Z and I tend to be pretty lax in the morning, because well, the application of discipline requires speech and the opening of eyes and possibly even getting up, but when a day starts off with your child throwing his toys on the floor and then weeping because they are fallen, and then hitting you with a fury because you won't pick them up for him - well then even I am motivated into action.
"If you don't stop hitting your father you will go to the naughty corner!" I threaten. Matei pauses momentarily and strokes Z, but then again our refusal to pick up the toys he has thrown and our suggestion that he should do it himself overcomes him and brings on another volley of furious/underslept toddler blows.
"Right," I say and get up and carry him to the naughty corner since he refuses to go himself. "Sit here and think about what you've done."
This is the fifth time the corner has been called into use and the first time when Matei did not spend his allotted time there in a hysterical weeping fit and/or attempts at escape. I sit some distance away and he looks at me with huge eyes and rocks slightly and says:
"Must touch gently! Must touch gently!"
"That's right! And what else?"
"Hitting, no! Hitting, no!" *
" That's right." M looks at me with huge, imploring eyes and says: "Are good? Are good?" and my heart breaks a little, but we are still not done.
"A bit more. What else shouldn't you do?"
"Must touch gently! Hitting, no! Hitting, no!"
"You also shouldn't throw your toys. If they fall on the floor, just pick them up, like so(I mime picking up)"
"Hitting, no! Throwing, no! Picks up toys! (he copies my mimicry)".
"That's it exactly. Well done!"
"Are, good? Are good?"
"Yes you are. Come here." And I open my arms and he flies into them and I envelop him in the hug I've been wanting to dish out for the last minute.
He trots off to the bedroom, bursting with pride to share all his insights with Z, and when "picking toys off the floor" briefly turns into "throwing toys at father on the bed" a frim tone and a demo and practice session of what he should be doing instead corrects him. There are showers of praise and glows of happiness.
Then 20 minutes later at nappy changing time when he's flailing and kicking me and I'm fairly sure than another session in the naughty corner will just produce a drawn out fit of weeping, it's time to switch tactics.
"Matei, would you like a biscuit?
"If you get dressed nicely, and with no fighting, I will give you a biscuit." Instant co-operation.
I feel as proud as he does, when I get the balance right. Parenting is tightrope-walking, and a drawn-out exercise in heartbreak. I'm a good mother, even though I never expected to be.
* Matei's chanted instructions to himself are best things ever. Watching him drink a cup of juice while telling himself "Drink, nicely! Don't, spit!" between sips remains hilarious.