So where did it all go right? As some of you will know (I’ve moaned about it for long enough) we’ve had a really, really bad patch at home. Not just the predictable tut, tut bloody kids, they’re driving us up the wall– type of bad patch. More of a quick, call Channel 4, call Jo Frost, call Nanny Bloody McPhee, call anyone who can help us turn things around type of bad patch. It was painfully clear that we needed help. We needed someone who was prepared to put us under the microscope, break us down and build us up again. We were a mess. A wreck. We were a family teetering on the edge of collapse.
Okay, okay, maybe I’m over egging it slightly but god, it’s been a grim few months. It comes to something when your husband of eighteen months (and step-father extraordinaire to your four kids) starts locking himself in the bedroom before the closing credits of Emmerdale have rolled because he simply can’t bear the mayhem. And then when you walk into the room he’s perched on the edge of the bed, head in hands like he’s posing for one of those erectile disfunction ads you see in the window of the local Chinese Medicine shop. It’s a bit of a sorry state of affairs when you make your way home from work on a Friday evening with a feeling of total dread in the pit of your stomach because you can pretty much guarantee that within minutes of you walking in the door the sh*t will hit the fan.
It’s. Been. Exhausting. Do you hear me? Completely, bloody exhausting.
Frustratingly, Supernanny was busy and Nanny McPhee rather rudely didn’t return my calls but I’m very glad she didn’t because after a late night Instagram why is it so bloody haaarrrdd?! cry for help (and this is not an ad btw) Behavioural Expert Livvy from @letsaskylivvy got in touch. We spoke on the phone at first. For ages. I could feel her listening, taking in my five hundred words a minute outpouring of desperation. She listened as I shared one painful example after another of how challenging things had become and how, in addition to general family chaos, one perfectly imperfect and very troubled little eight year old was doing a worryingly good job of terrorising us all.
After that initial call, Dave and I did our best to put some of Livvy’s suggestions into practise. I (Dave is SO much better than this than me) tried to stay calm. I (not Dave) tried to shout (screech) less. We both focused on the good behaviour rather than the bad. We tried not to react to the verbal abuse, shocking language and physical lashing out. We did our best to remain calm and neutral. Easier said than done when you’re at breaking point.
I think it worked a bit but we’d barely scratched the surface. So, Livvy came for a home visit. She stayed for three and a half hours and she was brilliant. Predictably, the kids were on best behaviour for a big chunk of it but enough was revealed of the real family dynamics for Livvy to get a true sense of how things were. We all sat around the dinner table (teenager too) and it was stated clearly that Dave and I would be reclaiming our rightful positions as the Captains of our family ‘rocket’. We were the ones in control, in charge and that from now on we were going to be operating a ‘One Parent, One Rule’ policy. There really was no going back.
I won’t go into all of Livvy’s suggestions and techniques here as I don’t want to do her a disservice and I’m not sure I’d explain them in the most effective way but when she finally left (and I really didn’t want her to go) – Dave and I felt exhausted but hopeful. Quietly hopeful. It wasn’t going to be easy but we had a plan. Finally, the penny had dropped with me that I no longer needed to be scared of issuing consequences. That actually carrying things through didn’t make me the wicked witch of the west or a cruel and abusive parent.
I’ve finally, finally, finally (sorry, Dave – you’ve been extremely patient) realised that being consistent, boundaried (such a word?!) and saying ‘no’ is not going to make my wild and wonderful babies feel any less loved. Quite the opposite in fact.
And those magic words. One Parent, One Rule.
We’re only a couple of weeks in but there’s been a dramatic shift already. Dave and I have drawn those lines in the sand and we’re moving forward. Together. And do you know what I keep thinking? Even when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan again, as it no doubt will, we’ll face it. Captain Dave and Captain Mummy are behind the wheel with a full tank of rocket fuel and a shiny new respray. The kids are strapped safely in the back.
We’re heading for the moon.