Is it OK to shout at your kids..? Will you scar them for life..? What the hell do I know, I’m an idiot.
This weekend we were visiting friends, which necessitated an hour long car journey. From the off Joe started a lot of low level questioning about where we were going, who we were seeing, were we there yet, could he play cards (solitaire) on my phone, were we there yet, what does a red queen go on, no daddy there is no black king, were we there yet, can I go for a wee in the three lane traffic jam, no daddy I can’t hold on, were we nearly there yet, oh there’s a black king... you know the kind of thing. None of this was shouty or moany it was just the stuff that was coming into his brain. It just so happened that I was trying to navigate North London in rush hour whilst trying to keep tabs on just how badly England were doing in the fourth test and pointing out to Liz the flaws in her argument that England should have batted first (I mean what choice did Strauss have on that wicket, eh?).
Now I don’t think we really pay enough lip service to the levels of stress that this basic kid harassment can create. So, even though I didn’t raise my voice at all in the car it’s clear to me now that like a pissed off volcano I was building up to go flat out spazoid.
It all happened very quickly. We stopped outside our friend’s house. Liz and I busily collected crap from the car like phones and ipods and keys and papers. I opened the boot to get out presents for friends. Joe was in back holding shoes in one hand and small tin bucket in the other. In Joe’s brain the possibility of wearing the bucket as a shoe was just beginning to dawn. Liz opened Joe’s door and told him to put his shoes on. In Joe’s brain the reality of wearing the bucket as a shoe was being assessed as a genuinely achievable goal. Joe told Liz that he wanted to wear his bucket as a shoe. Liz told him that he could do that when he got inside friend’s house. Joe shouted at Liz that this time frame was not acceptable. I encouraged him to get in the house. Liz told him that she was sick of this and that he must wait in the car. I shouted at Liz and then at Joe. Joe cried and kicked the hell out of the back seat. I cried on the inside.
Within one minute and 4 seconds the family unit had imploded then exploded and then covered itself in petrol and torched itself to death. At this point Liz took Samuel into the house and I sat in back seat to deal with Joe. I had it all in my head how it would pan out. I would shock him into stopping screaming by using my stern voice just once, I would then tell him calmly but clearly that his behaviour wasn’t good and that he had been naughty. He would then sit quietly in the back for two minutes really thinking about what he had done. We would then embrace and join the others for tea and crumpets.
Obviously it didn’t quite work out like this.
I used my stern voice which, due to him not stopping screaming, escalated quickly into my insane, out-of-control, shouting-at-the-top-of-my-voice voice. He shouted back and hit me and I told him/screamed right in his face that he was the naughtiest boy in the whole world. Crucially, I had forgotten about the child locks in the back of cars. Believe you and me, you cede your moral high ground pretty blummin' quick sharp by having an irrational and shouty row with a three year old while simultaneously trying to exit a car by trying to climb out of the back. My legs are long and my car is small so instead of looking like the wise and mature father of my fantasy I ended up looking like a stupid, angry, sweaty, sweary clown. Why do the props of life thwart me so..?
So, I don’t know if shouting at my kids scars them but it sure as hell scars me.
Key: Me (Daddy), Liz (mummy), Joe (4 year old number one son), Samuel (8 month old number two son)
Let me know how much of an idiot I am or cheer me through your own inadequate parenting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org