The one where the cake saw it’s arse … bad parenting guide #453

While writing the earlier post I started rummaging through my head thinking about all the rash parenting decisions I made, and when I look back at them now I cringe.  No doubt one of my kids will be on a psychologist’s couch discussing the damage of my parenting choices and directly referring to this blog as evidence.

I am the first to out myself, so let me tell you this rather classic story of where I totally lose myself to the nagging of a 3-year-old.

I bought a chocolate cake and it was sitting on the counter.  We had one of those floating centre table numbers in the middle of our kitchen back then.

Connor is about three.  He sees the cake, and starts going on and on about how he wants some cake.  I explain that he can’t have cake now, but later after dinner he can have a slice.

Connor is like a terrier with a bone, and keeps going on and on about the cake.  I restate my case that he can have it later and he keeps nagging that he wants some cake now. Nothing makes me <further> insane that repeat conversations.  And this one is going on and on like Groundhog Day.

I recall standing and leaning on the counter and looking at him and thinking all sorts of profane thoughts about him, the cake, why I was in this situation, and how it was all Kennith’s fault.  This was 2005, everything was Kennith’s fault.  He did not actually even have to be home (which incidentally he was not much) for it to be his fault.

I am standing there, looking at Connor, looking at the cake and Connor is whining and I am pretty much at the end of where ever my really short tether is.

I look at him.  I look at the cake.

I pick the cake up … I take two steps, I open the kitchen window and I throw cake, container and plate out the window. Right out the window.  I close the window and walk back over to the table, rather nonchalantly.

Connor goes in to immediate shock, and his eyes are huge.  I look at him and go: “Okay the cake is now gone, is there anything you would like to ask for?”

Needless to say, the cake discussion had come to an aprubt end.

I was not proud of myself – but I was at that point where I would have given anything for the constant whining about the frkn cake to stop.

From that moment onwards I was able to use the phrase of “Please, ask for that one more time and I promise you it is going out the window!”

{On a later occassion I did eject a toy out of the car window whilst driving on the N1.  Connor and Georgia were fighting about the toy and they did not want to stop.  I said “Okay pass the toy here…” and then it got left on the N1 somewhere … not a great advert for not littering …}

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“To Smack or Not to Smack” … that old onion

I will confess that when I started this business of parenting, I was under the impression that discipline meant a smack.

A smack would teach you that the consequences of your action/inaction would lead to discomfort and that might give you pause for concern next time you were in the same/similar situation.

A smack is not meant to be hitting a child until they are bleeding or bruised or fading in and out of consciousness.  A smack is a swift movement of your hand that is aimed at your child’s rump.  With the idea that it sends the message : “Hey bum, ears are not working.  Maybe bum can send a message to ears to say hey ears, wake the fk up!”

Seemed simple enough in principle.

Before Connor I had never really been around children.  I was the youngest in my family, the youngest in my wider family circle, and for some reason just never really came in to contact with children.

When I did I realised that they were a constant source of embarrassment.  I would ask a question and people would laugh at me.

Connor was the first baby I held for any significant length of time.  I thought that babies (like puppies) were born with their eyelids sealed.  So more novice you could not get.

I think the reality of most of us going from adults into parents is that we mimic our own upbringing.  Monkey see, monkey do stuff!

I was especially harsh with Connor, and was quick to punish (snap upbringing).

I did not want to be “those” people who are ostracised from society/public/friends because their child is a brat, or cries over nothing, or does anything that might remove from the joy of social occasions for people who do not have children.

I did not want to be stuck at home forever just because “we had a child” I wanted to continue what we usually did, within reason.  And Connor’s end of the bargain required him to behave according our rather rigid rules.  Poor guy!

Shame, I do pity the first child with Learner Parents.  Learner Parents cannot but fk up in the name of “I thought I was doing the right thing” – how else are they going to learn?  Been there, done that!

I recognise now that we were much too harsh, and especially with a child like Connor – who used to burst in to tears if you spoke in an angry tone to him.

By the time Georgia came along I must confess we had learnt a little (though not terribly much) but we were much gentler (and better) parents.  I still didn’t have much other options other than “I am counting to three, if I get there and you have not done/have not stopped doing what I asked you to do then you will get a hiding!”

Two problems with this system.

You have to do something if you get to three.  If you get to three and then warn again, and just do not do what you threatened/warned then your child is going to know that they have the upper hand, and they will know that they will able to always push you and you will cave.

The other issue is that you leave very few options as discipline if you are resort to a smack as a first measure.

At the time that was really all I knew.

In 1996 I went to the UK to visit my brother Bruce.  Him and his wife had been talking about Super Nanny and I bought a book and watched her show.  I was amazed at the “other techniques” I just did not realise existed that did not have a smack as the option.

I felt sick to my stomach that we had failed as parents and had been so harsh with Connor.  I recall standing in the bookstore in Glasgow and skimming through the Super Nanny book and feeling like I had been such a terrible parent.

I did not return a reformed from the UK a”non smacker.”  I still did not rule out a smack, but it got shifted to a “real point of last resort” when we felt we had exhausted every other method within reason.

