By the time I turned seven years old, I’d been spanked in front of the whole school twice.
My first offence was finding a stash of red building dust in the playground, and using it to creatively decorate myself with fake injuries, then placing myself on the ground for a passing dinner lady to find.
The second time, me and my friend Trevor shimmied up a drainpipe to see what was on the school roof. I can still remember how the teacher spanked me on every syllable of “WE. DO. NOT. CLIMB. ON. ROOVES.”
By the time I was ten, you could add ‘finding the school stash of sweets in the teacher’s cupboard, and sharing them out with my friends’, and ‘accidentally setting my Dad’s paint shed on fire’ to the list.
At fifteen, I’d raised the stakes considerably with truanting, illicit drinking of my parent’s booze stash, and taking a quasi-religious opposition to school uniform.
Suffice to say, I was a naughty kid. Don’t get me wrong, I was polite, I mostly did what I was told in class, and I was never really one for fighting. But I had a knack for finding rules tiresome, and trouble was never far behind.
So I’m frankly out of my depth having inadvertently raised The Child Who Is Never Naughty.
It might sound like the ramblings of a deranged woman, but Flea really doesn’t misbehave. She doesn’t shout or whine, she doesn’t have tantrums, she doesn’t run off when she isn’t supposed to. She knows the difference between ‘can I’ and ‘may I’ and never forgets a thank you or excuse me.
At parent’s evening this week Flea’s teacher looked shocked when I asked if she was ever cheeky and said, “Oh, no, I’d never raise my voice with her. Can you imagine? She’d be so upset.”
Obviously there are many advantages to this situation. The house is calmer, and it’s much easier to peel yourself out of bed in the mornings when you know that your child will get washed, get dressed and make breakfast without being asked.
And Flea’s far from being a robot. She’s got a quick sense of humour, and joins in with all my games, even “Mummy can only hear you if you’re singing”, which let’s face it, not all kids would do.
But I must confess to the occasional worry about her lack of naughtiness. Do kids who are good get led astray more easily? Will Flea be pushed around by other kids when they’re older, because she’s so keen to please?
And, oh, she’s so easily crushed. Last Friday there was a situation at school where a teacher asked Flea to do something I’d asked her not to do. Torn, Flea chose to do what the teacher asked. When I arrived, I told Flea I was pretty cross, she apologised, and I said thanks, and suggested we forget the whole thing.
Six hours later Flea was still tearful, when she came downstairs at 10pm to tell me she was, “really as sorry as sorry can be”.
It’s not hard to feel like the most evil parent alive when the merest expression of disappointment can create such levels of remorse. And I’m wondering if all her rebellion is just being stored up for her teenage years, when she’ll become a tornado of rage and hormones. Which is a bit worrying.
What do you think – do kids need a rebellious spirit? And what do you do if it seems to be entirely absent?