Sunday 20 August 2017

UFPD's all well and good but I'm a lioness at heart

The United Front of Parental Displeasure makes sense, but just don't cross my babies, warns Aine O'Connor

Aine O'Connor

Beloved and I are very different in many respects, not the least of which is temperament. Or temper. When irked he goes quiet, is prone to huffing and slow to explain the precise source or cause of his irk. I am quicker to get cranky, louder, swift to explain precisely what's wrong and who is responsible and where and when and how many times, but I never huff. It's not goodness of character, I actually mean to huff sometimes, I just forget.

Our children would say my temper is worse than Beloved's, scarier when it emerges full force; I do try to tame it, being scary is not a good thing, but I don't always succeed. And while I believe slapping children is always wrong and a parental failing, sorry to any slappers out there, shouting too is a form of violence and one of my parental failings. A work in progress. I don't really get that naughty-step lark either, but that's the thing, we each have to work out what works.

We don't claim to have cracked a code but our basic theories of discipline are very simple: we have few rules strongly held and we believe in harmony through respect instead of fear. And that it's important not to abuse your power. We've worked it out that, by and large, we each have our separate rows with the kids. Whoever has the run-in has the full run-in. Only when there is something serious, an issue as opposed to an argument, do we act as a United Front of Parental Displeasure (UFPD). So for example, if Beloved and Number One have an argument over uncleaned-up dog poo in the back garden, it is their fight to have and fix, nothing to do with me. But if Number One gets detention for not doing his homework, he faces the UFPD.

I have never said "wait til your father comes home" partially because I can't wait that long, but mostly because it just seems so unfair to make the man into the baddie, so cruel to draw out the fear for the child and so weak not to fight your own battle. It's important that whoever spends least time with the kids, in our house it's Beloved, not squander that little time having stupid

arguments, especially when they're not their own.

As the kids get older the arguments increase and change, I suppose they become arguments instead of simple givings out to. But always, even though I am the worst-tempered parent, I find myself sliding into the role of the apologist for the children, the one who acts as defender, intermediary, excuse giver, offence explainer when Beloved is cross with them.

Never in front of the children, but in private when he expresses irritation, or after if I've overheard, I offer the mitigating circumstance, the reason why or why not. Even though he's their father and as attached as I am, something in me tenses when they are in trouble. No matter how right Beloved is and how fair and gentle I know him to be. It's the ancient Mammy role. The My Babies thing. That thing I share with lionesses and blackbirdesses, look crooked at my babies and I'll flatten you. Even with the co-parent who loves them as much as I do. But then one look at my stomach and I know just how peculiar Nature can be.

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