Friday, 20 January 2012

Why is it so much easier with only one?

Partners in crime
People thought I was mad when I had two children only 16 months apart. I never saw it that way because they had such similar needs. One was hard work anyway and it didn't take much more to meet the needs of the other. As an added bonus, they slept at the same time at least once a day mostly so I got a break.

It seems to have got worse as they have got older. Now they are both at school, it should be a doddle but the period between school pick up and their bedtime, even if we have nothing on, is really stressful, especially when I'm on my own with them. It's not that they argue or fight but they seem to tag team me, pestering me in turns. Even if I offer them things, you can guarantee they will ask me for something the second I sit down. The hours pass in a whirl of readings, spellings, making and eating tea, a little time for playing or watching telly, bath time and then catching up with Daddy when he gets home.

Somehow, it seems that it's now much much easier when there is only one child at home. It's not even as if they fight. Take this week - Missy Woo was off to her friend's for tea, so it was just me and Monkey after I school. In the past, he's been known for walking out of school and in the few paces (and seconds) between the classroom and me, he would turn from the angel Gabriel to the devil incarnate. In that time, he would come up with the most unreasonable demands - he'd want to go to the playcentre we went to only yesterday, he'd want chocolate even though he'd had loads, he'd want his Daddy even though he knew he was at work. I swear he did it just to be able to have a massive tantrum. The child who has never been told off at school ever would turn on a sixpence. Admittedly, he's got better since he stopped being so tired after a day at school but boy, was it fun. Not. I would be the parent resorting to dragging my child, red-faced and screaming, across the playground, under the gaze of parents who were mostly offering up a silent prayer of thanks that it was not their child creating this scene.

I picked him up this particular afternoon and as we walked back to the car, he asked if he could play computer games when we got home. This is often another flashpoint as my stock answer is to say he can, once he's done his reading and spellings (which takes 15 minutes tops). In fact, he usually spends so long arguing with me over this, he could have done it all in the time and be playing. I remind him he needs to do this, especially as for some reason, his teacher had taken his homework folder away and not given it back for two days and brace myself for the usual outburst. "Oh yeah", he calmly says and gets in the car. Whoa!

I made him toast, which he ate and then we set to work on the spellings, which he did in seconds and we sat down to do his reading, which turned out to be a book he's been gazing at for months but now he is on the appropriate reading level, he is allowed to read. He happily read several today, whereas the day before, he'd been sent to bed early for arguing with me over reading and wouldn't read his book properly. We talked about it, until he suddenly said "Can I play now?" and I saw no reason to refuse. Every time I asked a question, he politely answered or if I asked him to do something, he replied "Yes, Mummy" where I would usually get a curt "No" or a whiney "Do I have to?". He did get himself in a tizz over eating his tea and continuing his game until I pointed out it would wait until he'd finished, and possibly missing Pointless.

Oh yes, Pointless. Monkey loves it with a passion. It appeals to his geeky side. He doesn't know most of the answers but he knows I can have a go and he often asks me if the answer the contestants have given are right. I must admit, I like it too, but not quite as obsessively as he does. I mean, we were even at a friend's house last week when 5.15 rolled around and he walked up to my friend and asked if he could watch it when he had friends his own age to play with. She put it on for him and was amazed that he followed it intently from start to finish.

We watched Pointless together, with him sat right next to me. It seems like these days, the only way I get true affection out of him is when he's going to bed or we are on our own together. He's already at the point where he won't be seen kissing, hugging or even holding my hand (the latter only if I insist for safety reasons) in public.

It was lovely. It was so lovely in fact, I was even moved to ask him why he isn't like this more, when Missy Woo is around. His answer? "Well, Missy Woo annoys me." Now, I don't believe that for a minute. She is definitely the calmer of the two, if a little giddy at times, and most of his arguments are with me and nothing to do with her. She might egg him on to be silly a bit and the same is true of him, but I can't figure it out. It is not that I don't give him attention when she is there, nor do I ignore her when he is around. They aren't competing for my attention as they either play together or they do their own things.

I had such a nice time that I almost didn't want to go and collect Missy Woo, but as it was so close to bedtime, I didn't have to deal with grumpy children. And no doubt, tomorrow, normal service will be resumed and he'll be arguing with me from the second I pick him up unless he totally gets his own way.

Maybe it's the rule of divide and conquer. I've focussed on Monkey because he is often the harder work when they are together - Missy is mostly angelic, but more likely to be sulky. She's working on her diva training for I had the first "I hate you!" shouted at me by her the other week (although she told me she loved me within half an hour.). But one thing is for sure; I don't know what it is, but one child instead of two in the house is less than half the work - and stress - for me. I really appreciate the one-to-one time I get with either child.Whatever it is that makes them so wonderful in that situation, it brings out the best in them.

And it reminds me why I love my children.
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