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Gandhi and the Mental Middle Finger


“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi

My son is a legend. Seriously. He should get a medal, an award or some sort of formal recognition. There should be a national holiday in his name. On that holiday, everyone can choose to ignore anything they don’t wish to hear that is said to them. Everyone may adopt selective deafness and persistent apologising. No-one needs to worry about modifying their behaviour. National Ignore Day will have been born. Hallmark will probably make a card you can buy for that. Or they’ll simply ignore it??

The Mini Pig is not so mini now so I sometimes have to be cross with him. It is allowed. The puppy dog eyes no longer tear up when I am forced to mildly tear a strip off him. He no longer cuddles as much as he did when he was little so I won’t miss those so much when he withholds them after I tell him off. For the same thing. Again. And again. And again.

Is it me? Is it too much to have asked for – ooh – going on two years or more now for him NOT to drop his used boxers and clothes in a heap shoved behind his bedroom door? Am I unreasonable to ask him NOT to have lights in two rooms plus a TV, PlayStation, PC for Facebook and my iPad for Lord knows what purpose ALL switched on at the same time? The poor leccy meter is dizzy with the amount and speed of revolutions it is expected to make of an evening. I am positively hyperventilating at the size of the bills it decides I should pay!

Mini Pig has heard the nice requests. I know he has because I sat him down for those.

He has heard the firm but still fair plea to his better nature (global warming for the leccy usage, rats and dust allergies for the tip that is his room, mum’s time and energy spent cleaning up after him and in fruitless nagging). I know he heard because I sat him down with the Man Hog present as a witness for those ones.

He has heard the stern and not remotely amused threats of property removal from his possession. He has witnessed me physically carrying out those threats. He has absorbed my screaming ab dabs like a parched sponge and stoically accepted he needs to find some other entertainment until I deem him punished sufficiently enough to return the goods. Having previously secured his solemn promise to do what I ask.

And then he ignores me. Legendary.

How many times can one over-stressed woman ask a boy to change out of his uniform after school so it does not end up with whatever that night’s meal is all down it? Vanish is great but until they invent “Miracle” or a tree that grows new school shirts overnight there will still be hints of stainage and I can’t have that, OCD about it as I am. How often can one small almost teen say sorry so convincingly and then KEEP ON DOING IT!!! AAAGGGHHH! *pause for necessary deep breathing and ohm noises*

Yet if the Man Hog and I happen to be chatting about anything to do with him or his sister or anything mildly of interest from behind closed doors an entire floor away, young Bat Flaps can hear all that OK! If I go into the kitchen and stealthily ease open a cupboard for a sneaky Malteser, again from a whole floor away, there he is! Like a starving rabid dog with the hearing of a hungry hawk. If I’m wrapping a present locked away somewhere with seven doors between me and him, he’ll tune his sonar into the rustle of paper and come looking for the source.

Nothing actually wrong with the hearing then. Nor the brain functionality – passing all tests with flying colours at school. Well, except for DT but he has small hands – it’s not easy making a shed with those. Be fair.

How do you get through to someone whose capacity to ignore you is greater than your patience to deal with him? How do you handle a kid you love more than life, but who is without a doubt sticking his mental middle finger up at you? I am trying to be all Gandhi about it – slowly, slowly catchy monkey, patience is a virtue, he’ll get it eventually and all that. But the slowness is more likely to send me head first into a vat of sloe gin before he ever conforms.

I am seriously considering some form of training. Apparently for gun dogs and guide dogs, they reprogramme the dog’s brain during a four week breaking session. It involves a lot of lemon juice up the snout and a bit of ear pinching, I believe. But I would do that – if it meant he would listen to me, do the very small things I ask like “Rinse your toothpaste spit, please” or “Please don’t leave your shin pads under the cushions so I get goosed every time I sit down“. If it meant he would eat all his meals from a bowl on the kitchen floor too (less food on the clothes?), well there’s a bonus right there.

Now then……who’s got the number for a decent Dog Whisperer? Whoever it is, I bet they won’t whisper quite like me. At the top of my lungs with a wooden spoon at the ready to carve out my own eye sockets from the sheer frustration! Maybe I should just go the old fashioned route – a hissed directive and a sharp poke in his little porcine buttocks with a cattle prod? No?

OK, so……Any other suggestions before I sell him for medical experiments? I soooooo would, you know.

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To phone or not to phone?

     So yesterday we had a birthday in da house – my son became a big 11 year-old and the usual frenzied ripping of paper, gobbling of chocolate cake and general high jinks ensued.  It was a quiet day in many ways, being a school day it was difficult to plan anything too exciting.  His choice, strange but true, was to have a bath with all his clothes on……..sometimes I wonder if they gave me the right baby? Must check those hospital files one of these days.

