Just accept the tantrum will happen.

The morning school run: this short time period can evoke some powerful emotions. On some occasions, my boys notice details about the world around them, which leads to some interesting or unexpected questions and some quality mother/son time. On other occasions, it can be one of the most stressful points in the day. Which one of these we experience largely depends on if something dramatic happens just as we are leaving the house. 

For a while, youngest has been very keen to use his scooter. Every time the garage opens, he fetches it. When his brothers are scooting he’s not just keen, he’s insistent! (but still a long way off keeping up with them). Being only 2, he can’t understand why his brothers have the opportunity to use their scooters to go to school when he has to go in the pushchair. This results in a tantrum. The type of tantrum that begins with an arched back and flailing legs, before moving onto the folding arms (twice for good measure) then finally the bottom lip comes out. Sometimes there is even a cute little foot stamp to accompany it. So, after a few weeks of scooter practise, I made the mistake of trying to not only prempt but avoid the tantrum, saying that he could try scooting too one day. 

The morning came. All three boys had been informed that we would need to leave the house by 8 to make this happen. I gave them an hour’s notice. It was always going to take them three times as many requests to get dressed, find their school bags and put their shoes on than normal, followed by twice as long to complete each request – with half the usual amount of independence applied. Eldest son insisted on socks being arranged a specific way and middle son rejected the first pair of socks I located in favour of another, near identical pair. It even took a significant amount of coaxing to get them down for breakfast when usually they are attracted to a bowl of cereal like a shark is to blood. Despite everything, I didn’t want to go back on my word and got the scooters ready. 

We hadn’t quite met our 8 o clock target, yet we were still an elusive pair of gloves short of being ready. They weren’t in the usual places and we didn’t have time to search for them, particularly as there was a toddler with his own set of wheels loose on the driveway! But to middle son the gloves were essential for human survival. When a car alarm sounds no one actually panics. Everyone just stares in disapproval. Walking up the road with a howling child is similar. I felt like I should be supporting the youngest with his first solo trip up the hill but in reality, here I was having to hold the hand of his older brother. Meanwhile eldest son did his usual disappearing act. The one where you assist removing a scooter wheel from the mud it is stuck in, look up and he’s not there. I know he’d never cross a busy road and he always comes back, but panic still begins in set in. You question every little decision you made that led you here and soldier on.  

Being against the clock doesn’t help. We were passed by so many families heading for the same school. One by one they disappeared into the distance as a little reminder that there was just a 10 minute window for school arrival. When the last friendly face in sight reached us, I admitted defeat and asked for help. My junior aged child was able to resume a sensible pace with his classmates parents and I’d just bought myself 15 minutes (as the infant school starts later). Things improved. There was time to stop for extra hugs. A chance for mummy to think straight and I was no longer outnumbered, arms to children – all moving at disproportionate speeds. Everything was right with the world again. Until the way home when youngest son decided that as no one else was scootering any more, he’d like to be carried. We successfully took an hour and a quarter to complete a 15 minute walk. Next time I’ll just take the tantrum.

Choose your path wisely

Actually getting out of the front door for our weekend walk was somewhat of a challenge. Eldest son decided to launch into a full scale meltdown during that critical time slot – between food and youngest son requiring his nap. Two sock changes (obviously) and many tears later we made it out.

Baby was in his little life backpack carrier and mostly we were wearing boots, so we thought we’d be safe to explore some of the off-road footpaths. We discovered new exciting amounts of mud: the type that the playground game ‘Stuck in the mud’ is named after. Middle son found his feet sinking into the mud and accidentally pulling his whole leg out of his boot with each forward step, I made a poor choice of footwear and kept slipping sideways, eldest son didn’t pick the wisest spot to put his hand and got his gloves all muddy. We tried to find a safe route through this simple footpath, but things got more complicated. It felt a bit like we were on ‘Total wipeout’ except there was no comically oversized boxing glove to knock us off course. As we navigated around the more treacherous sections, clinging to nearby vegetation or fence posts; husband bravely waded though the central part of the course and attempted to rescue us from assorted predicaments.

