I Guilt-Tripped My Son By Hiding In A Bin

Things came to a minor head with the Major earlier this week. He was sat on the bathroom toilet as I got home from work and poked my head through the door. He told me to leave and get in the bin. I asked him which bin and he replied the kitchen bin. This was clearly absurd. The kitchen bin is far too small for me to get into. I offered him the choice of one of the three outside bins: garden, recycling or normal. Clearly he plumped for the normal bin, the one with the fetid pool of bin juice at its base and the recent bluebottle infestation.

So I tramped downstairs and opened and shut the front door so that he could hear it. Then I went and hid under the staircase. I listened out as he padded along the landing into our bedroom to look out of the front window at the bin which he now imagined to be containing his father. And as I cowered under the stairs while he frantically pleaded with his mum to retrieve me from the bin I couldn’t help but think that something had gone wrong with my parenting strategy.

There are mitigating circumstances. From the moment that he found his voice the Major has subjected me to a verbal battery of taunts which he has fired at me on a regular basis. If our house had an HR department then I would have lodged a formal complaint in the hope that disciplinary proceedings would be initiated.

Most of abuse happens in the few hours after I’ve returned from the office and before he has fallen asleep, when the air is simmering with a toxic blend of resentment and fatigue. It began with a simple “no, Dadu” repeated like a mantra, but has evolved with the improvements in his vocabulary. In the last week alone the tirades have ranged from the knockabout (“you silly old sod”) to the metaphysical (“Daddy, you’re like a bad dream”). Once I heard him beg his mother not to leave the room so as not to be left alone with me.

We’ve always been able to rationalise the manner in which he singles me out by pointing to the fact that he recognises the paternal neediness in me and mischievously plays on it. But the other day I eavesdropped on a conversation that the Major had with his mum during which he calmly explained that he did not want to play with me, the reasons for which appeared to be that I smelt. I actually smell really nice.

My reaction to the constant bombardment is always powerful amusement. But the lack of cooperation that it is aligned to is dispiriting. The bin charade was a result of weariness and resignation, a culmination. It was not part of a coherent plan, it was my normal ‘seat-of-the-pants’ parenting.

But the ‘bincident’ was also a watershed. Since that evening the Major has adopted a more affable approach. It seems that in effect I have guilt-tripped him into liking me, and I achieved this by filling his little head with dark images of me hunkering down among the soiled nappies and maggots at the bottom of a bin. It’s obviously not how I planned it but for the last few days the Major has embraced me, literally and figuratively. Children. You just never know.

Any good?

The Seven Stages of Putting a Reluctant Child to Bed

There is a thought among psychotherapists that people process grief in seven distinct stages. From my experience the same could be said of putting an unwilling child to bed; there are seven steps to achieving closure. Coincidentally putting children down to sleep is also like grief in that you can’t put a time frame on it and it normally involves a lot of tears.

  1. Joy

It sounds counterintuitive but problems are looming if a happy child is smiling back at the parent as it drinks its bedtime milk. Any ambitions of sitting down with a lemon squash in front of The One Show can be put aside if your toddler is gurgling away without a care. A single giggle can spell doom, that the game is going the distance, into extra-time and penalties. For a quick ‘putdown-and-run’ ideally the child should ideally be slightly peeved.

  1. Energy

If the child is not ready for sleep then the milk inside it acts like an espresso martini: it fills it with a new vigour for life and an irresistible compulsion to dance. I’ve watched on baby monitors as friends’ children have boinged across their beds before obediently settling themselves down to sleep but if I left my own sons they’d probably boing until sunrise.

  1. Confusion

The whole bedtime process is like reeling in a large and uncooperative fish. Sometimes the hooked fish should be allowed to swim out to the end of the line, tiring itself out before being coaxed back into the net. So after a protracted session of bouncing I gather my child into my cradling arms to enter the next phase. At this point the child will look up in bafflement as if to say: “What’s happening here? Is this a game? If so, please can you let me know the rules?”

  1. Denial

Before long the child begins to understand what is expected of them and protests against it in violent terms. The toddler may start jostling and scrummaging like a rugger. Often this part of the process can come to resemble an ill-conceived interpretative dance between parent and child.

  1. Acceptance

Eventually the child will start to feel fatigue but will attempt to keep spirits high with a song, a sort of anthem of resistance. This can be conceived as a single drawn-out note or a protest yodel. The parent should feel comforted at this point that progress is being made.

