Thursday, March 11, 2010

Selective Memory Syndrome

My boys are showing definite signs of having very selective memories - and this is not a good thing.  Why?  Because all they seem to remember are the bad bits of their day.  Let me be more specific - when mummy used her shouty voice.
Take yesterday for example.
The boys bound into my room at 6am and hustle me from the warm cocoon of the duvet.  Do I complain?  No, I do not.  I greet them with smiles, hugs and kisses and shuffle downstairs to create the culinary masterpiece that is their breakfast (whilst simultaneously making coffee / throwing items of food haphazardly into lunch boxes / feeding the cats / throwing half the contents of the fridge into the slow cooker for dinner / loading laundry).  Whilst scurrying around the kitchen like Jamie Oliver on speed I take the time to practice Captain Underpant’s spellings with him and listen attentively to Johnny Drama’s rendition of a song he has learnt in French.  I am being so efficient I even have time to cuddle them on the sofa for one cartoon, before indulging in a quick game of hide and seek before getting them dressed.
The morning is picture perfect.  I curb my tongue whenever there is dilly-dallying or altercations and the pre-school hours run as smooth as clockwork.
Once in the car we sing along, very loudly, to songs about brothers being naughty (their favourites) and when we reach the school the boys hop out of their car seats and we have a 2 minute impromptu ‘disco dance’ session to The Black Eyed Peas, before they trot into their classes.
By this point I am exhausted and can’t quite believe it is only the start of the day.
All too soon pick-up time rolls around and I am back at school.  Rather than bundling them immediately in the car we hang out in the playground and I make the effort to play Tag, rather than sit and natter with my mummy friends, to squeals of delight and appreciation.
Back at home the boys keep me company in the kitchen - Captain Underpants is perched on a counter top doing his homework, Johnny Drama dances like a loon with me to various songs we find on YouTube.  Then the boys find some left-over balloons from a party we attended and I blow them up and let them loose, which the boys find hysterical.  We repeat this game until I have no more breath left and am feeling decidedly light-headed.
All in all, 2 hours pass quickly, filled with laughter, and with Mummy on her best Red Coat behaviour.  
This is what I would class as a Very Good Day.
Until dinner time hits.
We sit at the table to eat together and the boys are fidgety and picky and are still in mucking about mode.  All I want is for them to sit down and eat the meal which I have lovingly prepared.  All they want is to be up and down like yo-yo’s, bringing a random selection of toys to the table to bicker over and alternating urgent trips to the bathroom.  I can feel my patience beginning to fray slightly at the edges.  
Will you just sit down NOW and eat your dinner properly.” I instruct them solemnly.
It falls on deaf ears.
Captain Underpants decides he needs to go to the bathroom one more time, this time he needs a poo.  Lovely.  I grit my teeth.  Johnny Drama makes the decision that Captain Underpants requires an audience - which Captain Underpants vehemently denies, shouting, “I NEED MY PRIVACY!” at the top of his lungs.  Johnny Drama, being the cloth-eared variety sort of child, gamely ignores him and continues to taunt his brother at the bathroom door.
That’s it.  My patience snaps like well worn knicker elastic.  
My voice reverberates like a cruise ship foghorn around the house.  Johnny Drama senses the imminent danger of my wrath and slinks relunctantly to the stairs, tears welling in his eyes yet with a defiant pout on his lips.  Captain Underpants finishes his ablutions unaided, wipes his bottom, flushes the toilet and washes his hands (all without the usual prompting) and sidles back to his chair.
Suddenly the house is so quiet you could hear a pin drop - both boys wait for my next reaction, wondering if the storm is over or about to reach Tsunami proportions.
I pause, thinking to myself, ‘ that was a bit over the top’.  Johnny Drama is obviously in agreement - “mummy, that loud shouting is just not okay.  It’s bad to be nasty.  Bad.  And I don’t like you any more because you’re always shouting and it hurts my feelings.
I switch out my invisible Red Coat for the well-worn UN Negotiation cloak, gather the remnants of my patience and resolve the dinner crisis with calm words and make up hugs and kisses.  The evening progresses smoothly and with renewed laughter, as though this minor episode of ranting, this little blip on our otherwise perfect day, never happened.
Within an hour or so the boys are snuggled in bed and my thoughts are distracted by the bottle of red soon to be opened, calling me longingly from the kitchen.  
Thank you for a lovely day sweetheart”, I murmer to Johnny Drama, covering him in butterfly kisses as he snuggles up with Fluffy, his bunny.  “It wasn’t a lovely day mummy”, he tells me seriously.  “You shouted.  You’re very shouty.  And shouting’s not nice.  It was a horrible shouty day.
What?  I was in the boys’ company for nearly 7 hours...and for 6 hours and 53 minutes I may well have been auditioning for the role of Mary Fucking Poppins.  But all he has remembered is the 2 or 3 minutes, tops, where I lost my rag.
There’s no justice in this whatsoever.
I am sure this little hiccup in our day will be stored, with elephant-like zeal, for years to come.  Whereas all the laughter and silliness and love that really does encompass most of our time together is insignificant in comparison.  This just seems so unfair.  Why is it so easy to remember all the bad things - the times we have been slighted or have argued?  And yet the good times are easily dismissed, tarnished forever by quick knee-jerk negative reactions that forge themselves into the memory banks, like a bad stain.
And if this is the it worth bothering to participate in the Mary Poppins-like behaviour at all?  
I don’t want to be remembered solely for the moments where I was not at my best.  But what can I do about it - apart from striving to be a paragon of virtue (because we all know that’s never going to happen)?  
Is there a cure for a child’s selective memory syndrome - and do they sell it on offer at Target, alongside the miracle stain remover laundry pens?  Or am I doomed to be forever remembered as a shouting, raving lunatic who single-handedly ruined their childhood, despite all my daily efforts to the contrary?
And if the answer is a resounding Yes then I guess, at this point, I’d prefer to remain in blissful ignorance.  Wouldn’t you?


