My children nixed my idea of writing about how each displays their bad moods, pleading their privacy, telling me to write my own story. My reply was that firstly they ARE my story (such great material for humour) and secondly I thought many overburdened parents could relate to tales of the vloermoere, sulking, swearing, passive aggression, door-banging and yelling that accompany the varying weather conditions in our house. But sadly that chef d’oeuvre has been decimated on the cutting floor.
Now of course I would love to use my standard response to the proletariat’s desire for its voice to be heard, by my usual response of ‘Your argument is invalid because I am the mother,’ but I suppose I should refrain from exposing the ugly underbelly of the household and write about myself.
This is for the most part a totalitarian home, but I consider myself to be a benign dictator so I shall take the sensitivities of my offspring to heart and not reveal who once threw a knife at which offending older sibling (fortunately it was someone with poor aim) or who breaks out into giggles when the rioting rabble is called in front of Judge Judy to account for mischief. I shall have to leave that until another time when I can skilfully slip into conversation which artist punched a wall in frustration when a piece wasn’t going right; or which one at five declared (with hands on hips mind you) that I was not the boss of said defiant spawn. Needless to say, that didn’t go down too well, and the rebellion was quashed before it began, to the amusement of the other four.
But I digress.
The nature of running a household of five children (permanent residents) has brought me into conflict many times with my beloved fledgling revolutionaries. And that is normal. One of the hardest things to do when you get home after a stressful day though is to say ‘No’ or have to make tough decisions which you know will not please all the people. Solomon had it easy: he only had to settle disputes between two women over a baby. I wonder how he would have managed choosing a sandwich spread which met with everyone’s culinary preferences. I did have to use holiday time to … er …redefine parameters from time to time, but in general I have been blessed with good kids. Of course they will tell you that they were beaten into submission and have had the spirit crushed out of them. Don’t believe a word of it. I still sleep with one eye open.
Unlike Bob across the border though, I have mellowed with age and, truth be told, I would handle the tribe more gently if I had my time over again – perhaps. But one cannot second-guess one’s younger self and raising children does become easier as they grow old enough to reason with (unless they think that the rules are negotiable, because that’s when Attila the Mum resurfaces.)
My household is not a democracy. I admit it. It cannot be. Now that does not prevent discussion (and much heated dialogue has been had – some still ongoing about perceived poor parenting in the past) however at some point a parent must be a parent and take a stance or make a ruling. Funnily enough children feel safe within boundaries. I think the trick is allowing them to be heard, and apologising and sometimes backing down if you are wrong. Unqualified mercy is also important. And one day – watch – they will do the same for their own children.
My mom used to say I’d get my come-uppance one day – boy was she right – and I plan to live long enough to see the Big Five get theirs. Because according to the one who thinks I am ‘Hello Kitty’ cute (see previous post), my ‘days of tyranny have ended’. But first I am going to stamp up the stairs and bang my door.