When I scream and strop it lasts for, like, ten minutes: enough time for me to run to the nearest mirror and see what I look like when I’m crying. But my kids: well, they can make a strop last for ages. Especially the middle one, Noah. His strops last longer than an EastEnders storyline, which – as you probably know – lasts for YEARS.
Take this evening, for example. Everything seems calm: Isaac is playing with Jemima, the pitch of his voice getting higher and higher until only the neighbourhood dogs can hear him. Jemima, for her part – being just five months old – is doing very little. And Noah is dancing around, probably singing a One Direction song, and generally being a bit weird.
And then, from nowhere, all hell breaks loose. Isaac is yelling, Noah is crying, and Jemima – being just five months old - continues to do very little. Maybe she’s contemplating an attempt to roll out of the room to get a modicum of peace and quiet, but I don’t know. She can’t talk yet.
I don’t really know what happened, apart from the fact it involved a toy car. But now Noah is just screaming at anything within a three foot radius – me, Isaac, the table leg – and his usually gorgeous face has tightened and contorted into a squinty, snotty, dribbly red ball of cheeks and tears. And now his hands are going, swiping at anything he can reach.
In his defence, he’s not been well. He’s in the throes of a cold and cough, so he wasn’t feeling great. But still: not an excuse to start clawing at my face, which is why I picked him up and carried him to his bedroom. This, of course, made him worse, and by this point he’s just bawling the words ‘I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED’ over and over again.
This kid has staying power. Five minutes pass, and he’s still banging on about not wanting to go to bed as I change him into his pyjamas; but now his words are punctuated by his diaphragm, spasming like a fish out of water, causing the silence between each word to be filled with a sharp – and snotty – intake of breath.
‘I – DON’T – WANT – TO – GO – TO – BED!’
His cries have changed now, though. They’ve gone from incandescent rage to a kind of resignation. He knows he is defeated, but he’s not going down without a fight. I attempt to get him into his bed, but end up having to pin him to the mattress like a wrestler in the victory seconds of a bout. Eventually, though – with the help of a Charlie and Lola story – he finally succumbs, and I tuck the quilt under his chin. He is already half asleep, still doing those weird crying hiccups occasionally, but now they’re softer.
Nearly half an hour has passed, but I’ve won. Supernanny, eat your heart out.