A child tugged at her mother harnessing all the strength available to her 2 ½ year old body. This droopy diapered tyrant had quite a grip on the mum’s index finger and a look in her eyes that did not bode well for the future. She was determined to have it all her way and her mother was equally determined to show her that there was somebody else to consider here. For some of us waiting for our tram to arrive, watching the two personalities at loggerheads was a mix of entertainment tinged with remembrance and empathy. Been there, done that was the misty eyed consensus.
This wasn’t a David and Goliath story we were watching; the tiny tot hadn’t a chance. But while the end result was predictable, at least for the next handful of years, it was the way her mother dealt with the situation that made it interesting to watch.
It was a stop and start affair and the mum held out as long as she could. Now and again she bent and whispered something in the little girl’s ear, but when it seemed obvious that her strategies weren’t working, the mum reached into her carryall and brought out the biscuit of last resort. The girl took it and the mum lifted the distracted tot up and trotted off into the distance.
I leaned back and reminisced about the good old days of high ideals. It hadn’t taken long for them to take a battering. I had come to realise that a good mother was code word for managing to get through my day without too many blunders and that it was only possible if I had a good baby, code word for placid and sleeps a lot. As my children weren’t good children, I did what we all do when we have that epiphany, I adjusted my standards. It was the first of many times for me.
Having long believed that a tiny morsel couldn’t possibly cause me too much trouble, when my child finally arrived I was forced to face reality. My life was not going to be business as usual. I could no longer drop everything and go haring off on some jaunt at a moment’s notice and cooking was no longer well thought out three course meals but a repertoire of quick and easy recipes. Keeping house, a high maintenance job that required constant mopping and dusting left no room for playing, so until they started four year old kinder, I forced myself to spend a minimum amount of time cleaning (not really a chore) and dedicated the majority of my time playing get to know you with my children.
When it came to the biscuit of last resort, or in my case the chocolate frog of last resort, I preferred small distractions, code word for bribes, to a tap on the bottom. Until my children were old enough to be impressed with the I-will-brook-no-disagreement tone of voice that was the line I took. Not that I stopped reasoning, but like that mum I used a mix of persuasion knowing that sooner or later my exhortations would take hold and the occasional chocolate frog.
I can live with that sort of bribe but I don’t believe everything has a price. I think that paying children to help out for example is wrong. Some people say it teaches children responsibility but I think it smells more like blackmail (you won’t get that dollar if you don’t clean your room) than a lesson. I think the lesson learned should be that mutual expectations and obligations are expected on both sides.
I recently offered my two year old grandson with a chocolate button. He snapped it up and asked for more. I was caring for him and Eden was crying for his mum. The chocolate did its job. It worked so well that the first thing out of those rosebud lips whenever we met was chocolate. I adjusted my standards yet again. Now Eden gets a dose of The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher and sometimes we watch The Wiggles. It’s a personal preference, but I have found that I would rather be known as ‘nanna wiggles’, than ‘nanna chocolate’.