If we're talking mother-daughter relationships, there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to Bonnie and me. A few minutes of her ‘willful’ approach to life, and I am a screaming purple-faced wretch, clawing at the sky, howling into the moon:
'BONNIE YOU CANNOT SAY THAT! YOU WILL NEVER HAVE ANY FRIENDS!’ Pile it on! ‘YOU WILL DIE ALONE! AAAAAAAAAHHH!!!’
So I've come up with my very own mantra - the kind that has Alan dancing on the ceiling in his management training courses - and here it is: ‘Three Cs in a Crisis: Calm, Control, Consequence.'
Armed with the Three Cs I ‘helped’ Bonnie with her violin practice this morning. She just doesn't understand how fortunate she is that I am a piano teacher, on hand 24/7 to correct her mistakes! If we got through this without a show-down we were really on to something...
‘You expect me to play the violin on a Saturday morning when I’m supposed to be free?’ was her starter for ten. ‘Yes – remember you promised, because you wouldn’t practise in the week? Tell you what - we can do some art together afterwards as a reward!’ ‘OK then’ she groaned, eyes to the ceiling, ‘but I’ll do the art first’ (She likes to make the decisions). ‘In fact, I’ll paint my walls!’ Another unilateral decision.
Now I was hippy dippy when we had scuzzy crumbling walls, but now that we are skimmed polished and painted (due to a series of lucky floods) I couldn’t bare the daubing of hearts, dogs and Mario all over the smooth pink, so there was a sigh. ‘Well, I’ll do your art thing if you want me to,’ she said. ‘It’s not me who wants to do it!’ I snapped (whoops) ‘I thought you would be delighted to have me all to yourself!’ Petulant, and I haven’t finished yet: ‘We can forget it if it’s such a big effort!’ ‘Mmm, actually I’d rather ‘go somewhere’ for my reward’, she said (shopping).
Back to the practice (Keep your focus! You are in Control!). Eventually she started on her piece. ‘Bonnie’ I said, ‘can you just stop a minute, that C-’. She carries on playing. I let her play the whole piece. ‘Now, Bonnie, that C-’. She carries on playing. ‘Bonnie, would you mind just stopping, that C should be C sharp...’ She starts plucking her violin loudly while I talk. Plink! Plonk! ‘Bonnie, can you hear me talking? ‘ she’s pulling a face, mimicking me, which I ignore at the expense of my blood pressure. Plink! Plonk! ‘Bonnie can you stop plucking while I’m talking -’ ‘Are we finished yet, Mummy??’ She’s flopped her head back, groaning, and falls onto the sofa. ‘Bonnie! Stand up please! ’ ‘Hey, Mummy! Have we got any noodles?’ ‘Bonnie!’ I said, in my chokey voice, the one that is suppressing raging fury (that’s the CALM voice). I wrestle the violin off her. ‘Listen. This is C, and this is C sharp.’
‘FOR GOD’S SAKE’ she shouts, ‘I DID DO C SHARP!! And you are not my actual violin teacher. You are just a little piano teacher. YOU JUST WANT TO MAKE ME FEEL BAD AS USUAL!!’
There is a short silence while I consider whether to ram the violin over her head. But I would have a real sense of failure if I did, what with The Three Cs, so I leave the room – CALM!!! CONTROL THE SHOUT!!!! CONTROL IT!!!! - without shouting. ‘Fine! Be like that!’ she calls after me. SOD HER.
I congratulated myself on finally getting things right: no practice, no art, no loving relationship – fantastic! Mind you, no shouting. Now for the Consequence…
She sidled up later: ‘Are we going shopping yet?’ ‘I am waiting for you to apologise for being so rude, Bonnie.’ ‘What for? Oh yeah sorry when are we going shopping? You promised to buy me some pumps! Remember, when you and Daddy were building the table tennis table you said ‘if you bloody well stop batting ping-pong balls at my head I will buy you some pumps’’ This is true, but I was ready with the Consequence! ‘We are not going shopping unless you do your practice. Actions have Consequences, young lady!’ Calm, Control, Consequence! Oh, man!
And then she did practice. (WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!)
So we skipped off to the shops. I got cocky when we passed Clarke’s Shoes and thought maybe I could exert some Calm, Control and Consequences over the shoe situation, so that the warm, waterproof shoes sitting in our hall, could replace the crocks that have kept her feet wet and cold all through the winter...but too much brilliant parenting might have Consequences. ‘Give me a hug, Bonnie’ I said. ‘Straight to Primark..?’