Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Disciplining the Undisciplinable

Last night was a big night for me and E.V.P. It was our first night chez daddy without daddy being there. It was a fragile situation that needed handling with great care. And although I donned my metaphorical pristine white gloves and determined to use my most delicate demeanour with him no. matter. what., we inevitably had some struggles. As excited as he was to be having ‘a sleepover’ with me and Viola, we did encounter a few minor blips at the start, most notably:

Our First (Little) Problem
I realised 5 minutes before he was let out of school that I hadn't brought a snack for him, so with no boulangeries in sight, I raced into the nearest supermarket and looked for anything with additives and a fun packet. I opted for some disgusting looking bacon flavoured chipsticks and ran back to E's school to greet him. When I sheepishly handed over the treat, I was expecting him to voice his deepest disgust and disappointment. But alas! He was pleased as punch, calling out 'YIPPEE', causing all the curious nearby parents to peer over to investigate what had merited such glee... Of course, I was immediately flashed with daggers when the observers saw that it was nothing more noteworthy than an inexperienced au pair downgrading from the standard post-school pain au chocolat/croissant/crepe to the humble crisp.
Me and my tiniest pal skipped all the way home, only pausing as we neared the Monoprix, where E.V.P. stopped me in my tracks to drag me in (I do occasionally have some control over him, I swear.)
'Buy me my snack, then!' he ordered. Oh right, sorry. It's just that I was under the impression that you'd just eaten your weight in bacon chipsticks...?
However, feeling somewhat guilty for not catering to his most basic of needs, I caved. Heading to the confectionary aisle, my head held low in shame, I noticed there was something amiss. Where was my teeny companion?
It didn't take long to locate him- he was at the entrance of the shop, looking longingly in turn at those stupid (child magnet) machines (the ones where you put a euro in and receive a shit plastic egg with an even shitter toy encased within) to my bag, and back again.
'No,' I said.
His face began to crumple.
I am not cruel. I don’t say ‘no’ for the sake of saying ‘no.’ I said it in this particular instance because I believe that he should start learning that he won’t always get whatever he asks for (I certainly don’t), and more importantly that his tantrums will not always be rewarded.
So I took his reluctant hand and led him away, catching another shopper's eye and exchanging a knowing, long-suffering look (even though I've only technically been suffering for 3 weeks. But you can't put a time frame on the uphill struggle of taking care of a bubba). 'Kids, ey?' our looks seemed to say to each other. Or something like that.
So after I'd picked up every box of biscuits and cakes in the shop, each one receiving a negative head shake and a sigh, we eventually settled on the plainest, most obvious biscuits in existence (incidentally, the very first ones I'd suggested.) I then (very, very foolishly) fished out the exact change to pay for them, and E.V.P. asked to count it. Pleased to see him practicing his maths outside of the classroom I (very, very foolishly) let him.
Ever the sneaky snake, he grabbed a €1 piece and made a mad dash to the front of the shop (of COURSE he did), snacks utterly discarded.
I sprinted after him, but to no avail (he's surprisingly speedy... or more accurately, I'm surprisingly slow.) By the time I'd reached him he'd already slipped the coin into the slot and was looking up at me, proudly.
'No!' I said, somewhat redundantly now.
Physically removing his tiny paw from the machine, I retrieved the coin. Exhausted, I took his hand and started to pull him back to the snack aisle. As I struggled I happened to catch the eye of the same man from before. My kindred long-suffering spirit. OR SO I THOUGHT... 
The man smiled at me again, came closer ('erm?' I thought), came closer still, held out his hand towards E.V.P. ('oh no', I thought), and... handed the grateful tot a euro coin!!
The fucking traitor.
Now E.V.P. is not my son. It is not really my job to discipline him. But when I get the chance to put some rules into place, I take it. For complete strangers to then take it upon themselves to stand in my way and give him mixed messages is not only infuriating, but also inappropriate. Completely inappropriate. T'es qui, toi?!

A relationship with a child is no easier than a relationship with an adult. In fact, I'd readily go as far as saying that it's much more difficult. As much as you may want to be his pal, a child needs to be disciplined, and that naturally doesn't always go paw in paw with being his best mate.
With this particular pup we have a big problem. A big rectangular shaped problem. The iPad. Or more precisely: the iPads (he has two.) His parents don't like him playing on it/them too much, but he's incapable of understanding the concept of 'just a few minutes.' Usually he’s allowed ‘15 minutes’ or even ‘half an hour.’ However, whenever the fateful time comes for him to switch it off, without fail we have tears, sulking, foot stamping, and utter hysteria. For our little hero, when it comes to his iPad(s), as my beloved Luther once said, it really is 'Never Too Much.' Which leads me to...

