My five-year old son, how can I put it nicely, is a spirited child. He has the most angelic face with very enviable long eyelashes. He is very funny, lively, cheeky and kind-hearted. He also has a bad case of selective hearing, can’t help but run everywhere without any regard for other pedestrians and has a million and one excuses on why he can’t sleep. Each afternoon on the way back from school I attempt to engage him in conversation to improve our sometimes volatile relationship, but normally only receive one word answers or grunts as a reply before I have to restrain him from speeding off down the road. Get to bedtime however and I can’t get a word in, he is totally up for a chat with Mum in a sleep avoidance technique he has expertly developed, but I’m wise to it. Last nights debate consisted of; Is Spiderman called Peter Spiderman or Peter Parker-Spiderman? How does Spiderman go to the toilet in his suit? Does Superman fly because of his cape? And although I’d quite like to know the answers to these weighty questions myself, I just really need him to sleep. In fact, no matter how much begging and pleading or blackmailing I do, when my son doesn’t want to do something, I have a battle on my hands. The strange thing is the only way in which he will listen is if I threaten him with counting to 3.
The counting to 3 method is like a superpower for parents. I don’t know why it works. I can say to any of my little angels, eat your greens or else no football/tv/treats and they will eyeball me to see if my threat is empty or not. If I try to dissuade them from any possible danger such as jumping off the sofa/climbing the wardrobe/putting their hands in the dog’s mouth, I know that what they really hear is the muffled voice of the teacher from Snoopy. But if I am at the end of my tether and annoying myself with the sound of my own voice, I know its time to pull out the big guns with the ultimate of countdowns.
When I start the sentence, “I’m going to count to 3, 1, 2…”, I only ever reach 2 before my children leap into action. I don’t know what they expect to happen when I reach 3, trouble is I don’t know what will happen if I ever do reach 3. It is an unspoken rule in life that something happens at the number of 3. If you were about to jump off a bungee you would probably count to 3, in a running race you wait to hear ‘on your marks – get set – go’. Counting to 3 is as second nature to us as queueing and moaning about the weather. So use it wisely and say it proudly, if you have to shout the count to 3 in the supermarket post school run, I will sympathise and give you a knowing smile. Just don’t tell my children that I don’t have a back-up plan if I ever reach the number 3.