Sometimes, I catch my children playing so nicely together it’s like a Werthers Original advertisement. The older brother teaching his younger sister to do something and her hanging on his every word; and seeing the beatific smile of satisfaction on my son’s face as he realises he has taught his sister something. It releases tiny butterflies of joy in my heart.
We all have moments like these. But unfortunately they are just that. Moments.
It seems to me that the majority of the time is a febrile, shouting, maul of a battle hurtling from one set piece to another like some midget infested parody of a John Woo film. I have said before that my kids could have a fight in an empty room about who is the least combative. I love my kids but I now think The Lord of the Flies should sit on the same shelf as The Baby Whisperer.
We had this exchange recently. Darling Son and I were looking for Nanos (a supermarket in Switzerland, Migros, has devised a reward scheme where the kids get charactered jumping beans (Nanos) every time you shop – the kids over here are positively insane with desire for these poxy things) under the sofa. It was a bit dark, so I got a torch out. Now, this torch was once used (like, months ago) by Darling Daughter for some random project in daycare involving shadows and sweet wrappers, so there is a bit of history between her and this torch.
Darling Daughter (she clocks the torch): That’s my torch.
Darling Son: Well, it’s actually Daddy’s torch. Do you want to see what –
Darling Daughter: – It’s my Torch. Gimme’it.
MrShev (like a bloody idiot): Darling, it is – actually – my torch… [in my defence, I had forgotten that DD had used it once before in un-remembered and random daycare project) we’re using it to –
Darling Daughter (now getting her ‘game’ face on): Mine. (she makes a grab for it)
Darling Son (holding torch slightly out of reach and looking at me with an expression that says: this is going to kick off big time): No! We’re using it to find my Nanos…and it’s not your torch, it’s Daddy’s!
Darling Daughter (who, having bided her time, takes the torch): It’s my torch. Not yours. Not Daddy’s (as if). Mine! (she hugs it close. She doesn’t even have any idea why she needs the torch, she just does. It’s like women and shoes…)
Darling Son: But we need it to find my Nanos! It’s Daddy’s torch, not yours!! (makes grab for it, but DD has an iron will and a rictus grip to match and a row, row, row-your-boat tussle ensues until DD manages to wrest control of the totemic torch) It’s not fair! I was using it first!!
Darling Son then starts a short campaign to get back The Torch and Darling Daughter (I guess) thinks: in for a penny, in for a pound and clouts Darling Son with The Torch. This torch is not an inconsiderable object and must have been designed by someone who watched too many slasher horror movies as a kid; because it is chunky and rubberised. Then all hell breaks loose and everyone gets a time out and a seemingly benign situation descends into savagery in the space of a few seconds. FFS.
Any road, here are a few tips to forestall battle royales in the future:
- Pick the Movie No matter how vanilla the film is or how much love and genius Pixar have sprinkled upon it, don’t ever let one child pick the film. I have had hysterical discussions – as if I am proposing the Good Friday agreement – with my two about whether we will watch Monsters Inc or Finding bloody Nemo. Now, I just put the film on and give them the choice of this film or no film. At least then they can be united in their hatred of my iron will and non-negotiation policy.
- Use white plates and grown up cutlery Fuck Peppa Pig. Fuck Spiderman. Fuck Thomas the fucking Tank Engine. Fuck Dora the bloody Explorer. Fuck Barbie. Fuck Cars. Fuck Toy Story bloody 3. I got so bored of all the tears, huffs and tantrums about not getting the pink spoon, or not having Spiderman swinging behind the mashed potato that I had a ‘moment’, went to the Swedish emporium of all things cheap and semi-disposable and bought white plates and simple cutlery. I don’t think that depriving my children from the constant branding barrage of Toy Story 3 is going to make them developmentally sub normal. I just want them to eat their meal and not fight about who has which cup.
- Don’t buy cereal with a toy in it (or Kinder Eggs) I think this should be a general life rule for all of us (In the same binder as: don’t eat in a restaurant that has pictures of its food on the menu). If the cereal has a toy in it then it is a ‘kids’ cereal and is basically a box of sugary shite that you wouldn’t feed to a dog lest someone dob you into the RSPCA. The toy – no matter how bad it is – will divide the children and it will kick off. Buy Weetabix and Special K. They never give away anything. Finally, Kinder Eggs are shite, really, aren’t they? Shit chocolate and a shit toy. The last one opened by one of my kids had a sail boat that you had to build. After following pictorial instructions that would have confused Leonardo Da Vinci, we realised the pathetic vessel and then – on it’s maiden voyage – we discovered that it didn’t bloody float. That is so wrong, that is.
- Become a loser a liar and a cheat I had my chance. I’ve had my time. I am never going to score a goal for Arsenal; become the next, big wrestling star and until Snakes and Ladders becomes a recognised, Olympic sport that ain’t going to happen for me either. So, unless you want all-out war to commence; take one for the team. Let goals in, rig games, load the dice and stack the deck. Everyone should have a chance of winning, scoring a goal or finding the best hiding place. Except you. Because now you’re a loser. By choice.