10 Through a bathroom door
What, you thought you could get some peace if you sneaked to the toilet? How naive. Toddlers will think nothing of strolling into a toilet with you to give tips on how to use the facilities, discuss cartoons or just keep you company while you’re in there. Lock the door and they’ll just stand on the other side rattling though their opinions and news.
Not so much a conversation as a one sided interrogation in which a child will use a single word to direct you to the edge of your powers of reasoning.
8 When Grandma gets here…
Honesty is the best policy. Unless it means little Timmy telling Nanny that Daddy sometimes pretends to be asleep when she phones or that Mummy said a bad word when she dropped yoghurt in the supermarket. Before any Grandparental visit it is wise to brief children about what they can and cannot say in front of visiting family. A smart kid will know this is excellent blackmail time.
7 We’re doing okay
The realisation that you’re not doing so bad after all will invariably come just when you least expect it. Probably at 3.30am after baby has unleashed a dirty protest that would make a prison block riot look like a tea party and you have exhausted your supply of lullabies and are now just reading the directions on the back of a Calpol bottle. That’s when your manipulative offspring will burp in your face and drop into the longest untroubled sleep of their infant life so far. Both parents will stay awake for an hour insisting that it was a first smile and convince each other they’re the best parents ever.
6 Do as I say
Parents, and we’re talking about all of us here, are the biggest bunch of hypocrites out there. We yell at kids to be quiet, we ban smartphones while sneaking off to follow an unfolding celebrity Twitter spat, refuse to allow snacking as we sneak biscuits between meals and send all manner of mixed signals to kids. At some point you just have to give up the pretence and tell kids to do as you say, not as you do.
5 Sleep negotiation
I’ll buy you a pony if you just go to sleep. Deal with the regrets in the morning and just say whatever it takes to make a child sleep now.
4 Who did this?
Being a parent is like being a detective. Without any evidence or a discernible motive, you’re expected to interrogate irrational and unreliable witnesses to get to the bottom of minor crimes. Walking into a room to find somebody has smeared honey on the cushions, given dolls haircuts and unfurled an entire toilet roll, a parent needs to be detective, judge and jury, prison officer and rehabilitation counsellor in the space of a few split seconds. If there is more than one child at the scene, both will insist on their innocence and it is up to your powers of deduction and interviewing to find out who did it.
3 With a teacher
For the first few years of their life everything that happened in your kids’ life was a direct result of something you did. All the cuddles, all the food, all the changes, all the smiles – everything. Then you drop them off at school with a teacher who has a couple of dozen charges and within a week they know more about your child than you ever did. It can be daunting, but a five minute chat with your child’s teacher can be, well, educational.
2 What did you do today?
Trying to get even the most basic information from a child about how they’ve spent the day at school is worse than a brutal job interview. You’re trying every trick you know and still come up against a stony silence and disinterest. Hard as it may be to believe, this is the same child that talked for 45 minutes straight about the difference between Frosties and Corn Flakes when you were trying to wake up without coffee in the morning.
1 The Talk
“Where do babies come from?” Cool parents know they shouldn’t be phased by the question. Answer honestly, respectfully and with a level of detail appropriate to the age of the child asking the question.
Or, take the easy way out and lock yourself in a bathroom again, climb into the shower and stay curled up in a ball until your partner has diffused the situation.