Some days, not every day, but some days, The Blondies are absolute bastards. There. I’ve said it. They bicker, they squabble, they nitpick, they irritate annoy annoy irritate each other to infuriated screeching meltdowns and then there are furious tears (The Boy) or banshee-esque wailing (The Girl) and one exasperated mother (me). They especially like to fall into petty, mindless, kvetching at each other when we’re out and about, so that passersby are treated to the sight of it too. It’s not just that they get into these snarky, snippy little exchanges; it’s the fact that nothing bloody stops them once they get going.
Telling off doesn’t work.
Asking nicely doesn’t work.
Pleading doesn’t work.
Appealing to their better nature (ha!) doesn’t work.
Shouting doesn’t work.
Bribery doesn’t work.
Muttering doesn’t work.
Hissing at them doesn’t work.
Separating them doesn’t work (see Proverbs 26:11)
Threatening them with direr consequences doesn’t work.
But humiliation… Humiliation works. Every. Single. Time.
And I can teach you the darker arts of child humiliation, dear reader. Follow…
Essentially, what you’re relying on is that their feeling of mortification is more heightened than yours. You have to behave in such a way that they want the ground to open up and swallow them down without a burp. It’s the only way to get them to stop sniping away at each other. Unfortunately, you have to make sacrifices too.
You’re going to have to hang your dignity on a peg, close the door of the wardrobe, leave the room, walk out of the house, set the building on fire, and then scatter the ashes at sea. You can’t afford to be halfhearted about this. You’re going to have to throw yourself into it, and be completely convincing.
You have to be loud. I said LOUD. No, LOUDER. LOUDER. That’s better. And then you have to behave in a way that draws as much attention to yourself as possible. Your decision as to how you do this. My weapon of choice is singing. And dancing. So, for example, last week, The Blondies were acting up on the way home, The Boy was doing some kind of niggling at The Girl who was squealing aggravatingly, so The Boy was shouting at her, so she was refusing to take another step. Next to us was a row of parked cars, the drivers and passengers quietly minding their own business, waiting to pick their children up from school…
BRING ME SUNSHINE IN YOUR SMILE I yodelled. BRING ME LAUGHTER ALL THE WHILE
IN THIS WORLD WHERE WE LIVE THERE SHOULD BE MORE HAPPINESS
SO MUCH JOY YOU CAN GIVE TO EACH BRAND NEW BRIGHT TOMORROW
I have quite a load voice when required, and so my serenading didn’t go unnoticed. Especially because I was accompanying it with a very energetic dance routine that relied quite heavily on twirling round with arms outstretched, a bit like Julie Andrews at the start of Sound of Music (incidentally, that’s another good song to use. The level of volume required for ‘The HILLLLLS are ALIIIIIIVE’ means I don’t have to go much further than the first line).
And all around me, a little miracle unfolded on the streets of NR2. Silence from The Blondies. Their irritate annoy annoy irritate mood evaporated, and instead, they wordlessly took hold of my hands, and continued the walk home.
Like I said, you really have to make your children believe that you are capable and committed enough to maintain this for the rest of their natural lives. Under no circumstances can you tone it down when heads snap round to look at the madwoman belting out the Banana Boat Song. You have to give the performance of your life. Take that song, and make it your own, just like they say on talent shows.
It’s a sacrifice, sure. People will notice you behaving like a stage school brat. But in my case, although I am shy, an introvert, a loner (or ‘lone wolf’ as The Boy insists on saying), I also don’t give a toss what people think of me. I’d rather have people stare than endure any more sodding bickering.
You can do other things of course. Performing a silent foxtrot in the aisles of Sainsbury’s works quite well. Or trying on ever larger hats in a department store and posing in exaggerated fashion. You can also try being stupidly over affectionate with them, slobbering wet kisses and endearments over them. Usually has the same result.
The joy of it is that it cheers me up and it stops them from getting us into a Mexican standoff of annoyance. But best of all, absolutely the best thing, is what I say when they start giggling after I’ve stopped making a twat of myself.
‘I can’t wait until you two are teenagers. I am going to have so much FUN.’