Working mum of three

Figuring it out as we go along. Blogging is cheaper than therapy.

Rough and tumble

on June 4, 2013

Mid morning phone calls from the nursery always strike fear into a parent’s heart. 4yo had been involved in an ‘incident’ involving a toy car and another kid. The other boy has a reputation for being ‘trouble’, several parents have complained about him and we often get stories about his behaviour from our boys. This was the second ‘incident form’ to be signed in a week: 2yo had earlier been victim of a frequent and zealous biter. A clear bite mark is still there a week later.

I’m a bit sceptical about reports from the teacher that both our boys had reacted without confrontation: tears of course, cuddles, explanations of what had happened, calming down, no retaliation, then quick friends with the ‘perp’. But hang on, I’ve seen these boys completely out of control with rage. So it feels like the other two kids have been a bit scapegoated. They are known as ‘naughty’ kids. We arrived at the same time as one of them recently. They were all rushing into school in a jumble of ripping off coats and racing to get to toys, giggling all the way. In fact it was quite lovely. But the dad called back his son to give him a pep talk about being good and asking for a report from teachers later. Seemed like a pretty sensible approach.

Handling negative feedback about our kids is tricky. It’s taken me years in my professional life to be comfortable in responding when challenged on something. It’s easier to avoid conflict. Apologise, fix the problem, then moan about the injustice in private. I’m the person who apologises if someone bumps into me on the street. We try to teach our guys to talk their problems through, speak to teachers/adults, walk away from rough kids. Are we setting them up for a lifetime of bullying? In the workplace, so much of the messaging is around being assertive, confident, taking responsibility. Running to your boss for a cuddle is not encouraged. But it’s a fine line between pushover and wimp, assertiveness and bullying, ‘referring upwards’ and tell-tale.

The reality when they are playing with each other at home is that they damn well fight back. 4yo is patient with his little bro, he’s a thoughtful sensitive soul, but even he can get to the point of sheer frustration and lash out. In fact, he’s been experimenting with violence: totally unprovoked, he smacked his little bro in the face; on a long car journey, he lost his cool and threw a ball into Rich’s face. These incidents happen when he’s exhausted, and he immediately runs to hide, crying with embarrassment. He knows it’s not acceptable, but it’s happened before he could stop himself. Soon after our second was born, I hosted a massive play date (yup, don’t know what I was thinking either). Towards the end, the elder threw a train and whacked another boy on the forehead leaving a mark. Shocked and exhausted, I burst into tears, it was so out of character for him and it still is – at least, so I hope and still tell myself.

2yo picks up on the rough and tumble he sees with the older kids, he’s always been more physical and less afraid of getting into trouble. He pushes out his tongue when he is doing something he knows to be naughty. With a ‘tell’ that obvious, he’d be a terrible poker player. His big bro sometimes comes running into the room in terror saying ‘he’s doing the tongue’.

People often react sympathetically to the possibility of us having three boys. All the usual ‘football team’ stereotypes come out. Having a girl would be a fascinating study of how differently society reacts (not to mention a check of our own instincts and responses to cultural pressure). But I don’t accept that their behaviour has anything to do with gender – other than the social expectations they contend with (nice blog here on this). For example, they couldn’t have taken a more different approach to the pregnancy bump. 4yo often comes over to give baby a kiss and follows up with: ‘did the baby like it?’.

20130604-164425.jpg 2yo on the other hand prefers to drum my rounded belly. The other day, he brought over a crying doll with sincere concern. When it stopped crying, without a pause, he smacked it hard on the ground, then looked up with the same worried expression: ‘baby crying again’.

They’ve recently moved into the same room with bunk beds and have suddenly become best friends. Pottering off to play together, sharing, inventing games. But night times have been horrific. We used to believe in the one week rule: whenever there was a major change, it takes a week to adjust. But we are now facing our third week of no sleep before 9. 4yo has been great at reining 2yo in, but sometimes even he gets caught up in the sheer joy of being naughty. We sat in the kitchen discussing the knife attack in Woolwich when I heard faint sniggers in the hall and had to chase them back into their beds.

On the third night of bunk heaven, we thought we had cracked it when we heard 4yo saying ‘well I’m going to sleep and if you want yoghurt tomorrow, you need to go to sleep’. This was followed by 20 minutes of silence before a little voice started calling. With my sternest face, I marched upstairs to find 2yo with a whole tub of sudocreme in his hair, bedding, sofa, bunk slats, teddies. He held out a sudocreme covered tissue and said ‘this tissue is a bit dirty’. Laughing at the outrageous naughtiness of it was not my finest mothering moment, but the scene of devastation was so shocking, I couldn’t help myself. I’ll take this kind of shenanigans any day over the ‘boys will be boys’ culture.

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