CHUMP CHANGE

There is the ‘fun’ parent and the ‘chump’ parent. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, don’t even bother pretending that there’s no such thing. The ‘fun’ parent is the one who says yes to ice-creams for dessert on a school night, sides with the children for takeaway when dinner has been organised and spends more time with the better versions of the children. The ‘chump’, aka usually the mother, is treated like an emotional punching bag, expected to front for active duty 24/7, and rarely gets the appreciation they deserve.

I’ll give you an example of how I am the ‘chump’ parent. This morning, instead of waking at some ungodly hour, our 5-year-old son slept in. His sister and dad were in the kitchen having breakfast while I was on the potty. Our son woke up cranky and a bit alarmed to be alone in the bedroom. He hates being left alone anywhere and is basically afraid of his own shadow.

This was the interaction that followed:

From his bed, he yelled out “Mummy! Come!

“I’m on the potty!”

Whimpering ensued and with more force, he screamed “Mummy! Come NOW!”

“I’M ON THE POTTY!” I mean, come on! You can’t rush these things!

Not getting his way immediately, he had a meltdown of nuclear proportions.

“MUMMY! MUMMY! COME NOW! I WANT YOU TO COME NOW!”

You’re probably wondering why he didn’t ask the ‘fun’ parent to come, right? Why didn’t his dad go check on him? Because the ‘fun’ parent is also the clever parent who knows to avoid and not indulge a cantankerous child who woke up on the wrong side of the bed and in the throes of a temper tantrum. No one sane would bother to entertain this situation, no one except for the ‘chump’ parent. 

Later in the day, I got another reality check, a reminder that I was the ‘chump’ parent. We were sitting on a bench on the edge of the prep playground waiting to pick up our son from school. Today was his second day of prep transition where he got to meet his 2022 prep teacher and classmates. As there were forty odd parents milling around the exit of the classroom, I was worried that our son wouldn’t be able to see us sitting so far away, so I moved to stand closer within the middle of the crowd. My husband hadn’t seen the need to move and stayed at the bench.

The children were told to wait on the verandah until they could see a parent and to inform their teacher before leaving. As I was frantically waving like the embarrassing parent that I am, our son had no problem seeing me. After notifying his teacher, he started running towards me clutching a piece of paper in his hand. Anticipating a hug, I smiled and bent down with my arms wide open, ready to embrace him.

Imagine my surprise to see him bypass my outstretched arms, veer left of me and continue towards his dad, who was sitting on the bench across the yard. I quickly dropped my arms and stood up. Awkward!

It wasn’t a deliberate act on his part. He was simply excited to show his dad, the ‘fun’ parent, the art he made during class. But geez, talk about epic burns! I wanted to clap and say, “Well played Sir, well played indeed.”

A friend of mine witnessed the encounter and burst out laughing, which made me giggle instead of being mortified with embarrassment because let’s be honest here, my son basically performed the equivalent of a fake high-five to me.   

I asked my husband if he saw what transpired, to which he replied, “Yeah, it was pretty funny. You should blog about it.” Hah! Of course I was gonna blog about parental embarrassment. It’s the only way for me to process – a problem shared is a problem halved and all that.

Anyway, on the walk back to the car, our son engaged in animated discussion with his dad about his time during prep transition. I tried getting in on the conversation by asking some relevant questions. 

“What kind of things did you do?”

“Who did you sit next to?”

“Do you know what your teacher’s name is?”

Maybe I wasn’t asking the right questions. Perhaps my voice sits in a frequency range that’s incompatible with our son’s hearing. More likely though, he has selective hearing and by selective, I mean he point blank ignores me. Rude much? My husband does make an effort by reminding the children not to snub me, but it’s grating to need the favourite parent to intervene on my behalf. It’s ever more annoying that I need a third party involvement to get the children to spare me a few minutes of their attention. This is another example of what a ‘chump’ parent has to deal with. 

Anyhow, it is a hard pill to swallow knowing that you’re not the favourite parent. Being the ‘chump’ parent doesn’t always feel good and can be pretty bruising on the ego. Apparently, people say that children will often act poorly with one particular parent, often mums, because they feel safe and secure in your love for them and so, are comfortable to let loose on their emotions. 

