Maybe I’m suffering from selective memory, but I don’t remember having any problem dealing with the terrible twos. The threes were memorable only for their feral grunts, and by the time they’d reached four I’d largely become immune to their insolence due to sleep deprivation.
But more recently I’m finding it hard work, and I’m not too proud to admit that I’m struggling. Really struggling. Struggling to keep a straight face.
I know my reaction isn’t helpful, but is it really my fault that I’m easily amused?
Besides, how are you supposed to react to someone whose ‘worst day ever’ is never more than a request to put their shoes on, away? It would be far more dramatic had their previous ‘worst day ever’ not been yesterday when you asked them to take their shoes off.
Or when you tidy around them, hoover up their crumbs, put their toys away and then ask them to pick up the one piece of LEGO you missed, that is by their foot, only to be greeted with a whine of, ‘do I have to do everything?’
Or when you go from being the ‘best dad ever’ for getting them a drink, to ‘evil dad’ because you asked them to shuffle up a little so you can sit down next to them. On your sofa. The sofa you only left because they’d asked you to make them a drink?
But if I was ill-equipped to deal with the fickle fives, nothing had prepared me for a sulky six. A sulky six is so fraught with comedy value that I have to admit, I’m just not coping.
Is it my fault there’s not enough weight in their little legs to give their stomping away the dramatic effect they were hoping for. Or that their exaggerated huffing and puffing does not a tense Scandinavian drama make.
Their storming upstairs is infinitely better, but not when they return moments later to ask if I’d noticed them storm upstairs.
A slammed door does have its merits, but sadly not in a house where few doors close without first catching the carpet. It’s less of a slam, more a gentle shhhhump. I really must sort that out … just as soon as they’ve left home.
And if there are no stairs to storm up or doors to slam, you can always wail your way home from school because it’s raining and your trousers are wet. Wet because you kicked a puddle in anger, and to be fair, there’s few things funnier than a six-year old kicking a puddle in anger, just ask his brother.
But I have been trying to make more of an effort to empathise, and to do so with a straight face, because I can still remember how frustrating being a child sometimes is. And nothing adds to that frustration quite like a grown-up trying to stifle their smirk behind their hand.
And to be fair, I was doing quite well, right up until our last argument over brushing his teeth.
Me: “You might as well get used to it, you’ll be brushing your teeth, every day, for the rest of your life.”
Sonny: “No I won’t! When I’m older I’m having false teeth so I can put them in the dishwasher!”
There is no straight-faced response to that.