An arsenal is what every mother needs. Grenades to break up children’s fights, tear-gas to get children to bed and IEDs to wake them up again, barbed wire to keep them out of the house and AK-47s to ensure toys are packed up.
Unfortunately, stupid laws prevent parents being able to protect themselves and using any of the above is likely to involve a kindly call from ASIO and Children’s Services. So as a compromise, of sorts, I have resorted to the tried and tested bribery techniques of food and movies to get my way around the house.
I’m not proud of this. I feel that I am taking the easy way out of teaching good behaviour and that all I’m doing is rotting my kids’ teeth before they’ve even grown properly. To qualify this, I need to say that I use the technique sparingly. Because while it works in the short-term, in the longer-term all I do is give myself anxiety about being a bad parent and that I should try harder.
There are days when it’s all I can do to remember my name and where I live let alone remember that I am in charge and should be setting good examples. So on these days, my chores are abandoned and my sons ‘help’ to make a chocolate cake. My ‘special chefs’ pull all ingredients out of the pantry (whether or not they actually go into a cake) and get the eggs and milk from the fridge. Masters 4 and 2 pull dining chairs up to the bench to reach the mixer and Master 1 is safely strapped into his high chair to watch. Everyone gets a turn at putting something in, pressing a button on the mixer and then licking the spoon or bowl. It’s a very exciting time waiting until the cake is ready and usually it doesn’t get to cool before it is devoured with an obligatory cup of milk.
This boost of chocolate only serves to fuel desire for more, more, more – more demands, more activity and more excitement. But I am OK with that because I know what’s caused it – my slack day. After cake my little boys move on to wanting to watch a DVD or YouTube, which I do allow as it gives me some quiet time to prepare for the next onslaught of demands, which I usually will only allow after some time outside riding bikes or jumping on the trampoline to burn off some energy.
After this time they will declare that they are hungry for biscuits and I will allow that too, but only after a healthy sandwich and drink of water. This gives them the kick-along to outlast the afternoon slump until we can go running along the beach to totally tire them out.
As a parent I can easily get caught saying ‘no’ for the sake of it. It doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things if, occasionally, kids eat less than nutritious foods all day and watch movies. To keep it in perspective they are not going to die if this happens here and there throughout their little lives. The trade-off for mothers is more mess and excitement across the day for a bit of peace and quiet for a few minutes.
It may only be minutes, but any mother knows they are golden minutes, so taking the line of least resistance when you need to is not the end of the world.