‘Autumn half-term already?.. how wonderful..’ I thought. ‘I can spend even more time with the children. Let’s kick-start the fun times with a family outing, and what better place than the Imperial War Museum, especially as Alfie’s ‘studying’ World War Two at school; we can be good parents and support the learning!
I put the idea to him this morning and he was surprisingly keen: ‘It’s really annoying at school; just because we’re like children we always have to learn like what children did in the war – what they ate, what they wore, it’s so like boring...We never get to learn about the killing and the fighting!’ So proud of him.
It did mean taking Bonnie somewhere she hadn’t chosen of course, but we couldn’t always kowtow to her, just most of the time.
An hour later, I was growling ‘BONNIE!! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?’ and flying after her, laden with coats, sweating, as she nipped in and out of pillars at the museum. ‘YOU!’ she yelled ’YOU ARE THE PROBLEM! OW! YOU’RE HURTING ME! I DIDN'T WANT TO COME TO THIS BORING MUSEUM IN THE FIRST PLACE!’
So instead of engaging with the exhibits, the torpedo sound-effects, The Battle of Britain footage, and Alan’s erudite commentary of course, we were actually engaged in The Battle of Bonnie, who stationed herself twenty metres away, retreating if we tried to capture her, but shrieking ‘don’t just abandon me!’ as loudly as she could, if we walked off. She’d keep this up until we left, or bought her something from the shop.
Obviously you can handle the antics of an eight-year-old when you have forty-five years of life experience, fifteen of childcare, in the bank…it’s only for variety that I hop daily, hourly, between strategies; there’s Ms Calm (hush now, tell me all about it); Ms Feisty (let’s get this sorted!), Ms Easy Going (whatever..), Ms Boundaries (I’m going to count to 3..’), but mostly there’s Ms F*K!!SH*T!!!!
Oliver Sacks advises counter-intuitive ultra-love in cases of really abominable behaviour. We are to offer the miscreant a weekend of early-life close cuddly love to ‘reboot’ the child back into good behaviour (now booting I could do). Something – intuition perhaps? – told me that counter-intuitively giving my child a big bear hug when I most felt like throttling her was not going to sit easily with my sense of fair play, but although a whole weekend of being fake was more than I could stomach, I was up for strategic spurts of ultra love.
I started the first day with a twinkle in my eye: ‘Hug??’ but was given a wide berth, in fact all my overtures the first day back-fired: ‘If you could have anything you wanted for tea, what would it be, darling?’ ‘McDonalds’ ‘Oh, well I didn’t mean going out..’ ‘We never go out, not like everyone else...’
The second day I planned a love-in on the settee, sitting close while she watched TV and slithering down until I eventually, pathetically, laid my head on her lap, looking up her nose, like a dog wanting its’ tummy tickling. I got a bit of a pat, then she said ‘Mummy, I can’t breath, get off me,’ and went to play next door, leaving me alone with Dennis and Gnasher.
Day three and she asked to make ‘cakes or brownies’ with me! Ultra-love was paying off! We were REBOOTING! It was only five minutes until we had to leave for Brownies, but I counter-intuitively agreed to make cakes in a ridiculous timescale, and skidded around the kitchen gathering butter, cocoa, sugar at break-neck speed. We’d just covered the counter in cocoa powder and flecks of hard butter, when she cried ‘This is rubbish, Mummy - there’s hardly any mixture! There are thirty Brownies and they need one each!’ and started sobbing. At this point I realised I’d mis-heard at the outset: she’d said ‘Cakes for Brownies’. So this was not about wanting to bake with Mom, it was about parading into Brownies, platter in hand - ‘Look at me – aren’t I the Bee’s Knees?!’ ‘Oh forget it!’ I said, hurt and disappointed, and chucked the spoon down with more force than I ought, making her jump, and undoing all the ultra-love with a seriously intuitive ding dong of vitriol and self-pity which was neither Ms Calm, Ms Feisty, Ms Easy-going, or Ms Boundaries, just Ms Shamefully Bad.
No, counter-intuition wasn’t for me. I returned to the world of random parenting some time ago. I think it was Ms Unconditional Love who put in an appearance at the end of that museum trip and bought a small gift for Bonnie from the shop to reward her bad behaviour. Or was it Ms Inconsistent...?