Last week, a retired child psychotherapist and a consultant psychotherapist were staying in the cottage next to us. I made a mental note to myself: "Do not shout at the children. If you do want to shout at the children, remember to shut the windows." I was doing really well until the phone rang just as I was putting everyone to bed. Usually, I let it ring but I thought it might be my husband so I dashed downstairs and answered it. I saw first the pyjama-clad four-year-old and then the six-year-old tear out of the front door and into the garden. They were carrying cleaning products. When I put the phone down, I swept up the rompered baby and went out. I was careful not to shout. I called loudly: "Boys." I called slightly more loudly: "Boys!" They emerged; the four-year-old, beaming. He always beams when he has done something that will drive me to distraction. I said: "Right. I want the washing up liquid and the washing powder tablets back. Now." The six-year-old looked pained. "How did you know?" he wailed. "I know everything," I said. "I know everything you think. I know everything you do. Forever." I thought: "I really hope the psychotherapists can't hear this."
We opened up the wooden gate and stepped down into their garden paradise. The four-year-old went one way; the six-year-old the other. Realising his tactical mistake, the four-year-old veered over to his brother. He beamed at me again as he ran past to join his ally in all misdeeds. We peered over the stone wall at the bottom of the garden. The cleaning products had been thrown over the wall into their den in the cow field which backs on to the garden. The foaming bottle, the box and its contents were nowhere near where we were standing; they were laying among the trodden down nettles, over where the four-year-old had been heading. I said, through tight lips: "I want them picked up. Please."
Babe on hip, I cut across the grass to the point the four-year-old had been aiming for originally - a patch of garden close to the greenhouse. Here, a narrow entrance squeezes you between glass and golden privet leaves; the garden room enclosed by thick hedges on two sides, a greenhouse and a stone wall. Or what was a stone wall. It is a private place; curiously attractive to children. My hopes of ice-packed sundowners, sitting on an old wooden bench in this garden scrap have come to nothing. It is a superhero den. It has a tree which the boys use to scramble into their other den in the nettlepatch. My boys do not like to waste their superhero energies though. They decided it was taking too long to use the knotted rope and the rope ladder between the two bases. The quickest route would definitely be through the wall. The boys, with help from two small friends, had used sticks to scrape out the lime mortar and carefully pulled and tumbled out the stones. The hole in the wall was enormous. From ground level to just underneath the first rank of stones; wide enough for two small superheros, if not three, to emerge from their weedy control room at the same time. Aghast, I watched the four-year-old scrambling back through the hole with the washing-up liquid. Stones arched above his egg fragile head, resting on nothing but neighbours and innate good will. I said: "You are kidding me? What have you done? What were you thinking?" They wanted "a shortcut." While they worked with their sticks, they were pretending they were in the mouth of a big dinosaur taking out its teeth so it couldn't eat the little dinosaurs.
Later in the adult twilight, children in bed disgrace, the consultant psychotherapist assessed the latest outrage. She said: "You realise this is all about boundaries don't you? You didn't say 'No' to their other den when they wanted you to, so now they have pushed it further. They have literally pushed through the boundary. They want you to say 'No'." I said: "I say 'No' to my kids all the time." So much for keeping a low profile I thought. I told her about the dinosaurs. She said: "Hmmm. So they think there is a monster in their life somewhere." I changed the subject. To their thieving. Bad choice. They have slipped into a habit of stealing biscuits, chocolate, sweet stuff. I had thought because they did not get enough sugar in their little lives. The retired child psychotherapist hazarded: "Perhaps they feel they are not being nurtured enough." I groaned inside. I said: "What about the cleaning products though?" "Yes," she said. "That's an interesting one. They are stealing what they think is important to you, they are stealing a piece of you." I said: "There is no way they associate me with cleaning products."
I boy banned them from my Eden.
But the real test will be whether they take any notice or not.
My two teenagers associate me with being a moaning old wanker.
I think I'd rather be thought of as Domestos, or even at a push, Fairy.
Not sure then what your neighbours would make of my youngest following me round with an old towel in-hand, wiping every surface he comes across. Well, actually I AM sure what they would make of it; I just don't want to think about it.
So the next time I eat a whole packet of Jaffa Cakes I'm not being a greedy cow, it's just the external manifestation of a perceived lack of maternal nurturing? Fantastic!
ah the crap that psychologists have to say.
do you think she believed it? it sounds good but it's frickin' ridiculous.
what creative sons you have, pulling the teeth of the dinosaur.
Well, my children make it much easier. They say "Mummy you're so mean, you're really really mean". I don't need a psychotherapist to tell me that this means they think I'm mean. Really really mean.
No, really? Did she really say that? Fortunately most of the ones that talk like that are retired or retiring or dead. Not to be blunt about it.
I spent three years in a doctoral program that wanted me to think and talk like that. I can tell you that they often had bratty or very odd children. ;-D
Not only do your own tales crack me up - but so do the ones of your commenters....
How I love this blog...
My son just said 'I hate you', when I set boundaries. I replied 'I know' and carried on regardless...
I loved the dinosaur teeth bit. What imagination and creativity. We all have monsters in our lives but this is just childhood fun. Have they heard of that?
I understand that three are hard work, but they are obviously so bright and creative and any child will push the boundaries - no hidden meanings there.
I said nothing but'No' to my son for the first decade (at least) of his life. But one day he grew up and became a human being.
The psychoanalysis could just as well be that the boys are simply copying the mother whom they adore: they want to have a clean, welcoming den, they want to protect children ie small dinosaurs and to hoard goodies in case of bad times. You should take their behaviour as a compliment!
the dinosaur teeth-idea is lovely and why should you care about the psychologists? the kids sound perfectly happy and normal to me. thanks for stopping by,today you will find a whole english sentence on my blog:-)))),the apple pie has been eaten,though,sorry:o)
I've read your post several times, and perhaps the psychologist was correct -- the boys are trying to steal something of importance to you. But I don't think it was anything material.
Were they aware that you had envisioned that tiny plot of garden privacy as a getaway place for yourself? If so, perhaps they were wanting to keep you from having alone time (from them).
I assume your last sentence means that you have banned them from invading that important space again, and I am so happy you did! Put the wooden bench in place, write you name on it in HUGE letters, rebuild the stone wall (or better, make them do it), and ice up your bucket of drinks!
You have little enough special time and space for yourself; defend it, woman!!
Dear Mrs. Wife-in-the-North
I was a boy once, in the country.
The descriptions of your children sound mighty familiar -- sort of Tom Sayer-esqe.
We tried to dig a tunnel in the basement, through the concrete foundation walls. We used old, cast-off spoons, just little spoons that you would eat with. We made quite a large hole in the concrete wall, before my mother discovered it. She was FURIOUS.
She said, "what have you boys done? The whole house might fall down!"
It never did. I think it is just the nature of little boys to run wild with over-flowing energy. I bet I know who built the pyrimids: little Egyptian boys.
I don't feel that your boys needed to be analysed!
In my experience, boys are lively, mischievious and adventurous. They like to play exciting games. No doubt lots of girls are like that, too, but I haven't much experience of girls.
Stop boys/children having dens? Let's put them in strait-jackets, too, shall we?
Your children will never be boring. When they grow up, they may climb mountains, or fly to the moon. I doubt that they will become psychotherapists.
Along the lines of J's comment: Do they actually have any kids and, if so, how did they turn out? As a paraphrase of Hanlon's razor, never attribute to bad parenting that which we can adequately explain as ordinary young male thoughtless exuberance.
psychotherapist's know absolutely nothing about raising small boys! I laughed so hard as I can see my boys doing the same thing. I wonder what they would think of my sons constant need to turn everything into a "Fire Hose?" Great Blog!
Ignore the psycho's, they're making it up as they go along. My father lectured in Educational Psychology and the endless hours of bol.. I mean nonsense I had to put up with was enough to drive me to drink - well, that's my excuse, anyway!
I don't think we should be so hard on the psychologists' musings; they were just speculating in their field. Their portrayal was our author's whimsically paranoid observation that her every move and utterance was being analyzed.
BUT, when a person is nutz, a psychologist or psychiatrist really does comes in handy.
Your boys sound a lot like you - full of spirit and ingenuity. Go boys!
Truly, in your shoes, I'd have curled up and whimpered - I wouldn't have a clue what to say in that awkward situation...
Dear Wife in the North, this is fabulously written, very funny, I could hear myself saying, "I always know" , it scares them every time!
I have a friend whose wife is such as you describe. We had children vefore they did, and when we were rasing them, we were drequentlt gently told we were doing it all wrong, they would never love us, they would be crackheads and alcoholics AND IT WOULD BE ALL OUR FAULT.
Eventually, the psycho and her husband had a child. A few years after she was born, I asked said psycho how she was getting on, and how her training was helping her cope.
She went very quite for a while.
"Well," she said" If I think bath-time is going to be tricky I have two large sherries first."
Oh, and don't worry about the boys. Just make sure if you make a threat you 110% carry it out - and make sure the hubby doesn't undermine you or vice versa.
... and by the way, all my three girls maintain they THEY ALONE were hard done by whilst growing up, and THE OTHER TWO got away with EVERYTHING.
Makes me sure we did it about right. Oh, and they aren't crack-heads or alcoholics as far as I know. Not when we see them anayway.
I'm a fan, and a Geordie by birth and upbringing, wifey, and your occasional pining for London, plus the ever-present slogan of "It's grim up North" adorning your blogsite, never fail to amuse me.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, and I offer the following without any hard feelings whatsoever.
I have been promising myself I would tell you a little story when one of your posts provided some link of relevance. The relevance in today's post is "Dinosaur".
I was on a 6 weeks course down in Dorking in the summer of 1972 and, whilst most of the other 'mature' students went home every weekend, there were four of us who stayed down there over a couple of times to save money a long tiring journey home.
Two of us were from Newcastle, one from Middlesborough and the fourth from Manchester. Anyway, on our first weekend in college we took a ride down to Brighton on the Saturday, just to sus' the place out, as it were.
The sun was shining, God was in his heaven and we were enjoying a stroll along the seafront when we decided to take the weight off our feet at a couple of adjacent bench seats. One was entirely vacant and the other was part-occupied by an old local who seemed keen to chat to somebody - anybody.
At some point we told him how impressed we were with his town
and how lucky he must be to live there. "Nah", he replied, "It ain't so hot. You'll see if you are still around this evening when the norverners get here. They turn the place into a foul-mouthed pigsty where it ain't safe to walk the streets."
Aghast, we looked at each other, shuffling our feet in discomfort "Er,do they come down from any part of the north in particular?" we asked. "Oh, yeah, of course" he answered, "London."
So, when my 2 year old daughter threw my bikini trimmer down the loo (along with my Nicky Clarke shampoo) she did it because she knew it was important to me? What a strategist!
I reckon we'll see how blanky likes to get flushed.......
What you need is a change. Here's a suggestion: get Retired&Crazy to take over your children for a while (she loves children) and have an 8-day trip on the Orient Express - see her exciting weblog for details.
Groucho Marx had it right when he said to the psychoanalyst: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
(Why speak of divilment or mischief when neuroses and syndromes can be invented and milked?)
We lived in Holland for years and they always had trouble with that word analyst. Most of the time the adverts in English for hairdressers used the term "Styling analist".
As you will say to your sons in due course: Funny the first time dear.
They sound delightfully normal.
when my daughter was four she insisted on buying me Shake and vac for my birthday. She was into green at the time.
So what did that say about me and her, well she had £2 and the container was green.
She grew up quite averse to housework and not a greenie
Trouble with anylists is they sometimes need anylising themselves.
We in the human race have managed pretty well for the last few thousand years long before psychobabble was invented!
And we're still here. Laugh or go crazy I say.
Oops, I think I've mis-spelt analysts. Well, its been a long day. That's MY excuse and I'm sticking to it.
sounds like great fun to me, i'd love to be in their dens- they're just normal, healthy fun-loving young boys! Enjoy them! mimi not mike
In response to DogLover's comments, I do love children, but I am spectacularly unsuccessful in training and controlling them.
Your children are much like my children were and great grandchildren are. You will notice that I left out the grandchildren, I believe that that is because my children were determined that they would not be jerked around like I was and they were really strict.
But then the grandchildren were determined that their children would have more freedom that they had etc. I believe that It's called the flip-flop syndrome.
But what the hell, these are precious years, lay back and enjoy them. I would rather have spirited children than manipulative, cunning ones any day.
I've given you the Awesome Dude Blogging award - you have to collect it from Eurodog's blogsite
A word of advice: keep psychoanalists and psychotherapists even retired ones out of your life.
Because I'd been working with a Child Psychologist before my son was born, I decided that in order to discourage violent or aggressive behaviour, we would ban all forms of toy guns, swords, sharp pointy things etc. In our smug and self-righteous way we thought we were bringing him up to be a peace-loving new age boy until one day I watched him eating a piece of toast into the shape of a gun, point it at his sister and pretend to shoot her with it.
After that, we thought bugger it, let him play with what he wants within reason. Now he's a vegetarian philosophy student with Buddist tendencies and literally wouldn't hurt a fly (sorry to mention flies WITN, I know it must be a sore point).
Let boys be boys, I say - den, stolen cleaning products and all. They sound brilliant. The psychologist sounds a bit worrying though.
Wow. The more I read about your boys I can't believe my luck in having the son I have. When he was little he would sit and play with his Duplo [giant Lego blocks - do you have them over there?] for hours until suddenly the clack of plastic against plastic would quiet and I would go have a look and he was fast asleep on the floor, a block in each hand. When he outgrew Duplo it was Lego. That and drawing endless battle scenes with pencil and paper. I feel guilty now for snapping at him when he made car noises the entire time he was in the back seat of the car with his micro machines as he ran them over his knee and car seat. What was I thinking?
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