Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Barking Man

"You smell of poop in the snow."

M daughter had a rabid-wolf meltdown last night. Completely unannounced and unexpected too. I was stood in the kitchen getting a glass of water and my daughter was in the back yard filling up buckets of water from the pool. My wife had just had me dig seven holes for some of the plants I just dug holes for two weeks ago. Right after doing that her response was, "Okay - I'm going to need two more holes." Which would leave nine unfilled empty holes. It was about then that I realized that she might be Bill Murray from Caddyshack. Anyhoo - she and the kids had dug up and replanted a bunch of plants and were now watering them. My daughter was right at the tail end of that when her mother had just brought her brother inside and returned to get her - telling her it was time to come inside right away. At which point my daughter went mental. I own a four-album Mp3 collection thing that pretty much has every recording of people allegedly possessed by demons known to man on it. Most of them are Eastern European people being recorded by priests during what are supposed to be exorcisms. I have no idea what they are saying - but they are growling in the guttural way that people in movies do when they are possessed. That's what my daughter was doing - except angrier. I could see her out the window violently jerking around - her mother five feet from her - and yelling for her to stay away. She had her arm extended out making the point that if her mother made one more step then absolute mayhem would be rained down upon her.

I don't know if you're a parent. So I want you to read what's coming up carefully. It's likely you've also past this stage of parenting already though and will read this and instantly think of that notable member of your friendship group or family who doesn't do what I'm about to talk about. That being - always remind your kids who's in charge. When my wife was nicely plump with our first child and ready to burst I was given some sage advice by a work colleague. We worked for a bank in Bristol and he commuted in from Newport every morning. He could have given me any advice when I glibly asked what one thing he would advise me on. He picked this out clearly weighting it with importance. That being, "if you tell them yes or no, or to not do or to do something, then make sure you stick to it." I believe he also mentioned an analogy about children being like sharks smelling blood in the water - the blood being the slightest hint that you may waver on authority. "If you tell them No, and then end up giving in - then they'll never believe a word you say ever again." I've learned a lot of things as a parent - mostly about myself - but the one thing I will tell anyone else with kids on the way is that your kids are much better off knowing that what you've said is not up for debate.

Which was why I was really pleased to see me wailing child - bizarrely angry and screaming - being calmly reminded by her mother that she's outside and needs to not scream like that because the neighbors will think she's hurt or in danger. The pleased part of that being that once my daughter decided that she didn't give two shits about that that her mother picked her up and was carrying her into the house - because it's time to come in. No argument. No debate. Scream all you like - you're going inside. I've seen all kinds of different parenting methods tried out during a tantrum. My wife and I obviously don't agree all the time on what to do either. And I'm not purporting that my way is better (although it is obviously). But I genuinely think everyone is on the same page at all times. There's no mystery involved - if I say something then that's what I mean. I've explained over and over to my daughter that it isn't being mean or anything remotely like that - it's just my job to make those decisions and I'll be fair about it as long as everyone just does what they're told when it's clear I've told them something. I'm not going to change my mind.

And I'm a stubborn bastard too. If we are doing something - ANYTHING - and my kids start acting like wankers then we'll just go home. Whether it's at the in-laws, the store, doing something fun - doesn't matter. Behave, listen to what's been said or it's over. And you have to carry it through. Yes it might be annoying to pack up after making your way somewhere - perhaps even paying to do something - and then immediately ending it and leaving. But it makes it very clear that any dicking around of that degree will immediately end any and all fun - no matter what is happening. And I've heard from other parents that say packing up and leaving is an indication that the kid is really in charge. But that isn't true at all. My daughter has probably had two public tantrums in her whole life. The main one being at the in-laws when she threw a fit and wouldn't (probably couldn't at that point as well) stop. We'd only been there a few hours and were supposed to spend another day and a half there. Instead we instantly drove the hour home. Consequently she's never done that since.

But there she was last night. She ranted and raved inside for ten minutes after that as well. She worked herself up into that frustrating growling, spitting rage that causes her to cough and then throw up a little bit. Her brother - desperate to imitate her - started growling and tried his best to hack something up as well. Then - as quickly as she turned it on - she turned it off and lay down for stories before bed. Not a clue what prompted it at all. During the day I've found a way to be a good parent (ie - firm but fair) that reaffirms that I'm not my daughter's friend - but rather her dad - but then end the tense, emotional stand-off by behaving like a twat afterwards. Basically if I feel like we've spent too much time being combative, or with me having spent an inordinate time loudly talking at my kids I'll end up just barking incomprehensible nonsense. It's sort of a mix of the teachers/adults from Charlie Brown and a wolf. It's a self mockery of me blathering on and on annoyingly - and it works to reset the three of us back to a happy state. It also allows me to loudly yell at my kids without guilt in a language I've invented. I genuinely feel like I'm getting away with something.

This morning though my son decided to try out two new statements. The first was, "I smell poop!" and then laughing. He didn't smell it by the way. His sister's daily by-the-clock early morning movement was still to come. This statement was quickly followed by the bizarre, "you smell of poop in the snow." I hope that isn't true. It would be a terrible thing to discover about yourself. It did remind me though that I am troubled by a situation involving poo and snow. Really it's a confession that I do feel that I need to make. That being I suffer a compulsion when driving past vast, white, untouched fields of snow outside people's houses to somehow poo right in the middle of it. Not for any pleasure of my own - but just to frustrate endlessly someone in the house when they look outside one morning and see something sullying the pristine sheet of white outside. It fills me with great pleasure to imagine them realizing that not only is there a neat curled-up pile of poo nestling softly on top of the crisp snow - but that it also appears to have been curled out by a person. No footsteps and no sled-tracks. Just a pile of monkey fudge.

Now I'm very antsy about skipping Summer and Fall entirely just so it will snow.

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