What’s in a name?

Road Rage

For the last few weeks, I’m pretty sure that about 70% of my conversations with my eldest two kids have revolved around names.  In particular, not calling other people names that are completely inappropriate.  This ranges from their descriptions of me (as my two-year-old calls out “have a good day at work, Farty Pants!” every single morning, I can only be thankful that we’re not anywhere public) through to how they talk about other relatives (“Grandad’s a scallywag”, “Hello Mr Underpants” – you get the picture).

It’s a tough one, this: you want your kids to have fun and be able to mess around, but when their primary name for you is inspired by flatulence you know you need to start to draw some boundaries.  The problem, of course – as with all aspects of parenting – is that you have to practise what you preach.  There’s no point doing the pious get-down-on-their-level-and-explain-what’s-right-and-wrong thing unless they then look at you and then see someone who’s a model of manners and respect.

Most of the time, I like to think I’m a relatively polite and friendly individual, not particularly prone to anger or inappropriate language.  Note my use of the word ‘Most’.  Today was one of those exceptions to the norm…

Everything was going so well: as a family, we were being gloriously antisocial, hanging out together and doing all sorts of fun Saturday morning activities – pottering about, sorting the garden, that kind of thing.  Me and the eldest two headed off to the dump at one point, and even the struggle to get a cumbersome piece of old furniture out of the car on my own didn’t dampen my spirits.  The drive home was sunny, there was the smell of summer in the air, and everyone seemed to be very glass-half-full about life.  Everyone except the old man in the car behind us…

As we arrived home, he hooted his horn.  And then, in very quick succession, he did it again.  And again.  All because I was reversing into our drive, and he wanted to get past.  Shaking his wizened fist at me, and with the look of a villain from a Roald Dahl story, he instantly managed to fire up a torrent of anger and indignance within me.

I couldn’t quite believe he was getting cross about the fact that I’d arrived at my destination (what did he expect me to do?  Continue to wherever he was going and park just in front of his chosen space?) and I’m not proud of the behaviour that followed.  Although I am quite proud of the fact that I only swore under my breath.

The main issue in all this is that the kids rejoiced in telling their mum about “that STUPID IDIOT” on the drive home.  In a remarkable show of memory, they happily relayed every single one of my descriptions of the septuagenarian road-rager, before going on to tell me how it wasn’t really nice to say nasty things about other people or call them names.  Well, quite.

I guess it’s not all bad: after all, it’s surely important for your kids to see you arguing occasionally, or getting cross, or not doing the right thing.  Just as they’re learning about the world around them as they grow up, so we’re learning how to parent as we go along – and it’s healthy for them to know we’re not perfect.

Whether or not it’s healthy for my two-year-old to now know the phrase “silly arse” is another question altogether…

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