Do you get all <catbum mouth> at people who swear at their children? You are not alone if you do. Who would not look disapproving at someone shouting and swearing at their child?
Who would not judge that person as a Bad Mother for using bad language, for shouting at a poor little innocent child.
If you had observed me on our trip to Germany, you would have judged me and found me wanting.
But stop for a moment and think. This post is not about parents who verbally abuse their children, who shout and swear day in, day out. But about the parents who lose their temper and patience after a day of being ignored by their stubborn 7 year old son who will NOT do anything on the first telling. Or the parents who are on an eight hour journey with squabbling children.
We were on such a journey. For the first hour they watched a film, then they listened to music and chatted reasonably amicably. When they started to get bored and grumpy, I shared gummibears, reaching back between the seats with handfuls of bright coloured sweets.
Contrary to British expectations, I was not whizzing along the German Autobahn, but tensely trying to stay in the narrowed lane of a massive tangle of roadworks. The lorries and buses on my right side were too close for comfort, and I would normally not try to overtake on such narrow lanes, but I was trying to keep up with my husband in our veteran MGB, who was in turn struggling to keep the car going. It was making strange noises and he was concerned that he would break down in the middle of these roadworks, with no hard shoulder.
So to say I was slightly stressed is an understatement. My 9 year old daughter dropped a gummibear on the floor, it landed at my son’s feet.
“Leave it, I will give you another one”, I instructed, but she ignored me.
“I want my gummibear back. Give me it back, it is right there”, she instructed her brother.
He bent and picked it up then handed her the gummibear. “That is not my gummibear. I had a green one. This one is yellow. I want my gummibear”, she whined.
Her brother countered, “No. It was a yellow one. You dropped a yellow one”, in his most stubborn tone. The there-is-no-arguing-with-me-tone.
There followed a swiftly escalating drama, with whining, shouting, accusations and name calling.
“OK. ENOUGH. It doesn’t matter. Here is the bag of gummibears, chose the colour you want and stop the shouting”.
“But I just wanted my own gummibear back, he should give me it”.
“I DIDN’T take your stupid gummibear. I told you”.
“Yes you did. It was green. I saw it when it fell. I had a green one and I want my green one back”.
I swerved to avoid crashing into a lorry. “RIGHT. STOP IT. It doesn’t matter what colour of FUCKING gummibear he gave you. JUST EAT IT”.
Whoops. So not only did I shout at my 9 year old, I also swore at her.
And now, a couple of day later, I have to admit that the thought of it makes me laugh. I have no idea if they realised what I had said (and I like to think that they are naive enough not to know the F word) or if they will remember the moment later in life, but it certainly shut them up.
I am not perfect. I am a mother not a martyr. I make mistakes. I shout at my children, and for an outsider it may look mean or abusive. But it doesn’t happen every day, and I have never sworn at them before.
My children are loved, and they know they are loved. They are not going to be scarred by a few incidents in their childhood when their mother lost her temper. I just hope they don’t start to talk about “fucking gummibears”.
PS Remind me to tell you about the return journey and the banana saga …