“If I’ve told you once…” Do you sometimes feel like you’ll go mad if you have to say the same thing to your child again? “Why don’t you go to the loo before you sit down for tea?” “Take your shoes off!” “Put your shoes on!” “No jam on the sofa!” Should we expect young children to remember the lessons of yesterday – or should we take a leaf out of their book and treat every day as a new day?
“I said, don’t wipe your toothpaste on your sleeve!” I yelled this morning. My 7-year old looked at me blankly – clearly this was news to him, and he couldn’t understand why I was so mad. Because, you see, I hadn’t actually said it just then. I’d said it yesterday. And the day before that. And – you get the picture. I just couldn’t believe he had done it again, and something in me just exploded.
Wiping your toothpaste-y mouth on your sleeve is pretty standard for children – it’s practically a reflex. It’s my fault for not standing by with a towel or putting one within an inch of the sink. In itself, it’s not a big deal. Of course it’s not. But when it’s the 1000th time he’s done it? The cumulative annoyance just becomes too much for me.
Cue a totally disproportionate explosion at my poor bemused child.
Yes, kids can be annoying. They forget a lot of things and need constant reminding about so much: “What do you say?” “How do you ask?” And so on. It’s worse in the holidays, with so many opportunities in the day for them to forget what you’ve told them a million times.
Only the other day, I had a “bite the head off a bunny” kind of day after a series of painfully familiar petty annoyances.
But my toothpaste-sleeved son’s bewildered look made me stop and think.
Children wake up to a new day every morning. They don’t wake up intending to annoy us (not at this age, surely?). Their little minds are eager and ready to soak up new experiences and information all day long. They are learning new words, new skills, new things their body can do.
Can we blame them for forgetting the boring stuff?
I’m not saying I will ever stop my campaign for good manners. Or that I’ll let them off the hook for throwing their coats on the floor every time we come in, instead of hanging them up, or at least putting them in the vicinity of the hooks.
But I think a change of mindset for me is the only way to cope with the repetitive annoyances of child-rearing. If they’ve knocked their drink over for the 500th teatime in a row? I’m going to try reacting just to the one instance – rather than bearing down on them with all the weight of the other 499 times they’ve done it. It’s usually only accidental after all.
This holiday, for the sake of my blood pressure, I’m going to try a bit of clean slate parenting.
What about you? Do you find it hard to bite back your exasperation sometimes?