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  • jdettmann

Tough Love


This morning, as I prepared the third course of May Blossom and Garnet’s breakfast, I began to think they were a bit spoiled. After they had eaten cereal, followed by fried eggs and Vegemite on toast, May Blossom asked for some leek and potato soup. My desire to be finished with the short order cooking was quashed by my rule that if a kid ever asks for vegetables you give them vegetables very quickly before they have chance to change their mind, so I warmed up the soup. Then May Blossom asked if they could please have the soup in some tiny vintage cups and saucers she has recently discovered in the sideboad, where I hoard such hand-wash-only trinkets from our carefree days pre-children. And so I came to be serving vichyssoise in demitasse cups, like some fancy amuse-bouche from the degustation menu of a Michelin-starred restaurant (with more Vegemite smears on the table, obviously). As I traipsed back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room, I consoled myself by thinking of all the ways we don’t spoil them. Because H and I can be quite hardarsed parents when we put our minds to it.

The first thing that springs, barely, to mind is their trampoline. We live in a lovely leafy suburb where many families have large backyards with huge trampolines in them. We have a small backyard with a very small trampoline. We got this rusted beauty from friends whose kids had outgrown it. They in turn had found the trampoline on the side of the road on hard rubbish night. We have had small friends of our children, while standing on it, ask, ‘Where’s your trampoline?’ We have had another kid, when it was pointed out to him, say, ‘That? That’s what my grandpa’s dog sleeps on!’ Is it better than no trampoline at all? Garnet and May Blossom say yes. Another way we like to express our cruelty is by not letting the kids watch tv in the car. Even on long trips – although I may revise that after a twelve-hour roundtrip journey we will be taking in a couple of months. We did that trip once before, when May Blossom was just under two, and while we stayed strong on the no-tv rule, we all suffered through Feist’s song ‘1,2,3,4’ on repeat the ENTIRE WAY. We did some rough calculations and realised that on that trip we probably listened to it than Feist had played it since its release. When our children complain that other kids get to to watch tv in the car, we say, infuriatingly, ‘Yes, they do. How nice for them.’ It pisses May Blossom right off. When we suggest she look out the window, she replies, ‘But that’s boring.’ To which I say, ‘Not one tenth as boring as a single episode of Grandpa In My Pocket. And then we return to the rod we have so self-righteously made for our own backs, which is letting the kids alternate song choices. Currently that means the theme song to Shaun the Sheep (the Christmas version, with a lot of bells), and ABC by the Jackson Five. I like, too, to make them confront the harsh realities of life. On the weekend Garnet and I were taking a walk in the countryside and having a chat. ‘Who’s your husband?’ he asked me. ‘Daddy,’ I told him. ‘I want a husband too,’ he said. ‘That’s a nice idea,’ I told him, ‘but you can’t have a husband or a wife until you are a grown-up. And right now you can’t legally marry a husband in Australia, but that will probably change by the time you’re old enough to get married. But mate, I’ve got to say, you’re going to have a hard time finding a husband, legal or otherwise, unless you work a bit harder on the toilet training.’ He seemed to take that all on board. In further news of ruining small lives, I’ve recently started asking him to stop patting my breasts all the time. I felt a bit bad doing that, because it’s just an affectionate way of showing his fondness for me (and keeping his icy little paws warm) but still, I’m a bit over it. His solution was to tell me that he’s going to buy his own breasts. Great big ones. I don’t even know where to start with how problematic that could potentially be. Are they going to be attached to someone else? Is he going to have them installed on himself? The mind boggles. I’ve been speaking the truth to May Blossom too, which has made me somewhat unpopular. Her two great loves are watching TV and complaining that she doesn’t get enough ‘Mummy and May Blossom time’. I pointed out that if, when she came home from kindy, she didn’t watch TV, then she could hang out with me instead, helping me make dinner. That was not the answer she was after. But to her immense credit, she has has foregone a bit of telly this week and helped me instead. It’s been lovely. As a reward I let her use a sharp knife on Tuesday. She cut up a whole punnet of cherry tomatoes. Garnet stood beside her and ate them all. They both still had all their fingers intact at the end, so I call that a win. My meanness is paying off.

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