But here’s the thing, when our children are hurt, sick or in need of comfort, they come to me. It’s in those moments that they relish my warm hugs and comforting touch. And it’s in those moments that I know, without a doubt, that I mean more to them than just being a ‘chump’ parent. 

Perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong. Instead of thinking of myself as the ‘chump’ parent, maybe it’s high time I consider myself the ‘comfort’ parent.

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THE POWER OF A NAG

Have you heard a child nag before? It’s the most annoying sound in the world, worse than any earworm song I’ve ever heard. It’s repetitive, going on and on like the wailing sound of a fire engine, but without an ounce of the melodious upbeat tempo. Seriously, you could put the sound of a child nagging on repeat and you’d have the perfect torture weapon.

Anyway, as a parent, the minute one of my children starts a nagging sesh, I get the dreads. You know the one I’m talking about? No? Well, let me explain. The dreads is like an evolutionary coping mechanism for parents. Think fight or flight response for when humans face danger, but instead it’s when parents face nagging children. The dreads activates a parent’s automatic coping mechanism whereby their mind and body goes into survival mode.

Parents in dread mode are easy to spot, their eyes tend to glaze over, some mumble incoherently to themselves, most shut down their auditory function. All these responses help fortify their mental shields to ward against exposure to sudden nag attacks. 

Undoubtedly, without this evolutionary behaviour, most parents would fall prey to the nagging wiles of their children. Unfortunately, the dreads brings about the onset of the ageing process. We literally age faster while suffering from a child’s nagging. 

Why am I harping on about this? Well, I recently fell victim to a nag attack, and feel an obligation to tell my story as a warning to would-be parents and parents alike of the dangers of giving into your child/ren. In this instance, I was blindsided by not one but two children nagging at a force of 10/10. No amount of defence or coping mechanism could protect me from that kind of onslaught, I caved faster than a house of cards. The result? I became a mother to three instead of two needy beings.

Yes, we’ve added another to our brood of four, a wee one my children have aptly named Mr Dave Hobart Turtle. One child wanted the name Dave while the other preferred Hobart. Neither were willing to compromise and so the poor turtle copped both names. I guess it’s a bit similar to hyphenated surnames, why keep to one when you could have two? 

Little Dave became our ward after suffering from neglect at the hands of my trigger-happy-retail-spending dad, who thought he could buy a couple of turtles to put into his fish tanks without doing any research on how to properly care for them. In the end, my dad relinquished his ownership when one of the turtles died and he realised turtles weren’t as easy to care for as fish. 

Despite initially being reluctant to have yet another thing to worry about, Dave has really grown on me. He’s been with us for two weeks now and every morning when he swims excitedly against the glass waiting for his food pellet, I can’t help but smile. I imagine he would say, ‘Good morning my lady, thank you for the lovely breakfast spread!’ You know, because he’s polite like that.

He was a bit skittish at first but now, Dave and I are like BFFs. We have a connection you see. Dave trusts me enough to eat right from my fingers. He will even let me rub his head – or at least that’s what I think I’m doing. Unlike a dog, it’s a bit hard to tell if I’m petting him or pushing his head down further into the water.

My husband thinks I’m crazy to think the turtle and I have bonded. My daughter, who was sick of me gloating about Dave letting me rub his head, decided to prove me wrong. Yesterday, she stuck her finger into the tank and shattered any illusion I had about special relationships. The dirty little bugger let her rub his head!

‘See Mummy, he just wants food. Doesn’t matter who puts their fingers in. You’re not special.’

Ah, Dave. I thought we had a thing. I thought we had a special bond, you and I. Remember the time I stuck my finger into your tank, and you came right up and sniffed it? Or that time you almost climbed on my hand? I thought we were BFFs!

Anyway, I still feed Dave every morning despite his betrayal. Now when I see him staring at me with his beady eyes, I imagine him being a bit more like my children. Instead of his polite aristocratic English accent, I imagine Dave nagging like my children, ‘Mummmmmmyyyy, I’m huunggggrrry! Where’s MY foood?’ I’ll bet it won’t be long before he reaches Pre-Teen Turtle age and starts rolling his eyes at me. I expect he will be turning his turtle back on me in no time. 

