It’s been one of those weeks. A pouty, moochy sort of week. Not attractive on a 44-year-old. I feel all out of sorts and miz. When a friend texted a few minutes ago to say thank you for a lovely Christmas in July last night, I texted back apologising for the food being “up and down”. She replied (exasperated, I think) ”Just say cheers and be happy”.
I replied: “Cheers!” The happy part, that’s a lot more work.
As if sensing my weakness, the children have demanded I play Polly Pocket with them. To make the game more appealing, they have given me their new rainbow dolphin and the Polly boat as my special toys. Nice try. To make the game more appealing, I have given myself one of those disgusting Caramel Chiller things I choked down last week.
If I am going to play Polly Pocket I need caffeine. Or I might start rocking and babbling incoherently in the corner.
It reminds me of the petrified blogs I would write in New York about playing imaginary games with the kids. Here’s one of them (co-incidentally, it also mentions nasty drinks; contains a healthy dash of motherguilt; and there are even some discipline tricks for those readers with younger kids; something for everyone, really):
“I was hoping I’d feel like a better mother by now. It’s been two months since I stopped working and started spending more time with my children. I take them to the museum, we go to craft time at the library, we visit the park and go out for pizza. But something is still missing.
I seem to have misplaced my fun gene.
I used to be good at imaginary games and being silly. I spent my childhood tormenting my younger sister with crazy scenarios – I was the air hostess, she was the passenger; I was the shopkeeper, she was the customer; I was the café owner, mixing vile concoctions from everything I could find in the fridge, she was the patron forced to drink them (she still can’t stomach peanut butter to this day).
At age 40, I find myself too self-conscious and repressed to get down on the floor and get into imaginary play.
I can read books to the kids or build Lego towers until the cows come home, but that’s not what they really want. They want me to play dollies with them, pretend to be their Polly Pocket friend or to be an animal in the jungle, and I just can’t do it. I try, but my efforts are so pathetic and stilted that I slink off as quickly as possible, under the premise of getting them a snack or pouring the bath.
I watch my husband play with the kids and marvel at how good he is at all that stuff. He can do the funny voices and silly actions and crazy rough-housing for hours. His fake Polly Pocket voice is really something. The kids adore it. They adore him.
Oh, they love me, too. But I’m not as much fun as Daddy. I’d like to be more fun.
I’d also like to be more patient. Daddy is more patient. Damn him. He seems to be able to soothe and settle even the most volatile situation. He hardly ever loses his cool.
I just pretend to be patient for most of the day (while secretly seething on the inside about all the whinging, foot-dragging, defiance and demands) until I finally snap and blow my cover around bedtime.
There is something so completely infuriating about bedtime with kids. Why won’t they just go to bed when you ask them nicely?
They’re obviously exhausted. You’ve given them a glass of milk. You’ve helped them clean their teeth. You’ve read them at least four books. You’ve cuddled them. You’ve given them a good-night kiss. You’ve been patient through two “emergency wee situations”.
WHAT MORE DO THEY WANT?
I could swear they want mummy to go ballistic.
I went to a lecture last week by Dr Beth Grosshans, who has written a book called Beyond Time Out: From Chaos to Calm.
My husband thought I should go because I struggle with the discipline thing and tend to become a bit childlike and petulant myself when dealing with a truculent four-year-old.
Dr Grosshans believes children have been given too much power in families and parents need to reassert their authority. She says children are profoundly grateful when their excess of power is taken away and tend to become much nicer human beings as a result.
Mummy losing her cool is not the way to realign the power balance in a family. The slippery little buggers know they’ve bested you when that happens.
Dr Grosshans suggested a five-step ladder for taking back power. It goes something like this …
- Give your child a friendly warning to do something/not do something.
- If they don’t obey, give them a second, sterner warning.
- Still no compliance? Stride purposefully towards them and propel them to their bedroom, leaving the door open.
- If they kick up a fuss and try to bolt out again, propel them back inside and suggest that perhaps a closed door will reinforce your desire for them to stay put.
- They go crazy in the bedroom? Grab them in a bear-hug (their back against your chest, your leg across theirs to pin them down – she suggests buying her book to master the technique and avoid severe parental bruising) and hold them until they calm down.
She swears it works. Although one guy just rolled his eyes and said she had to be kidding – his kids act up, he just threatens them with/gives them a good spanking so he can get back to dinner quick smart. If he followed Dr Grosshan’s five-rung plan, his meal would be cold by the time the situation was sorted.
My children have no idea what a good spanking is. And I prefer it that way.
I keep promising myself I’ll try it Dr Grosshan’s method, but then I get tired and cross and revert to just raising my voice and making all sorts of idle threats to put a stop to the situation.
The good thing with little ones is that they don’t seem to hold a grudge. You lose your cool with them one night, they’re still thrilled to bits to see you in the morning. I suspect that changes as they get older. I really need to get my act together before then.
And I need to learn to have more fun.”
OK, off to retrieve my Caramel Chiller thingy from the freezer. I’ve run out of excuses … Pollyworld here I come …