  1. Rage

This is the last thrash of the fish. The child sees the dying of the light and makes one last futile act against it. Normally this involves sustained physical abuse: fist-punches to the throat and gripping of the bottom lip to get traction for their escape. At this time the child’s eyeballs may also be rolling back in its head like it’s been possessed by an Old Testament demon so this bit is simultaneously terrifying and pleasing. The anger needs to be managed carefully as it can lead to puking, which adds clean-up time to the process although at least the parent learns what the child had for tea.

  1. Sleep

A child may finally go out like there’s been a power cut inside it. Literally it can be screaming and snoring within a second of each other. The first time I witnessed this I wondered if I’d broken the toddler. Once established that this is not the case then the child can be installed in the cot and the parent can go watch the News at Ten with a very strong lemon squash.

Any good?

My Son Has An Imaginary Friend And I Don’t Like Him One Bit

My three-year-old son (referred to here as Major) has an imaginary friend. His name is Bob. There’s nothing unusual in this – we’ve researched it and apparently around a third of all children have an imaginary friend at some point. It’s a sign of their creativity obviously. I didn’t have an imaginary friend (none of them liked me) but my vision of one is someone or thing who might need a place setting for dinner or an extra pot of Play-doh provided or a pillow on the bedroom floor for a sleepover. Bob however is an imaginary friend in absentia. We’ve never been made aware of his presence in the house, he is always only mentioned in dispatches. We’ve invited him over several times but he always has tummy-ache.

Bob is also 23. He lets Major sit on his lap and they watch cartoons on his computer together.

Again I’ve looked on the internet and dreaming up a grown-up imaginary friend is entirely normal. However I felt the need to delve a little further into Bob, just in case he turned out to be real and a creepy caretaker at his nursery or something.

The Major has described Bob as a work friend. Bob’s dad is also called Bob and his mum is called Sheila. He has a brother, Bob, and a sister, Bobbie. Bob is also married. His wife is called Sheila. He has twin babies, Gom and LaLa. Bob’s specialty in the kitchen is chicken dishes: strawberry chicken, blueberry chicken and most exotically pencil chicken. Bob also does a mean jelly stew. Bob looks like a brown dog and he feeds eggs to chickens. The more I learnt about Bob the less I liked him. I mean, he feeds eggs to chickens. Although I am at least now satisfied he only resides in the Major’s increasingly eccentric head.

Bob gets snuggles where I don’t. He seems to be a better version of me, more fun, more liberal, more snuggly. Now I just feel resentment towards Bob although of course I can see the funny side to all this, as funny as your child having an imaginary paedophile can be.

This is Bob. I think.
This is Bob. I think.

Last night wasn’t especially funny however. Just before bedtime Major announced that Bob was coming over for a party, in fact he was four minutes away in his car. Major and Bob were planning to go up to the spare room on the top floor of our house and play games, dance and eat steaks together. Understandably Major was reluctant to get into bed with such an exciting night of festivities in prospect. I’ve often found on occasions such as this that parental strategy is devised on the hoof and that tactics can change several times in the course of a few minutes.

Firstly I let him that know Bob unfortunately was unable to get a babysitter for Gom and LaLa (perhaps Sheila was at Zumba or something). This news was met with tears. Not over-tired tears, but big wet tears of genuine sadness. I then tried to explain gently that of course Bob wasn’t real, we made him up like we do with some of our stories. Sad, dramatic tears the size of orange pips rolled down his face.

Finally I suggested that perhaps he should have a power-nap (a snoozle-woozle in his terms) to prepare for the party and that his mother would come and wake him up when Bob arrived. This seemed to pacify him for a while but the continuing exhilaration at the thought of the impending Bob prevented him from settling down for another two hours.

Eventually his mum came up to find out what was happening, which allowed me to go and eat my tea (pencil chicken with HB sauce – hmm delish). As I walked downstairs, violent bawling ensued as Major evidently discovered that his mother hadn’t arrived to tell him Bob was here. Eventually fatigue gripped his little frame and he went to sleep.

Last night’s incident is archetypal of the bittersweet parental experience – that tears of sadness or laughter or both are never far away. As ever my wife and I are planning just to ignore the problem, to play Bob down until he goes away. We’ll probably just refer to him in Major’s presence like we do with all taboo subjects: by spelling his name. Although when I think about it, that tactic might have the side-effect of the Major sparking up an imaginary relationship with demented hip-hop artist and flat-earther B.o.B.

At least I’d be less jealous of him than Bob.

ethannevelyn

Any good?