Despatches from the Frontline

>> Tuesday, 12 February 2008

We experienced the brother of all tantrums at dinner this evening.

Boy #2 is not often mentioned on my posts. Not because he's not cute; he is, oh he certainly is. I've lost count of the number of times complete strangers have been bowled over by his big brown eyes, giraffe-length eyelashes, cupid's bow mouth, perfect profile and cheeky grin. And not because he's always pushed into the shadows by his more verbally able sibling; he's more than capable of holding his own in brotherly spats with a look, a frown, a shove, a tug of filial hair or a well placed 'nee' (Dutch for no, in case you hadn't guessed) when required.

No, it's more that he is generally a sunny tempered, even-keeled, easy riding kind of a bloke. He just goes with the flow.

Fancy a late night? Boy #2 is fine with that. Need to kick him out of his comfortable travel cot at a friend's house for a post-dinner party trip home in the car? 'Wow, what an adventure.' An injection required? 'OW - but that chocolate sure is good Mum, got any more?' Going to drop him at nursery for the first time? 'Oh - are you still here, parent-person?'

You get the picture.

But there's one thing that is guaranteed to start his lower lip trembling. Strapping him into his high chair.

It's not that he doesn't want to eat. A more robust little weeble you'ld be hard pushed to find. Compared to his brother, he is Monsieur Mange-tout. But he values his freedom. He likes to be able to get down from his Stokke high chair, trot off and fetch the car / train / comic that has caught his eye, and bring it back to the table to join in the fun. But it's not very restful for the rest of us when he takes off across the wooden floor, scattering cous-cous from a pelican bib in his wake, smearing greasy hands over the furniture and walls. (Wipe clean or not...). So when he did this for the 3rd time during dinner this evening, I decided that enough was enough, and when he came back, gave him due warning that this was not acceptable.

Hostilities commenced as follows....

Me: "The next time you get down, Boy #2, I will strap you in."

Cheeky grin in reply. Subtext; "Yeah, right."

Within 2 minutes he gets down again.

Me: "That's it, darling. I'm strapping you in."

Boy #2 laughs. At me.

Stupidly, I laugh back. I can't help it. I know this is a mistake. I should appear tough, parental, in control. But he's so damn cute! However, consistency is all - so I pick him up, sit him in his chair, and start to do up the straps.

A look of incredulous horror crosses his face. Subtext; "You've got be joking. Come on, sweetcheeks, look at this grin. Can you lock me up, really? She's locking me up, really. I can't believe it. Boy #1, look at this! I said, Look At This!"

Boy #1 concentrates on shoveling salmon and cous-cous into his mouth (inexplicably for such a normally fussy eater, this is one of his favourite meals - as long as he can fastidiously pick out the olives and avocado and surreptitiously put them on my plate, anyway), and ignores his brother, no doubt thinking; "About time the little tyrant got his come-uppance at the table. That'll teach the little show-off to eat bananas and fruit and other shxt like that."

I continue to struggle with the straps, whilst Boy #2's tantrum escalates and I start to worry whether any passing police car may hear and assume infanticide happening inside.

Me: "Come on, darling. I warned you what would happen. Now it's time to stay put."

Boy #2 struggles, screams, and flails about. You'ld think I was putting him in a hair shirt rather than just doing up some rather loose straps and fastening a tray on the front of his high chair. Tears roll down his plump rosy little cheeks. He gets louder. For some inconceivable reason I start imagining the sound of dull booms and sirens in the distance.

I watch him and can almost hear, through the rattle of gun-fire, him dictating over the telephone; "I tried everything. Stop. She wouldn't listen. Stop. No matter what I pulled out of the hat, she was immovable. Stop. Who was this dictator? Question mark. At what point did a toddler's intrinsic right to roam free during a meal get taken away by a mother's passing whim? Question mark."

Every now and then there was a momentary lull in hostilities whilst he cast sidelong glances in my direction, through spiky lashes wet with tears, to judge the impact his performance was having. I didn't budge. He ratched it up a notch. I stayed put, calmly (outwardly at least) eating my dinner. Boy #1 handled the pressure well, although was forced to put down his fork and spoon at regular intervals to put his hands over his ears when the shelling got too much.

Note : for those of a nervous and sensitive disposition, at no point was I forcing Boy #2 to eat. My concern was simply that he should understand that meal times are for sitting at the table, not wreaking havoc around it.

Eventually he started to calm. Maybe his ammo was out, I don't know. More likely, it was that he saw Boy #1 and I were finishing our meals and calculated he was wasting bullets when C-beebies and Story Makers were just around the next bend in the road. In any case, the fusillade stopped.

I looked at him. He looked at me. There was a new respect in his eyes. A look that said "Oh, so you meant it then?"

Me: "Yes, I meant it. Do you have anything to say to me?"

Boy #2 uttered one of his (still relatively) few words; "Sowweee."

My heart melted, I undid the straps, and gave him a kiss. He kissed me back, and then sauntered off to the living room, empty ammo belt swinging from his hips, Bob the builder helmet jammed firmly on his head. I glanced up from clearing away the rubble as he reached the door. He turned and gave me a look that said, as clear as day:

"And I'm certainly going to learn how to run faster before breakfast."


