middle of the top of the head, stick the bobble on it. Voila: the Pineapple/Coconut.
My daughter doesn’t let me do her hair anymore.
Now her mum does it, in ever more elaborate, and stylish ways. Problems with that? Well, yes because you see, she may build all that scaffolding up, but when it’s time for bath I’m sometimes the one who has to dismantle it. One bobble, is no problem, nor is two, generally. Today however I had to contend with some Frozen-esque design that had THREE BOBBLES. The first two came out fairly easily, not putting up too much of a fight. The third one though? Well, see for yourself:
Don’t worry… It’ll grow back*.
*I would like to add that no pain was caused to my daughter, to my knowledge. That being said, she’s as hard as nails, so what may well have made me scream (like a little girl ironically) may have not bothered her in the slightest.