The girls and I have had a very busy 10 days. We have been to two birthday parties, a Christening, a play soft centre (as my gorgeous niece would say), the zoo, a rather crazy afternoon at a friend’s house and two sleep overs at opposite ends of the country. On top of this the girls have spent two days with their Dad doing what ever busy things they get up to with him. (It can still be a bit difficult to piece together exactly what they have done but I know they went for a Coffee and Cake and to look at bedroom furniture, the rest is still a mystery)
All of our adventures meant the girls spending a lot of time in the car, eating in many locations and sleeping in some new places. On the whole they did really well and I was, as usual, proud to say they were mine. However, IK and I did have a falling out at the zoo, for which she is only partly to blame. My friend and I had told the girls and her two boys before we went to the zoo, they could have an ice cream if they were well behaved. This, in hindsight, for IK was a mistake.
We had only been there about half an hour when the, “can I have an ice cream?” question arose. The answer was “no, you can have one after lunch.” The second the last grape was eaten at lunch time, “is it time for an ice cream” “No not quite yet, lets just wait a little while for your lunch to go down”. After what felt like the 100th time of asking, I snapped and said if she asked one more time, there would be no ice cream at all. Inevitably 5 minuets later she asked again, so that was it, no ice cream. What had started as low level whinging and built steadily throughout the day into full on moaning, suddenly became an outright tantrum with shouting and feet stamping. At four and a half this is not behaviour I am happy to accept from her.
And after about 15 minutes when she showed no sign on calming down I gave her a final warning, stop or we leave. Her response was to scream NNNOOOO at me. My response: we are leaving. So we did and at a rather fast pace we went back to the car, IK quite literally kicking and screaming all the way. CJ had fallen asleep in her pushchair by the time we got there so I opened all the car doors and told IK to sit in her car seat and I would talk to her once she had calmed down. 15 minutes of crying and shouting, followed by 5 minutes of quiet and she was back to her usual lovely self and ready to talk to me.
Reading this back now, I’m still not sure if I did the right thing. You see I can see I handled it badly from the start. Firstly I needed to have more patience with her, and a bit more understanding that after a busy week and a late night the previous night, she was tired. I should have also told her a specific time, such as an hour after lunch, or before we leave, for the ice cream. She still doesn’t fully grasp time and a woolly ‘later’ just doesn’t seem to work in her brain. She used to be the same when I said her Dad would be picking her up in a couple of days. As soon as I said she was going to see him, I think she thought he would appear at that very moment and then she would get very cross with me when he didn’t. In the end I got her a calendar and she sticks a sticker on the date he is coming and then we tick the days off until then. So I should know my daughter better, and for that I did and still do fell bad and its never easy to say ‘I got it wrong’ But here is the thing, I find constantly demanding, pestering, whinging, moaning, shouting and screaming unacceptable behaviour. She knows this already, she had a warning and didn’t heed it, so the consequence was we left.
I guess the thing about being a parent is you have to decide what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable to you, and then act accordingly. I suspect there are many people reading this who will think I am too strict; why didn’t I just get the poor child an ice cream (well I wanted her to eat her lunch, then she needed to let her lunch go down a bit, all of which I did explain to her) Those of you who know me will know I’m big on rules, routine and manners. They are important in our family and for the most part, it works well. As I am now on my own with the girls, I feel this is more important that ever as now the responsibility of raising them falls to entirely me. Whilst their Dad and I do communicate well, agree on most things and I know he carries on with the rules I have in place, they are my responsibility. I have to be set the boundaries, follow through with discipline, decided on what is and isn’t ok and what is and isn’t important. There is no one there to ask an opinion of, no one to talk though how best to deal with things, no one to back me up, no one to help out and no one to say if the rules are too strict or too lax. It is a massive responsibility to bear alone. Parenthood can be a daunting path for everyone and no one knows what is coming next, but when there is no one walking it with you can be overwhelming to say the least.
So IK, when you are reading this in 15 or 20 years time, I am sorry we left the zoo early that day. I fully accept my part in the incident; for not understanding you enough that day and for not having all the patience I needed to handle it better. I’m sure it is not the last time I didn’t get it all right. But I hope you now understand that we had these rules because I wanted you to grow up to be well mannered, well behaved and have good values. I wanted you to learn how to behave appropriately in many different social situations, I wanted you to learn to listen and I wanted you to respect other people. I hope I have got more right than wrong, and I know I will continue to be proud of both you and your sister.