  1. Awwwww, you sound brilliant and it's not fair. You have to discipline when necessary and it sounds as though there is a bit of emotional blackmail going on there. Children are sooo clever and know exactly what to say.
    keep doing what you're doing, without exhausting yourself! ;0)xxx

  2. Oh yes my boys have the memories of elephants, never forget a thing, unless it suits them. I think it sounds like you are doing a fab job

  3. What - 7 hours with the boys and only one 2 or 3 minutes tops with a raised voice. That's a record! There's a lot more shouting in this house (I'm not proud of it). We have that I want privacy, I want to annoy my elder brother drama too, pretty much every time they go to the loo. Infuriating.

    You are doing a great job, they'll remember that in the end (probably not until they have kids themselves, but you know, they will appreciate it eventually!). x

  4. I think you're right... ignorance is bliss. Maybe you should have an ITNG-style review of the day at bedtime, and do a Bing Crosby?

  5. I think they'll remember far more of the good than you think. My father had a short temper, but I remember far more of the wonderful times (of which there were many) than the times he lost his patience with me. And to this day I consider him a wonderful, fabulous father and am very grateful.

    But kids are manipulative little shits and will hold the "shouty" times over your head. Don't let it get to you. I recommend that you develop an ability to raise an eyebrow sardonically. It will do wonders. A little snark goes a long way.


  6. Oh Nicola, I think the fact that he was upset and remembered that you were shouty says it all - you ARE doing a good job because it clearly doesn't happen all that often. In my house, the shouting at dinnertime would be so normal that they wouldn't bat an eyelid, let alone remember it.....but your message got through. And yes, it's really unfair that they remembered the shouty bits, but I bet in the long term the they'll be better behaved as a result. And, I reckon he was upset because he knew he'd behaved badly, and he was therefore cross, so he was taking it out on you.

  7. My sis once said to me that it's no bad thing to get cross with your kids occassionally; that way they will see it's a normal human emotion that you can recover from and which does no lasting harm. And it's important too because they can see it's possible to be annoyed with someone and that you still love them through that. Or something... I may have switched that around a bit to suit my own practices!

  8. You're obviously not doing nearly enough shouting or they wouldn't be making such a fuss about it. I think you should let them have it at least twice a week to thicken their skins.

  9. I think the big question is whether or not you really wanted to do all the things you did during the day or whether that was a drain?

    Me personally, I would have told them I need more sleepy time and would get up soon. It is okay for you to tell them what your needs as well. Like with dinner you could have said, we did such and such for you today, I really need for you guys to have a nice dinner with me-it means so much. They do better when they know why theya re expected to do certain things.

    A great book is How to talk so kids will listen nd how to listen so kids will talk by Faber and Mayzlish.

    hang in there and don't sweat-it sounds like you are doing great.

  10. What - two other bloggers with 2 sons in full male maelstrom force? Probably! Seriously though, I think you are doing a great job. I aspire to a day like that! xx

  11. I only have the one, and there are days that are so much like this I could weep with you!


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