Back to my nagging point. It’s like children are pre-programmed with advanced psychological warfare techniques, primarily well-versed in the art of negotiation and harassment tactics. Can you imagine a world where children got what they wanted because they nagged their parents to death? A world where children won’t take no for an answer? It’ll lead to a generation of spoiled and entitled brats, who will grow into a bunch of spoiled and entitled adults, and the cycle will continue and doom Earth.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to curb the entitlement and mold these children into well-rounded and good human beings. Therefore, it is important they take accountability and responsibility for their pet turtle. This means being involved in the cleaning of Dave’s tank and feeding him (under my supervision). Have you seen turtle poo? It’s hard to believe a small turtle can drop such big whoppers. And the smell… bleugh, worse than bog water on a hot stinky day.

So without further ado, please welcome the newest addition to our family, Mr Dave Hobart Turtle. Let’s hope he survives the week under the care of my children.


Update 18/11/21: For those of you who are curious to see what a turtle poo looks like…

Spot the poop!

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ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND WORMS

I’m pretty competitive, even if I do pretend not to be. I can’t help it and so, I’m gonna blame human nature. Yes, that’s it. Human nature. We are hardwired in wanting to succeed and if you believe what that guy — Freud — says about humans, we are inherently selfish twats with an innate competitiveness that drives our psyche. Something like that – don’t quote me, I did psychology 101 about a gazillion years ago and we all know I have the memory capacity of a goldfish

Anyway, moving along. The point of this drivel is that I am competitive, ergo, I don’t like losing. Losing gives me that slight twinge in the guts. Losing feels like there’s a mean spirited gnat buzzing near my ear telling me that I failed at something, no matter how insignificant it is. But of course, it’s not true and I know this to be the case. Rationally, I understand that “failing” is an important part of life and an integral part of learning and developing skills to achieve success. Failure helps us to grow. 

However, despite this, I’m still driven by my competitiveness and dislike of losing. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be happy with a participation award. Not everyone should be a winner. 

Suffice to say, our household is pretty competitive, but in a good way. We don’t condone smack talking and tall poppy syndrome is non-existent. We give merit where merit is due.

So when it comes to being a good role model for the children, it can sometimes get tricky. Why do you ask? Because I can be a bloody sore loser.

As we are in our sixth lockdown, we’ve started a routine where as a family we play games after dinner and most weekends. It alternates between Monopoly Deal (card game) and Worms W.M.D. (Nintendo video game). To my absolute embarrassment, I suck at both. Actually, that’s a lie. I am as good as my 4-year-old boy, and that’s saying something. We keep a score board for Monopoly Deal just for kicks and guess where I sit on the leaderboard. Yeah, bottom last, beneath the 4-year-old, who plays with his cards open on the floor for all to see. What does that tell you? That my strategy skills are so poor it’s a miracle I’m not homeless. I believe I’m at 6 wins to about 25 for the husband and daughter, and 10 for the son.

As for Worms, remember that game? You play as little worms armed with a bunch of artillery and the aim of the game is to kill your opponents. Whoever has the last surviving worm wins. It was called Worms Armageddon about twenty years ago. I was a gun at it back in the day, or at least, that’s what I keep telling my family but no one believes me. And I can’t even blame them given my track record so far. But really, how am I supposed to win when my worms are ALWAYS placed in precarious positions? My worms are always sitting on a ledge or at the base of a hill where they can get batted off into the ocean and die. I keep telling them of my suspicions that the tiny computer person inside the Nintendo game is biased towards me and that’s why I keep losing. That and because everyone keeps ganging up on me.

Do I sound like a sore loser? I do, don’t I? Sigh. I hate losing.

Anyway, after several months of this losing streak, I’ve come to a realisation and acceptance. Yeah, losing can suck, but there’s good in losing too. I don’t play to win anymore. I play to spend time with my family. I play to help my children develop strategic and critical thinking skills. I play to help them develop social and cognitive skills. I play to show them the value of family time.

So in essence, while my children are winning and I am losing like it’s my job, we are actually winning as a family.  

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