Does every family have a golden child? The one who gets away with everything? Maybe due to being the only girl, or the only boy, or the youngest? We have one. He’s our only boy, he’s our youngest child, and to complete the picture, he has golden hair. And he gets away with murder (of the non-criminal, not-actually-ending-in-death variety)
He can throw a yogurt on the floor just to see what it looks like, and be forgiven with a “mummy, us be fwends again?” He knocks down Lego towers and scribbles on carefully drawn masterpieces. He is banished from the game for grabbing, but allowed back in seconds later – one glimpse of a downward chin and dropping shoulders is enough to win his sisters over.
“Ah let him have the puppy/ pony/ teddy, he’s only small,” is the often repeated request to two siblings who were afforded no such allowances at the same age. “Let him join in the game, don’t leave him out,” is another, despite cries that he’s “ruining it” by walking on dolls’ heads.
The rule that everyone has dinner together at the table is completely ignored by our golden child; he walks off to play with toys, and appears not to hear me beg him to come back to table. I lift him up and put him on his chair – he looks at me with a “Huh? Not sure what you’re at there mum – I was just in the middle of playing actually?” expression and heads off to his beloved train-track again. Eventually, I pretend I haven’t noticed, because it’s easier than asking him over and over to come back. At TV time, I discreetly put his dinner on front of him – in the sitting room where no eating is allowed – and sometimes he eats it. I’m hoping the end justifies the means.
He insists on having his drink of water from a school bottle or a glass jar or a measuring jug. My level of resistance depends on how tired I am. He wants to make his own toast, and tries putting the butter lid in the toaster. He wants to wash dishes, and I let him, although it means a bigger clean-up after. He gets cross if I cut his toast and wants me to stick it back together. He tries to help make dinner by stirring the soup – with his teddy’s scarf (as if Hugless Douglas didn’t have enough going on)
Just before bedtime, he comes into the kitchen and takes out a sliced pan. “I need bread now,” he says, organising a plate and knife for himself. Sometimes I say no, but mostly I pretend that we didn’t just agree no more food tonight because of the uneaten dinner.
He has to put on his own pyjamas, no matter how rushed or how late we are (mostly because of the last minute bread situation), and I know now not to argue or help, even when he’s putting the bottoms over his head. If I’m brave, I say, “You know they go on your feet don’t you?” to which he replies “I did say that mummy! I did know that already!” and carries on with what he’s doing.
He puts toothpaste lids down the plug-hole and denies it, even if I’ve seen him do it. He wants me to read his bedtime story with the book upside down, and can’t understand why I can’t.
Then after lights out, he hops back out of bed, and stands in his doorway, insisting “I is in bed!” despite my pointing out that he very clearly absolutely is not in bed. He is proof that the best way to win an argument is to provide no rationale at all. I can’t reason with someone who says black is white or blue is red or that I’ve used the wrong tooth-paste or read the wrong story – after the story it’s finished. And mostly, I don’t even try – the path of least resistance is the one the golden child is used to.
But he makes it easy too – he rules with the carrot more so than the stick. He sees fun in everything – cracks in the pavement, lights on a tree, pictures in a window. “Woohoo! This is fun!” he says, when we go to the shops. “I love coffee, thank you mummy!” he says, when we go to the coffee shop. “Mummy, can me use my ‘magination?” he asks, when presented with a small non-battery operated toy, then “thank you!” when I say yes, of course you can use your imagination.
“Mummy, one hug, coming up!” he says out of the blue after dinner, racing around the table to jump into my arms. “You is my best mummy,” he tells me, when he clambers into my bed each morning, then “Us love us other,” as he snuggles in.
Choose your battles they say. I’m still planning to choose one at some point, just not today.