My husband had a particularly, well 'testing' evening a couple of days ago with our two girls, where I think you could safely say that he was pushed to his limit. When he got home that evening my head was really starting to throb after having a whole day with them and I really needed a break. I think it was a combination of the heat and the fact that Millie is now on holidays but it had been a long day. We had done everything - played with play-doh, coloured pictures, had a picnic out in the garden, watched Paw Patrol (well they watched it, I disappeared into the kitchen to make coffee), picked daisies outside to make perfume (or as Millie likes to call it – flower soup), so by the time half five came, Mammy wasn't feeling like an adult anymore. I swiftly informed my other half that once dinner was over I would be disappearing upstairs for an hour to sit at the computer to try and reclaim my brain.
The problem was I was only sitting down for about five minutes when the noise started. And I knew immediately what it was. Millie was running back and forth between the kitchen and the sitting room roaring a chant about the continents (something she learned at pre-school) and Dee Dee was right behind her. This was followed by my husband shouting after her to please stop. The poor man was desperately trying to watch some of the World Cup but he wasn’t getting very far because she was doing everything in her power to disrupt him. I sat there and tried so hard to ignore it but the noise just kept getting louder and louder. And the worst thing is that I knew she would never behave like that if it was me downstairs with her. Plus, I could hear that he was using his really strict voice with them and he still wasn’t getting anywhere. So I decided to go down and rescue him from the madness.
When I walked into the sitting room it was a bit of a sight. There were toys all over the floor and all of the cushions had been pulled off the couches. I took one look at his frazzled, exasperated face and immediately felt sorry for him. Of course, the two duckies came running over to me straight away, arms wrapped around my legs, reaching up for me and Millie desperately trying to get in there first and explain to me why she had been so bold before her father got an opportunity to give me the real version. I did the Mammy thing and gave them a quick lecture on not being so noisy when Daddy is trying to watch the tv. He was really nice about it and told me to go back up the stairs, that he could handle them but I couldn’t leave him like that because the truth is, (and we both know it) that they behave differently around him than they do around me.
He stood in the middle of the sitting room looking tired and fed up so I tried pointing out to him that it is nothing that he is doing wrong. It’s more about them and the way they perceive him. “Basically” I said, “ I am Mammy. I set the rules and the boundaries every day, so they listen to me and they do what I say. You are Daddy, a.k.a. Mr. Fun. You are here for them to play games with and to act as a set of monkey bars that they can climb all over and swing out of. You are lots of fun but you are not the rule maker”. And I know that even though he gets this, it is not making him feel any better. He loves his role as the fun one but there are times when he needs to be strict and dole out discipline. And they really need to start taking heed.
I admitted to him that I sometimes envy him. I would love to swap places at times and be the one who gets to tumble around on the floor with them, laughing and joking and never really having to discipline them too much. I definitely have fun with them and we do lots of lovely things together but it’s not in the same carefree way. It’s a more ‘controlled’ sort of fun. Maybe we could both do with a bit of role reversal at times.
So we established that we need to make them listen to him and to take him more seriously. How? I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure. It’s not as if he can spend more time with them than he already does in order to lay down some boundaries. Unless he quits his job it’s just not physically possible. But I finished up with this piece of advice for him – “ Look whatever you do don’t give in to them, ok Mr. Fun? That doesn’t mean you have to stop being who you are with them because they love you and I would hate to see that change. But keep on dishing out the rules and the authority wherever it is needed”. For now that’s all we can do really.
Surely they are bound to take him seriously one day, aren’t they??