Our Second (Slightly Larger) Problem
Later that night me and E.V.P. encountered said second problem. I took the (obviously outrageous) liberty of taking his iPad off him and hiding it (nothing else seems to prove quite as effective) because he wasn't listening to me, an action which well and truly opened the floodgates.
He cried for 5 minutes straight (that may not sound like a lot, but my god, it fucking is when there's nowhere to hide), then grumpily sloped off (where he actually did hide) to the shower (a favourite hangout of his.) Finally, ignoring him and going to make myself a mug of tea, he (in what I can only assume was a final act of desperation in a bid to make me jealous) acted as though he was having the best time anyone's ever had with some figurines shaped like rubbish bins ('best game ever!', he cooed; 'so much fun!' he whooped, 'cool!' he exclaimed.)
Calling a truce, I then attempted to reason with him about why I'd taken his precious iPad away from him. But there was no reasoning to be done here.
He glared at me, shook his head in disdain and then proceeded to hurl a barrage of words at me, not with anger but with immense disappointment (eugh, everyone knows that's the worst)- 'I thought tonight was going to be really fun, and it's actually turned out to be a disaster!' (soz tiny guilt tripper.)
I would have to agree with him there, though. Success story, this was not.
Getting heated, and really in the stride of things now, he well and truly wound himself up into a frenzy. My personal highlight was: 'you never want me to be happy! You want me to be deprived! You don't want me to ever play on it! You've hidden it FOREVER!!'
Trying to calmly explain to a hysterical six year old that you've taken his most prized, most cherished possession off him 'just for now' is no mean feat. All he can understand is that right now there is no iPad. And really, when you're six (and even when you're twenty-two) right now is all that really matters.
Anyway, we eventually managed to move forward with our lives and let go of the past. Or so I thought.
E.V.P. appeared to have forgiven me, but little did I know that under the surface he was merely plotting his revenge, quietly waiting for the perfect moment to strike when my guard was down.
And my guard was definitely down when P.P. called to check up on E.V.P. later that afternoon. I only heard one side of the conversation, and it went something like this:
‘Salut papa!’
‘Oui... ca va.’
‘Oui, nous avons passé un bon moment...’ (We’ve had a good time.)
‘Mais Silvia est méchante. Elle a dit que je ne pourrai jamais avoir mon iPad. Jamais...’ (But Silvia is nasty. She said I could never have my iPad. Ever.)
E.V.P. then leaned on the phone, unwittingly putting it on speaker phone, just in time for me to hear the words: ‘Bien sûr que tu peux jouer sur l’iPad, chéri.’ (Of course you can play on the iPad, darling.) Oh throw me a bloody line, P.P.!
And then to top the whole escapade off, when we had another iPad breakdown earlier today, Viola simply placed E.V.P. in front of the TV and left him to lick his whiskers with complete victorious satisfaction.
I swear to god. 

A quick aside... What's the general protocol on letting children win games?
Me and E.V.P. play football a lot. I've never been good at sports. Ever. And I'm still not. So when we play and I win, I win. I don't pretend to let him win. Nobody ever pretended to let me win when I was little. My dad would actually make a point of dancing around triumphantly whenever he beat me at anything, so I soon learnt not to be a sore loser. And, in my humble opinion, that’s the best way.
With this though, we don’t have any kind of problem. E.V.P. is always the bigger man, and will happily admit when he’s losing (well... most of the time.)
Last night we played a particularly energetic football match, and the aims were gradually extended as he got more and more into it (and also every time he realised he wasn’t quite winning.)
‘First to five wins!’
‘I meant ten!’
‘Okay, first to twenty!’
‘Well... let’s just see who the first to get thirty points is, shall we?’
‘Shall we do fifty?’
This got tedious f a s t. So I played some music to help pass the time.
The first song that came on my iPhone was ODB and Kelis’ ‘Baby I got your money.‘ (My iTunes needs updating. Shut up.) When it came to the bit where ODB sings, ‘I don't have no trouble with you fucking me, but I have a little problem with you not fucking me,’ I thought it best to quickly change over. Rhye came on next, and E.V.P. asked me to turn it up. In English. When Luther came on and E.V.P. descended into frenzied air guitar madness I really started to think, ‘hey, I think I’d want to be your pal even if I wasn’t being paid to be (well, if and when they ever decide to give me any money.) Even though you’re six, and solve arguments by screaming and sobbing (not unlike the more dramatic of my gal pals), I think you might actually be a laugh.’
So. We’ve turned a corner. And now we’re standing on the precipice of a breakthrough.   

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