The key question of my current existence i.e. during the period after the away from home holidays but before school has returned, is how to best deal with four children under the age of ten? Well in reality, it’s really how do you deal with three boys under the age of ten because Ella (2) is always a pleasure to have around, well except when she is cranky due to lack of sleep, but hey that is something that can be said about everyone including yours truly. Actually, there is another time when she is a bit difficult and that is when she has to be strapped into her car seat. I think this stems from the fact that she can see her three older siblings in their relatively looser booster seats while she is held fast like an air fighter pilot in a contraption that would not seem out of place in Top Gun. “Daddy my straps are really hurting me” is a common refrain from the back of the car and no amount of adjusting or manoeuvering seems to ease her pain, real or psychological! At these times, she will also use her big blue eyes and cuteness factor so I invariably have to look away as I am trying to get the hook thingy to fit in the fastener thingy (don’t look into her eyes whatever you do, don’t look into her eyes!). It almost goes without saying that I’m really looking forward to the end of car seats, it’s nearly up there with nappies as the number one thing I can’t wait to get rid of.
But back to my main topic, how to prevent my home turning into wrestlemania 24/7? A typical daytime scenario usually starts off normally enough. I’ll be enjoying a quiet moment chopping onions when suddenly there’ll be a loud crashing noise from the adjacent living room usually followed by a roar (for wrestling fans this will have a similar effect to the announcement music of a new contender entering the ring, cue objects flying through the air, macho posing and somebody feigning life threatening injury on the ground). I will rush in like some under-qualified and outgunned referee trying to bring order to proceedings, gesticulating and roaring wildly without much success. In order to prevent this, I have implemented an edict which allows me when I sense the mood of the house turning, to send each brother to his room for 20 minutes on a rolling basis enjoying some “quiet” time. When all three have done their 20 minute stints, we are magically one hour closer to the end of the day! In all seriousness, this approach has actually been quite successful, without the distractions of their siblings the “banished” boy can spend his time doing pretty wholesome stuff like reading, building lego or just simply playing with the vast array of toys which he has accumulated in his relatively short lifetime but seem to spend a lot of time gathering dust. It’s also an opportunity to catch up on some rest if he happens to have gotten up really early in order to maximise television time before daddy comes downstairs. Harking back to my own childhood, I used to really enjoy spending time alone in my room finding wholesome ways to keep myself amused. I can remember games of Risk where I was all 6 players at once (red = communists, pink = socialists, black = capitalists, blue = fascists, yellow = liberals and green = pacifists; greens had a very poor track record in the game) enabling myself to experience the full range of emotions associated with Risk (principally anger, hurt and sadness for the losers and extreme triumphalism for the winner). I also invented a rugby tournament involving Star Wars and GI Joe figures which I’m sure would have been a big hit if only I could have sorted the multiple licensing agreements. I have yet to see such flourishes of imagination from my offspring but I remain hopeful.
It’s a weird part of the dynamic between my three boys that when there are only two of them, they usually find ways of playing with each other in a civilised and sometimes constructive manner. Now I’m not saying it is perfect and there are still arguments but it never seems to descend into the “he’s coming at him from the top rope with a metal chair in his hand” phase. Maybe they realise they will never be able to claim full alpha male supremacy if there is someone absent so they just don’t bother with it.
The other way of separating the boys is to involve third parties i.e. go on play dates. Strangely enough this tends to work better when I can ship one of them outwards, as play dates chez Doyle inevitably seem to end up in some dispute over the playstation. Of course I don’t have an endless supply of outward play dates before payback is required, there is only so long that the new dad hopelessly underwater routine can be tolerated!
In an effort to solve and provide a reasonable alternative to this I have lined up some daytrips in the hope that the boys will be distracted enough not to spend their time endlessly trying to annoy each other. More on this in the next blog post.