I wouldn't say I'm at the end of my tether with my 4.5 year old son. However, the tether in question is coming up fast in my rearview mirror and is about to hit my butt.
He's never been an easy child. How fondly I recall my 31st birthday in which my 3 week old baby cried and cried and cried. All day. Non-stop. And of course there were all those days when we tried to go out like normal people who had babies - say to a pub for lunch - and while the other people's babies the same age as ours would merrily fall asleep in their buggies, ours would cry and cry and cry, so that one of us was always pacing and patting, patting and pacing.
Then there were the twos. Never a particularly relaxing time at best. But add a new baby to son number 1's already volatile temper and the result was tantrums of gargantuan proportions. I clearly recall a trip to the park in Henley in which son 1 wanted to go on a carousel and then didn't want to and then did want to and then didn't want to. And eventually, having driven the carousel operator completely mad, we left. This did not please son 1. And he produced the mother of all tantrums. People in powerboats on the river could hear his screaming over the roar of their engines. I had to push a buggy, carry a bag, a picnic blanket and a kicking, screaming, scratching, roaring demon-possessed beastie the full length of the park back to the car with everyone else watching in awe. I was dripping in sweat by the time I got there. My friends had managed to catch up with me at this point and it took three of us - THREE FULLY GROWN ADULTS - to get one small devil into his carseat.
He mellowed slightly in his 3s, eager to please but still prone to violent mood swings. But since turning 4 he has apparently left childhood behind and headed straight into puberty. The attitude and back chat is something to behold. He's taken to spitting, hitting and kicking. He sulks. If you attempt to explain why you want him to do something, he covers his ears and yells: 'I'm not talking to you.' In fact, I'm not even sure why he bothers covering up his ears because I don't believe they work anyway. I think when I talk, all he hears is a low level hum - like an annoying bee - so he simply walks away from it. This has meant that I talk louder until I shout.
I have become that loud, shouty mother who constantly threatens with counting to 3, warnings of sitting on the step and most recently plenty of talk about certain bottoms becoming acquainted with my hand. I know that all of it is completely and utterly ineffectual.
I know what I need to do. I need to pick my battles. I need to follow through. I need to praise the positives. I need to distract and turn things into games. And I need to give him plenty of one-on-one attention. I've read the books. I know what you're supposed to do.
However, those books are obviously written by people who don't also have 1 besqillion other things that they have to get done in any given day. They're also written by people who have all won nobel peace prizes and are saints in waiting. They're written by people who don't mind picking up the same puzzle pieces seventy times a day or having their ear buds used by their child and thrust back into the box so that you can stick a waxy ear bud in your own ear at a later date. They're written by people who have an infinite amount of patience and a super human ability to not get riled by doors being slammed in their face or felt tip pen artwork on their brand new kitchen cupboards. They're written by people who don't mind spending 15 minutes to reinforce the point that cushions live on the chairs and not the floor. They're written by people who don't mind having to eat another slice of toast with peanut butter because their child has insisted on having it only to say: 'But I don't want more toast. You're stupid. You shouldn't have made it. You eat it.'
These books are obviously written by people who can laugh in the face of adversity. They're probably war correspondents in their spare time, keeping calm in the face of life threatening danger. They probably negotiate world peace on their spare afternoons and give 'anger management' counselling to Sadam Hussein and Slobodan Milosovic (obviously they're no longer clients), Robert Mugabe and Osama Bin Laden. And if that isn't enough, they probably knit their own lentils and make lampshades out of recycled newspapers.
I applaud the authors of those books and I wholeheartedly invite them into my house to take over for a while. Because I need a time out and I'm going to go sit on the naughty step.
(And if my parents are reading this: yes, I know exactly who he sounds like and yes I know it's karma and that I thoroughly deserve this, having been a beastie child myself. I would like to formally apologise now for being the revolting little creature I was. To be fair, I couldn't help it, just like he can't. But now I fully understand why you always had a drink in the evening.)