Daddy trying to get middle son through a particularly tricky section and losing youngest son’s hat to the mud in the process.

By the time we returned the tantrum might have been forgotten but we’d once again accumulated enough muddy garments to fill the washing machine twice over. I still think Total Wipeout looks like fun but maybe without the kids, TV cameras and running commentary.

The return

The Game

Some days I’m convinced that all three of my children are part of a highly tactical game. Not only have they not shared the rules with me, but I suspect that the aim of this game is to keep me moving and alert at all times. If it wasn’t for the fact that they’ve been playing this for pretty much their whole lives, I’d assume that they are simply supporting the government in encouraging me to follow the first part of their current three part slogan. Despite being completely unaware of the official rules, I have established the following:

  1. Points are awarded for converting a simple task into a chaotic one.
  2. There is no finish square. The game is ongoing.
  3. Children play as a team. Usually they tag in and tag out at select moments to lead Mummy into a false sense of security.
  4. Usually children take turns, but they regularly alter the order of play to provide maximum confusion.
  5. If at any point, Mummy appears calm and is danger of either completing a job or finishing a sentence, then immediate action must be taken by one of them.
  6. You win bonus points by throwing yourself on the floor.

This morning my children were definitely playing. I was feeling super positive when I woke up this morning. This feeling of optimism was maintained for at least the first six minutes of the day. Then youngest son played his first move: the cry and wriggle. This is where you cry and refuse to be comforted. The louder the better – this way you have more chance of waking your brothers. You don’t want milk, you don’t want to play with your toys and you don’t want cuddles. You do want to be held in a standing position, in the kitchen, with a plastic spoon. It only took an hour or so for Mummy to establish this and make her comeback.

Eldest son wasn’t hanging around though, and quickly made his move: the whine and stall. This involves taking a standard situation, such as putting your socks on then adding more drama to it than you’d expect from an Eastenders Christmas special. He played well, successfully delaying us just long enough to mean he got to take bike to school instead of walking, but not so long that he would miss any of his cherished school time. While my eldest was was having a tantrum about not wanting to wear his raincoat (on a rainy day), his siblings were being saintly. Youngest son smiled sweetly at me as if to say that he would never sulk like that (conveniently forgetting a moment earlier) and middle son was ridiculously obliging and polite, whilst simultaneously providing a running commentary about the good things he was doing in contrast to his naughty big brother.

After an extended school run, complete with mini adventure, I took middle son to his beloved playball session. Within minutes of starting, he decided to take his turn: the squawking magnet. This move is one of his personal favourites and involves getting as close to Mummy as possible (parents aren’t entitled to their own share of oxygen after all) and forgetting how to use any sort of independence. It starts simple, you simply run over to Mummy every 2 minutes or so at full speed – just to see if you can catch her off guard and knock her to the ground – a loving type of rugby tackle. Around this point, his voice goes all high pitched and instead of using standard sentences, he precedes everything he says with the term ‘Mama’, in a manner which only his baby brother would be proud of. It then progresses to Mummy needing to be within 30 cm of you at all times. This is particularly difficult when Mummy blends in amongst a group of preschoolers in much the same way as a shark would blend in amongst the goldfish in your fish bowl. It also makes running, jumping and striking a tennis ball rather tricky. Finally, he moved on to the third stage, refusal to comply with any instruction and expecting everything to be done for him – perfectly acceptable when you are 4 months old but a touch mortifying when you’re 4 years old.

Luckily for me, breaks in play are as essential in this game as they are in an extended version of monopoly. Therefore the boys are currently back to their lovely selves. One is playing beautifully on his own, one is exploring the room managing to insert only toys in his mouth and one is at school – possibly doing maths – his happy place.