Someone who shall remain nameless (but you know who you are, mother) told me that I’m not strict enough with Ziggler when she’s whiny. ‘She’s bullying you with her whininess,’ said she. I was feeling a bit sensitive due to recent events (some of which are really, really shit in a you-wouldn’t-believe-it-if-it-were-an-Eastenders-plot kind of way but which are not strictly my business to blog about), so I got a bit upset about this piece of advice. I know I’m a bit of a pushover but, I wondered, am I like one of those parents who timorously pleads, ‘Quentin, darling. Quentin? Darling? we don’t put jigsaw pieces up other people’s noses, do we?’ at playgroup because they don’t believe in saying ‘no,’ ever?
I am, I admit, regularly bossed about by my children (one of whom, I suppose, is too big to be described as a toddler any more).
Ziggler is very clear about what she will eat off and with, what she will drink from, what television programme she fancies watching, and what I ought to be doing in whatever complicated pretending game she is making me play (and quite obviously what I ought to know I should be doing without being instructed). She is quite adept at letting me know when I am doing something not to the precisely detailed gold standard she expects by variously shouting, crying, officious bossing and, yes, whining.
Pickle is also a big bosser. She has recently learned how to tantrum if she is not allowed, for example, to eat a whole stick of chalk or crawl around in the flower bed. Although she is still pretty much non-verbal, she is extremely learnèd in the art of Making Her Desires Known using gestures and the power of the irritating chunter.
Being a stay at home mother – and possibly a working mother, I don’t know – feels quite a lot like being a servant quite a lot of the time. Sometimes you forget that, actually, you’re not being a bad mother if you refuse to pretend to buy the plastic tomato for the twenty-fifth time because you need a wee or to answer the door. Your children are not in fact your employers and behaving like a normal, irritable person with them is more valuable to them long-term than acquiescing to their every whim. Honestly though, sometimes, if you’re a bit knackered, or feeling a bit sensitive, or have (gasp!) had enough of your children, it is just easier in the short term to do what they want. It’s lazy, but there you are. Thinking about it, mum was right; I was letting Ziggler get away with being a bit of a whingy minx and it wasn’t helping either of us.
So. On a trip to the shops with my mum, Sausage, Pickle and Ziggler I put my foot down. We were buying shoes, appropriately enough. Sausage and my mum were off chasing Pickle round Ladieswear. Ziggler had fallen in love with a pair of truly ridiculous princess sandals and I had caved and agreed to get them (I confess they do embody every shoe I was not allowed as a very girly little girl, being pink and patent leather – though no high heels). In the queue to pay, she began to whine. And whine, and whinge. I got down to her level. I looked her in the eye. I told her in that special voice that if she did not stop whining RIGHT now I would be taking the shoes back. She whined. I made towards the shoe department wielding the shoe box. Then – and I still can’t quite believe this happened – Ziggler said ‘sorry mummy’ in her normal voice, stood up straight, and 30 seconds later was holding my hand and singing herself a little tune as usual. She made not a high pitched noise for the rest of the trip. And now I think about it she’s been much nicer since.
We met up with mum, Sausage and Pickle and I noticed that Pickle, in her pushchair, was cuddling an unfamiliar bunny toy. ‘We had to buy it,’ explained mum, aghast, ‘she grabbed it, and sucked it and then screamed when we tried to take it away. She was shaking with rage when I gave it to the lady to pay for it’. So now we have yet another fluffy. He is named Lewis after the shop of his origin. And he serves as a beautiful reminder that it is not just I who can be, on occasion, bullied by small children.