We are into week FOUR of nursery holidays, and week two of incessant rain, and are all somewhat losing our minds. The Boy is so starved of human interaction – his friends are all on holidays, his parents and sister don’t count - that he flung himself at the postman yesterday and cried when the poor man managed to disengage himself. While he was busy conversing (“Who are you? What’s your name? Why are you here? Why you have funny teeth?”) the Girl managed to squeeze her way through our legs and was off down the street like a shot. Despite the blowing gale and lashing rain, she too cried she was caged up back in the house. But the worst affected by our protracted house-arrest has been yours truly. I’ve been in a rotten mood for over a week, yelling and shouting at the slightest toddler infraction – they are driving me MAD - to the extent that it’s now become a very bad, but unshakeable (and, if I’m honest, not entirely unenjoyable) habit.
That it might be affecting the children more than the usual rolling of the eyes and stomping of the feet became clear yesterday when the Boy disappeared off upstairs. After 20 minutes the Man went looking for him. He found him, naked from the waist down, hiding under a pile of dirty clothes in the laundry room; “I can’t come downstairs because I wet my pants and Mummy will be very cross with me and shout.”
The GUILT. (Compounded by the fact that he was right – I would have shouted.)
So I’ve decided to instigate my own Good Behaviour Snake*. The original idea – that I get a wine sticker every time I restrain self from screeching, which I can then trade in for a glass of wine – was rejected by the Wine-Keeper. I then proposed that I be presented with a large, expensive gift, if I can go a week without cracking. This too was rejected – despite my assurances that it would be at least 2028 (when I estimate the kids will have left home) before I’d realistically achieve this goal. So I’ve come up with my own carrot and stick.
Actually, it’s just a stick. I’ve given the Man £100, in £10 notes, and a piece of paper. Every time I screech, a note is made of this on the paper. Every screech directed at the children is worth £1 to the Man. Each time I hit 10, he takes £10 from the kitty. Originally, the idea was that he’d give this to charity. But because I am so darn bonkers, I know that a part of my brain will justify my mean, bad parenting as being for a good cause, and the bellowing will continue. So he gets to keep the money, and do whatever he likes with it, and I then match every pound he gets and give it to charity.
Basically, I’m setting up quite an expensive swear box, the proceeds of which will benefit the Man and an, as yet, unspecified charity. £2 isn’t really so much, but honestly, at the rate I’ve been going, that £100 wouldn’t make it till lunchtime.
We’ve inserted a couple of rules, to take account of real life, and my current general disposition towards the children. I get two free passes a day (if you live in the SW4 area of London, brace yourselves – I plan on getting my money’s worth from those babies); I am also allowed justified yelling – if the kids are being REALLY bad (ie hurting each other, or, more likely, me), or if they’re putting themselves in danger and I can’t get to them in time (possibly because I’m sitting in the broom cupboard rocking backwards and forwards and muttering imcomprehensibly to myself).
The Man thinks there’s no way I can do it, and is dancing the dance of glee danced by one about to come into easy money. I have, over the years, managed to convince him that I really don’t care all that much about money. He’s wrong tho’. I just don’t care too much about his money. Mine? I care about it VERY much.
Anyway... I am planning sugar-filled treats to ease what might be a rocky road. The Boy and I made these yesterday – part bonding session (fuelled by guilt over the pants-wetting event), part greed – and I think they’re the best things I’ve ever made. And then I remembered Bird’s Custard! And the glory that was plain jam tarts was lifted to dizzy heights.
You don’t have to be a horrible parent with a personality disorder to make these, but you do have to be quite mad not to realise that they are what’s been missing in your lives all this time.
Ridiculously Easy Jam Tarts (makes about 8)
- Ready-made all-butter puff pastry (the ready-rolled stuff, while the height of laziness, is easiest)
- A jar of jam. Go for the nicest one you can.
- A teeny splash of milk.
- Some sugar (any type).
Preheat oven to 170C / 325F / 3Gas
Roll out / unroll the puff pastry. Cut into squares / circles / rectangles twice the size of your preferred finished tart. Dollop a fair amount of jam on half of the pastry, then fold the un-jammed piece over and press down the sides with a fork. Stab a hole in the top of the pastry, and brush lightly with milk. (If you don’t have a pastry brush, do what we did and dip your finger in the milk and rub over the top of the brush. Washing your hands before this is, of course, optional.) Sprinkle sugar over the top.
Stick in the oven until the pastries have risen and are golden brown – about 20 minutes.
You really do need to let these cool before eating – the jam is molten, and will not only burn your mouth, but stick to the roof of your mouth and then burn it. Argh.
Wonderful on its own, but really wonderful with Bird’s Custard. Eat while sitting in a broom cupboard.
* I know. Imagine having to bribe yourself to be nice to your own children.