Sunday, 7 February 2010

Bringing up Boys: How (NOT) to get children to behave on long car journeys...

I love driving, I love long journeys. I just don’t like doing either with boys in the back.
I don’t think it would be so bad if I couldn’t hear them, see them, smell them or touch them – perhaps a privacy divide such as those in the best limousines that you see on the telly. Failing that I do my best.
It’s usually a case of carrot and stick. If you behave and don’t:
• Hit your brother
• Kick my seat
• Shout at me
• Shout at your Brother
• Push the dog
• Want a wee
• Take your seatbelt off
• Want to go home/stay where you are
• Want a drink
• Want food
• Want the radio on
• Want the radio off
• Want a different CD to the one she has just put in
• Need a huggie when Mummy is overtaking a lorry on a particularly difficult piece of road
THEN Mummy will give you some sweeties/a new Anbarrow/toys/ well virtually anything at this moment in time!
Sometimes this tactic works, more often than not it works but for not long enough. It is so easy to opt for sterner measures. Firstly I go for the withdrawal of privileges but about an hour and 45 minutes into the journey with road works, snow and massive lorries either side of me and still no let up from my companions, I do what many a parent has done before. I broker the great ‘I-will-leave-you-at-the-side-of-the-road-if you-do-not-be-quiet-now’ threat.
In journeys gone by this has proved exceedingly effective but as with many things familiarity breeds contempt and there comes a time where you have to put (or at least seemingly put) your money where your mouth is…
Now picture this: The Boy is an imaginative soul and he’s also quite dramatic. His younger brother is at the stage where he needs to test his metal. I have been driving for two hours and the boys are whining, kicking, shoving and just will not go to sleep. It’s 11 o’clock at night. I’m negotiating the myriad roundabouts that make up the ring road route round Milton Keynes. It’s snowing and I am desperately tired – I NEED to concentrate.
Me- exasperated: “If you do not be quiet now I will pull over and leave you by the side of the road! Now be quiet.”
Them chorusing: “Noooooooo!!!”
Me: “Boys! I said be quiet…NOW!”
Bog Boy: “But I don’t want to be eaten by the animals…”
Me: “Then be quiet and go to sleep.”
There is a momentary lull then one or other of them thumps the other and there is lots of shouting…Bog Boy gets out of his chair and jumps on his brother
Me, completely at the end of my tether: “RIGHT that’s it at the next lay by I am stopping and you are getting out. Bog Boy put your seat belt back on NOW!
The Boy: “Please Mum nooooo!”
Bog Boy: “Mummee! I don’t want it!”
Me (as I indicate to pull into a convenient bus stop): “Too late!”
I mean to just check that Bog Boy has got his seat belt on properly but I forget that for them it must really seem like I am going to haul them out of the back seat and dump them there in the lay by.
Both boys explode into tears and start screaming. The Boy holds tightly onto Bog Boy
The Boy: “No Mummy! No! Don’t do it Mummy, please don’t!”
Bog Boy: “I don’t want it! I don’t want it! No Mummeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!”
I swerve over the road at the unexpectedness of the explosion from the back and slam on the brakes making the car swerve and go into a massive skid. The back end is totally out of control and the bus stop looks remarkably solid and getting terrifyingly near. I steer violently one way then the other and somehow luck is on our side and the car comes to a halt.
Shaken I open the front door to get out. Both boys are still shouting in the back and I glance at down to see a hypodermic needle on the ground, I look about and note bits of foil as well and another needle. There is someone there just out of sight. My heart is already pumping but this seriously scares me and slamming the door, I start the car and make off almost as quickly as I stopped.
The boys are absolutely silent now in the back,
Me - with icy calmness that I don’t really feel: “Bog Boy? Boy? Are you alright?”
Them - very subdued: “Yes Mummy.”
Me: “Why don I put some nice quiet music on and you go to sleep….”
Note: There are 300 roundabouts in Milton Keynes. Fear does focus minds. I really, really wouldn’t recommend it.
Picture: Liz Leyh's "Concrete Cows" in 2006


Inthemud said...

Oh Tattie how I sympathise, I had 3 girls to drive around, absolute nightmare. So glad they've all grown up, well almost, I have one 13 yr old girl in car now and she hardly says a word, usually ears plugged in to iplayer, so I can carry on listening to Radio 2 !

Anonymous said...

Few - sounds like you need to sleep for a week after that sort of journey!

Jude said...

I'm afraid I've done this - more than once with my 2 boys. Literally stopped and dumped one of them on the pavement, and made as if to drive off. It has worked as a last resort when I'm at the end of my tether, but I really feel guilty about it and suspect that it might be tantamount to emotional abuse. I also wonder what onlookers must think, and whether I'll receive a visit from social services shortly after!

