The other night I awoke to strange whisperings coming from Alpine Boy’s room. Pulling my ratty dressing gown around me I shuffled to his bedroom door, and was amazed to hear the following coming from within.
Now it all makes sense… every last bit.
I jotted it down, word for word, to pass on to other parents who, like me, are at the end of their tether and wondering why their kids are such brats. Here it is, take note; now the secret’s out, parenting will be a piece of cake…
00:24, 30 October 2014; The Wendy House, Alpine Towers, Middle of Nowhere, France. Three young children are huddled together, dressed in PJs and sipping milk from wine glasses. A meeting is in progress.
Alpine Boy: (Shuffles some papers, and clicks his favourite four-colour Bic pen rapidly) Quiet please, quiet please… ssshhhh, thank you. Don’t wake the parents – we really can’t afford to be found out! The control they’d have over us if they knew about all this?! I shudder to think… Anyway, welcome to the Annual General Meeting of the Alpine Kids. I think we’re quorate – Alpine Girl?
Alpine Girl: (Pulls a finger out of her nose and examines the findings intently) Here!
Alpine Boy: (Also examines the findings from Alpine Girl’s nose intently) Oooh, nice one… Good, Alpine Baby?
Alpine Baby: here!
Alpine Boy: Right. Alpine Baby this is your first AGM but I think Alpine Girl will have explained the basics to you already – we’re here to discuss tactics for the upcoming year. Our goals are the same as last year, and it’s a fine balance between all of them: (1) getting what we want as often as possible (and in particular for birthdays, for Christmas, and when standing next to the sweet aisle in the supermarket); (2) ensuring the Alpine Parents don’t have any more children (and, no offence Alpine Baby as you’re lovely and all, but Alpine Girl and I were disappointed to have failed on this front last year, especially now you’re getting older and we’re having to share things with you…).
Alpine Girl: Yeah, like my bedroom. Humpf. (Folds her arms and frowns grumpily)
Alpine Boy: Yes, yes, Alpine Girl, I think you’ll just have to get over that…. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, we have to balance aims (1) and (2) with aim (3) – not being so awful that the parents decide to get rid of us. I heard it happens…
Alpine Baby: (sniffs loudly as her eyes widen and her bottom lip quivers) Really…?
Alpine Boy: don’t worry, it won’t come to that, that’s why we’re having this meeting. So, tactics. Alpine Girl, why don’t you start? What have you got for us this year?
Alpine Girl: Thank you Alpine Boy. So yes, as you know I have reached the perfect age this year – tantrums are my speciality. I propose continuing with the tantrums for at least the next six months: throwing myself on the floor, writhing madly, screaming at the top of my lungs. Well you’ve seen it, you know how dramatic I can be, I’m very proud of my “noooooo Mummy, not dat one!” routine first thing in the morning when she wants to put trousers on me instead of a skirt (or indeed, vice versa). I’m thinking of working in some violence – headbutting the walls, scratching anything in my path, you know. It needs a bit of work, but I’m getting plenty of practice.
Alpine Baby: (looks up after taking careful notes in a spiral notebook) Does it really work though? They told me at Baby Training that parents have got wise to tantrums: that there are so many parenting gurus out there nowadays telling them “not to give in” when toddlers start screaming that they’ve ruined our trade! I heard it’s really hard to get anything out of them anymore by throwing a screaming fit?
Alpine Girl: Yes, annoyingly that’s true. Bloody Jo Frost. Thanks a lot, Supernanny… (clenches her hand into a fist and punches it remarkably hard into her other hand). Anyway, the tantrums are admittedly more effective for aim (2) – persuading the parents not to have any more kids. I threw a particularly good one the other day: it lasted for a good twenty minutes (I was so proud!), and I pulled out all the stops. Alpine Mummy was nearly crying, she tried everything to stop me – ignoring me, pleading, shouting…. but I won hands down. Admittedly I couldn’t remember what the tantrum was for by then end of it, but I am pretty damn sure she won’t want any more kids after that. Ha!
Soft applause from Alpine Boy and Alpine Baby, as Alpine Girl smiles smugly and flicks her blonde curls out of her eyes.
Alpine Girl: And anyway, we can still use tantrums to get what we want – it’s just a long-term thing, not short-term. Parenting gurus advise parents to distract us before a tantrum starts. This gives middle-class mummies who are hell-bent on “not giving in to tantrums” a perfect opportunity to take the easy way out, whilst still saving face and without the guilt of breaking those ridiculous parenting rules they care so much about – and it means we get what we want! They call it “distraction”, but we know that it is basically just them giving us what we want right at the beginning, in the hope that it will avoid a tantrum before it even starts. We have to put in a lot of groundwork for this technique to be successful, so that they know just how bad a tantrum really can be, but don’t worry, I’m doing well on that front. They know that these tantrums are well worth avoiding!
Alpine Boy: Thanks Alpine Girl, that’s really great, keep up the good work. And Alpine Baby, watch and learn: Alpine Girl really is the best in the business when it comes to toddler tantrums – soon it will be your turn and we will need you to hit the ground running as soon as you turn two…
Alpine Baby: (nods eagerly, gazing at her heroes and tightly clutching her detailed notes) OK, I just hope I can become as skilled as you are Alpine Girl. But I’m still worried about them getting rid of us – how do you manage that? What if the tantrums are so perfect that not only does Alpine Mummy not want any more kids, she also doesn’t want us?!
