Seriously they’ll leave home eventually and as if you’re not fumigating, re-painting and ripping up the carpets when that happens. Just save yourself the heartache and cost of all those antihistamines.
a) can’t help yourself,
b) need money for petrol/bread/milk,
c) can smell something worse than that heady mix of boy BO and Lynx, or
d) have not sighted the family’s beloved pet for a few daysÂ then:
2. DO NOT SMELL ANYTHING.
Seriously, if it’s on the floor just wash it. I know it’s instinctive to just pick something up off the floor and sniff it but don’t. Repeat, back away from the smelling.Â Don’t question it, don’t doubt yourself, just wash it again.
You’re olfactory system will be forever grateful.
On Sunday the allconsuming clan, Team Berry, had a big adventure involving multiple public tranpsort options (hello Sunday $2.50 bus, train, ferry ticket!), steam trains AND yum cha. Team Berry doesn’t leave the house as a unit for many activities other than sport because well, it’s hard and I’m tired so when we do it is a very.big.deal.
Before we’d even left the house I had declared, “THIS IS WHY WE NEVER GO ANYWHERE BECAUSE ALL YOU ALL DO IS WHINGE AND COMPLAIN AND FIGHT AND MAKE IT A MISERY.” Ahh, good times.
By the time we got from our place to Sydney Central we’d had multiple changes in bus seating (Grover: it smells like vomit back there. Me: welcome to public transport) and avoided treading in a pile of human excrement in the Central Station tunnel. Good times!
We were meeting Chef’s parents for a steam train ride as part of the Sydney Great Train Expo.Â As the mother to four boys I long ago accepted such things as steam trains would be a part of my life as much as lego, cars and Star Wars. Gender stereotyping? All the fucking way. It was actually great fun with lots of different trains open for you to wander through and plenty of train enthusiasts to look at and internally ridicule.
After choofing out to Homebush and back while consuming the elventy gagillion snacks we (and Nana) had packed all the while tootling on the wooden whistles I bought them (what? I got caught up in the moment. They’ve since been torched.) much to the sheer joy and delight of all the passengers it was phase three of Team Berry’s Excellent Adventure.
We don’t have trains on the Northern Beaches so CityRail is quite a mind trip for my children. I know. It’s amazing we have running water and electricity.
The weather was also pretty average so I believe we deserve extra points for that aspect of the day. Phase four, THE FERRY!
I love the ferry. Never tire of the ferry. It is as synonymous with Sydney as the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Manly, Bondi, drive-by shootings in Merrylands and traffic chaos on the M5.
And then, the piece de resistance:
YUM CHA. Seriously. Yum Cha is this family’s go to happy place. Something for everyone, fast, tasty, noise tolerant. It ticks so many boxes.
I can’t remember if it was Felix or Jasper, I’m thinking the latter, who said to me quietly as we were making our way to the bus stop to come home, ‘this is one of the best days of my whole life.’
A war is being raged in this house and I SHALL BE THE VICTOR!
Sure, it’s been attacking my morale, calling me to question my whole approach to parenting, undermining my confidence and lulling me into false hope with occasional ceasefires but I WILL NOT SURRENDER.
This battle happened with the stealth-like characteristics just like most battles do. A squirmish here, a negotiation there until whoomf all hell breaks loose.
On the one side is me.
On the other is a burly conglomerate of electronic devices, gaming consoles and computing devices resorting to the dirty tactics of recruiting my children in to do their tawdry work.
Since the beginning of this year there’s been the no television at night rule. Primarily because I couldn’t take the clanging of cymbals it resembled in my head but also because homework is now a serious deal for some and silence – or the illusion of such – is growing in importance.
For as long as I can remember there has been a blanket no console games (xBox, Playstation, Wii) during the week.
Technically there has been a no-technology (ie computer) after 7pm rule as well but that has been tricky to police as I try to clean up from dinner and deal with all the other stuff raising 100 children involves.
But the console and computer games saw this weakness and have been slowly creeping over these battlelines for several months, occasionally moreÂ aggressivelyÂ through the form of tantrums and fighting and more subversively through good behaviour and reward systems.
The casualties of this war have – as can now be seen with the benefit of hindsight – sibling infighting, poor communication between comrades and combatants, lowered tolerance, disappearance of empathy and the rise of the Reactive Parenting Technique*, aka yelling. A lot.
The situation reached such a point I was daydreaming of just walking out of the house – many times – over the course of a weekend. IÂ was miserable. The boys behaviour to each other and to me (and Chef and Grandmama) was appalling.
So I tasered them. Metaphorically of course. There’s no way I’m going to prison for this lot.
No, this was my taser: THAT IS IT. NO XBOX, NO PLAYSTATION, NO WII. AT ALL. INDEFINITELY. THAT MEANS UNTIL I SAY SO.
(It annoys me how you have to explain yourself while yelling – it’s like slamming the soft-close drawer.)
I knew they knew I was serious by the complete lack of response. This is also known as “shock”.
Of course, they found a loophole and moved their frontline to the computer to satiate their need forÂ mindless bright colours moving across the screen with some awful muzak. I conceded this ground until last Saturday morning when Jasper reacted with the equivalent verocity as you would if you’d have a limb ripped from your body by a speeding car.
This time the assault went something like this: THAT IS IT – THE COMPUTER IS NOW ADDED TO THE BAN!
Shock AND Awe boys, shock and awe.
And then something happening. I think it was because all bets were off, all cards were on the table, there was no room for negotiation, no trade-offs, it was a total, complete fullstop.
They didn’t ask for it. They just got on with …Â living.
Within 24 hours there was play, sibling jibes taken with good humour, GAMES and all the rest.
With each passing day the peace becomes more assured. Bouyant even.
I would say that the past two afternoon-evenings are pretty close to my idea of perfect.
I am not shitting you. The results have been nothing if not breath-taking.
But I know this won’t last. As this becomes the new normal something will creep back in or something will step up and suddenly I’ll be having to re-evaluate all over again.
I know a blanket ban on these things is not sustainable. For these guys computers, console games and some form of connectivity is as much part and parcel of their day as matchbox cars, barbie, wendy walker, scalextric and strawberry shortcake were for us.
So where to?
1. I’m going to ride this baby for as long as I can
2. We’re reigniting Team BerryÂ and as part of that bringing in a weekly family meeting. The idea behind that is regaining control and giving the boys a heads up on what is expected of them. So we’re going to look at what is happening during the week for each of us and then discuss which Family Value we’re going to work on that week.Â Remember our Family Values?:
THEN we let them know the consequences if that Family Value is not adhered to, the first punishment being something like no dessert/ice cream, the second having far more gravitas (so IF using rights are reinstated for the console games on the weekends they will lose that).
So there you have it. I tell you, this parenting gig is a rollercoaster and a half. Just when you think you’ve nutted it out aWHOOSHka it all goes to hell in a handbasket and you have to re-evaluate everything you’re doing.
I’ve been really buffeted by the last few weeks and was at quite the ebb over it.
But here we are, a new strategy at the fore.
* The Reactive Parenting Technique is that perfected by our parents’ generation – you know:
Parent: put that down
Parent: I asked you to put that down
Child: NO I DON’T WANT TO
Parent: GILBERT I asked you to put that down. PUT IT DOWN NOW.
Child: YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!
Parent: *SMACK* DON’T YOU DARE TALK TO ME LIKE THAT. GO TO YOUR ROOM
CHILD: Â NO! I HATE YOU.
… and so on and so forth.