Monday, 5 April 2010

Spirited Children

We've just got back from what was supposed to be a lovely meal out en famille with some friends, to finish off nicely the Easter break. I always go into these situations believing that it's going to be relaxing with plenty of time for an adult catch-up. Okay, so I suppose I should have learnt by now.
While our friends' children are sat nicely doing the colouring and quizzes in their kiddie packs, eating nicely, using manners, all the things I think my kids are going to do - my children are going MENTAL. The Eldest One can't decide if he wants apple juice or orange juice, finally deciding on apple juice but when it arrives he goes into argumentative teenage mode insisting that he asked for orange juice. He then spends the rest of his time chopping up the colouring pens with a knife. The Tomboy, dressed in pink trousers with football socks and a skull&crossbones beanie hat, is in a multiple-personality mood and spends the majority of the meal sulking outside the toilets, occasionally crying and sometimes cuddling. The Toddler refuses to sit in his highchair (note to self: always decline to sit in wheelchair when I'm an old lady) and is running around carrying a variation of wine glasses, cutlery and posh restaurant ornaments. I can tell The Husband is gritting his teeth while desperately trying not to make some comment about how the kids behaviour is down to my parenting. Our friends, bless them, are really sweet and sympathetic to the disaster which is unfolding around them, and offer the wise words "Oh how lovely to have spirited children!".
So I come home and look up in the dictionary the word 'spirited'. It gives this explanation: "displaying animation, vigour, or liveliness", which doesn't make me feel any better. I'm thinking about writing to Mr Collins Concise to offer the following definition "displaying intensity, persistence, sensitivity and LOUDNESS".
I think all children must have these characteristics but spirited children possess them at a crazy level. Mine in particular are off the scale. If you measured my kids on the Spirited Child Richter Scale, they would be at least a magnitude 7.0. Wherever they are, there is always a major fault line.
Having one spirited child must be fantastic, having two could be a challenge, but three???? I am seriously considering contacting that Angelina Jolie - she doesn't have an English kid yet in her 'rainbow family'.
Okay so I know I must be really grateful that they are healthy, normal (whatever that is), happy children yeah yeah yeah and I am - but only on the good days. I can tell by 8am whether it's going to be a 'good' day or a 'bad day'. The good days couldn't be better - spirited children on these days are funny, wonderful, interesting, loving, thoughtful and respectful. The bad days are a different story. And why oh why is it always at least two of them on the same day. How can I describe the experience of sliding from joy to exasperation within twenty seconds? Or the feeling of dread that it's another nine hours until bedtime? I'll make this clearer:
LOUDNESS: They don't cry, they shriek - it's a sound not unlike chalk down a blackboard. They're noisy when they play, when they eat, when they laugh, even when they're in the toilet. At recent parent's evening for The Eldest One, the teacher actually asked me if there is something wrong with his hearing because he is so LOUD.
PERSISTENCE: If I have mentioned that we might go to the park, they will go on&on&on to infinite and beyond until we go. And getting them to change their minds is a major undertaking.
SENSITIVITY: A look from the cat can cause major tears. They can sense I am in a foul mood or hungover before I even know it myself. Getting dressed can be torture - a loose button or 'bubbles' in socks or scratchy sleeves can render items unwearable.
EASILY DISTRACTED: Sending them to fetch something or getting into the car will probably take half an hour as something else will take their attention.
REGULARITY: Their wants and needs don't change daily, they change momentarily. And I just can't keep up. I've given up trying to second guess them because this causes even more issues. They are irregular in everything except doing a poo, which the three of them always time at exactly the same moment.
MOOD: There is never any grey area, it is seriously black or white.

And don't try and comfort me by saying they are unique/energetic/full of life. That's all a myth. Like eight hours of solid sleep. I spoke to my mum to get her opinion and all she had to say was "well, you were high maintenance as a child too". So I guess it's payback. Good job I grew up to be a Spirited Mum. It makes spirited family life more bearable, if only on the good days.

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