When my son was a baby I didn't know what he wanted all the time, I had to guess, I performed all the basic tasks constantly in the hope that one of them would do it - make him smile, keep him well, stop him crying. This scattergun approach to parenting left me fraught and spent. I needed to focus and make him happy every time, all the time. I turned to that most controversial of authors Gina Ford and created a routine that worked for me, basically one that anticipated his every need before he even knew he needed it.
I wrote out a template and stuck it on the wall, it outlined what we needed to do to service this baby carved up into 30minute chunks. And I really believed it saved me. I said yes, I could do this. Suddenly there was sleep, there was easy feeding, there was time out, there was a rhythm that I could live with. I finally knew what I was doing. It satisfied the control freak in me totally and I looked on smugly as more laissez-faire mothers drifted from one unarranged engagement to another when their squalling darling should clearly have been having their morning nap. Baby thrived as I worked around him like clockwork, ticking off his wants and needs one by one every day.
Every day turned into every month turned into every year and even up until my son left nursery for school we were still running to a basic routine. But the needs have changed from milk and naps into toys and apps and I am still running like clockwork giving him what he wants. Still saying yes. My contented baby has turned into a demanding schoolboy, while I continue to live in anticipatory mode waiting to fulfil his desires, whatever they might be.
It seems my early routine of ensuring everything he needed was on hand at all times has created a rather spoilt little child. It's not his fault, he has only ever known a mother who not only says yes to the question but usually has the answer in her hands already. I just say yes all the time. I am so used to saying yes I say yes even when he isn't asking me for something.
The advert comes on the TV, he turns to me, I say yes. Want to make cakes? I say yes. Don't want to eat your greens? Yes, fine. Is it ok if I don't brush my teeth tonight? Yes. A doughnut? Yes, yes, yes.
The saved up for iPad bought with the words 'He won't be getting his hands on this' is now almost solely in his possession, the TV is set permanently to a kids channel, the music in the car is always from his playlist. My early, ethereal thoughts of having a child who only played with wooden toys and never ate fast food have evaporated as I find myself knee deep in plastic Power Rangers and Happy Meal gimcracks that I have willingly handed over to keep the peace. A trip to the toy shop resulted in him being offered a choice of two things, after some negotiation he, of course, received both stating simply 'I knew you would say yes'.
He views his broken mother as merely a means by which to acquire things. While his life runs like an efficient, comforting machine I am reduced by my constant need to keep providing. I have to leave the house every day with wet hair because he doesn't like the noise of the hairdryer over Scooby Doo. I always let him go to the toilet first when we're out despite nearly wetting myself on many an occasion. My phone (when I can find it) is cluttered up with stupid games apps and usually out of charge. Unable to look at clothes for myself when out shopping I order an unsuitable wardrobe online, late, by myself, simultaneously downloading music I'll never be allowed to listen to.
My husband (who has an easy, teasing relationship based around denial and reward with him) suggests I have created no boundaries, there is nothing wrong in going without, being bored sometimes, being told no! I suggest I just need to walk the path of least resistance, despite knowing I am creating a rod for my own back. I am concerned the previously tense mother poised ready to satisfy with warm milk in hand has evolved into a busy but lazy, working woman who knows that it is just easier to keep on saying yes. To carry on hopping around thrusting out warmer hats, better tea-time options and offering up your purse and iTunes password whenever asked for.
How to bring it back? How to stop him degenerating into a petulant, foot-stamping, chubby child with no idea of the value of things? The stereotypical only child. Thankfully he himself is very generous with his time, humour and love, I am grateful every day for his new achievements and company. He certainly pays me back, and I'm sure he would continue to do so even if I did learn how to say no to him now and again.
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