I think all parents doubt their abilities, even the ones who appear so composed and diplomatic. I like to imagine these people dishevelled and shrieking at their perfect children, feeling the same murderous tendencies that I do on a regular basis.
We do OK, sometimes we do better than OK. There are days when I have successfully navigated a potentially explosive situation and can't resist feeling a little smug. Yes! I am Mother-of-the-Year! Those days though, are rarer than rocking horse poo...
"Yes, Jamie; you can play outside but don't go further than the end of the road, and DO NOT go in anyone's garden"
Jamie reappears ten minutes later clutching a handful of peonies, which I'm pretty confident aren't native to the pavements of our street. She proudly offers them to me, her little face expectant of the great praise that she knows is about to bestowed upon her.
Instant dilemma, do I thank her for the peonies thereby encouraging her to continue to nick all the neighbours' shrubbery? Or do I tell her off and shoot her gesture down in a ball of flames?
So in true fence-sitting fashion I do both (probably the reason my kids are the most confused children I know). I'm doing OK; calmly explaining that the flowers are beautiful and that it was a lovely thought but I had just told her not to go in other people's gardens. After being met with a blank look I begin to lose my cool and I can't help going from calm mode to lecturing her with abject disbelief that she has not only gone out and done the very thing I asked her not to do, but she has stolen from the neighbours garden as well! I end with a mother-hen-like phrase such as
"I don't know why I bother!"
Hmmm, didn't handle that with the greatest of finesse, I reflect as I down a large coffee and inhale hard on my Marlborough light. Next time I'll do better I resolve.
Next is Nicki. She is hungry (because it has been more than three nanoseconds since lunch). She formally requests chocolate biscuits. I counter with an offer of fruit. Nicki has a full inventory of all the kitchen's contents that she regularly updates. Knowing full well that we don't have any melon, this is what she asks for. When I tell her what she already knows; no melon, she is forced to go back to her original request of biscuits.
"Grapes, apple, or banana" I say. I'm not showing a hint of weakness but I've already withered inside because I know what's coming.
"I don't like banana!" She protests.
"Grapes or apple" I say.
"Not if you're hungry, Nicki"
In one deft move: folded arms, huffy face, glaring eyes, and deliberate stomping across the house. She slams her feet down on every single step on her way upstairs until she reaches her room. Two-second pause and then SLAM. There goes another set of door hinges. I boil the kettle and look for my fags.
Take incidents like this, have them five times over in a single day with five children of differing ages and personalities and you may be somewhere close to the nightmare that is parenting the Hayes offspring (or any offspring, I suspect).
However, when you chuck a Stig into the equation, this changes things. Usually not in a good way but then you can almost always guarantee that with Stig around, hilarity will ensue.
His top five telling offs of all time are funny, shameful and not particularly effective, but nevertheless deserve a mention.
1. To Nicki: "You're a Brownie, you should know better!"
2. To random squabbling children: "Quit it, you're making my voice go up and down!"
3. When Sam was running away after I'd told him off: "Run Forrest, Run!"
4. Jamie to Stig: "Dad, when will I be able to go to the shop alone?"
Stig to Jamie: "When you've climbed the hill of responsibility"
5. To all kids when bedlam ensues: "What do you think this is, Jonny's F****** Fun Factory?"