Little Elfie is now 19 months-old. As the friendly lady at the fruit shop will tell you, it’s a beautiful age. “Just wait though,” my neighbour calls over the fence, “Just wait ’til she is 3…then you are in for some fun!” She means that at some point, the beautiful, curious and compliant ways of a 19 month-old transform into the rebellious, strong-will of a 3 year-old, who will give every mum a run for their money. Can’t wait! Until now…I will enjoy the ‘easy’ months.
Don’t get me wrong, Elfie has a will…a strong one. She shrieks mightily if things become a little frustrating, or you threaten to take ‘phoney’ away. “Absolutely not!” she is shrieking in baby language. You offer her water, and a little hand thrusts towards you and a little head turns away defiantly…”Not on your life! No way Mum!” But then comes negotiation, and it is so easy! All that is required to take phoney away, is not to take phoney away, but to ask if Elfie would like to give phoney to Daddy. Easy. To offer her water, you simply place the water in front of her, she takes it, and has a sip. As long as she is calling the shots, everything is fine.
Our negotiation techniques span to table manners. I have never asked Elfie to say ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’. But because she is a curious sole, and one that wants to be part of the exciting adult world, she always says please and thank you – even sorry, because she hears us say it, and she is simply copying.
So, for now at least we have a very ‘good girl’ on our hands. A little tanty is quickly dissolved with a diversion. Resistance is met with negotiation. Who knows, maybe things will change. And while she is a gorgeous, sweet, obliging personality, I am going to take some credit goddamnit.
I saw a smartly dressed and intelligent looking woman at the park today (Park Confessional – you might sympathise with this) berating her four year-old, publicly, humiliating him and herself by screaming at him to “Stop wheeling that thing around! Do NOT kick me, you little…” before hauling him, screaming, to sit on a park bench on his own. She turned away from him, as his cries were soon indistinguishable from the cacophony of seagulls.
Admittedly, I do not know the frustration of being the mother of a four year-old. But I sneakily suspect that getting angry at a child in public,and hauling insult at him or her, is not teaching the child to behave. Rather, it is teaching the child how to respond in a frustrating situation – scream, kick, humiliate, and send the antagonist to sit alone on a park bench. Unsurprisingly, at the same playground a few days ago, a little girl came up to Elfie and shoved her. Elfie fell to the ground, and cried. Only moments later, the little girl returned, and pushed her again… It is little wonder that some children respond to a situation with violence and aggression.
OK, so I am the smug owner of one perfect child. I know things won’t always be so, and I am bracing myself for the rollercoaster of strong will and defiance. I can only do my best, as a parent, by setting a good example, and as a friend said this morning, offering love. It is only then I can hope for my child to forever say please and thank you and to obligingly return the phone to its rightful owner.