In amongst all this celebratory activity, one gift that stood out as a raving parental/child success was the giving of a touchscreen mobile phone. While I was delighted he was so pleased with it – who wouldn’t want to see a great big beam on their child’s face? – it had caused some inner turmoil and marital “discussion” before its purchase, and even now I am wondering if it was really necessary….and/or was it too soon? It got me wondering what other parents think about the positives and negatives of mobiles for under-teens….what age is too young to phone?

Much has been written about the negatives surrounding mobile phone usage among the young. The debates range from concerns over peer pressure and potential bullying issues; to yet another excuse for us useless parents not to communicate with our children (lumped in along with buying them PCs, gaming stations and allowing them to use social networking sites); to those of a more alarming medical and psychological nature. Experts have said that children need to be “ready” to have a phone; in terms of their maturity to handle the responsibility of ownership of a fairly expensive item, the consequences financially and socially of using (and losing) it; and physically in terms of their childhood brain development and resistance to damage from radio frequency radiation. One study, carried out by lead author Leeka Kheifets and published in 2010 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, has gone so far as to suggest that:

 “Children exposed to cell phones in the womb and after birth had a higher risk of behavior problems by their seventh birthday….”

“…compared to children with no exposure to cell phones, those exposed before and after birth were 50 per cent more likely to display behavior problems…”

A The Times article from June 2009 discusses the potential market release of a phone especially developed for 4-12 year-olds, in candy pink or blue with simplified buttons! It all sounds like a recipe for disaster, rather like a science-fiction plot or at the very least a potential NHS timebomb similar to cigarette smoking or glue-sniffing epidemics.  On that subject, interestingly, according to research published by Alasdair and Jean Philips

“Britain’s official £3.1million long-term investigation (COSMOS) into the risk of cancer from mobiles specifically excludes young people.”

Fat lot of good that investigation is then! This is what I pay my taxes for – grrrr!

So on this evidence, what kind of parents would we be to expose our little one (and his sister before him) to such negative potential? Well, like all things, we have to weigh the evidence, discuss the options and the boundaries we will work within, and then go forward.

If I am honest, I suppose it was predominantly the peer pressure and bullying aspects that had me most worried; my assumption being that since my boy had only a few friends with mobile phones he would not be on the thing chatting for many hours a day and therefore would be medically and psychologically safe. That type of continuous phone activity is the reserve of my boss, to whom a cellphone (he is Texan originally, and therefore does not call it a mobile) is as vital as his right arm and/or oxygen. Don’t get me started on his behavioural problems.

The thought that my littlest could be wanting one just because “everyone else has one” was, to me, the lamest of reasons to succumb to a £50 minimum purchase plus on-going costs each month. Owing to a tendency to wear any normal shoes out approximately every 3 weeks, I remember having to wear crepe-soled nurses’ shoes to school as a teenager – in the 80’s – so don’t get me started on wanting to “fit in” and be like my peers. Such adversity makes a man of you, is what I say to that.

Phone bullying can, according to other interesting blog articles I have read on this subject, take the form of stealing the said phones from each other at sleepovers, playdates etc. and in extreme cases, holding the phone “hostage” until the child owner performs a task or forfeit which he or she is loathe to do. Now that is just not on.

What swayed me, in the end, was a niggling voice in the back of my head that said to me “You work full-time 60 miles away from home. Your son is imminently leaving the cosy world of primary school and heading to a much bigger secondary school environment where he has to take a bus to school, and from a pure safety point of view, you would like to be able to get hold of him and him be able to get hold of you.” Yes, true on all counts. The phone we have purchased also has a GPS locator on it. Nuff said.

The other major mover on the swingometer towards agreeing to this purchase was my son’s own poignant request. He is so undemanding a person – literally as easy-going as anyone could be – and he NEVER asks for anything outright (except a sandwich but that doesn’t count). I asked him for a birthday list weeks before the actual day, and he kept saying he really didn’t want/need anything. Finally, a week ago, he said if I was really going to push the point, then he would like a phone so he could text his friends. This from a child who, to my knowledge, does not even call his friends from our house phone! While I couldn’t, on that basis, justify it – I couldn’t in all honesty resist his direct request for something, perhaps for the first time ever.

So the phone is in situ – it has mine, his father’s and his sister’s numbers programmed in so far, plus one other friend. He texted me five times last night from upstairs in his bedroom, and once this morning from the end of my own bed. I’m not really seeing any behavioural or communication issues here…..gulp!