It’s been five years in the making but I’ve nailed it. The holy grail of parenting. Finally, I’ve mastered ‘the look’.
I’ve been close for a while. As a grumpy, middle-aged cynic I’ve had the raised brow of indignation for longer than I can remember; that wind changed a long time ago.
For years, my world-weary posture has meant peering over the top of my glasses was never a problem either, I just needed to drop my chin by an inch.
But I could never hold a straight face when telling them off. It was the final hurdle at which I always fell. The Beechers Brook to my blind, three-legged donkey; which if you’ve seen me running for a bus isn’t that far-fetched an analogy.
Well, not any more. Not since ‘blah-gate’.
When it comes to discipline they’ve always held the upper-hand. They had an answer to everything, or if words failed them, an interpretive dance.
“If you don’t get dressed you’ll go to school naked’ was taken not as a threat but a promise.
I’d still be quoting Band Aid lyrics long after I’d scraped their uneaten carrots into the recycling bin and given them the pudding I threatened not to.
Sonny has done a risk assessment and decided to take his nose-picking chances on his brain not caving in, and Luca had developed a pace of walking to bed slower than that of a dead sloth.
Even my ‘how many times do I have to tell you’ gets treated not as a rhetorical question but one to be debated. They’ve settled on twelve, in case you’re wondering.
But then came the perfect storm. My mood wasn’t great. My attempt at buying a second-hand car had left me exasperated and pondering who was this one careful lady owner of which every salesman spoke, and why did she have so many cars?
And then it happened. I was explaining something to Sonny. Something banal, and as is my want, most probably bullshit, but instead of paying lip-service as he normally would, or pretending he’d not heard me, he replied with,
“Blah, blah, blah”.
There was an eerie silence, broken only by an intake of breath from Luca as he put down his biscuit and paused the TV. This was a game-changer and he knew it. Were it a game of poker, Sonny had just gambled all their chips on a flush of blah’s.
It was a hand I couldn’t afford to lose, so I saw his back-chat and raised him an eyebrow. Called his doe-eyes and dropped my chin. Called his bum-waggling-in-the-air bluff and went all in with a straight face … and held it, for what felt like an eternity.
I’d won. Sonny knew it, I knew it, and judging by the look of utter contempt thrown at his brother, Luca knew it too.
The spell was broken. I’d taken back control. A parenting epiphany from which I would never look back … and I’ve not!
Refusing to go upstairs for a bath, I give them ‘the look’.
Fighting over the TV remote, I throw them ‘the look’.
Being too noisy, not after ‘the look’.
It’s chapter upon chapter of parenting books, abridged into just two words. A look to end all arguments. To quote He-man, “by the power of grayskull, I HAVE THE ….”, too far?
Sorry, I’m a little giddy with authority.
It’s by no means foolproof. If I don’t lock their gaze quickly enough they can still stomp away, but that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes my straight-face still struggles against a muttered,
“No, YOU can’t go to school with underpants on your head!”
And to say it’s child specific is to admit I did find myself giving ‘the look’ to a long queue in Aldi. Unsurprisingly it had little effect.
But knowing ‘the look’ will pick up the LEGO when previous requests have failed is a wonderful thing.
Knowing a celery sword fight in Sainsbury’s can be instantly declared a draw with ‘the look’ has made shopping an altogether different experience.
But most satisfying of all is I’ve finally solved the riddle of what follows a three count. ‘The look’ follows a three count, and that’s nothing short of a revelation!