Is it just me or did anyone else have all the answers before the kids came along? Remember all those supermarket trips where other peoples’ kids were pitching fits all over the place? What about early bird meals in restaurants where the little blighters gave you indigestion? I recall going to see Shrek or some such at the cinema once. I was outraged, absolutely incensed that there were kids at it. How dare they? Shur, I couldn’t hear a bloody thing with them shouting and roaring, in general not watching the film at all. Naturally enough, I knew how to put manners on them all and give the parents a few pointers to boot. Super Nanny Jo Frost wouldn’t get a look in. I was such a gobshite. Even when the kids did come along, I was smug and all knowing, content in the absolute knowledge that mine would behave perfectly all of the time. Oh, how the mighty fall. And then it happened. Our wonderful, perfectly mothered (mostly), cheerful (usually), independent (always!) firstborn, let loose with his first proper sentence. Ok, so it was only two words, one after the other. But it was with perfect clarity and they were in context. The foreign language type nonsense he had been using was suddenly perfectly coherent. He told his daddy to shut up. I still remember that feeling of dismay. It wasn’t nice to hear the same child who had just the night before, gone from me to Mister Husband and told us both individually that he “lobbed” us. (For those who are not fluent in toddler-ese, he was saying love.) And now here he was, pointing a very determined Peter Pointer at the man who had been part of his creation, and ordering him to shut it. I felt shock directly after dismay. Where had he heard such an order? We, his parents, certainly never spoke to one another like that. For a fleeting moment I wondered was our eldest a mind reader. But I got over it and life moved on. It was a number of years later before he decided to insult again. And this time it was me in the firing range. He thought it was funny to call me, his mother, the person who gave him life, a fat arse. I rounded on him, telling him whilst that certainly may be the case, no son of mine was ever going to comment on my extra poundage. Too long, too wordy I know but I think he got the message. I will overlook a lot; in the grand scheme of things most of them are not that important. Equally, I think it shows that you are the bigger person when you can back down and say that you are wrong and change your mind about something. It does not make you weak and it does not mean your kids will walk all over you in the future. But sometimes, unfortunately, you have to be the parent and not the friend in an attempt to invest in your future relationship with your kids. But what happens when you have a gaggle of kids around the same age, and all looking forward to a trip to the pool. The oldest one, for example, acts up and you threaten to withdraw the treat. It’s not fair on the others, so what do you do? Answers on a postcard please. I reckon when they are older this can be sorted out by following through on the threat and letting the others have their revenge on the perpetrator. That’s not really fair though either, unless of course, a list of cage fighting rules is drawn up. It might seem harsh, but sometimes, as I am discovering on this epic journey otherwise known as motherhood, tough love really does work. On a recent occasion, I was told to zip it by the same Screecher Creature No. 1. This, it should be pointed out, but without condoning it, was picked up from one of those dastardly American cartoon shows. Or else the school yard. Please, I asked of him, don’t bring it home. That day I discovered, implementing a toy ban works quite nicely. It broke my heart to do it, it really did, but the shrieks of laughter from the other two miscreants only encouraged him to say it again so the toy ban was implemented. When we go to do our weekly shop, the boys go straight to the toy aisle where they pick out something plastic-ey for a couple of euros. Complete rubbish but they love it. Friday nights bedtime is all talk of what they are going to “pick out” the next day. Except this one time, it wasn’t going to happen for Screecher Creature No. 1. The toy ban had well and truly been put in place. There were tears. He begged. He pleaded and he promised to never ever say “zippit” again. You betcha it would never happen again and this was the only way to ensure that it didn’t. For once, I followed through. I enlisted the support and assistance of Mister Husband. How on earth were we going to do this, I wondered. It’s not fair on the others to include them in the embargo, but I couldn’t in all consciousness have them select their crap pieces of junk with Screecher Creature No. 1 looking balefully on. In the end, with the offender still begging and pleading his case the whole way to the supermarket, Mister Husband and I hatched a plan. We may have been cutting off or noses to spite our face, but it was decided that Mister Husband would bring them into the book shop whilst I whizzed around with the trolley. It worked a treat. There were no brightly coloured plastic items bought. Instead, they got crappy children’s TV comics for twice the price the junk in the supermarket would have cost us. I’m still not sure who got the better deal here.