Monday, 12 July 2010

My parental authority came to an end

There are many techniques to maintain power and authority as a parent, are there not?

Well, I can tell you that I have tried most of them.

But I sense the power balance is changing round here. I may not be the powerful authority figure I once was, some sunny and distant afternoon past when I held all the chocolate fingers. No. Sadly, I think my many techniques to maintain parental control are coming rapidly to an abrupt end.

I have a brief time to think quickly, plan, and develop a whole new power-rule-strategy if I am to maintain a hand in this game over the coming years. Or be kicked aside, probably.

I cannot suck in plutonium, lay my hands on kryptonite, or do anything like walk up walls using sticky pads for hands while wearing red lycra knickers, so don't suggest it.

But I need to do something. And quick.

I look back to see what I already did, from Year Zero, to keep order.

1. Baby balancing.
Compared to everything that went before, like giving birth, this stage of parental power was peasy. I tucked one baby under each arm and balanced the third on my flat head. Then I called out for a takeaway. This was easy authority indeed.

2. Rope trickery.
Babies grow! Within a year or two, each had the size, gross motor activity, and locomotive purpose of an adolescent badger. Yet I found I could maintain some form of parental control. Even without the constraints afforded by a triple container van of a custom-made buggy. I simply used straps, ropes, chains and string.

To reach the Co-op and buy food I simply tied all badgers together, manoeuvred them in the right direction, crossed four roads, negotiated a back alley where the residents keep their fridges and sofas, and made it back home with the day's shopping. (Remember that I have only two hands. I am proud no-one died at this delicate stage.)

3. Resolving conflicts by physical control.*
I maintain that any fully-grown adult human female who is reasonably determined can overpower a badger. Even when it is having a temper tantrum.


Grit: You don't want to leave the Co-op, little girl? Let me show you how I can HELP YOU.
(Badger merely screams and makes the shape of an ironing board.)
Grit: But now you are easy to carry! HA HA HA HA HA! I WIN!

Problem solved. In any conflict situation, simply exert parental authority by picking up the little badgers and marching off with them. (So long as you do not have to carry more than one ironing board badger at any one time, this works.)

4. Using physical control, discreetly.
A tricky way of maintaining parental authority, because the small beings begin to show their superior, wily intelligence. My own little creatures could outwit me. They realised that the physical shape into which they contorted themselves could be moulded to their advantage. With this technique, mama could be made to do stuff.


Small child, you can unbuckle your child-proof safety belt and bend your little body into the shape of a Roman archway while travelling at 50mph on the A241. You sense power! This makes mama stop the car in great panic!

Aha! This circumstance needs all my dark arts and subtle skills as parent power keeper, because we are all going to die unless the small being sits back down and I can double lock those straps with triple combination security padlocks and duct tape. A knee gently bent towards the stomach can do the trick. (And don't tell me, reader, you never did this one.)

But of course children grow out of most forms of physical power. Worse, they develop mouths that adopt attitude. This leads to the next phase of my power and control system.

5. Distraction.
At first, this seemed an easy way to maintain my authority.

Small person: But I want an ice cream!
Grit: Look! There is a snail!
Small person: I WANT AN ICE CREAM.
Grit: Aren't the snails pretty? Come here Mr Snail!
Small person: Mr Snail! Mr Snail!

Alas! It is a short-lived triumph of power.

6. Bribery.
Grit: Do not put the snails in your pockets. They do not like it.
Small person: But I want Mr Snail! I WANT MR SNAIL.
Grit: Look! There is ice cream. Give me Mr Snail, then I will buy you an ice cream.

Bribery is a fragile hold on power, I know. And it is such an ugly word. You can call it reward in advance if you wish. I know I do. And don't bother telling me that bribery is nothing more than a downward spiral of shallow low-life sneaky mean-handed trickery to get your own way without resorting to physical violence. Just enjoy it, that's what I say. Because this simple stage passes all too soon.

7. Reason.
I actively sought out this technique early. I thought that as soon as the alien beings could link one idea to another, then I could pretend to reason with them, and get my own way sneakily. Hoodwink them, and be authoritative as the parent all at the same time. Then I could call this being reasonable.

But it never worked. The small beings often developed their own independent theories which led them in an entirely different minded direction. And if you home educate, you are really stuffed, because they go off and get all the missing bits in their arguments from Wikipedia and present you with the entire debate. Basically, they win.

I have also found that when you are on the losing side, it is no use resorting to bribery because they can suss this out too. Their compliance comes at an ever escalating price. The experience is humiliating. Especially as even at this late stage they may be dressed like Flipper or a wombat, and it is embarrassing to lose to someone in an argument in this condition while you are standing in a public place like a Post Office queue.

8. Adopting a posture of parental authority.
Yes, I have tried to gain the upper hand by this Because I Say So method. I have sought to maintain power by calling out to my many long years of experience. A sort of Because I know best attitude.

Quite frankly, I would say this approach is as crap as false reasoning. It never works because someone always knows better than me, even if they are aged eight.

Then a strategy that started out as a means to gain power actually becomes a means by which I am humiliated once more in a power knowledge game where I always lose. Needless to say, these days I don't try it very often.

9. Appealing to the heart.
Life as a parent is hard. It is difficult. Sometimes I have very little authority, control, power, presence, or integrity. So I am not above pleading, bursting into tears, and offering my sacrificial heart on a plate.

In fact, this is how I know life has changed. My parental power is weakened, too soon.

Today I consider Squirrel's response to my tactics 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

Mummy. Stop that immediately. You know it does not work. And you can stop that crying noise too, because I know that is called emotional blackmail. I read about that in a book.

*Sadly, not by personality, intelligence, charm, or charisma


sharon said...

Ah but there are many things that you can do that the little dears cannot. Things like play chauffeur, wield the (admittedly dwindling) cash supply from whence all basic never mind extra supplies are budgeted, and provide that consoling hug when everything hits the ten-year-old's fan. Maybe remind them that you may not always feel like doing what they want either. Sometimes a girl's just gotta do what her Mummy says regardless of what said girl thinks of the reasoning behind it!

Deb said...

Just a few weeks ago, I was threatening one child with consequences, which sent the other child into sympathetic hysterical crying, so I was then forced to comfort the hysterical child by saying that I would never actually DO the things I was threatening child #1 with....

And then I realized that I am, officially, you know, screwed. They are 3 and 5.

Kestrel said...

I have plans to enrol in some obscure species of martial arts in the very near future.