Tuesday, 30 September 2008

An ordinary day of home education and survival parenting

Tuesday. My turn to vacuum the waiting room after the French lesson and umpire a three-way triplet fight on the drive home.

The former event has me wrestling with my conscience because French is held in a church hall. Even as I reach for the Dyson under the stairs I can hear the first growlings of a fight breaking out between Shark, Squirrel and Tiger in the car outside, probably about who should sit where on the journey home. And at that point I had a decision to make. Should I abandon the crisp crumbs and strawberry wafer flakes and step in to quell the riot? Or should I ignore the warning and carry out my church hall duty?

I know exactly what to do, but still I decide on church duty rather than social order. And is that the wrong decision. Because even though I do not believe in a god or gods and rely on my own reason and humanity to guide me, it is a dead certainty that if I wriggle out of vacuuming a church floor, and guiltily leave it soiled by humanity's lunchbox, some wretched twist of circumstance will plunge me into chaos and despair all over again. Then I will be hard pressed not to believe my non-vacuuming has been interpreted as a blasphemy against some unseen energy of the universe and the resultant misery is served to me as my just deserts.

So I do the vacuuming.

But still get punished.

Because the second event of the day - the three-way triplet fight - necessitates pulling the car off the A5 into a layby and having a big shout.

Really, I do not know whether having a big shout is of any value whatsoever. I suspect not. Probably, it just teaches everyone else to shout too, but louder. Nevertheless, I am not a programmable computer and cannot calmly sit in a layby on the A5 and, with quiet professional reason on my side, explain slowly that screaming in my ears and throwing a pair of gloves at your fellow traveller is a bad idea. Because of course the fellow traveller will throw them back and miss, so the gloves whistle past my nose and hit the windscreen.

Any type of glove momentum inside the car does not bring about a state of driving harmony. Quite the opposite. In fact with sudden screaming affecting my ability to hear and respond to my own vehicle or anyone else's vehicle, objects thrown around me, mayhem going on in my peripheral vision, plus a random kicking assault to the back of my seat, driving chaos ensues.

Really, I seemed to have missed that section in the Highway Code and on the UK driving test - the bit about what procedures to adopt when World War III breaks out in the back of your vehicle - but my hand automatically reaches for the hazard lights as my foot simultaneously presses on the brake pedal and I slow right down, causing the driver behind to veer out into the other carriageway and have the stream of traffic flowing behind him to suddenly slow up too. Thanks to the quick reactions of the other drivers on the A5 that day there isn't a multiple pile up and no-one is injured, killed or murdered by us.

This is basically the thrust of the lecture I deliver louder than anyone else can shout in the car, sitting in the layby on the A5 while vehicles hurtle past us at 80 miles an hour. I suspect the lecture is so loud it causes the driver of the vehicle just pulled in behind to jot down my registration number with the intention of passing it to the police. I wouldn't be surprised. I add that observation to the lecture too. I then suggest I might leave everyone in the layby so I can drive home alone, and safely. This probably breaks a rule of parenting, along with staying calm in all situations including those where you are about to die, and that is do not threaten anything you are not prepared to carry out and do not kick your children out into the wilds of the shires to be eaten by wolves, however much you might like to.

And if I should wish to take a moral lesson from this ordinary Tuesday, it is to abandon what destruction is done, to attend to the destruction that can come.


obeerg said...

One of the great pleasures of driving as part of my job is getting to see all the parents driving along bellowing at their beloved children and thanking the Gods that at that precise moment in time, its not me.

sharon said...

Oh Grit, my ears bleed for you! Small consolation but not only triplets do this. Our's fought and argued in the car too. When it got too bad we'd stop, turf them out and wait until they'd finished. Before continuing we'd remove all potential ammunition from their reach. Punishments ensued once we were safely home. Didn't totally stop the trouble but it did slow it down a bit. Worked best on the way to something they wanted to do as we would then be late but could backfire if the activity was not a popular one. You have to pick your (actually, that should probably be their!) battles carefully.

A trailer on the back of the car for the purpose of transporting children so harrassed parent can drive in peace and quiet would be a good idea. Failing that I can only suggest large sticking plasters to close shouting mouths, and handcuffs and leg-irons for belligerent limbs but I suppose the parenting police would frown on that ;-(

Michelle said...

my grandparents towed their difficult to manage son in the dingy behind their catarmaran once as they couldn't bear his behaviour on board the boat anymore. He thought it was fun there and peace prevailed.

Irene said...

Whoever said that children were a joy didn't have arguing and violent triplets in the car with him. I do so feel for you and I can totally understand your reaction, because I would have done the very same thing and threatened them with a heart attack on top of that. You can't always be the reasonable parent according to the literature. Mothers also get unreasonably angry and for god's sake, let that be known. We do have our limits and are entitled to a good shouting match. We used to threaten ours with abandonment by the side of the road and it scared them enough to stop their shenanigans. I did feel guilty a bit, but desperate enough to say it.

Mean Mom said...

I remember reading, more than once, that the best way to attract the attention of unruly children was to speak quietly to them, so that they would stop to listen. What?? My own experience was that children had the greatest respect for anyone who could shout louder than they could! My husband commanded a little more respect than I did, because he could make their ears hurt!

I suspect that I may be suffering long-term effects from all those years of shouting however. Sometimes, I open my mouth to speak and nothing comes out, and I haven't much of voice for singing, these days! Sigh. You've been warned.

Dani said...

I wouldn't say that things like this *never* happen when you are travelling by public transport, but it is easier to deal with if you are not driving the vehicle yourself. One of the reasons I do not envy car-driving parents.

Grit said...

hi folks! thank you for your comments! i will try speaking in a very low, slow, authoritative voice next time and see where that gets me.

ignored, probably.