Last Friday as we walked back from the shops, The Noble Child kept dropping her sunglasses. On purpose. After repeatedly bending over to pick them up (with a baby strapped to my chest and a rucksack full of groceries on my back, no less) and putting them in my pocket for awhile, I gave her one last chance to hold onto them and not drop them.
Not two minutes later she looked me square in the eye with a glint of mischief that I know my own mother would tell me was identical to the one in mine at her age. I wasn’t backing down though, oh no. She held the glasses at arm’s length and waited to see what I would do. I calmly looked on and reminded her that if she dropped them again, they would be gone for good as I wasn’t picking them up again and neither was she.
There they went, onto the pavement.
We walked ten feet and she wailed that she wanted them. I refused; again, quite calmly. A massive tantrum, complete with writhing on the ground and snot-faced crying, ensued. I stood and waited for her to finish, asking her to move out of the way of passing pedestrians so she wouldn’t get kicked. That I wasn’t losing the plot and getting fed up only seemed to confuse her. She’s seen me lose my cool enough times to know that I can usually only be pushed so far before my voice becomes raised or I get really, really annoyed. But on that day the sun was shining, I had a friend on her way over for a visit and was going out that night for the first time in a very long time. Nothing could ruin my happy mood, not even a public tantrum about sunglasses. I whistled and tapped my foot cheerily while she wrapped up the theatrics.
She finally picked herself up and crossed the street, only to fall down again in tears as she saw the sunglasses get further and further away. It took us nearly a half hour to get home in what should’ve been a ten minute walk, and £10 was wasted, but I hope that maybe a lesson was learned. The Noble Husband thinks she’s too young to have understood and that I’m insane to have thrown away a good pair of glasses for no reason, but I’m pretty sure she won’t forget that soon. Days later she was still saying in a very sad voice “My glasses are all gone. Mummy not let me pick them up.”
Yes, darling, they are. And I know I seemed unreasonably mean about it. That’s the dirty work of childrearing, the part that doesn’t feel good. Tough love and discipline aren’t many people’s favourite aspects of parenting but it’s something that must be done. All I can do is hope the messages sink in and that when she looks back forlornly at those sunglasses in her mind, she’ll remember that I was there, holding her hand as she cried.
Noble Savage is a fusion of commentary on leaving the motherland, parenthood, culture, world news and feminism, written by a freelance journalist, expatriate and mother of two.
Photo credit: city woman