The other day, as we walked through the car park on our way into the Open Range Zoo, my husband and I overheard a jolly man enjoying a lovely spring day out with his kids by screaming “I’ll fucking rip your head off!”.
“You know how you feel guilty when you shout at the kids? Well, don’t.” my husband said to me. And we shared a little laugh, as if to say “Aren’t we such great parents compared to That Dreadful Man?”. Hmmm. Now what was that saying about pride and a fall?
We decided to take the kids on a safari bus tour of the zoo and were lucky enough to have a long bench seat all to ourselves with access to two windows. The tour was going just fine until our children morphed into Shade Chasers and started fighting each other for whichever window seat wasn’t in the sun. As they slid from one side of the bus to the other, screaming at each other, I decided to settle the territorial dispute in my usual manner by sitting on top of them.
“Owwwwwwwwwwwww. My hand is sitting there!”, whinged The Pixie in That Voice that she seems to be using much more than the recommended amount. My response: Does your hand have a ticket? No. Well move on over, sister. Cue: more whinging and trembling of bottom lip.
Meanwhile Mr Justice decided that he Might Just Be Sick and so sat on my husband’s lap with a hat at the ready for throwing up in. Tiddles got that devil-may-care thing going on where he looked likely to jump out and tackle a passing rhino. And then we ran completely out of drinks and snacks and it all hell broke loose.
It was at this point that my husband and I came up with “Project Ice Cream” – except we devised it, as we always do when we don’t want the kids to understand, in really bad french so it was actually more like “Projet de Glace“. We orchestrated a few well-placed leaks to get a bit of a buzz going along our bench – like “I wonder if they sell ice creams in the bistro” and “I wouldn’t like anyone to miss out on ice cream because of their behaviour on the bus…”. And voilà! We made it off the bus without anyone losing an eye or a limb and we smiled at each other as if to say “Aren’t we just the clever ones?”. Uh, what was that saying again? Pride…? Fall…? Anyone?
While both the selection of the ice cream and the table in the bistro went smoothly, it was shortly thereafter that the plan fell apart when a Grave Parental Error was made. These happen from time to time and even the Greatest Plans can come completely undone by an unintentional act of gross stupidity. In this case, a certain parent – who is normally beyond reproach – prepared the ice creams for consumption by removing the wrappers and putting them in the bin. Unbelievable.
Well, it was all over for The Pixie. The general gist of the tantrum that followed was thus: She wanted the wrapper on her ice cream and not in the bin, thank you very much. Because, of course, it’s entirely possible to consume ice cream through plastic – and why would you want to eat your ice cream any other way, you stupid STUPID person?
The tantrum went on and on. And then on some more. I mean, you have to admire the girl’s stamina. Luckily for us, we were seated right in the middle of a huge room with perfect acoustics for such a performance, so everyone in the bistro was able to fairly judge us as being Those Kinds of Parents Who Can’t Control Their Child. Just as we thought the tantrum might have reached its peak, somehow – god knows how – she reached deep within and found just that little bit more to crank it up one notch further. It was at this point my husband turned to me and said “I think I now know why that man was shouting like that in the car park”.
In the end I had to confiscate her ice cream (after all warnings were ignored) and my husband carried her screaming over his shoulder to the terrace outside, where he was able to further establish himself as a Parent of Ill-Repute with every passerby. Eventually, though, he was able to calm her down enough to elicit a promise from her to behave – and they returned to the bistro, where I was still sitting holding the melting ice cream, like some kind of ice-cream holding fool.
Predictably, The Pixie’s promise proved to be as binding as Drew Barrymore’s same promise to “Be Good” at the end of E.T. – and we all know how good Drew ended up being. Luckily for us, The Pixie’s only real vice at the moment is whining, whilst Drew obviously went onto do some wining of a completely different kind.
But boy, can my girl whine! She sat and whined right through her ice cream (whining and dining?) – like one of those incessant mosquitos that keeps buzzing in your ear. She just could not stop herself, despite all our warnings that we would have to go straight home if she did not cease and desist. It’s always unsettling when the designated “Easy Child” becomes the “Problem Child” – it makes you wonder what the other two might do next. But the two boys just sat, eating their ice creams like little angels – until we had to announce we were going straight home – and then it was on for young and old.
Needless to say, as we wrestled the kids back through that same car park we’d high-fived each other in less than two hours beforehand, I thought “Oh how the mighty have fallen”. But that night, The Pixie woke up hysterically screaming and our subsequent gruesome discovery perhaps went some way to explain the tone of her behaviour that afternoon. It turns out she had crapped her pyjamas with great force – and then evidentally taken off her pants and swung them around her head a few times (it’s the only way I could possibly explain how it got everywhere because, believe me, it got EVERYWHERE). It was a sober reminder that sometimes behind these behaviours there are Other Reasons. But then again, sometimes there aren’t. I guess it’s best to avoid language like “fucking rip your head off” just in case. It will make you feel less bad when the shit hits the fan (literally).