It seems like a good idea at the time. I’m not in the mood for being late again. But my 2 year old isn’t in the mood for wearing trousers. Or clothes of any variety. No chocolate button bribe is going to convince her otherwise.
And then I see Willy, the haggard old stuffed dog, so loved by my kids. I do what any parent might do in this situation, and I give Willy a voice. In my haste (we’re very late now), I introduce Willy as some sort of Yoda impersonator. This wasn’t planned. It just sort of happened like that.
He (Willy) explains to my delighted, wide eyed girl, that people who don’t wear trousers get cold legs (he’s pretty wise). She clings on to his every word and within three minutes she is dressed, happy and ready to leave the house.
Naturally I milk this trick for all its worth. Some days I’d ‘be’ Willy more than I would be my actual self. My husband would return from work at the end of the day to discover the kids pissing themselves laughing at a stuffed dog, and a frazzled wife whose voice suggested she’d spent the day chain smoking Benson and Hedges. Try doing a Yoda impression for more than one minute and you will see my point. (I don’t even like Yoda).
It doesn’t end there of course. The crocodile bath mat talks the children into brushing their teeth. The bear on the nursery sign reminds them, in a fairly creepy tone, of how much fun they will all have together at nursery that day.
The list goes on. The cows we pass. The car when the windscreen washers are on (“WHY ARE YOU CRYING, CAR? MUMMY BE THE CAR!”). Birds; flies; snails.. Each one as manipulative as the next, often tricking my kids into doing practical everyday tasks that they’d otherwise fight against doing. Words spoken by a manky old fly or indeed a bath mat are seemingly more superior than that of the lady who birthed them and kept them alive for this long (you’re welcome kids).
It isn’t always inanimate objects and animals though. One day it all inevitably kicked off when I attempted to apply suncream to both the children. At this very moment, ‘Debs’ was born. She has an extremely strong bristolian accent and is Chief Sunscreen Applicator. As soon as I put on the appropriate voice, the kids moods actually lift as they merrily present their tummies to me for sun-creaming. “Debs!!” they cry as they throw their arms around me (Debs). They appear to bloody love Debs. So much so that when I ‘turn back into’ myself they would be visibly disappointed. Once, one of them actually cried. ‘Be Debs again. We don’t want mummy. We love Debs. Where’s Debs?’ Needless to say, Debs will be off on her travels soon far far away. Sun cream season is nearly over after all (yeh, screw you Debs and your great ways with kids).
It was the day I found myself doing the voice of the kitchen bin (“BE THE BIN MUMMY!! BE THE BIN! HELLO BIN ARE YOU HUNGRY?”) that I decided enough was enough. I’d had a measly four hours of sleep the night before thanks to a chatty 2 year old, and was feeling extremely low on patience and energy. My throat sore. Yet there I was chatting away, a tired, angry expression on my face, doing my best Brian Blessed style bin voice.
I’m a 34 year old grown up. I had a decent job once. I interacted daily with adults. I went to meetings. I attended conference calls. I composed emails to important people. I made grown up decisions. Look at me now. Impersonating bins.
The voices haven’t stopped completely – the power of ‘Crocky’ the bath mat is too useful to lose – but they have definitely become less of a regular feature in our lives. You might argue that this decision makes me a dull parent. But when does it end if I don’t stop now?? I’m thinking it’s probably best to try and gain a bit of respect for my own voice. I don’t want to find myself in a situation when I’m dropping one of the kids at university with bloody Willy under my arm, poised for service should I need it.
But occasionally, at very testing, trouser-avoiding times, I’ll still let Debs pop back for a spot of gentle persuasion (she’s been promoted). I just make sure she doesn’t stick around for too long.