I think we are still pretty strict parents, but that being said I think we have definitely mellowed from the first few years of Connor.  If I went back I would probably do it differently, but that would be because now I have plus eleven years of parenting under my belt, and woudl look at a situation totally differntly.

In some ways I definitely let somethings just roll on past and I do not make a fuss, but with other things I think I am still “I vant to year vun klik or else!”

I am definitely not an advocate against smacking children, and at the same time would not suggest it as the only course of action.  I am still a bit on the fence on it – presently we smack as a last/final/no other option — and it is very seldom.

I don’t think good parents are born — they are created with the shifts of experience and learning.

We do what we can with what we have got.  But for a me a good parent realises that what is right today, may not be right tomorrow and they realise that parenting is not an absolute point – it is a point of departure and we all learn a bit more each day.  From others, from ourselves and from our kids.

Why am I screaming if no one is listening ……

Okay so Saturday was like any other night, we had 9 friends over for dinner and I had three kids going bezerk!

To correct myself, I had two kids going bezerk.

I had one kid who went downstairs and realized the safest place was to sit in the tv room and play Nintendo – that child has a special place in my heart and was definitely my favourite child on Saturday night.

Georgia has reached that stage, where we are at that point where we have no more tools to use to discipline her.

We had a fairly empty toolbox when we started parenting, but right now, we have run out of ideas and the tool box is empty (unless I pick it up and just starting hitting myself repeatedly over the head with it – which might end up giving me more results).

How it goes is Connor is the good, sensitive and conscientious one.   Georgia would follow Connor’s lead.  That way we had to discipline one, and the other one followed sort of obediently after.

It was a wonderful arrangement.

It is a bit like getting a dog, and house training and obedience training the one dog.

Given, you expend huge sums of energy on the training, but you do it, you do it well and it is done.  You then get a second dog and the first dog trains the other one by association – a winner recipe for lazy dog owners.

Swap out “first dog” with Connor and “second dog” with Georgia and “dog owners” with parents and you have got our little arrangement.  Sweet, when it works.

Until. It doesn’t.

Kennith and I have always congratulated ourselves (gloated actually) on what brilliant parents we are.  Our kids are obedient (relatively), we can take our kids out with us (to most places) and generally ours is a fairly easy household – it is controlled chaos but our kids listen and the screaming is kept to an acceptable level (as long as mom has Chuckles and wine).

Or.  So we thought.

Georgia turned five last year and it was as if a little slither of defiance opened up in her.  That window has since started to grow and grow and the glass pane has fallen out, so it is no longer a window as much as it is a gaping hole!

With Connor we had time out, which worked really well.  Even the threat of time out would work.  We could take tv-time away, take computer-time away, and we could take Nintendo-time away – or we could threaten to.

The thing with Connor is the mere hint of threat is enough to curb his behavior.

We also use a system of counting to get results i.e. “I am counting to three, if you are still lying here when I get to three, you will get a hiding/beaten/never be allowed out again/leave what ever fits!”

Before “one” is even out of your mouth Connor is gone.

Fabulous.

Enter Georgia.

She does not respond to threats.  You can threaten to take television/Barbie/her princess dress/custard or what ever away from her, she sort of looks at you like “and then what will you do?”

If you threaten to give her a hiding, she seems to think it over before actually doing anything.

If you threaten to …. actually it does not matter what you threaten she just has zero reaction.  She does not care what you take away or what you threaten to throw away, she does not give a continental fig.

I count to three, and if she is being a smart ar&e she sometimes adds “four” when I get to “three” – which as mad as I it makes me, I still find really funny.  That girl has got real edge to her!

It is not like she is openly defiant.  But you can see on her face that what ever your threat is, it is just not doing the trick.

A bit like if your boss said: “Okay if you do not get to work on time, I will be cancelling all future enemas ….. I really mean it this time!!”  Wouldn’t exactly change you getting their much earlier would it?

Georgia is about the same.

On Saturday I had told her probably five times to get into the bath.  I had told her three times and screamed at her twice – I was busy cooking and just wanted her in the bath.

She did not want to bath and decided it was too early for bath time.  I see she is not in the bath, and then I get really cross – so I go looking for her.

I find her hiding under the sink  in the bathroom. (I was more cross because I had gone into the bathroom twice and had not seen her hiding there).

I did what any rational mother would do when they have lost the plot.  I took off my right slip-slop, sat on the toilet seat, pulled said child over my lap and give her three slaps with the “plakkie” on her bum!!

Then screamed: ”Now get in the bath, or I am coming back in here with the left one!”

Listen it is not a moment I am proud of, but we can talk about the right and wrong of smacking children at a later stage.

So Georgia is balling.  She gets undressed and gets in the bath …. I hear her saying something and crying, so I head back.

She goes – through snot and tears: “Is it washing hair day, because I don’t have a clip for my hair?”

I go, yes washing hair day, she goes, okay and starts laughing while she wets her hair.

My hiding was totally lost on her.  I think I was more traumatised by the experience.

I then sat (in calm Super Nanny style) and asked if she understood why she got a hiding.  She said “yes, because I was not listening” and then we spoke about that, and I went off feeling a bit crap to carry on cooking.

