When Ninja was new, I remember taking tentative steps into discipline. He was hitting My Officer Godmother on the head with a wooden brick. I told him firmly to stop, he looked at me, with an air of defiance and continued. I persisted to admonish him but eventually had to bite down on my knuckle, to stop myself from laughing.
Not because it’s funny to hurt My Officer Godmother; it was the look on Ninja’s face. The lack of concern that he was doing anything wrong, layered with my ineffective reasoning, in addition to not wanting to upset my progeny, mixed with the novelty of being the parent in this kind of scenario and finally the Mother Effect - that thing where having children skews your outlook to believe that your offspring are perpetually adorable. (An essential security measure for parents, ensuring you don’t try to disown offspring when it dawns on you that they don’t do anything you want.) These factors contributed to the ludicrous, comedic vibe.
Nonetheless, I didn’t show him laughing and as time goes on and I continue to teach him the ways of the world, I turn my back or leave the room if I feel that giggle bubble threatening to pop out of my throat... often just a cough will sort it.
Sometimes I have a flurry of frustrations bubbling inside of me but other times, well sometimes at least, I'm just not that cross but I have to show cross in order for his four year old mind to understand that something is wrong, right?
I’d like to transpose the conversation that went on around said Surprising Sentence.
To set the scene, I was in the kitchen making packed lunches. I heard the bang, which I recognised as the stair gate hitting the door frame, no doubt savaging the paintwork, but we pick our battles - they were in good spirits. One larger than usual bang and I stopped what I was doing and waited for what was either a) nothing or b) Minnow doing a silent inhale of agony, gearing up for a deluge of emotion on the exhale.
It was b.
Ninja said, “She hit her head”. Gathering Baby Girl up - spit strings perilously close, her cheeks moist and hot - unable to gather herself even for a second, I asked her what had happened. Ninja pipes up: “She doesn’t want to tell you”.
Hmm, suspicious. Minnow, inconsolable and rigid with shock, then convulsing in pain and finally flailing her finger at Ninja, she was brutal in her condemnation. After I got her the cooling gel pack that we call Mr Bump, which in fact is Mr Happy, not Mr Bump (surely they’ve missed something there?) and calmed her down, I turned my attention back to Ninja. I explain to him that I’m cross that he’s hurt Minnow, but I’m even more cross that he tried to lie about it. To ensure that he’s understood, I get him to repeat after me:
“ You must tell the truth, and you mustn’t hurt Minnow... OK? You must...”
“No, you mustn’t...”, he jumped in with...
“Tell the truth.” For the love of God! The Mother Effect fails me!
And I am finally reminded, he is four years old. He hasn’t a clue what I’m on about. I’m not sure if he even understands the word “truth”. I see this is going to be a long process. I’m going to have to pretend to be cross quite a lot, and continue trying not to laugh, in an attempt to give him clear signs of what’s right and wrong.