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.