“Mom, you’re fired!” The words rang out across the field during a firefighters’ display, being watched by hundreds of people. Unfortunately, Conor had picked the perfect moment - just as the firefighters were running back to the truck to refill their water packs - to fire me from my parenting duties with immediate effect. This meant that the shout that should have been drowned out by the sound of clanging sirens or the whoosh of water cannons, was instead amplified.
Heads turned. Sympathetic mothers nodded as if to say, “I’ve been there too.” Even the firefighters looked around, thinking their superior had issued an instruction. The irony of being “fired” during a firefighting display was not lost on me. And, no doubt much like the poor volunteers beating doggedly at the “bush blaze” that had been set up for their demonstration, I too saw red.
My crime? I had refused to buy what would have been Conor’s sixth fire truck. I have to say, I think the person who coined the phrase “terrible twos” to describe toddlers’ tantrums should also be fired. Conor is almost four and his outbursts and acts of defiance have become epic.
In fact, when he went on to throw a wobbly of massive proportions, I asked him if he was auditioning to do the Haka with the All Blacks. This did little to stem his screams - clearly my comedic skills were at that moment as unimpressive as my parenting ones. I have to admit that I was tempted to drop him off at the nearest volunteer recruitment tent.
I do feel at times as if nothing I do is good enough for Conor. A few days ago, I had to break the news to him that his beloved chocolate milk was finished and there would be none for breakfast. Well, the meltdown was monumental, culminating in him tossing his favourite cup across the room. Given that I had already been fired, I figured I had nothing more to lose, so I threw the cup into the bin and walked away. I later learnt that he had fished out the cup and taken it to the scullery to be cleaned. But only once he also snitched on me to Dad, saying that I had been rude.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to reason with a four-year-old who, because of his physical size, looks as if he should be in Grade 1, but who still needs a nightlight to sleep.
And there are days when things get really tough and I want to “resign” before my truculent child decides to publicly fire me. But then there are those moments when that same little boy can douse the flames of frustration faster than a veteran firefighter. Like when I leave for work and he comes running with arms outstretched, saying: “Mom, kisses and hugs, kisses and hugs.” Or when he curls up next to me on the couch and gently holds my hand while we watch TV. It makes the meltdowns seem minor - well almost - because I know that no matter how many times I may get fired, somewhere in that growing body with its pent-up frustrations and dogged need to test his boundaries, there’s a boy who still holds a flame for his mom.
Anél ended up buying one of the rubber bush fire beaters for Conor so that he can put out imaginary fires in the garden to his heart’s delight when he gets frustrated.