Iota said...

Aaargh. Poor you.

Wait till they're old enough for a DS each, and all your problems will be solved.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

That is scary. The moment the back of the car isn't where it should be - let alone the wails and howls. I love that your boys actually thought you were going to leave them behind. here is a parent who has clearly carried out some threats in the past!

I'm a bit worried that my two might love the car swerving bit and be egging me on to try and do it again.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

What I love about this story is that we've all thought before having children ..."I'd NEVER say that " and then , about three years down the line , been aghast at the words coming out of our mouths .
Your two know you wouldn't leave them , and the increasing yells were probably largely tired " I don't know how to stop being a pain . Help , Do something to turn me off ." noises .
So you did . And it worked . It shut you all up , by the sound of it !

Hope the rest of the journey was peaceful.

Anonymous said...

It's an awful feeling isn't it. Amy used to play up in the car when she was little, getting out of her seat whilst I was driving down to Manchester, she also used to take all her clothes off. The amount of times I used to stop on the hard shoulder just to get her dressed again. A nice relaxing cd usually does the trick, or a portable dvd player.

CJ xx

Lou said...

Spookily familiar!


Greatly sympathise Tattie. If it's any comfort, I have spent huge amounts of time over the years screaming at my children to shut up while we are on car journeys. There's something hideous about being in that confined space with them all fighting with eachother. I have a particular problem with my youngest - the car is her chosen territory to cause misery and havoc but that's a whole other story...
Yes, many an accident has nearly been caused; many a time I have screeched to a halt and pretended to leave her on the side of the road; and your experience at the bus stop reminds me of similar emotions brought on by fear when you realise, that despite all this stress, they are so very precious and it is your hands that are on the wheel of that car and what a major responsibility that ultimately is.

Diney said...

I'm amazed that so many of us have done this!! I thought I was such a horrible mother, but now I know I am not alone in the threat of 'if you don't behave I'll stop the car and leave you right here...' which does, in black and white, sound terrible, but just shows how frustrated we can get.A real wake up call when you swerve, though, with the precious cargo on board.

Tattie Weasle said...

Inthemud - looking forward to ipods etc
Mud - I try to but they keep waking me up!
Jude - Oh don't the guilt bit then thre is a terrible worry that they will HATE me when they are older and leave me all by myself or else threaten to do the same thing when I'm a senile old granny.
Iota - Got one on a DS but 3 year old is just not interested unless of course it is to snatch it away from his brother ...
Brit in Bosnia - I swear I got this from my Dad who did it to me and my sister. He left us but Mum persuaded him to come back... I was 20 and my sister 16!
SmitoniusAndSonata - we were VERY peaceful on the rest of the journey!
CJ - ohmygod NAKED No they haven't learned that trick yet. I won't be telling them either :)
Lou - so glad I'm clearly not the only one!
Heronthehill - I secretly panic that they will catch on and that all my threats are empty. What in the world will I do then? I adore them to bits ...

Tattie Weasle said...

Diney - crossed in the ether there! carrying that precious load in the car is such a responsibility so I will admit that when they are not there the music's up loud and I travel way faster!

Ladybird World Mother said...

Awful... I just SO know that sort of journey. Your wonderful honesty... we ALL think and do just that... and pretend that we dont. (Well, at least to mother in laws, we do.)
Hope the rest of the journey was a good one. xxxx

Tattie Weasle said...

Ladybird World Mother - On no could never ever admit this to MIL - thank heavens she leaves me to blog in peace. At least I hope she does...hang on is that the Jaws tune I hear?

Preseli Mags said...

Golly I think we all recognise this scenario! Luckily mine are a) girls and b) mostly good now, but I well remember journeys with little feet hammering on the back of my seat and high pitched screaming (me!).

Mind you, they can be awful if they're tired. Paddington audio books help with that one!

PS: Mine never take their seatbelts off now. They did once when I was turning the car round, I had to brake hard and the result was two banged heads. Lesson learned.

Tattie Weasle said...

Preseli Mags - keep thinking that agirl among this lot would seriously help but trhere again...and as for banging heads I bought a car with anti lock brakes - useless for parents!!!!!

Angela said...

I must admit I chuckled. Now that my own daughters are grown, I can look back on my own helpless efforts and be glad we all survived. But the best part is that my oldest daughter has a four-year-old boy now...As my mother used to say, it comes all back to a person!
Nice honest blog, this!

Go on you know you want to...


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