Ultimatums. They are one of the most dangerous weapons in the parenting arsenal, so you better know how to use them. I don’t know how to use them. I throw ultimatums around like confetti, so much so that they now have absolutely no value.
Lovely weather. Happy children. Day trip in the car. Lovely.
The only shadow hanging over our journey is our three month old baby boy. One of the widely known facts about babies is, no matter how annoyed they are, a ride in the car will put them to sleep. It works with all babies, bar none. Except ours. The gentle, soothing purr of an engine and the soft, soporific, tranquillising thrum of the road enrages him. We can’t go anywhere.
Except you can’t not go anywhere. So here we are, baby son in the back, bellowing at us like mouse traps have just snapped closed on all his appendages. This journey will take all our inner strength.
Then a miracle happens. Our son falls asleep. We see the world afresh. Everything is so beautiful. What a joy to be alive.
My eldest son isn’t taking in the countryside. His Joie de Vivre comes from trying to annoy his sister, poking and nudging and nagging and antagonising, and boy is she easy to annoy. She responds with explosive violence.
“Stop it you two or we’re turning round and going home.” I foolishly Ultimate. Of course, we’re not going to do that, we’ve come too far, so I shouldn’t say it, but I’m going insane, and I’m not very good at parenting. Obviously they completely ignore my threats.
“Right!” I bellow. This is it! No more false ultimatums. I take the next motorway exit and pull over in the layby. I ignore my wife’s scepticism. Time for some Dad parenting. “Out.”
I split the children, put our baby son in the middle. They can no longer reach each other. Back on the motorway there is wondrous silence. I am triumphant. Dad of action. That’s how it’s done.
The silence lasts nearly a minute. I have, of course, woken up our baby son. Soon he realises he is still in the car. He is, to say the very least, not happy about it.
Right. That’s it. No more day trips.