Alpine Girl: It’s OK Alpine Baby, we’re cute. (catches sight of herself in the bedroom mirror, and pauses long enough to take in the sight of her pretty face and halo-like hair). Very cute. And we need to play that to our advantage. If it looks like I might have gone too far, and Alpine Mummy really is considering adoption, I just give her a big hug, a sloppy kiss, and say “I love you Mummy”, totally unprompted. Works a treat. And if that’s too vomit-inducing then just try doing something that makes the parents go “aaawww”. Like playing nicely with Alpine Boy for at least ten minutes, ‘helping’ to put the shopping away, doing some funny dance you’ve copied off YouTube, or just sitting down with a book and teddy. Bit boring that last one, but it’s worth it – it works. Anyway, you don’t need to do it for long, then it’s straight back to the fun of tantrums. My favourite part of the day.
Alpine Boy: (nods in approval and ticks something off in his paperwork) So, that’s tantrums dealt with. Any other tactics up your sleeve this year Alpine Girl?
Alpine Girl: Yes, a few. I don’t eat, as you’ll have noticed. Or at least I don’t eat anything that’s not pasta pesto, yoghurt or chocolate. Alpine Mummy’s way of dealing with this for ages was to not let me have any pudding if I didn’t eat my dinner. So I went on hunger strike, literally letting nothing pass my lips for days at a time. It freaked her out so much that now she lets me have my yoghurt (and in fact pretty much anything I want) even if I don’t eat my main course, just so I don’t wither away. 1-0 to me, ha. I’ll be carrying on with this one, it works so well. What about you Alpine Boy? You’re turning 6 next month, I guess tantrums are not your thing anymore?
Alpine Boy: I guess, though I still try. I’ve got to be smarter this year, tantrums work less and less for me each year (I just get told off more. Not fun). So I’ve got myself a bit of a trick – I show what a perfect little son I can be; how grown up I am: I make my own breakfast in the mornings, I clear away the dishes after dinner. I sit for hours quietly doing drawings, making loom-band bracelets for everyone in the family, or learning to read. I get rewarded with DVD nights, new rollerblades, ski trips and yet more loom bands. And then, just when Alpine Mummy thinks she’s cracked it with me, when she really believes she’s got the upper hand: boom! I whinge, I cry, I do every little tiny annoying naughty thing I can think of in the shortest space of time possible, be it jumping on the sofa, breaking everything in my path, winding up Alpine Girl till she screams blue murder, or simply ignoring Alpine Mummy when she’s telling me to do something. That all shows her who’s really boss!
Alpine Baby: (nodding excitedly) ooh there’s all so much to learn, and I’ve got such a tough act to follow! I hope I can live up to it all.
Alpine Boy: you will, don’t worry. Just fill us in on how you’ve been doing so far – getting what you want, and ensuring we have no more new brothers or sisters we would have to share our spoils with.
Alpine Baby: well, the ‘getting what I want’ thing has been working pretty well so far. I just scream. To start with I would make sure I would scream non-stop every night between the hours of 8.30pm and 1.30am. This was just the groundwork really, so they knew what I was capable of. I could see the pain in their tired eyes as they paced up and down the lounge each night, desperately shushing me and only able to watch TV with subtitles. I did a fine job, I think; in fact Alpine Papa videoed me at it once, just so they would remember what it was like and “never have another one”, so they said.
Nods of approval from Alpine Boy and Alpine Girl.
Alpine Baby: After about two months that got tiring, so I took up habitual projectile vomiting instead. I would wait until Alpine Mummy left the house in her cleanest clothes, then would make sure I covered her from head to toe, always aiming for the hair so she would smell for the whole rest of the day. Wet wipes would not get rid of that stink, I made sure of that! I wouldn’t do it for a few days, and then, just when she thought that phase had passed and she would dare put on a nice frock again, I would let rip. I’m pretty sure she will remember that for ever, even in a few years’ time when we’ve all gone to school and she starts getting broody again…
(Alpine Girl raises her wine glass of milk in a congratulatory salute, and Alpine Baby looks timidly proud.)
Alpine Baby: What else? Ah yes, sleeping. I am an exceptionally good sleeper. During the day. This makes Alpine Mummy adore me, as I know she loves daytime naps almost as much as she loves wine. This makes it even more effective, therefore, when, seven months in, I still don’t sleep through the night. Ever. She’s tried to catch me out by staying up late so that I wake up before she’s actually gone to sleep – then it doesn’t seem to be so painful for her. She won that battle for a few nights but now I’ve worked out what to do – I simply wait until I know she’s asleep, count 45 minutes so she’s right in the deepest part of her sleep cycle, then go for it. “Wwwaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!” Ha haaa, she’ll never have another baby after that! And I always make sure never to do the same thing two nights in a row, so she never starts to believe she’s in control. Not sure how long I can keep it up though, to be honest – I’m getting rather tired and quite frankly need the sleep myself. And anyway, she’s threatening to withdraw the boobie and start me on formula milk, and I’ve heard that stuff knocks you out completely, all night.
Alpine Girl: Don’t worry, you’ve done a great job so far, well done!
Alpine Boy: yes indeed, well done. (Shuffles his papers and clicks off his pen.) Right, I think that brings us to the end – keep your thinking caps on for more great ideas on how to get what we want, whilst all the time avoiding the introduction of additional siblings and being sent to an orphanage. We’ll meet again in six months’ time; till then good luck! And remember, this stays top secret between us – if Alpine Mummy and Alpine Papa ever found out that all this naughtiness is just a cunning plan to make them think they’re in control, then we’d never get anything we wanted, ever again….
I picked my jaw up off the ground and slipped away as they brought the meeting to a close. Bloody kids! Well, now it’s war!