Tracey 12 February 2008 at 22:02  

Classic. Well done for holding the resistance. It's winning the little battles like that over the little buggers that helps you maintain some semblance of order down the track. (Note the qualification there.. 'some semblance')

Once when our #3 was a littly (probably around 2.5 yrs), her dad roused on her for standing on her chair at the table at lunchtime. She started throwing a tantrum so instead of the 'get it over with' smack he felt like giving her, he put her outside [time out methodology] and told her she could finish her lunch when she stopped throwing a tantrum. She continued throwing a doozy, drumming her heels into the pavers. Till they bled. Couldn't wear shoes for over a week. Felt like pretty good parents there. Not.

(Funnily though in other ways she was as easy going as your #2... but then out would come these tantrums.) Kids!

Iota 12 February 2008 at 22:19  

I have a 7 year old who can't stay on his chair for a whole meal. Do you have any advice?

He was always strapped into his high chair, which was just as well on the occasion when his big brother accidentally pushed the high chair over. His head missed the stone fireplace by a few inches. Hey. Maybe his wandering-around-during-meals habit dates back to that trauma. Maybe he just needs to feel like he can get away if he needs to.

Potty Mummy 12 February 2008 at 23:24  

Hi Tracey. Aaah, time out, the scourge of modern parents everywhere. Still using it (works with Boy #1, though Boy #2 just laughs - unsurprisingly), though the jury is out and am sure at some time a smack will be administered. And how guilty will I feel THEN?

Iota, um.... no. Bearing in mind you're the one with the bigger kids - I was sort of hoping some of you who'd been here before me would come up with better ideas than mine. No?

As for the chair pushing incident, we had a nasty accident back at the end of August (think I even posted about it) when I took Boy #2 on a bike for the first time and came a cropper. Perhaps you're right - and this is simply his reaction to being strapped in as result...

GoneBackSouth 12 February 2008 at 23:24  

I have left you the "Keep Up The Good Work" award!

ped crossing 13 February 2008 at 05:56  

Well done. You outlasted the tantrum. My children have learned that tantrums have no effect on me. And they always seem so shocked when you go through with the threat. Even if you are consistent.

Frog in the Field 13 February 2008 at 09:05  

I wondered why you were in such in huff! I can't help my husbands fame you know!
Well done, brilliantly descriptive, excellent writing, as usual and of course, laugh out loud funny.
I love the bit where boy#2 has to cover his ears now and again. I was thinking of inviting you round for tea but my girls would laugh histerically, make your boys far worse and then fight over the Bob the Builder helmet. We have resorted to threatening tea in the pig pen for no 3 girl as she is a nightmare fidgeting.
We are can hear you scream where we live.......

Frog in the Field 13 February 2008 at 09:06  

Sorry, I can spell hysterically, it's just so awfully early today for my little, lonely, poorly brain cell

Potty Mummy 13 February 2008 at 13:44  

GBS, thankyou! I will be over pdq to collect!

Ped, I know. The shock is probably more to do with the fact that I'm such a soft touch normally...

Frog, early? I should think so! Did you really leave that comment at 1.00am, or is Blogger just trying to mess with my mind? Thanks for your kind comments, didn't mean to come over huffy (but after 3 days with no Husband support, I suppose it's possible that I might be - a bit), and oh, the bliss of not having to worry about the local neighbourhood watch alerting the social to tantrums. You are a lucky Frog...

Expatmum 13 February 2008 at 17:07  

Ga-a-ad! Memories! Actually, my little one is a better eater than the other two will ever be and doesn't seem to mind being at the table as long as all eyes and ears are fixed on him.
My older 2 (15 and 12) still do what I tell them whenever I start counting. (And never beyond 3). Admittedly, they roll their eyes and there's much huffing and sighing, but they know that they either do it under their own steam, or I will quietly do it for them. Don't know who told me about it many moons ago, but it really works.

aims 13 February 2008 at 17:32  

Hmmm - The Man never does that at the table.....

Potty Mummy 13 February 2008 at 20:05  

Hi EPM, definitely another tip to filed away for future use! I must admit that my most often-used threat is the with-holding of tv viewing rights from Boy #1; when all else fails, that usually does the trick. But Boy #2? Have not yet found the key to him...

Aims, hallelujah! They DO progress then?

Tracey 14 February 2008 at 01:37  

(Yes they do progress! To different issues! BUT. It's worth the screams and tantrums at the table at home, so that down the track a bit you can take them out - to friends' places, to restaurants even!)

((Confession: I have smacked. I'm not proud of it, but I also have three girls who I can rely on to be extremely well-behaved in public.))

Elsie Button 14 February 2008 at 12:38  

that was gripping stuff potty mummy - i was laughing and crying and feeling sympathetic all at the same time. You are such a great writer!

Potty Mummy 14 February 2008 at 13:15  

Tracey, I'm not judging. Let (s)he who has never had to sit on their hands cast the first stone and all that. Like I said - I'm sure there's a smack or two in my boy's future's...

Elsie, thankyou! Glad you enjoyed it (and who knows, if you're lucky this may never happen to you!)

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