Georgia gets out the bath and then comes to make a picnic in the middle of the kitchen – where I am trying to cook – for the 9 guests.  She is totally ignoring me telling her repeatedly not to make the picnic in the kitchen – I remind her that she has just had a smack for not listening.

Still picnic’ing.

I mean seriously how far over the edge is this child trying to push me?

I pick up blanket and picnic stuff and throw it down the passage – I seriously seriously gave up even trying to look composed at this point.  The child does not listen – she does not even try to act like she does – and I am exhausted trying to find a way for her to hear me.

I am out of ideas.

I plan to take her for a hearing test in the next month, because seriously, the only possible reason is that she is stone deaf.  Because I am out of other ideas.

I speak to the trees…

I really am struggling with my five year old.  She is at a stage where she is just not listening.

I know she hears me, it is just that she seems to filter my instruction out. She will often go to do what ever it is that I have asked her to do.  However when I get there to check on what she is doing – I find her dancing around the room with her panties on her head – or what ever – and she has totally forgotten that I sent her to the room to do in the first place.

This was amusing the first dozen times it happened, now it is less so, and has started to really test my patience (of which I had a rather short supply to begin with).

Kennith and I have always admired the independent march-to-her-own-drum spirit that Georgia possesses.  However, when it starts to impact on me getting her dressed and into the car in the morning then I like it a little less.

End of last week there was an incident where she did not do what I had asked/told/instructed her to do.

I had repeated the request at least four times.  When I got to her room I was faced with Georgia doing something totally unrelated to the instruction i.e. get dressed versus have a tea party with your teddy bear, that sort of thing.

(I had asked her at least four times at this point, and Pepe had asked her a further two times – so it was not for lack of instruction or direction – the child was just not doing what she was told!)

Georgia does not respond to threats of “no television” or “naughty chair” or “I am going to burn your Barbie”– threats really do not phase her in the least.  You can actually see the words “see if I care” flash across her face if you threaten to take things away from her.

With Connor, I just threaten to threaten to take away television or send him to his room and he immediately desists from anything and even offers you a back and foot massage as penance.

Anyway the way, to cut a long story short, I had to go into Georgia room with slip-slop in hand and give her a hiding for not listening.

I was more traumatized and I nearly broke a nail.  I think she was upset that she had received a hiding rather than crying because it hurt.  She did not have tears (which she would have had if it was sore) and was more doing a whine-cry for sound and effects.

Unfortunately I can’t say it helped so all the spare-the-rod-fanatics can just please refrain from bombarding me with emails about how I must not smack my child.

This entire week has been an exercise in repeating instructions five times and then going in and screaming at her.  To be honest it has not just been this week, it seems to have got worse over the last six months.

This morning she comes through and asks me to put toothpaste on her toothbrush, which I did.  I then send her on her way to go and brush her teeth, get her hair sorted and take her school bag down to the car.

I finish dressing and doing whatever I need to do.  I go through to the kitchen.  Georgia has not brushed her teeth.  Her hair has not been sorted and she is dancing down the passage with Isabelle and a wet towel.

I grabbed her, did teeth brushing, sorted out her hair and told her to get in the car.

Georgia went down the passage to her room, and returns trying to hide her “pink pig slippers” behind her back. The pig slippers are huge.  An adult would have a problem concealing them – they are has big as you would imagine a large fluffy pig would be if it went on your feet.

Now the issue here is not that she is taking pig slippers to school – but that she had already asked me and I had said no, she could not take them to school.

Now I am really angry – because not only is she being disobedient, but she is being deceitful and really just being a naughty girl on all counts.

I obviously screamed at her to get in the car and then said some unsavory things to just indicate that I was a bit less than happy right now.

I drove to the kids schools.  Connor decided to tell me all about fish (as he has been doing for the last five days, both to and from school – it is this monologue that does not stop.)

What I wanted to say was: “I do not care about fish.  I actually could not care less who lives where and what bait you use to catch them.  Please for the love of God stop telling about about fekn fish when ever your mouth opens!  Can I just have 5 minutes silence in the flipping car so my brain has a moment to think about what I am going to do to punish your sister because she has decided my authority has no value.  For fekn sakes just give me some silence already!”

What I said instead was: “Really?  That is very interesting… mmmmm”

I drop Connor off and then decide to use the few moments of “no fish talk” to reprimand Georgia.

I was not being cruel or over-reactive (which I will admit I can be at times).  I was just explaining how annoyed I was. For effect I closed it off with: “And you are being a very naughty girl!’ and then started the car to get her to her school.

Of course then I thought, imagine if we are in a car accident and I die or she dies and the last memory she has is me telling her she is a naughty girl, how’s that going to be?

I promptly pulled over, and explained that she is doing some really naughty things, and that they are not nice, and that I am very unhappy with her behavior, but that I still love her and she is the best Georgia in the whole wide world.

Mother’s guilt is really quite a strain.

I am not convinced that my heart-felt message hit the spot.  However when I told her we were going away this weekend to Franskraal, she did ask if I was going to leave her behind because she was being naughty.

I am off to find a hair shirt and some form of self-flagellation tool.