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Mama Said: School's on the horizon (and tantrums)

Boy has never had a real tantrum, but as he prepares to start school, Emily Martin is worried her luck is running out

Boy is about to start school. Emily Martin reflects on the milestone (57659551)
Boy is about to start school. Emily Martin reflects on the milestone (57659551)

Girl and Boy are almost 9 and almost 5 and I can safely say that neither of them has ever had a full-blown tantrum. They’ve both had their furious moments, don’t get me wrong. But, having witnessed tantrums in other children, I don’t think even our worst of times have ever been the absolute scenes I’ve witnessed my friends having to deal with.

What can I say? I take total credit for my clearly expert parenting. Both children must have known instinctively that there would be no point in screaming and raging because Mummy will simply be scrolling her phone and not paying too much attention.

And I won’t lie, I’ve enjoyed the compliments on having well-behaved, polite children over the years while other children of similar ages would be somewhere in the background, turning puce with rage at being denied an ice cream or screaming and flailing about because they’ve been told it’s time to go home from the park. Snot flying everywhere. Eyes wild. Teeth gnashing together.

Me, my Boy and the Girl would see the struggles of others and be so grateful to each other that that’s just not how we roll. “Did you see what happened?” We’d say in the car on the way home after witnessing someone else’s terrible tantrum. Gossiping together like three friends, I’ve always felt we had a silent pact, never to turn on each other in such an unreasonable way.

However lately, just lately, as the Boy prepares to start school and I consider the hard work of parenting must be almost over (it’s almost over, right?) he particularly has started to become more wilful and I’m not sure what to do.

He doesn’t love sharing his stuff, but has always begrudgingly shared because he’s a good boy and he knows it’s the right thing. But a few weeks ago the Boy and his dad spent an afternoon with a much younger cousin who innocently wanted to have a little go with Boy’s fluffy owl and I’m sorry to tell you that he absolutely lost it. I wasn’t there but apparently there was sobbing, screaming, teeth baring, he even went red in the face.

Mum told me that word in the family after this was that my Boy, my angel who can do no wrong, was now considered… shock horror… “badly behaved”. Our family brand destroyed in one afternoon. Terrible family PR. And this is not what I’m used to. Normally we get a glowing 10/10 and I give myself a big gold star for excellent mothering.

But when I sat down with my son for a debrief that evening he told me his baby cousin had been trying to put the owl in his mouth and “he was all slobbery”. Daddy hadn’t noticed, apparently, and that’s why it had all kicked off. I reminded him that sharing is caring and it was naughty to behave like that (and also that he’d seriously undermined mummy’s perfect record). But to be fair, he had a really good point. Drool is not cool. I’d have probably done the same thing had a slobbery cousin reached for my owl.

But then the incidents kept coming. In a scuffle with his sister at home he was removed and put in his bedroom. When I went up a short while later, he was sitting on his bed with his room turned completely upside-down, and said with angry tears in his eyes: “I’ve trashed my room and it’s YOUR fault”. Trashed his room, like we were in a Christmas Day episode of Eastenders at the Vic. And since then, threats to trash things have become a favoured retort.

Actually threats in general have become his new thing. If I tell him off he’ll angrily come back with: “Well, if YOU keep saying that I won’t be your best friend anymore.” Or he’ll say: “I won’t give you any cuddles or kisses.” The other day he threatened me with an added: “And I will just WASTE my kissing and cuddling on DADDY.” A truly dreadful thought.

The “naughty step” used to be the most effective punishment. No matter what had happened, a little sit on the naughty step would always restore the balance of power. But now, Boy is way too old to be naughty-stepped, and if he’s sent to his room, he trashes it.

Last time I said: “Stay in your room and if you trash it you will be in SERIOUS trouble.” But I wasn’t sure what serious trouble would actually look like as I walked back down the stairs. When I got back up there, he’d emptied out a storage bag of fluffy toys and then got into the bag himself.

Last week, his nursery sent through their final observation report for him and I opened it, anxiously hoping not to see a report full of threats and trashings. But it just said: “He plays brilliantly alongside others and it’s unusual for him to face conflict.” Apparently he’ll even “help his friends at mealtimes when they can’t reach a cup”. Finally he, “doesn’t like paint” and “prefers not to dance”. So that sounds OK. Copies are currently being laminated to send round to my family and try to repair some damage.


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