OPINION: Hard keeping cards close to your chest as a parent playing referee

Ruth's children enjoying an ice cream on the coast. When they're good, they're good, but when they're bad...

Ruth's children enjoying an ice cream on the coast. When they're good, they're good, she says, but when they're bad... - Credit: Ruth Davies

When playing parenting what would you rather have  - a gremlin at home or at school?

I’d take home any day, tiresome as it is. To misbehave on someone else’s watch is the pits.

At a friend’s house they will almost certainly be coming home under accolades of how well-behaved and polite they are.

Not to mention the food they’ve wolfed down, what’s that all about? Pop the boys at a play date dining table and they’re in for foie gras on toasted sesame twirls with lashings of greenery on the side.

At home they all but throw up if I present them a plate of beige in any way they weren’t expecting (think home-made chips rather than McCain – how very dare I!) and if so much as a pea contaminates their overly processed ensemble, it’s rendered inedible.

Same with school, most pick-ups I smoothly transition children who I’m told have had wonderful days of sharing and caring, while they listen carefully and play nicely. But it does happen, infrequently as it is, that on occasion I’ll get the “Mum, can I have a word?” at the classroom door.

They’re kids, they’re normal and you’re not learning if you’re not making mistakes after all, and if you don’t make mistakes you’d have to be perfect.

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It’s a long way down with nowhere else to go from perfection so I try not to go overboard but I always deal with it, no matter how mortifying.

I’m not one of those mums who says “not my little darling” at all costs. I’ve met her, she’s annoying! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so with that in mind I try to nip things in the bud immediately.

If there’s been arguments, and mine is the little darling at fault I will find the other mum to apologise. Necessary, both for the other kid and my own. Same when it comes to rudeness or any other bad behaviour. I’m afraid I don’t let the kids get away with much, bad cop is very definitely my hat. But only when I have to wear it and it’s not a fit I like.

Jimmy turned 10 last week and has been treated with a massive amount of birthday devotion, the bad cop hat stuffed to the back of the cupboard.

A longed-for games console was the star prize, with dinner, bowling and a special party with pals on the agenda. Perhaps the excitement of it all, or maybe hormones? Who knows? But he got a bit Jack the lad and big for his boot.

 He’s at an age which is quite testing, not quite old enough to do lots of things, but too big to do some of the stuff he used to like. He’s middling as I call it, and it builds in a bit of frustration. A cheeky monkey we can take… But after birthday big fun, when he should have been being super grateful for all he had, last week he was down-right naughty. Not at home, of course, but at school!

Oh, the embarrassment!

The rule at his school is that girls and boys can’t play football on the same day. Bonkers in a world where we shouldn’t be segregating people because of their sex, we agree with him that it’s a silly rule.

Out-dated, lacking in understanding but… it’s a rule. We’ve told him he just has to suck it up. If he’s not allowed to play, he’s not allowed to play.

But Jimmy, so like me, wants to demonstrate his annoyance at the unfairness by flouting and doing what he pleases anyway. Fine when you’re grown up enough to live by the sword and die by it also, but when you’re 10… not so grand!

So, Friday night (Friday night, sigh) we had the teacher talk. Worse even. It was a letter from the head. And Jimmy spent his weekend with his brand-new console taking up the space my bad cop hat made for it in the cupboard. He was, as well as rule-breaking, very rude to the mid-day supervisors, and it’s not the first time. Oh Jimmy!

I know we’re not alone, we know a lot of 10-year-old boys and thankfully their parents, like me, don’t believe in only sharing the good bits so that makes it easier. But it’s really not easy when they’re less than exemplary.

Well, for us it’s riot act well and truly read, apology letter written and awaiting further notice on when his birthday present can make another appearance.

Being a parent is rather like being a referee I’ve realised - red card them and send them to the bench for contemplation.

When you’ve got four, the bench is usually with a bottom on it! So my job is to steer them right and get them back in the game. Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and go to bed on good notes with kisses, ready to do tomorrow better. Here’s to a better week and a Friday night pick up of no one being sent off for fouling! That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk