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The secret to successful parenting

Spoiler... There isn't one. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

This week - the last week of the long Summer school hols (why do they need seven weeks!?), my patience has dwindled to the size of a baked bean. I'm basically Basil Fawlty now, red-faced and defeated.

Everything's dreadfully hard work this week. The bedtime routine in particular has gone spectacularly to shit (sorry Grandma). For the last few days of the holidays, to ease the boys back into normality, we decided to reintroduce the 7:45pm bedtime. Ten minutes ago, 7:40pm, I said to the boys "Come on now, bedtime, boys."

The resulting pantomime left me so flustered and angry I had to write this blog post just to calm myself down.

First, rather than the usual jolly conga up the stairs, the boys responded to my announcement by lying, face-down on the settees - planking, basically, impossible to move. I threatened to cancel their hot chocolate at breakfast tomorrow, which got Lyall moving, albeit deliberately slowly towards the stairs.

Richard maintained his plank. So, after herding Lyall up the first few stairs (to an enormous, phoney "Ooowww", of course) I returned to Richard, only to find he'd pulled down his trousers to reveal his bottom to me. Wonderful. "Pull them up." I said quietly as I leaned down to pick him up under his arms. Just as I leaned down he farted right at my face, a disgusting eggy cartoon guff, before laughing hysterically at me.

Lyall was back in the living room, complaining that he'd hurt a finger nail on the way up the stairs. "RIGHT!" I shouted, causing Richard to look up at me from the settee, nonchalantly, "You're both going up stairs, NOW, or ELSE!". Lifting Richard from the settee I tried to plonk him onto his feet on the carpet, only for him to flop onto the floor like a boneless blob, his bottom pointing right up at me, mocking me. I looked at Lyall and said, more calmly this time, "Get back up the stairs". It did the job. I reluctantly carried Richard up the stairs, holding him beneath his armpits out in front of me like a forklift truck.

Upstairs, the charade continued. Lyall brushed his teeth at an impossibly slow pace while daddling in front of the mirror in the bathroom, dribbling toothpaste onto the floor. Meanwhile, Richard had propped himself upside down on his bed with his legs right up in the air against the wall and struggled deliberately for two whole minutes to remove his tracksuit trousers.

I threatened to cancel breakfast completely so Lyall sulked into bed and Richard wobbled precariously into the bathroom to brush his teeth, inside-out trousers around his ankles.

Once both boys were in bed, hiding beneath the covers, sniggering, my phone rang - it was Tom from his hotel in Manchester (where he's staying overnight for work). Naturally, Lyall and Rich clicked immediately into lovely little angels and spoke beautifully to Tom, telling him how impeccably well behaved and obedient they'd both been all evening. Sigh.

Tom is Sybil to my Basil, organised and hard working. Like Sybil, he tidies up the devastation (spilled squash, Sharpie marks, paper cuttings) and manages all the family admin with very little fuss. The boys return to school next week - my opportunity to exhale and return to normality.

It's hard work, this parenting job - if anybody reading this knows the secret to successful parenting, please do share!

Right, time for a big glass of Malbec and a quiet bath.

Lyall and Richard in the last week of the school holidays


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