Before having my son, I didn’t give much thought to what kind of parent I wanted to be. However, there was one thing I knew for certain. I was going to be Strict.
Nine years of being a secondary school teacher, and observing countless children-and therefore the long-term consequences of the actions of countless parents-and I knew Strict was best. I once asked the parent of a particularly pleasant child how she had managed to raise such a wonderful daughter, and although she didn’t actually say the answer was Being Strict, I was sure that was what was behind her success.
Fast forward almost two years into my own parenting journey, and I am not so sure. Not only am I not particularly inclined to start setting boundaries for a baby, but when said baby does do something that probably shouldn’t be encouraged, I find it hard not to laugh. Especially when he is laughing too.
This is yet another source of disagreement between my mother and I. Mother believes that the reason that meals with Piglet frequently result in dropped food is because he is undisciplined and, with yours truly for a mother, has become accustomed to running riot. Conversely, I believe it is because he is a toddler, and such is their wont.
However, recently there have been some worrying developments (clearly the fault of my louche parenting style), including throwing things at people, as opposed to merely throwing things around indiscriminately without any particular aim. Today, it was a piece of banana. Tomorrow, who knows? A toy car? The kitchen crockery? A molotov cocktail?
I enjoy my civilised* meals out with Piglet. I enjoy the one-to-one mother and son bonding time, and the intellectual conversation and debate (the latter is something I’m still working on, but I have managed to get him to say two more words “adder” as in the variety of snake, and “Adele,” as in chart-topping songstress Adele. The fact that both of these sound exactly like his default sound “A-da” is neither here nor there). I also enjoy the indulgent looks of the other diners as they gaze at Piglet adoringly, enquire about his age and give knowing looks when he does something cute that they recognise from when their own children were small.
I don’t think they will be looking indulgently for much longer if Piglet persists in throwing pieces of food around. And this time, it’s personal. The food in question is not merely being thrown to the floor, it is being aimed squarely at other people. For the moment, Mummy (with an occasional side order of “Granny”) seems to be the main target, but who knows where this could lead?
He has started to literally pull his arm back and take aim. Today the missile was a bit of half chewed banana, which I suddenly found being launched at me as if from a catapult. The banana bounced off my face, and landed underneath another child’s high chair (always good to be able to pin the blame on somebody else). Piglet then burst into peals of laughter. Watching Mummy humiliated is always a good sport for a child.
The trouble is, I wanted to laugh. Like I wanted to laugh the time a group of Year 11 boys smuggled one of their friends from another school into the classroom and tried to pass him off as a Dutch exchange student with a dodgy accent; and like that was probably bad teaching, laughing at the flying banana was probably bad parenting.
So what to do? Do I hotfoot it to the library in search of the Gina Ford Book of Really Strict Parenting? Or do I keep muddling along, hoping that a combination of love, laughter and civilised mother and son intellectual conversation will see us through?
In a few years time, I want it to be me that my child’s teacher is asking for tips on How To Raise The Perfectly Behaved, Well Adjusted and Motivated for Learning Child. I don’t want to be the one being called in for countless meetings at the school, and being told that it would probably be for the best if I quietly withdrew him from full time education. Home schooling is all the rage these days, you know.
Perhaps I am over thinking it. As I keep reminding my mother, he’s not even two, and there will surely be many more opportunities in the future for confiscating mobile phones, shutting off the internet and grounding him indefinitely. For now, I’ll just stick to trying not to laugh.
*They aren’t very civilised. Unless “civilised” means eating straight off the table and throwing anything you don’t want over your shoulder. I’ve heard that was the kind of civilisation that went down at a medieval banquet, so I’m claiming it.