Monday, 31 January 2011

The difference of three hours.

Life with kids, staying at home, can be repetative. Hell, what am I saying, it IS repetative. But it occured to me today that despite this, there is a massive difference between hours of the day. Anyone with small children knows this. Children, like werewolves with the moon, are subject to the ebbs and flows of the hourly clock. Their last meal, the waking hour, the tired hour. And so are we. For me, the three hours in the day that most illustrate the breadth of my day are these:
The Happy hour.
All children have one. This is when the equation of energy+food+time / energy + food+time of parent is at it's most balanced and = 0. For me, this is the days when there is no playgroup, between 10 and 11. At around 10, they are eating, dressing, the breakfast has kicked in and they are playing happily, not yet bored, angry and cross with each other. They are a clean slate, keen, eager, interested and happy to play with each other. I have time to play with them. This is the hour to learn, where they will absorb anything and retain it, the hour they are not naughty and the pre-breakfast shouting has been forgotten. After 11, they are hungry again, and the cycle repeats.
The Misery hour.
This is where the equation is tipped. For me it's 3.45 - 4.45 pm, that hour before dinner where they have no energy, they're tired, they need food, i need to cook it and have no time, and they are WAILING. This is when they use whatever is to hand to hit each other, steal each others toys out of spite, and come running past me as I cook screaming "Muuuuum! She's doing it again! So I HIT HER!", as I try to judge which wails are anger and which might be the result of said blunt object whilst mashing potato. Then 15 minutes of plea bargaining about food, as I know they need it, they don't want it, they want whatever I ahven;t cooked, but I know that within 15 minutes of eating approximately a third of the plate, they will humanise again. You can see it happening. Like a vampire who's had a drink of the red stuff, they start talking in a vague civilised manner as the carbs hit home and the tummies fill. From then on until they sleep, it's diminishing returns, but at least the energy bit of the equation is sorted.
The Peace hour.
7.15-8.15. Mine. They are in bed. I am on my bed, reading. Husband is not yet at home. This hour, is mine, before I am up and cooking again. If he comes home early and wants dinner, I feel like killing him.

Like little animals. If they were see-through you'd see a little line in their tummies marked "Shout below this line". As soon as the food level dips, it's dog eat dog and they will fight over a cheddar biscuit they've found down the back of the sofa to the death. As soon as the attention level from me dips, a little light flashes in their brain which tells them "I am being abandoned! I will have to live on cheddars from the back of the sofa! and lightning like, they will fling themselves at each other or my legs. This is why whenever the phone rings, I go to the toilet, as it gives me 3 minutes before they get to me.

Once they are teenagers, and able to eat their own bodyweight from the fridge without asking, and desperate to NOT have your attention ("Leave me ALONE! God!"), and in bed all day, listening to impenetrable music, I might find it easier. The equation there seems to be food+gadgets+headphones+sleep / money +food+ blind eye from parents = only 4 rows a week, from memory. Oh joy.

Friday, 28 January 2011

I'm back, cross, and need a drink.

I left off writing for a few weeks, month, schmonth, whatever, because I was pure and simple worn to smithereens by illness, the illness of children, Christmas, weather, relatives, relatives again, weather again, illness again, husband being in Florida while I was in the Fens, kids that never, ever say please despite the elephant story (see here), and feeling like I needed to SORT THIS FAMILY OUT before I went potty. So this week, the husbandless one, has been a mummy-boot camp week. Why choose now? Because, you know, it's easier to do it with one parent.

Really. With two parents, or at least, this two, I am always "bad cop". Daddy gets to waltz off in the morning, and listen to Radio 4 in his car for an hour, while I am shouting "YES, you need to clean them in the mornings!", smelling the breath, sending them back, and forcing unsightly cereal down them. I moan all day, I pick up the points all day, then daddy waltzes back in just before bedtime, hypes them all up and is just the most bestest parent ever. I do get a bit sick of it, can you tell? At weekends, the little rules I spend ALL WEEK being mean about, little rules like saying "please" "thankyou" not treating me like a servant, not eating sweets before meals and so on, go out of the window because daddy is a complete soft touch. And yet conversely, he is much more liable to fly off the handle at the constant whining than I am, because he doesn't have to listen to it all week, and has yet to develop the whining deaf ear I have, or learnt to choose his battles (you know: it's 4.30, dinner is half an hour away, the kids are wretched, whiny, fighting. Now is not, I repeat, not, father, the time to have a conversation about getting your feet off the sofa). So yes, it's easier with just me. And you know, maybe i'll get to be good cop for a bit too.
So far, I have been hideous.Here are my main fights.
  • I have re-introduced the rules that were in existance before Christmas about eating. Simply, they are, try everything on your plate, no afters with no effort, and no sweets apart from twice a week at my stipulated times. Snacks before meals? Fruit. No, not the truckload of biscuits and sweets that Mother-In-Law shows up with 4 times a week, waving in front of you 10 minutes before dinner, no. And yes, I have had a word. 15,000 times, in fact. How is it going? 2 days of weeping, pushing away food and staring sadly at the cupboard of MIL love. I'm not giving in. So they'll lose a little weight.
  • Bedtimes are real. For me and you. I prefer mine to be a lot further away from yours than you want it to be. You can play your organ and screech "Welcome to the Dangerzone" down it, you're not coming out of your room. And you, madam, can throw as many Sylvanians at the door as you like. I don't like them anyway. I will be reading in my bedroom, going "la, la, la".
  • I like the word "please". But just shouting "PLEASE, then!" does not have the same effect. I want to hear "Please may I?" I'm an arse, but I can dream.
  • Water is nicer than juice. Of course it's not, but you've got to drink it. Because I said so.
  • Would it be possible, do you think, to have under 10 playthings out at once? Maybe put some away when you've finsihed, rather than simply tip new toy on top of old, in an attempt to create archaeological layers that would baffle that one who used to be Baldrick?
  • TV and PC is down to 45 minutes morning and 45 mins pm, IF you've been out and about in the meantime. Play with the mountain of stuff you got for Xmas. I will play with you, I promise, if you promise it won't be Sylvanians or little army men. Playmobil it is then. I like Playmobil, it fits in my hoover lovely. Actually, this is the only successful thing so far. I like playing with my kids, I just like it more when they are nice and well behaved and i'm not just a skivvy.
And my target is to not shout. I found after xmas the whole house was getting shouty as a result of too much stuff, plus, daughter hit her twos for real,and spent much of the holiday having Bette Davies style paddies, for 45 minutes at a time, at the base of the stairs for maximum annoyance because I wouldn't undress her sodding stupid Barbie AGAIN. Son hit his first hormone rush (boys get their first testosterone rush at around 4, this is what makes them suddenly shouty, angry and liable to want to be really boy-like all of a sudden. Steve Biddulph is good on this.) It's time to draw breath and redirect my parenting energies. Hence my absence for a bit. I needed to drink wine and stare at tv of an evening instead of type.
Let's see how we are in a few days.