The Naughty-off

What do you do with a child who throws everything he gets his hands on across the room?

I have been trying the tactic of confiscating the things he throws, puzzle piece, clothes (pulled out of my wardrobe – grr), wooden blocks. But you can’t confiscate everything, leaving your entire house void up to the dado rail.

So I say in my most self-assured voice, ‘Well it looks like you don’t want to play with this so it’s going away for a bit.’ Or, ‘Oh I think the panda got hurt that time – I’ll have to take him off to hospital.’ Or, once it’s happen six trillion times already, and in a most headmistressly manner, ‘If you can’t play nicely with your toys young man, they’ll get taken away and you’ll never get to play with them again!’

Puerile? Me?

What with the deliberate wees in annoying places (on the battery charger, the dining chair, the crate full of potatoes and onions, yes I know – I don’t call it the Cave for nothing) and the incessant throwing and the sticking his fingers into whatever we’re cooking/eating (and God only knows where his hands go when I am not looking) I am starting to think I have an extraordinarily naughty little boy.

How Eliza Welch in the film Motherhood could be so perpetually fraught when her 3 year old son plays silently in the living room while she writes her blog, pushing a little wooden swing about meekly, I really have no idea. Manhattan with kids, I can see might generate a good deal of histrionics. But my God, woman! Your kids don’t kick their baby sisters in the head on a daily basis! What on earth are you wailing about?!

A friend of mine, whose son shares Caveboy’s birthday and who is about to have her second baby any day now, declared we ought to get our boys together and let them have a naughty-off.

I can imagine it now: every single jar in the kitchen is emptied onto the floor – rice, mung beans, jam, peanut butter, all oozing together in a rainbow-coloured slurry. Books have every page torn out of them, and then smeared with the mung bean/jam concoction. Furniture is turned over to see which makes the more interesting noise as it splinters. The walls are decorated up to about 4 foot high in whatever colour marker, crayon, felt pen they can lay their hands on. And the mung bean/jam goo also. Wardrobes are emptied. Computer screen smashed. Contents of fireplace thrown giddily about like fairy dust.

Strangely, just thinking about it makes me feel quite abnormally gleeful. Am I secretly a deeply naughty child, longing for an expensive vase to smash to smithereens? Perhaps children only drive their parents bananas because they manifest our suppressed desires and we therefore envy them for it.

I hear myself sometimes chastising my son for his high jinks, and cringe at the sound of my own voice: patronising, finger-wagging, uptight tyrant. So then I end up on the floor with him, tickling him tired, or cutting castles out of cardboard boxes, getting excited about bits of old socks we could use for blankets for his menagerie of tiny stuffed animals, covering the living room with slivers of coloured paper while we make lanterns and concertinas and stars.

The laundry and the dishes be damned.

Dinner at the Cave: A Recipe For Disaster

1) Put 1 cup pre-soaked mung beans on to boil. Scrub a carrot.

2) Mop up toddler pee on kitchen floor.

3) Peel carrot.

4) Embark on lengthy exegesis of why it is not morally acceptable to eat woodlice. Realise futility of the exercise. Peel half an onion.

5) Wash hands. Hang out three items of laundry.

6) Peel other half of onion.

7) Change baby’s nappy.

8 ) Chop onion.

9) Turn off everything and sit on sofa to breastfeed crying baby. Recite story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar from memory to distract toddler.

10) Hang out three more items of laundry.

11) Make crackers and cheese to tide oneself and toddler over. Put mung beans back on the boil.

12) Measure out 1 cup basmati rice. Rinse thoroughly, and put on to boil with salt and a bay leaf. Meanwhile, sing The Wheels on the Bus until toddler gets bored or you forget what verse comes next.

13) Start frying onion in a little olive oil and 1 tbsp. each of ground cumin and ground turmeric. Simultaneously keep toddler away from hot pan with one foot.

14) Explain basic principles of thermodynamics, why hot oil causes ‘ow’ and therefore the benefits of staying out of the kitchen.

15) Change baby’s nappy again. Wash hands again.

16) Get fed up and put Bob the Builder on. Realise DVD is scratched. Get out basket of building blocks. Build half a tower.

17) Chop carrot and add to onion. Boil kettle and pour over bowl of tomatoes.

18) Hang out six items of laundry. Sweep up expensive spelt flour from floor which toddler has spilt. Build rest of tower.

19) Turn boiling rice down. Realise mung beans will take another twenty minutes to boil. Take rice and onions off heat.

20) Write half a paragraph of novel while toddler looks at Google images of concrete mixers on other side of screen.

21) When mung beans are done, add them to the onions and carrots. Add coconut cream and water, or can of coconut milk. Skin tomatoes and chop, adding to the mung beans.

22) Regret not having made fish fingers instead.

23) When mung beans are at an ideal level of mushiness, take off the heat and serve with rice.

Calories: not enough if you’re breastfeeding. Serves: you right for trying to feed your kids curry.