One of my abiding memories of childhood is coming home from primary school one day to find our Mum had put all our untidy toys into black bin bags and chucked them out of the window into the garden.
We were given one hour to put away anything we wanted to keep. Otherwise it would go in the bin.
Age has given me a WHOLE new perspective on this story.
Flea is – in many ways – a wonderfully easy person to get along with. She’s polite, she does as she’s asked, she has a good sense of humour, and she’s really easy going, so I don’t have to deal with tantrums and the like.
But good God, the child tears through our house like a tornado some days, shedding toys and clothes and comics wherever she goes.
I do not deal well with mess. To say the least.
I explain to Flea that I have limited free time, I don’t want to spend it tidying up. I explain how if things aren’t tidied away, it’s harder to find them next time you need them. We talk about how much more fun life is when you can walk up the stairs without navigating the entire cast of Toy Story 3.
And Flea nods and tells me she’ll try harder.
It doesn’t work.
So last week, I told Flea that each day the house was untidy at bedtime, Flea would lose her favourite toy for 24 hours.
Flea cried, because “even the thought of it makes me sad.”
But I was resolute. Kids need discipline, I told myself.
Yesterday, I finished work and went to gather Flea’s uniform for beavers before collecting her from school. Her trousers weren’t in the wardrobe. Her shoes weren’t in the shoe basket. My mood wasn’t improved much by the soft toy rabbit collection enjoying a puppet show performance in the middle of the sodding dining room.
At school, I explained to Flea that because she hadn’t tidied away her clothes, I was going to take away her new DS video game for 24 hours.
On the way home, we decided Flea probably shouldn’t go to Beavers because she was crying so hard that her Beavers jumper was – to be frank – a bit soggy. She cried all the way through dinner. Then she went and sat on the stairs and cried some more.
She got up briefly to pass me a note that said, “Dear Mummy, I think your punishment is unfair because it makes me sad. PS I am ever so sorry. Love Flea xxxx”
Then she went back to the stairs and cried.
After coming downstairs to write in her diary, “Today was experiment day at school and it was meatballs for lunch and then I went home and Mummy was frustrated with me, which is not the same as being angry,” Flea went up to bed, still sniffing.
Then my ex called.
“Just to let you know I’ve got Flea’s Beaver uniform,” he said, cheerfully.
And that, readers, is how I officially became The World’s Meanest Mummy.
The question is – do I tell Flea?