Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Mandela, sausages and the changing of minds.

So apparently pork sausage falls into the vegetarian genre of food. Which meant that today son 1 deigned to eat meat. However, that didn't mean we were clear of food dramas. Oh no my friends. Today I proved that being a reasonable parent is a wholly futile exercise.

Son 1 decided that he didn't want school dinner and that he wanted packed lunch. He came to this decision after vacillating back and forth for quite some time. So I duly made packed lunch. The minute he saw the lunchbox sitting on the kitchen counter he spiralled into screaming banshee mode, yelling that he absolutely definitely didn't want packed lunch.

There is no reasoning with the child...AT ALL. So after quite a bit of this, I said fine, have school lunch and I shut the front door and started the walk up to school. Three steps in and another tantrum ensued as he noticed that we didn't have his lunchbox. Does he perhaps have the shortest memory span ever? So breathing quietly through my ears and attempting to remain calm and rational (particularly as we were now in public) I said that he had exactly 5 seconds to make up his sodding mind once and for all. Five...four...three...two...one..... "Well?" "I DON'T WANT PACKED LUNCH OR SCHOOL LUNCH. I WANT NOTHING." Done. Lunchbox stays at home, teacher deals with problem.

The rest of my day passed calmly without any tantrums, mainly because I was sitting on my own in my office, eating a packed lunch.

Fast forward to this evening. I suggest that we have Toad in the Hole for dinner. "Ooh yummy", squeaks son 2. "I don't want Toad in the Hole," wails son 1. "I HATE IT. I HATE IT. I HATE IT." Oh how I am enjoying this phase.

So I politely asked what he would like instead. "Sausages and mash" was the reply. "But I HATE mash," wailed son 2. And to be fair, he does. And so the tussle commenced. MASH! Toad in the hole! No, MASH!! No! Toad in the HOLE!!

Ready to shove both of them in the oven, I tell them to be quiet (although not quite so politely) and say that I will make Toad in the Hole with a side portion of mash. Peace at last. Some might view this as being a pushover. I like to view it as keeping the peace. I feel UN troops could do well to come to me for lessons.

Fast forward to the dinner table. Son 1 has a plate of sausage, mash, gravy and veg. Son 2 and I have toad in the hole, gravy and veg. All is peaceful. All is quiet. All is lovely...for about 2 minutes when son 2 pointed to the yorkshire pudding battery stuff and said: "What's this?" And I said: "Toad in the hole". Son 1 looked at his plate and wailed: "But I don't have any Toad in the Hole!"

So I said: "No, but I did make you your very own portion of mash just like you asked." That was apparently the wrong thing to say. I suddenly had a plate of mash and sausages flying at speed across the table at me with a small devil child across the way with his face screwed up screaming: "I DIDN'T WANT MASH. MASH IS STUPID. I WANT WHAT YOU HAVE."

Now seriously. It's time to call Supernanny right? What do you do in this situation? Maybe the child has a gaping hole in his brain that he leaks his most recent memories from. But personally, it's at times like this that I fully understand the need for corporal punishment. However, I didn't opt for violence, although was sorely tempted. I deployed a new strategy that I read about on the internet today.

It's called a Mandala (as opposed to a Mandela which would have meant having a little old man nodding sagely in our dining room and I doubt even the great man himself would be able to reason with my son. He might have helped bring about the end of apartheid but that would seem a breeze in comparison to rationalising with this child).

So a Mandala is basically a picture with patterns on it (you can print them out from the interweb). When a child heads off into a rage, you suggest that they might want to go into the next door room for some quiet time and colour in the picture. This allows them to 'reflect on how they feel'. (Alternatively this allows them to colour in your walls as they take out their rage with the full arsenal of the crayon box.) But I gave it a try. Once he had calmed himself down to decibel levels that didn't damage our ears, I explained the concept to him and suggested that he might want to go colour in to calm down.

This intrigued him and he calmed down without having to colour anything in. He just sat and ate his sausages (not the mash) and wanted to know about the pictures. He then took himself off midway through the meal to colour in. When I asked him if he could come back and eat his meal, he said: "No, I'm colouring." Fair enough. It's a new thing. But I don't think he quite got the idea that it's to calm you down, not to avoid eating your mash and broccoli.

Anyway, I am going to attempt another Mandala tomorrow (I predict it will be at roughly 7.30am when we have the first tantrum ...probably about what breakfast to have.) Wish me and my cream walls luck.


Anonymous said...

If it is any consolation, the small girl who sat at your dinner table and declared the the food was THE MOST DISGUSTING thing she had ever seen, now eats most things that I put in front of her, without even a word of complaint. This phase will pass and soon you will wonder if they will ever stop eating.

Jaywalker said...

Two things

Firstly EVERY meal in my house is currently greeted with hystrionic groans. My cooking is, admittedly, shite, but please. Fishfingers and chips? How bad can this taste boys?

Secondly - whose theory is it that colouring in mandalas helps children channel their rage?! It is hysterical! I must have more information. I am so going to keep a stack on my desk and offer them to colleagues.

Home Office Mum said...

Thank you anonymous. I do recall the incident but since then my children have done far, far worse.

Jaywalker, I can't find the mandala link now but just print any pictures off the internet (for co-workers I'd suggest Cbeebies - nice and mature) and get them to colour in. It will be the talk of the office party.