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  • jdettmann

Testing Times

Lately Garnet has been behaving in a way that has challenged me as a mother. That is, I believe, what we say these days when we mean our kid is being a gigantic pain in the bum. He calls everyone names, all the time. He is like a two foot tall random insult generator, stuck on the ‘scatological’ setting. All day long it’s ‘You big nappy!’ ‘You giant poo bum!’ ‘You nappy-throwing baby!’ You nincompooping nappy head!’ ‘Nincompoop fart bum poop!’ ‘You underpants!’

Occasionally he makes up a word (‘You nuckus!’) or just pops something that’s not an insult at all (‘You big sandwich!)

None of it is true swearing but the intention is there. He just doesn’t have the actual profanities in his vocabulary. How this is possible, living with H and me, is something of a mystery and perhaps a sign that he needs his hearing checked. It’s tiresome in the extreme.

His answer to our every attempt at discipline is, ‘But I don’t care.’ I know he does care though, because he accompanies this with rolling his eyes backwards into his head so he doesn’t have to look me in the eye.

Both Garnet and May Blossom both have taken to using deflective criticism, a variation on the insult-hurling, when I ask them to do pretty much anything.

Take last Saturday, when we went to my parents’ house to celebrate my niece’s first birthday. First of all the children completely took me for a ride by announcing that they really didn’t want to have any birthday cake, they would much rather have an icy pole please. Okay, I said, that’s fine, but it is to be an icy-pole or cake, not both. Icy-poles, they confirmed. Definitely. No cake for us. No thank you, madam.

As you can probably all see coming from miles away, they ate their icy poles lickety split and then turned on the puppy dog eyes as soon as the cake was cut. It turns out it WAS to be icy poles and cake. In your face, Mummy.

In a vain attempt to salvage back a shred of authority, because I’d just been comprehensively had in front of my parents and my brother and sister in law, when they’d finished their cake I asked them to go wash their hands and faces please, because they looked zombies who had dug themselves out of a cake grave.

‘You’re wearing your pyjama top!’ shouted the smaller one. ‘I can see your bra!’ shouted the bigger one. This was only mostly true, but nonetheless wholly rude to point out. (Like gender identity, pyjamas sit somewhere on a spectrum of my clothing. Some clothes are both pyjamas and not pyjamas. I happened to be wearing such a top.) (And yes, you could see my bra through my sometime pyjama top.)

But aside from all that: rude. So rude. And it was only Saturday morning.

Then we had to have Sunday. Sometimes Sunday can be a day of rest. By sometimes I mean never. Sunday is a day of getting no rest and getting on each others nerves, and people making suggestions like going to Bunnings to buy hardware to do a DIY project, and that project never goes well and the only thing we learn is that DIY is so-called because eventually someone will shout, ‘Fine. Then DO IT YOURSELF’ and stomp off.

Since we already did that last Sunday, this week we thought we would treat the kids to a day out. We took them took them on a ferry ride to Cockatoo Island so they could ride bikes and scooters with their friends and be rude to us in a World Heritage Site. We spent about four hours there and it was quite the festival of threats, lectures, deadly glances, bribes, tears, apologies, apologies that weren’t really apologies and fits of sulking. If the government reopened Cockatoo Island as a weekend penal colony for under tens, it would do land-office business.

I was extremely glad to get home and surrender the children to the warm glow of the ipad for the rest of the afternoon. They can be Walt Disney’s problem until dinnertime, I thought.

I sent a desperate text message that evening to very clever friend, also the mother of two small children, asking her what to do about the guilt I felt at being so heartily sick of my beloved children. Her advice was excellent. First, she said, you lock yourself in your room and make your partner deal with them. Secondly, and this bit is genius, the way to parent like a patron saint of loving patience is to open all the windows of your house. You’re much less likely to shriek like a banshee at them when you know your neighbours will hear. Having an audience is the key to good parenting.

I feel like Garnet is aware of the thin ice on which he is currently skating. On Monday his ears pricked up in alarm when we heard, on the car radio, a reference to ‘Time Out Magazine’.

‘What is THAT?’ he demanded, and I realised that to a three year old Time Out Magazine sounds like a publication devoted to ways for parents to punish small children, with articles like ‘10 Great Corners to Sit In’ and ‘Is Your Child Is Really Thinking About What He Has Done Or Is He Just Replaying Episodes of Babar In His Wicked Head’. I may have let him go on thinking that’s what Time Out Magazine is. Really, where’s the harm?

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