Thursday 12 March 2015

Stop, drop and breathe

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

Walking Toddler comes clodhopping into my bedroom while I am still lying in bed. Her little feet are balanced precariously on my high-heeled shoes left out from the evening before. 

"Mama, we have a soo-pise for you," she shouts gleefully.

She is swiftly overtaken by Middle Child who clouts her around the back of the head with his Viking sword. "Don't give it away, stupid! It's not Mother's Day yet!" 

A child wearing her mother's high-heeled shoes
Walking Toddler in my shoes
© Marikeherselman |
Walking Toddler lets out an ear-splitting wail, hurls herself to the ground and proceeds to beat the wooden floor with her fists. One of my vintage heels goes flying across the room and slams into the back of the bedroom door. 

Oh my God - where to start? Stop, drop and breathe. I repeat it like a mantra, though I can hardly hear myself over the full-body tantrum going on at floor-level. Stop (close your mouth), drop (let the issue go for a moment) and breathe (deeply several times). 

No, I haven't converted to Buddhism. I am attempting to practise calm parenting. Last week I read an article about how to stop shouting at your children. Apparently most parents let rip when their children push them too far, but (as we all know) shouting only escalates the situation. It also teaches children that emotional incontinence is okay. If, on the other hand, we learn to control our tempers, then our children will model that behaviour and try to regulate their emotions - or so the theory goes. 

Judging from Walking Toddler's horizontal embodiment of rage and Middle Child's gratuitous use of violence, it's still early days. Through gritted teeth, I remove the plastic Viking sword from Middle Child's sweaty grasp and explain that whacking his little sister around the head is totally unacceptable.

"But Mum, she was about to give away the surprise!"

"Darling, she's three! She still thinks a surprise is playing hide-and-seek under the duvet." 

Walking Toddler's head pops up and the wailing comes to an abrupt halt. "Play hide-and-seek?" she asks brightly with snot still dripping down from her left nostril. It appears in fact that she has no problem with emotional control.

"I'll play," says Middle Child, leaping onto the bed and nearly breaking my foot. Walking Toddler beams happily at him. The Viking head wound has been consigned to history.

"Do you want a sticker for your star chart, Mummy? 

Wearily I slide out of bed and retrieve my vintage shoe from behind the door.

"How was last night's date?" asks Quiet One, who is standing in the doorway eyeing my battered shoe.

"Fine, lovely," I say, but sound unconvincing, even to my ears. 

I remember a line from the article about calm parenting: if we're honest, we know it's our own stuff that's making us shout. Stay-At-Home Dad and I spent most of our dinner date last night arguing about the future of our 'relationship'... which means I now have to fight the urge to yell at my children. Life is singularly unfair.

"Do you want a sticker for your star chart, Mummy?" Quiet One asks.

As part of my commitment to the not-shouting programme, Quiet One has designed me a star chart for good behaviour.

"If you think I deserve one."

"Course you do. The last time you shouted was when you had your period thingy."

Fab! And I thought that the advantage of being divorced was not having to tolerate ill-advised comments linking my mental state to my menstrual cycle.

"A gold star it is then!" I cry, trying to filter out the excited shrieks from the bed behind me. "Oh, and tell Middle Child I would rather not have breakfast-in-bed at 6 a.m. on Mother's Day."

"Oh my gosh, how did you know about the surprise?" she gasps. 

"Motherly intuition."

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