Monday, 6 April 2009

the tyke test

We met Little Tyke again this week at the same playgroup and I observed something interesting.

You will recall that Little Tyke was cruising for a clout having wrenched toy after toy out of the hands of my much smaller, baby son.

This time, I was accompanied by two friends and their little charges, (not actually theirs; they are nannies) attending the group for the first time and the Tyke pulled the same stunt with them, accidentally-on-purpose crashing into the smallest baby girl and knocking her flat.

The Nannies, more experienced by far than I in this world, eyeballed him and then kept a close but indiscernible watch.

So my first observation was, to my relief, that it was not Snooks who attracted the bad-boy behaviour. He was not provoking the aggression nor transmitting a ‘bully me’ signal. He just happened to be new in town.

Then another interesting thing happened. I looked over just in time to see Snooks grab a car Tyke had been playing with and I intervened to return it to the older boy. (Remember my dilemma in socialisation. I have decided to go with Restoring Order for definite transgressions but letting it go where it seems a bit six of one etc)

He, Tyke, looked confused for a second and then reached over, found another car and handed it to Snooks. Aw Gawd Bless ‘im, we all think. Yes and I was just in the middle of an overly enthusiastic Thank You pantomime, when he did a strange thing. He looked over at mum, waited until he had her attention and then grabbed the car back, scooping up as he did so, as many of the surrounding toys as possible and held them to his chest like a desperate looter caught in the squad car headlights. Of course she came over and told him right off and took him away out of sight.

I opened my mouth to explain what had happened but thought better of it. Anyway, she didn’t make eye contact. She never has, through all our many vicarious tussles. With another mum, I have exchanged friendly eye-rolls as her daughter tries to feed Snooks pieces of plastic fruit (she has more success than I do with the real stuff) or persuade him into a toy pushchair to be her ‘baby’. I did step in when, frustrated with his refusal to be mothered (so with you there, chick) she tried to slam his fingers in the door of the plastic oven, which is housed in a mini kitchen unit I rather enjoy playing with myself.

So Supernanny was right. I was a devotee of the programme long before either Snooks or even the Engineer himself were a feature of my landscape. Back in the days of long solitary candlelit baths, healthy low fat dinners, full waxes, year round tans and early morning runs on the heath – i.e. committed singletonhood – I loved settling down in front of Supernanny, relishing the “thank god it’s not me” feeling as I watched mothers receive bites and blows from their children only to be told off by Jo Frost for not being enough fun.

But I remember the golden rules, which were drummed into withered parents the country over – don’t reward only bad behaviour with attention but do introduce consequences for it. You see, I was a good student. Perhaps I knew someday, somewhere it would come in handy. I watch CSI now (thanks to the Engineer) with the same diligence, noting how to gauge time of death by lividity, information I hope never turns out to be quite so useful.

So I softened towards Tyke, even as I watched him disrupt the singing while his mortified mother pleaded with him to sit down, as perhaps I understood a little about the motivation behind the bad behaviour and resolved to take time to play with Snooks every day, giving him my attention for fun instead of policing him while I go about my business.

It is easy to say and I shall probably forget to do it often enough. But I owe Little Tyke one, and not a clout this time.

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