Whenever it all falls apart on the parenting front, I look to see the underlying cause and what I could have done differently. Like when the small boy had a meltdown on the way to school and I carried him screaming all the way, I knew it wouldn’t have happened if we’d left earlier – his stop-start journey wouldn’t have made us late, and I could have let him dawdle.
When the six-year-old fought with all of us after school, it made no sense until I realised she hadn’t eaten any of her lunch – hangry six-year-olds are a force to be reckoned with.
And when the eight-year-old cried from tiredness the other morning, it was mostly because I’d forgotten to switch off her light the night before and she’d been reading till after ten.
So really, if we had no school and no school-lunch and no electricity, none of it would have happened. In other words, if we were cave people, we’d never fight at all.
Most of what causes stress in our house is rushing. Being late. Needing to be somewhere at a specific time. Wanting people to eat meals at mealtimes. Doing homework. Working. Getting ready for swimming. Rushing, always rushing. The cave people didn’t have swimming classes, so they were never late. And they all slept together, huddled for warmth, so nobody was woken by a wandering child. And they didn’t go to work, so they never snapped at kids as deadlines loomed. I realise of course that they were also in fear of being eaten by bears, so I’m not hankering after cave life, just acknowledging that much as I love 21st century life, it has its stressors.
And cave parents didn’t have to feel guilty about giving their kids pizza for tea. Or letting them watch an extra half hour of TV because it had been a long day. Or using a buggy or a dummy with a child who is technically well beyond buggy and dummy age. They were probably excellent parents.
But I wonder about shouting. Did the cave people shout? Even if they didn’t have a school run, weren’t there moments when they just couldn’t help themselves? When the not-doing-homework kids were fighting over a rock? When nobody was late for work, but it was just a tough day in the cave?
I reckon the cave people might have shouted. I like to think that while they probably got most things right, there were moments when the blood pressure went up, and they let out a little roar. It’s quite human, isn’t it? We try to try to keep it to a minimum, but sometimes, you just can’t help it. Well, I just can’t help it.
And while it wouldn’t be ideal to shout constantly, or to lose it completely, I wonder if the odd bit of voice-raising does much harm. I thought about this morning, when I called my eight-year-old for the fifth time.
“GET UP!” I yelled.
“Yikes!” she said, “OK, I’m up. Wow mum, that was a good shout – that really worked.” She was smiling, and quite impressed.
So I think I’m off the hook. It’s not scientific, but I’m absolving myself of guilt for a bit of shouting here and there. I reckon even the most zen people do it from time to time. So if you’ve yelled at your kids today, I absolve you too. Even the cave people did it.