Thursday, 7 July 2011

Reaching an Understanding

"DO you understand me.." say I and the child's face grudgingly blossoms from stubborness to blank incomprehension.

"DO you UNDERSTAND?" I try again and the child slowly nods, eyes fixed on mine so I can see the wheels whirring within clearly proving they don't understand at all. The five minute painstakingly calm explanation of just why one shouldn't: put the cat in a dress; the hamster inside one's pyjamas; nail varnish on the wall (even if it does look JUST like paint), or ring 999 nine times in a row is not just forgotten, it has vanished into the mists of time.

MY first-born twins were never going to be slapped round the legs in Asda for having a tantrum. Oh no, I would be a tolerant, calm and non-aggressive parent. I would explain where they had gone wrong and why they were wrong when they went wrong and I would make sure thay they understood where they had gone wrong and why... Which they wouldn't... Ever.  And I wouldn't be seen dead in Asda, of course.

Fifteen years down the line my, what I thought at the time, radical approach to childcare (as it didn't involve my dad taking his belt off and saying "I've told you once, I've told you twice, I'll not tell you a third time") has been rolled out for child#3 and child#4. "Do you understand" has become the third most repeated phrase in the house shortly after "Where is..." and "Can I have..." and just in front of "Pass me the gin."

And today as I knelt on the floor in front of five-year-old child#4 and looked into his eyes. As I explained, nicely, just why one shouldn't go knock at the neighbour's door to ask them out to play (not when the neighbour is over 30 and just got back from work) I wondered what madness had made me try to reason with any child ever, at all.

Did he understand? Bugger knows. He went straight back down the road and started shouting through the letterbox. But I know that nothing worries any of my children more than when I do my "Let's talk about it" voice. The 9-year-old, a born rebel if ever there was one, will stop like a rabbit in headlights if I go all reasonable on her, roller blades or not. And I promise I can fell a teenager at 100 paces with a carefully aimed "I think we should have a chat.."

But live by the word and you can die by the word. The culminative effect of reasoned explanation, calm discussion and patient understanding mean that the children, those sponge-like beasts and my burdens, do it right back at me. I say "No" and even the five-year-old suddenly develops the wit, erudition and understanding to compile a completely convincing argument why the answer should be in fact be a "Yes." It has become, I admit, a little wearisome.

In other news I am now in the market for earplugs and a stout-stick *sighs*

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