I can’t remember the last time I got The Rage. I am probably the most laidback parent I know, preferring a quiet life over one of turbulence. If there’s one thing my last relationship taught me it’s that I won’t live the rest of my life in an atmosphere of tension and discord.
Except … yesterday, I got a severe case of The Rage which, to be fair, has been building up for months.
I let Dexter play on his PS3 way too much. That’s just a fact. I know it and it’s been on my mind for a while but I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it because you know, moving house/paying bills/finding work/staying sane seemed to take precedence. It’s not that he’s stuck in his room all day every day and I never see him. He plays football 2-3 times a week, goes to netball after school on Tuesday, swims on Wednesday … you get my point. He’s fairly active. But when he’s home he doesn’t really want to do anything other than play FIFA. Or Civ Rev. Or whatever else it is he plays.
So yesterday was beautifully sunny in Kent and my best friend (who has a similar issue with her 9 year old), text me to see if we’d both like to go to our local country park for a game of football and a walk. Now you can see why a nearly-11-year-old might find a walk versus FIFA an easy choice to make. But I persevered. Actually, I just told him he was going.
When it came to get ready he really wasn’t happy and I got, “I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME!” again. It was one time too many. I hear that phrase an awful lot. When I ask him to unload the dishwasher. Or clean his teeth. Or do anything round the house.
When he came down and complained that I’d got him relegated, that was it. I was so angry I was nearly in tears. My hands were shaking with fury and I only have myself to blame. I’ve been too laidback about the whole thing and he’s taking advantage – of course he is, he’s a child.
The fact that he was moaning about going to the park aside, it was the way he talked to me that really got my goat. At the risk of sounding like my late Mum, I would never have spoken to her like that.
Anyway, I completely lost it and told him exactly what was what. He cried, of course. I felt bad. He stormed off. I cried. It was awful. I hate getting like that, I really do.
When he found out we were actually cycling to the park instead of driving, his face said it all, but he didn’t dare say anything. Our 25 minute cycle ride was made in silence and in fact, I got the silent treatment for the next half hour after we arrived. He asked for chips – I said no. I told him that instead we were going to go and explore.
And what do you know? Within five minutes he was back to his happy self and having a race with his friend who was on his scooter. We followed the river and had a competition to see who could throw a stone the furthest. They climbed rocks, chased each other, coming back to my best friend and I for sips of water when they were thirsty. We must have been down there for two and a half hours and it was only when I realised that we hadn’t actually had lunch (we had a late breakfast), and the sun had gone in and we had a long uphill cycle road home, that we left.
I wasn’t looking forward to the cycle home because suffice to say, Dexter just isn’t a fan of cycling at all – although if it’s downhill he seems a whole lot happier. But we had to face a big hill to get home and I just knew there would be moaning galore.
I had a plan though. I would let him set the pace and we would stop whenever he wanted to, so that he didn’t feel overwhelmed. We started out by cycling two blue lamposts’ worth. Then I asked him if he felt he could make it to three. And he did. And before we knew it, although he walked the top part of the hill, we’d made it. At least to the next bit, which was also uphill. But we walked together and 3.4 miles and 52 minutes later, we were home.
Even though he was hungry, I made him wait until I’d made roast chicken with all the trimmings, and we ate in harmony whilst watching some random painting programme on BCC1 (which I weirdly loved.)
So … I’ve had time to reflect on yesterday and I still feel a little guilty about blowing up at Dexter when it’s my fault for letting it get to that stage, but we’ve talked it through and he understands the score now. Which is … his screen time is now limited and if he doesn’t do as he’s told, the PS3 is taken away from him. No ifs no buts … the end. And another great side effect of yesterday is that after initially thinking there was no way he’d be able to make that hill, he’s really proud of himself for doing it. He couldn’t believe that he could do it … all part of my parenting masterplan! Mwahahahaha!
I also realised that kids don’t actually need that much. He got by on water, fresh air and our company yesterday and survived to tell the tale. So there will be more bike rides and less FIFA. More housework and less YouTube. He might not like it but I think it’s definitely the way forward.